Computer Science Teacher
Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

April, 2006

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Brandon Bray on Visual C++

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    Do you think that C++ has gone the way of FORTRAN and COBOL? (Remember them?) Well Brandon Bray is someone you will want to listen to in this Channel 9 interview. Brandon talks about how Visual C++ is fully involved in the .NET Framework if you want it to be. C++ is evolving and is not going away anytime soon.

    While languages like C+, Visual Basic and Java get a lot of attention today there are still some tasks the really call for C++. It's probably not the best first language to learn but somewhere in ones educational process there is real value in learning C++. If you are going to do operating systems work or other activities that get close to the hardware you are going to run into C++ somewhere along the line. You might as well be ready for it.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Eileen Brown - from super tanker pilot to IT professional

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    Channel 9 has a very interesting interview with Eileen Brown from Microsoft in the UK. eileen has had a non-traditional career to say the least. She used to navagate supertankers. From there she moved into information technology. Today she manages IT evangelists who support large enterprises in the UK. I like her definition of a technical evangelist - a techie who can talk. Communication is awefully important in IT. I also like her accent. :-)

    Eileen talks about female geek dinner and has some interesting contrasts between general geek dinners and female geek dinners.

    Eileen also has a blog at http://blogs.technet.com/eileen_brown/default.aspx

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Teaching Without Tests

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    Last week I read an interesting blog by Jane who is "an assistant professor in a computing field." Jane has decided not to use the typical small number of high stakes tests that are common in university level computing courses. She is using only projects in her advanced level courses. In her intro course she has gone to weekly quizes. I think she is on to something here. This quote made a lot of sense to me.

    So I thought, why not use an evaluation model that reinforces the idea that learning CS is a gradual process in which topics build on previous topics. Quizzes seemed better suited for that.

    In computing courses, even more so then in many other courses, you have to build from one concept to the next. Math tends to be like this but often a lot of the social sciences are not so dependent on this.

    Jane also lists some good things about weekly quizes vs. tests:

    1. It's easier to make up one question at a time than 5-6 in one sitting.
    2. It's easier to focus on one particular concept in each quiz.
    3. It's easier to remember how I covered a concept in class and structure the quiz questions accordingly.
    4. Oddly, grading has been easier. Mentally, I find myself saying "hey, they're only quizzes, so I'll just sit down and grade them and get it over with". And even though I love asking open-ended questions, I've found that I can grade them pretty quickly.
    5. Students are much less stressed about the weekly quiz than they typically are about tests.

    My experience is that there is less difference between college freshmen and high school seniors than we'd often like to think. So I think that a lot of what Jane says here should logically work with high school seniors. And perhaps even more so with younger students. What do you think? Are a few large scale tests better at evaluating students or would weekly quizes be the way to go?

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