Additional profile information on Alfred Thompson at Google+
Pat Phillips has an interesting interview with Sara Ford at MainFunction this month. (Audio version here) Sara is responsible for the developement of PowerToys which are free tools that Microsoft makes available to developers.
Sara has a blog at http://blogs.msdn.com/saraford/ where one of the big topics she talks about is assessability - making software that is easier for people with disabilities to use. Sara is origionally from an area of Mississippi that was hit by Hurricanes Katrina last year and has been involved in supporting relief efforts. She's a pretty impressive person and she is making a difference in the world.
kcbibo over at the iTeacher blog is writing about his fight to keep his computer program alive. He's got six-year old computers and no money to upgrade. The only courses that can get any funding are those which are seen as contributing to raising test scores. This is a story I am hearing more and more often these days. Computer courses, including programming as well as word processing, spreadsheets and other general omputer skills, contribute directly to people being able to function in a modern world. But if they don't fit the standardized reading or math tests they are somehow seen as worthless. What a sad state of affairs!
I'm not sure what the answer is. Lots of states are having funding problems and the general public seems to be having a crisis of faith were it comes to spending money on education. I remember back 25 years ago PTAs used to have bake sales to raise money to buy classroom computers. Back then they would spend $3000 for an Apple II and a noisy impact printer. Today that same money can buy six reasonable computers and should be easier to come by. The value isn't seen though and that is a shame.
Industry can help a little bit. Many companies donate older but still useful computers to schools. Microsoft has a program called Fresh Start that provides for free licences for donated computers. But there are only so many extra computers to go around and some courses really need up to date hardware to run.
Somehow we (those of us who believe in the need for tecnology training) are going to have to do a better job of making the case for it. I look forward to reading about how kcibio goes about it in his school fighting for hardware for his students. And I'd love to hear about what others are doing as well. Let's get some sharing of ideas going.
I read that my friend Daniel Shapiro from Microsoft Canada is speaking at ECOO on May 4th. Microsoft is a sponsor again this year. Daniel says its a great conference and I believe him. Truth be told there are a lot of great educational conferences during the course of the year and they are often a great place to get some training, keep current with technology and network with other like minded teachers. I've been to a couple of them this year including TCEA in Texas. I hope to make it to more of them next year. Usually I earn my way by giving a talk either at a regular or special session or at the Microsoft booth. The highlight of any conference for me though is the chance to talk to working teachers about what they are doing.
The next conference I am going to is NECC in San Deigo this July. There will be a "birds of a feather" session for Visual Basic teachers that I am looking forward to. If any of you are going to be at NECC please look me up. Maybe we can do a "geek dinner" with computer science teachers at NECC.
Oh and if any of you are at ECOO next month, please say hello to Daniel for me. I'm sure his talk will be top knotch and well worth attending.