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

May, 2006

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT)


    I am a member of ISTE and recieved an email from them yesterday. I quote some of it (they asked people to forward it) below. I think that educators and others should look at this issue (Federal funds for technology in education) and think about supporting this petition if they agree with the goals.

    Message from ISTE:

    Please forward this e-mail and below link to educators in your state/region.  We are hopeful that leaders at all levels will participate in this effort.

    Join your colleagues from around the country in signing a petition in support of the Enhancing Education Through Technology program!  The education technology community is circulating this petition to highlight the breadth of support for the EETT program. The petition is in the form of a resolution and calls for Congress to restore funding for the EETT program to a minimum of $496 million, its FY 05 funding level, to meet the nation’s educational needs and help ensure America’s competitiveness.

    To read and sign the petition, please visit: and scroll down the page.

    Thank you for your support of ISTE and this important initiative.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Computer Science Looks for a Remake


    There was an interesting article in last week's Computer World about the changing face of computer science. Here are a few though provolking quotes from the article.

    Chazelle: CS is the new "new math," and people are beginning to realize that. CS, like math, is unique in the sense that many other disciplines will have to adopt that way of thinking. It offers a sort of conceptual framework for other disciplines, and that's fairly new.

    How can CS be made a more attractive choice for students?

    Bryant: We should stop scaring them away. Predicting that all IT jobs will move offshore could become self-fulfilling. New jobs are growing faster than old jobs are moving offshore, and that trend will continue. We need to stop putting them to sleep. Students who take computer science classes in high school are taught how to write programs in Java, and their assignments have them writing code that does tedious things like sort lists of numbers. They do not learn about any of the big ideas of computer science.

    Birman: We need to realize that we're losing a lot of students around Grade 10. So we need to revamp the way CS is taught in high school to focus much less on programming and much more on problem-solving and puzzles. Kids also need to work with things that are fun -- robot dogs that follow their owner around and growl at people who are wearing pink socks -- and do much less coding. Kids need to be grappling with information management issues, like the challenges of securely managing medical records and the legal and ethical issues that arise if we put monitoring systems in homes to keep an eye on the elderly, or in cars to provide emergency services.

    There is a lot more there. It's all worth reading and thinking about. Are we teaching computer science correctly? In general I think not. If we were then we'd be getting more students excited about it. Computer science and bio-technology are the two areas with the most potential for changing the world and they way we live our lives today. And yet students see computer science as boring and irrelevant. Something is going wrong here.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Pocket PC Programming Projects


    Tom Indelicato blogged today about the end of year projects he has his AP CS students doing. For the second year in a row he has them writing projects for Pocket PCs. His students use Visual Studio which has a PPC emulator built right into it. He also has a couple of PPCs for classroom use but those are really optional (though they do add something to the process) because the emulator can be used for all the testing and debugging.

    There are a couple of things I like about this sort of project. One is that it forces students to think about different form factors. The screen is smaller and of course the memory footprint is also smaller. Programming on a PC doesn't force one to think about those things so much.

    Another thing I like is that often times these projects turn out to be usable to others. Mr I relates how the father of one student wants to install the completed project in his own pocket PC.

    Of course I am also a big fan of the end of year project as an evaluation tool. Over the years I gound that a larger project where the student had a large say in picking the goal helped students to put the whole course's learning together. Several times I've had students who came and told me that the semester project helped them to really "get" programming and how things fit together. Students are so used to learning pieces of information without seeing a unified whole that they have trouble putting together a complete picture. A semester project of reasonable size and complexity can help a great deal.

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