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I last wrote about textbooks for Visual Basic last December. Now that the year is winding down and the VB 2005 books are starting to become available I thought I would ask - what books are you looking at for next year? Are you able to update textbooks for Visual Studio 2005 or are you going to get by with what you had this year? If the later what sort of things would make this easier for you?
I know that a lot of people just can't buy new books as often as the computer industry updates their software. The upgrade from Visual Basic 2003 to 2005 is not all that major. Well if you are a professional developer it probably is but for a very basic programming course it’s probably not much of a big deal. There are things added that you are not going to know about but you may not think of that as a problem. On the other hand some things just might make your life easier. The Class Designer for example might save you and your students a lot of time.
I want to make some time this summer to develop some teaching aids but I’d like to know what is useful. Are video demos useful? Are you looking for explanations of new language features or perhaps some interesting new .NET classes that are written at student reading levels? What am I not thinking about? I can’t do everything but if I can do a few things that make it easier for teachers to use Visual Studio 2005 I’m happy to give it a go. Leave a comment or send me email at AlfredTh (at) Microsoft.com
It’s surprising the number of times I get an email or see one posted to the Advanced Placement Teacher mailing list that starts something like this:
“I’ve been asked to teach Visual Basic this fall. I’ve never taught VB before and I’m not all that familiar with it. Where do I start?”
Scary isn’t it? It’s really scary if you are a teacher in that situation. Fortunately there are people to ask (start with me), websites to go to and resources to learn from and to teach with. None of that is comforting unless you know where they are though. So the purpose of this post is to start people off in the right direction.
The first place to start is www.mainfunction.com. If you haven't signed up for a free account there I recommend that you do so as soon as you can. There you will find articles, projects, curriculum materials of all sorts, tutorials, and all sorts of useful things.
One place for a teacher who is new to Visual Basic to start with is with some free tutorial videos. There are many more (many free and some for a fee) tutorial videos at http://www.learnvisualstudio.net/ which is a third party web site. I’ve heard great things about those tutorials. Plus you can learn a lot about how to teach by watching someone else teach.
For curriculum materials I would again look to the curriculum page at MainFunction where there is a fairly full "Intro to Computer Science with VB .NET" curriculum that you could easily work through to get started and then use to teach your own students. Also at MainFunction is a book of projects for Visual Basic for the classroom. I wrote those projects so of course I think they are pretty good. But honestly people have been using several versions of that book (it was originally done for VB 6 and later updated for .NET) for years and I get a lot of compliments on it.
There are also a lot of really good textbooks for Visual Basic. I have written about them in the past and probably will again. I’m always looking for comments and recommendations on VB books from teachers who are currently using them so feel free to leave a comment or send me an email about books you like (or hate).
And if you are worried about software you have two options. One is to use the Visual Basic Express Edition (free download here) or the MSDN Academic Alliance program that allows you to get Visual Studio 2005 for all of your lab computers, your teacher prep computers and send copies home with your students to install on their own computers for a single amazingly low price. Full details here.
I just found this article by Joshua Bloch, a developer from Google of all places, that points out that a lot of common examples of a binary search have a bug in them. The short answer is that they break when the sum of the high and low values is greater than the maximum supported integer. This is an article you want to save and use in class as an example of the kind of thing that causes problems for even the professionals.