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I watched a pair of teachers teach part of a Visual Basic class this morning. Watching teachers in action really made me want to get in the classroom myself. The teachers I watched were doing a fine job. The students were engaged and learning. But I found myself wanting to jump in and explain things myself. Not that they were not doing it “right” just that they were doing it differently from the way I would.
One thing that I observed was that one of the teachers had increased the size of the fonts in Visual Studio and also turned on the display of line numbers. Those are settings I have talked about before. Seeing the difference in readability from one room (large fonts) and the other (default fonts) room really convinced me of the value of this option. I also watched a teacher comment a blog of code line by line. That reminded me that I haven’t talked about keyboard shortcut keys in Visual Studio.
From the Edit menu there is an option called Advanced that shows a number of helpful formatting options. One of the options I have found particularly useful is commenting and uncommenting a blog of code. If you highlight a block of code the key sequence Control K and Control C at the same time the whole block of code will be commented. Likewise if you highlight a block of commented code and use the key sequence Control K and Control U the block will be uncommented.
Normally code is automatically formatted as it is entered but this is not always the case. If you have a block of code that is not formatted nicely (perhaps something handed in by a student) you can have Visual Studio format the code for you. The Control K Control F sequence will format a block that has been selected. The Control K Control D sequence will format the whole document. I often found that formatting unformatted code made it a lot easier for me to review it and even to find logic issues.
The Sloan Career Cornerstone Center has downloadable PowerPoint presentations and PDF documents for teachers, counselors, and others who are interested in providing information to students about career paths in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and computing. For Computer Science there is:
For more information, visit www.careercornerstone.org.
About 10 years ago now I was sitting in the teacher’s lounge and the mail came in. There was a package for me and it was tossed on the table in front of me. Seeing the return address I knew exactly what it was and hurried to open it. One of my friends asked what I was so excited about. I explained that it was my new book. Misunderstanding she replied something about everyone getting new books to review all of the time and that it was nothing to be excited about.
I slid the book over and asked my friend to look at the title page. That is when she realized that when I said “my book” I meant a book that I had written. That first book was just a book of projects and nothing like the complexity of a textbook. But it was published work and I was pretty excited about it. Since that day I have updated or re-written that project book twice (the C# version was a re-write the VB .NET version really an update), written a complete VB 6.0 textbook and re-wrote someone else’s VB 6 textbook to work with Visual Basic .NET. I recently collaborated with others to create a third edition of that book for VB 2005.
Today I got a letter from my publisher saying that the newest edition of this Visual Basic 2005 textbook has just been released. My author copies should be following soon. I still find this pretty exciting. Of course the most exciting thing over the years has been hearing from teachers who actually use books I have written in their classrooms.
I always found picking out textbooks to be a chore. Is the reading level right? Are the right things covered in the right order? Are the projects reasonable? How is the sample code? There is an endless set of questions. Sometimes I used to think it would be easier to just write my own textbook.
Honestly the first textbook I wrote was pretty much the course I taught at the time. The order was the order I used in class. The examples and projects were the projects I used in class (though I had to add some of each to fill out the book) and of course it worked out just fine for the way I taught. Ironically I never got to teach from that book because I had to assign the VB course to someone else the next year.
Writing a textbook is a lot of work but it is rewarding. Not in money really because authors have to sell a lot of books to make any real money. Authors who write for a living have to write full-time and turn out several books a year to make a living. But it is rewarding in personal satisfaction.