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

June, 2006

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    The Selling of the Academy


    Apparently a lot of colleges these days are working hard to attract students. Kevin Schofield writes about one such university at the Education Blog at On10. Penn State is trying to remake the school's image as "chic" according to this article. Recently a mild competition took place between MIT, Cornell and RPI to see which university a cartoon character would go to. The admissions people at all three schools were all over it if for no other reason than to get their university some attention.

    What's going on here? What are students looking for in a university? Is “chic” the thing? How much does academic quality matter to students? I know that a lot of students I knew were just looking for a “name” school that would help them get that important first job. Is learning something not thought of as important anymore?

    Join the conversation here or at

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Social Networking: Keeping Kids Safe


    I’m on a kick lately about education and social computing. Part of it is because I feel strongly about the need for educators to learn about this quickly to catch up with their students and part of it is because there seems to be a lot going on in this area. For example the ISTE newsletter has an article out on Social Networking: Keeping Kids Safe that is pretty interesting.

    A sidebar that is particularly useful I think is this one:

    Social Networking:5 Tips for Educators

    • Make sure that administrators are able to access social networking Web sites so they can immediately address any problems. Many districts block the Web site, and even administrators can’t access it.
    • If your school has a public group page on MySpace, it is likely that MySpace has designated a student who it deems responsible as the group moderator. Find out who the moderator is so you can monitor the group’s activities for any issues.
    • If issues do arise, get police involved if necessary. MySpace is quick to respond to subpoenas for information.
    • Try to educate parents. If they don’t know the consequences already, make sure that they do. Most of the troubling activity on MySpace occurs away from school.
    • Posting harmful speech, impersonating someone else, and lying about your age are all violations of the use agreements on most social networking Web sites; therefore, requesting that the material be removed is not a free speech issue if the use agreement is being violated.

    I have mixed feelings about that last item. I’m not so quick to say that violation of use agreements means that the rules around free speech do not apply. Everything is different when it is a private rather than government site of course but I am hesitant to take actions that are overly chilling of speech. Still I think we need to educate students that lying or posting harmful speech are unethical and harmful activities.

    The most important thing in the main article that people need to be aware of is that there are no quick fixes. As Karl Johnson, the president of the technology coordinators special interest group (SIGTC), says, “There is no software out there or technology that is foolproof.” That says to me that education is important and that teachers need to do their job which clearly includes supervision of students who are using the Internet in school.

    We also can’t lose sight of the fact that these social networking sites have a large good side to them as well. Schools are using them to teach writing skills, research skills and many other things. I know that development officers in many universities see online forums and other social computing software as a way to keep alumni in contact with their peers and with the school. Community among individuals can be maintained across time and space with social networking software. We have to be careful not to throw out the baby with the bath water.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Teaching Students to Be Safe on the Internet


    The other day I visited an elementary school in Andover MA to watch an assembly run by National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® (NCMEC). The program was part of the Get Net Safe tour that Microsoft is running in conjunction with NCMEC, AARP, Geek Squad, the Boys and Girls Clubs, I-Safe, the US Chamber of Commerce and others. The mayor of Boston talks about this tour here.

    From May through December, the tour will stop in Boston; Charlotte, N.C.; Chicago; Dallas; Detroit; Los Angeles; New York; Orlando, Fla.; Philadelphia; Phoenix; Seattle; and Washington, D.C. The activities will include the following:

    Local chamber of commerce luncheon

    Elementary, middle- and high-school assemblies and teach-ins

    Boys & Girls Clubs events

    Teacher trainings

    Seminars for Internet users age 50 and up

    Parent nights

    Localized materials

    I was pretty pleased to see this tour kick off and to be a small part of it in the Boston area. Besides Boston there have been tour events in Beverly MA, Andover MA and Brighton MA. There have been events in inner-city schools, suburban schools, senior centers and meetings with local business and community leaders.

    I’ve been a big advocate that schools need to teach students how to be safe and this has been a good step in that direction. I was able to talk to the head of technology for the Andover schools and he told me that they were putting units on Internet safety right into the curriculum in several areas. They are also including it across grade levels so that it is not just a one shot deal but can be reinforced year after year. I think that is quite encouraging and I hope that a lot more schools do the same.

    More information about the Get Net Safe tour and the sponsors participating in the effort is available online at

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