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

July, 2006

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Opening Up Communication with Parents

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    I found this article very interesting. The Buckman Arts Magnet Elementary School is trying to move towards paperless communication with parents by using a more interactive website with blogs. Because not every family has Internet at home they are setting up Internet kiosks at school for parents to use. They are not stopping the paper completely of course because access is critical. I think that this is the wave of the future.

    One of the added benefits I see to things like this (and the article doesn’t talk about it) is that it can also be very helpful to non-custodial parents. If you think about it you will realize that if kids are living in one home the parent who doesn’t live with the child has to be completely dependent on an ex-spouse out the fickle memories and priorities of their child to let them know what is going on in school. Having a lot more and more current information on a school web site allows non-custodial parents to keep more in touch and be more involved and informed. I think that in most cases this can be a huge boon.

    And then there are grandparents, aunts, uncles and other interested family. I also happen to think that it is good for the community at large to be aware of what is going on in their schools. Anyway, take a look at the article as it is an interesting read and maybe it will give you some ideas.

    [By the way. I’m on vacation this week so this was written earlier for display later. Response to comments will be slow.]

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Beginning Computer Science Education is Broken

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    I’ve been reading the Institute for Personal Robots in Education Blog out of Georgia Tech lately. One of the more interesting and I think slightly provocative statements I’ve read recently comes from a recent post there.

    It is now widely agreed in the CS education community that most current models of CS1/CS2 are broken.

    A lot of people have been working on new ways to teach the first computer science courses at both the secondary school and university level. People generally don’t come right out and say things are broken though. Now I happen to agree with this statement. The way I have been saying it is that we are doing something wrong but that I don’t feel like I know what the right answer is.

    The fact is that for too long we have had first programming courses that we designed to weed people out rather than draw them in. We’ve also gotten distracted by debates over what language to use, object first or second, and if we should use an IDE or not.

    I’ve talked to people who say that the right language is the answer. Others say robotics, or multi-media, or perhaps game development. Or web development or mobile (pocket PCs, SmartPhones, etc) are the answer. I think that those things can help and maybe even help a lot. But we have to start with the curriculum and some basic understanding of what concepts we want students to learn and get a grip on the total desired outcomes. It sounds like that is the direction the Institute is going in so it will be interesting to follow developments there.

    [By the way. I’m on vacation this week so this was written earlier for display later. Response to comments will be slow.]

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Computational Thinking

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    I spent last Saturday (and actually part of the day before) at Carnegie Mellon University at a workshop for high school computer science teachers called CS4HS. The workshop started with a talk by Jeannette Wing, the head of the Computer Science department, who talked about Computational Thinking. It was an inspiring talk and I highly recommend her paper on the subject. Actually though I wish you could all hear her give the talk. The paper is good and it has most of the information she gave in the talk but you can tell how fired up she is on the subject when you hear her talk. She is a very dynamic speaker to say the least.

    Dr. Wing really believes that everyone needs to know computational thinking and that it should be in more and more of the curriculum at all levels. I think if more people heard and understood the message she is giving we’d be better off. Take a look at her writing and let me know what you think.

    [By the way. I’m on vacation this week so this was written earlier for display later. Response to comments will be slow.]

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