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

September, 2006

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    How would you do this without a computer?


    I found this web site earlier this week. (Thanks to Jill Walker) The site has recordings of over 500 people from different language backgrounds reading the same paragraph in English. If you ever wanted to hear what different accents sounded like this is the site for you. I think that because of TV most people around the work hear English with at least British, American, Australian, French, German and Italian accents. But there are so many more.

    Once upon a time this project would have involved tape recordings and each tape would have had to be loaded by hand or else one would have had to listen to all of them sequentially to get to the one you wanted to hear. You would not have been able to see the different language features highlighted as you can in this web site. In short one would have had to have had time and training to get any value at all from this sort of data. One would clearly not have been able to listen to it on a whim or merely to satisfy ones curiosity.

    But today because of computers this data becomes instantly and easily available to anyone with an Internet connection. It's really pretty amazing I think. The future is going to be interesting as more and more applications make it possible for people to easily do things that were difficult if not impossible to do in the past or present. Who knows what applications today's students will develop?

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    DigiGirz - a technology experience for girls


    Over at the Technical Careers @ Microsoft blog Priya writes about the DigiGirlz camp that Microsoft sponsored last summer and will again this coming summer. Besides the camp at Redmond, where some very high level women executives spoke to the girls, they will be running camps in North Carolina, North Dakota and Texas. I'll bet most people don't know that Microsoft has a major operation in North Dakota. But they do. See there is a lot to learn about Microsoft and about the IT field.

    These camps are an opportunity for women at Microsoft to share their interests in technology with young girls and to try to inspire them to learn more about the IT field and possible careers. I talked to some of the women involved in this program on my last visit to Redmond and I have to say their excitement and interest was inspiring to me. This seems like a great opportunity for high school girls.

    I'm sure more information about next summer's camps will be forthcoming but for know if you know a girl who would benefit from a program like this you may want to tell them about it. Point them off to Priya’s post for starters. There are links to more information there.


  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Where do Random numbers come from?


    One of the things that gets used and discussed a lot by beginning programmers is random numbers. of course those of us who have been around the block know that computer generated numbers are really pseudo-random numbers. It's a fairly short and reasonable discussion to explain seed values and why the same sequence of numbers will come up if the same seed value is given. But explaining how these numbers are generated is a more complex discussion completely.

    Last week Paul Vick of the Visual Basic team posted a note about pseudo-random numbers and Visual Basic. Included in this post is a code example of one version of a random number algorithm written in Visual Basic. It's not an algorithm for the timid and it involves some concepts that many students will not learn in a first course in programming. But I think it is useful even in those cases for students to get a feel for some of the complexities involved in the process.

    An other interesting thing in Paul's post is that he discusses the weakness of the Rnd function in Visual basic and why it hasn't been updated. The short story is that they are concerned that there is code out there that relies on a specific seed value generating the same string of numbers and they don't want to break those programs. At the same time there want to provide a stronger, better function for those people who have that sort of need. Balancing the issues of improvement and innovation against backwards comparability makes an interesting discussion to have in class and other places.

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