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

October, 2006

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    An Online Education Conference


    There is an interesting education going on. Most of the main events are next week but the keynote by David Warwick took place earlier this week. What makes this conference different is that it is all taking place online at and it involves top educational bloggers from around the world. An international conference with no travel or hotel stay requirements. This may change the way we thing about conferences.

    A complete schedule is available at Vicki A Davis has an online conference planning guide with her summary of some of the key events and information. It looks like continuing education credit is available by the way. If that doesn't make it a real education conference I don't know what would!

    Now you would think that this sort of online conference would be less interactive than a live conference but in some ways the opposite if true. For example Dave Warwick is hosting a wiki to discuss the keynote. And of course many of the bloggers who are attending are posting their own notes in their blogs. For example here is a link to Wesley Fryer's Moving at the Speed of Creativity blog with his notes and screenshots. This is only going to get more interactive and the conference moves into its main schedule next week.

    OK so there is no big dinner, no parties and no exhibit hall giving away brochures and swag but there looks to be a lot of education going on. It's going to be interesting to see how it develops.


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  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Game Camp (Canada) - Build Games for the Xbox 360 and Windows!


    In Canada Microsoft is inviting students and hobbyists who are interested in game development to a free event in Toronto next month. It sounds like a lot of fun and a great chance to learn about XNA Studio Express. I wish I could go myself. Not only is it free but I understand there will be food as well. No one expects you to learn while hungry.

    Here’s the abstract and schedule for the day.

    If building games for the Xbox 360 or Windows gets you excited then you have to be at this event.  For the first time, Microsoft will take you through the details of our (soon to be released) XNA Game Studio Express.  If you didn’t already know, anyone can now build interactive, high performance games for Windows or Xbox 360.  We’ll take you through an introduction of XNA and XNA Game Studio Express.  Then we’ll equip you with the skills to start building games ranging from 2-D Arcade to stunning interactive 3-D.

    The day starts at 9am so be there. Game On!

    Register Now At:

    Session 1: XNA Overview
    Session 2: Developing Arcade Games
    Session 3: Anatomy of a Commercial Game
    Session 4: Real-world Development Process
    Session 5: Graphics Design Deep Dive

    ** Please note that since this event is taking place on November 11, Microsoft has made a donation to the Royal Canadian Legion and will be providing Poppies for each attendee.  The event will pause for 2 minutes of silence at 11am.

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  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    How to answer a coding question on a test


    Diane Curtis who works with college students wrote a great blog last week about answering an interview question that asks a candidate to write some code. This is a fairly typical sort of question that people are asked when interviewing for technical/programming jobs. As I read her post it I realized that the same steps are appropriate for almost any kind of programming problem including the sort that students are asked on written exams.

    Now step one is a little different because in an exam one already has the question written out but one still has to read that question very carefully to understand all the information and assumptions. But the rest of the steps, on scrap paper until the final code writing step, is pretty close to what one could (should?) do for a test.

    At the very least one wants or rather needs to have an organized step by step approach to a coding problem. This applies to a problem one is doing for a job just as much, if not more so, as to a test or an interview question.

    I think that teaching problems solving may be the most important skill we can teach as part of a programming course. We can't rely on random unplanned code additions to solve problems. We need a process that involved checking what we are doing at each step. Planning gives the best results but we need to teach it.


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