Additional profile information on Alfred Thompson at Google+
Chris Higgins blogs about a couple of projects that he is using with his Java students. There projects will work with most languages though. I think that most good projects do work in most languages.
I really appreciate that he posts the formula for the classic Gorilla program. You probably know this as the game where the gorilla tosses a banana to his a target. That one has also been done as a cannon shoot by more aggressive programmers. I think that the gorilla version appeals to more types of people (i.e. girls and boys who prefer less violent games) and so has more appeal to me as a teacher.
The other nice thing about that project is that is easily ties into math and physics. using computers to solve problems that involve other disciplines is a great way that computer classes and these other departments can support each other. Education means so much more when different subjects are tied together in relevant ways.
Encode/Decode projects also seem to be of interest to a wide range of ages and genders. I remember that as a middle school students the girls in my class where always making and using codes and ciphers. Several of them also learned sign language which can also be used as a cipher of sorts.
The other thing I like about any project that involves symbol substitution is that it helps students grasp the idea that data can be represented in different formats. As long as you understand the format the data is usable.
Good projects (in my opinion) tend to be projects that are useful and educational on several levels. I'm always on the look out for more of them.
For no better reason than to share a look at what it out there is the way of blogs about education and education technology and perhaps give some of these blogs some general "link love" I decided to share the list of blogs in my RSS reader (I use RSS Bandit) under the Education category. Some are blogs by teachers; some are from consultants or organizations. Some of the teachers teach computer science while other teachers teach other things but use technology. Some are focused on educational politics - some are on the right and others to the left. I like to read both sides. Some avoid politics completely. The people in my group who blog on education are listed elsewhere on this blog site so I left them off this list. One of these days I will take the time to sort them out and categorize these and other blogs I follow but today is not that day. Sorry about that.
Now to be honest I don't read every single post on every single blog. Some of them are rarely updated for example. There are some I skim the titles of and read if something looks interesting. I could not possibly even do that much if I didn't use an RSS reader. It would take far too long to visit each web site on a regular basis. RSS Bandit lets me look to see if anything is new, judge quickly if I have or want to make the time to read what has been posted.
Of course you don't need to have many blogs to follow to get value from an RSS Reader. Even if you only follow a couple or even just one (if only one I hope it's this one) you will save time by using an RSS Reader over visiting each web site directly. You can learn more about RSS readers (also called aggregators) on Wikipedia. [Edit: Another good article may be found here.]
Here in no particular order is my list:
Google has a new code search in beta test. It lets users search for code samples and specify the language to look for. This is a boon to anyone looking for code to reuse or to learn from. One has to believe that students are going to use it to look for code that they will hand in as their own though.
The fault is not in the tool of course but in how it is used. Professionals read code to learn how to code better. This is just like writers who read books to learn how others write about things. Or architects look at other architect's plans to get ideas of their own. In the professional environment borrowing code is an old and established practice. The difference with students is that projects are assigned to see if they know the material themselves and not to see if they can find someone else who understands it.
Teachers will want to familiarize themselves with this Google Code Search if for no other reason than to see what sort of code their students may find if they go looking for it. Or perhaps to see if they can find on the web code that a student hands in that doesn't quite look like their usual work.
Oh but on the plus side, Google Code Search is set up to allow all sorts of regular expressions. Perhaps here is a way some students are going to learn about that useful tool which I have talked about before. The search also lets users search for code that is licensed under specific licensees. This may well provide a topic for a discussion about that interesting area of the profession.