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

October, 2006

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Interesting links - Women in Computing & Computational Thinking


    Diane and Hilary (two very talented young women I work with) continue their road trip through the mid-west and far west this week. They visited a number of colleges early last week and finished up at the Midwest Women in Computing Conference where they presented. Diane posted some resources for women in computing at her blog. Diane left of NCWIT (National Center for Women & Information Technology) which has a lot of resources and programs to help women in the IT field and to help women get into the field. They will both be at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computer Science later this week. There are resources out there for women (young and old) who are interested in computing fields. We need to make young women aware of them so they don't think they are alone in being interested in the field.

    BTW I love the pictures Diane has been posting of the blue peep who is traveling with them. Frankly I think it is an example of how people can make pictures of trips a bit more interesting. So check out the photo albums. Maybe some students will get some ideas from them for travel blogs or web pages of their own.

    I also ran into Philip Wadler's page (thanks to a link from Lambda the Ultimate Programming Languages weblog) where he is collecting links to Computational Thinking information. Most of his links I have seen (and linked to before) but one that I haven't seen before is called Computer Science 4 Fun (aka cs4fn : the fun side of Computer Science) and looks very interesting.

    Adam Barr has an interesting (fairly short) post on making bugs easier to find. Adam works at Microsoft where he teaches Microsoft developers to do their jobs better. He's also written a book on debugging programs. So his comments come from someone who knows what he is talking about. Most comptuer science classes don't discuss bug preventing, bug detection or software enginnering in general so this post is one I would receommend sending students to read. Ask them to evaluate what he is says and discuss it in class or in writing. The sooner they think about a systems approach to software development the better off they will be - in my not so humble opinion.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Are you teaching regular expressions?


    I came across the RegEx Side blog this week (hat tip to Jason Haley) where Brendan asks the question "Computer Science is not teaching regular expressions?" I have to admit that except when I taught an independent study using Perl I didn't teach regular expressions. I learned them (a little) in my own education but then with all the credits in CS I took between undergraduate and graduate programs you would hope so.

    I never used them much because frankly without supporting software they were pretty much something one learned to understand parsing. They were not something one used much unless one was doing real compiler development. That's all changed today though. Many modern languages have classes, methods, or other routines that allow programmers to much more easily use regular expressions. The .NET Framework and the standard Java library both include regular expression tools. Languages like Perl are pretty much all about the regular expressions.

    It's probably time to find some room to cover regular expressions earlier in CS education. I'm just not sure where. There is clearly no more room in the AP CS curriculum. That course may be too full already. Does it belong in a first programming course? I'm not so sure about that. It's a good thing for a serious CS student or future professional developer to know but it can be a little bit much for a brand new programmer to get their head around. So where does it fit? I'm open to suggestions.

    If students do not learn it at the high school level I sure hope they learn it in college though. Regular expressions are a powerful  tool.

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