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

November, 2006

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    HP Announces 2007 HP Technology for Teaching Grant Initiative


    I got this via email and thought it worth passing on. A lot of grant opportunities are only available to colleges and universities but this one is open  to K-12 schools.

    HP Announces 2007 HP Technology for Teaching Grant Initiative

    Request for Proposals Available Now! Due February 15, 2007

    HP has launched its 2007 HP Technology for Teaching Grant Initiative, which will award grants totaling $10 million in cash and equipment to K-12 public schools and two- and four-year universities in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. The higher education initiative is specifically targeting faculty teaching selected disciplines within math, science, engineering and computer science. Based on the outcomes of the projects funded through this initiative in 2007, HP may offer grant recipients the opportunity to receive higher-value grants in 2008. Web-based applications are due by 5 p.m. PST, February 15, 2007. For more information and to download a request for proposals, visit

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Inspiration, Imagination, Innovation


    Of all the comments that have been made on my most busy post to date  one from Gregg Irwin best captured what I was hoping to do by posting that story. I was hoping to inspire some young people to trying to stretch themselves a bit. I was hoping to encourage people, especially students and hobby programmers, to use their imagination and to believe that more was possible than the "programming is hard" talk that we hear all too often would have them believe. I was hoping that some people would try a little innovation. Simple innovation to start. The things I had in mind were combinations of features that others hadn't thought about. Taking a different look at things, asking the great "what if" question and then trying it out.

    I discovered software completely by accident. I was sort of interested in computers but 35 years ago they were hardly the sort of thing one came across in common use. Rather they were the stuff of science fiction. Huge, power hungry behemoths controlled by really smart people with advanced degrees. The machines themselves had more potential than actual ability to change lives. So when I was looking through the general education requirements for my degree program (I was a sociology major at the time) and saw that I could take a computer programming course in place of a mathematics course I thought - why not?

    The rest as they say is history. I found something that really inspired me. Here was something I could use my imagination with in a way I had never been able to use it before. I could do some innovative things with this powerful tool. Well the programs I wrote back then do some things that are pretty common place today but that is the result of enough people doing similar innovative things in many places so that the uncommon became common.

    I'm getting ready for Computer Science Education Day (earlier comments here, what one teacher has planned here) and I will be talking to students at a New Hampshire high school. My goal that day is to inspire more students to think seriously about studying some computer science. I hope to get them to see that there is still a lot of room for imagination and innovation in the field. We need a lot more out of the box thinking if the next 35 years are going to see anything like the growth of the last 35 years.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Are you ready for Windows Vista? Is your school ready?


    Schools that have the full (call it the college edition) MSDN AA program should see Windows Vista as an available option for download today. The high school MSDN AA program doesn't include operating systems and that is reflected in the much lower cost of course. Very few high schools want to install a new operating system during the school year so having Windows Vista come out now probably doesn't effect many schools. For a lot of schools January, when Windows Vista hits wide release through retail channels, will be soon enough to start fully evaluating Windows Vista. There are a lot of reasons that school system managers will want to seriously consider upgrading machines that will support it. The security and control improvements are, I think, very interesting for school computers.

    I know that as a technology coordinator I almost never installed new software during the school year. That was something we did over the summer. Additional software, at the request of a teacher, staff member or administrator, was a different story obviously. If someone needed software to do their job it is important to get it for them within budget constraints. But tossing a brand new fresh out of the box operating system on unsuspecting students and faculty was to be avoided.

    We (my technical staff and I - ok my assistant mostly) did maintain a couple of machines on which we tested beta and early released software all year long. We beta tested both Windows 2000 and Windows XP before they were released for example. We made sure that all of the schools standard applications (accounting software, student record system, and teaching tools both hardware and software) worked with the new operating system. We contacted suppliers to find out if they were also testing and what they were doing to proactively make sure their products would work with the new operating system. When the software was released and we were building systems up over the summer we generally had a good handle on things.

    The same was true with development tools that I was using to teach programming courses. I beta tested every version of Visual Studio from Visual Studio 5 through the first .NET release. I was evaluating if my projects would work the same, if there were now better (or just different) ways to do things. I also tried to evaluate if software changes required new textbooks (not a good thing) or if we could manage with existing textbooks (often a tough call).

    Schools and educators are often very change adverse. Call it risk adverse perhaps. But I ran into a lot of teachers who just didn't want anything to change. Schools seem to trail behind in updating computer software. I know of schools that are still running Windows 98 on all their systems. Others are running Windows 2000 with no plans to upgrade to XP let alone Vista. Some of it I understand. Learning something new makes some people uncomfortable especially when what they are already using is "good enough." I'm the sort of geek who always likes to be using the latest and greatest so that is not my way. I'm hardly happy if there is no beta software on my computer.

    As a technology coordinator I had to balance my wants with practical realities. I would never install beta software on general use computers of course. On the same token if there were features in a new version that I felt would make things better either from the standpoint of supporting the institution or improving the productivity of faculty and staff I would upgrade software within the limits of my budget.

    One of the complaints I hear often from parents and students is that the kids know more about technology than the teachers. I find that scary. In education we try to instill the notion of "life long learners." That is a concept I am a strong believer in. Yet we have too many teachers and administrators who actively avoid learning and using new technology. What message does that send to our students?



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