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

January, 2007

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Creating Your Own K-12 Outreach Program


    Over at the NCWIT blog I see that there is going to be a workshop for people at colleges and universities who want to start a K-12 Outreach program at SIGCSE 2007 . The people running the workshop have some  serious experience creating and running a successful K-12 outreach program at the University of Indiana. I have seen presentations on the Just Be program they developed and have been very impressed both with the program and the women behind it. From the NCWIT Blog:

    For more information, please contact Katie Siek or Suzanne Menzel.
    Important Information: SIGCSE 2007, Covington, Kentucky, USA

    • Workshop on Friday, March 9, 2007 from 7:00-9:00pm
    • Workshop registration cost is $60 through February 7, 2007; $75 through February 28, 2007
    • Laptops are strongly encouraged for the workshop

    If you are at a college or university that is thinking about starting a K-12 outreach program to get women and under-represented minorities involved and interested in technology and in higher education this workshop sounds like just what you need.

    BTW I am planning on being at SIGCSE this year. I would love to connect with any of my readers who are also going to be there. I'll be around the Microsoft booth a good bit but if you want to connect let me know in the comments or through this blog's contact page. See you there.


  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Geek Speak - From English to Geek to VB


    I came across an interesting course web site the other day. (Link found at the EdTechDev blog) Larry Press of California State University, Dominguez Hills uses what he calls Geek language as an intermediate step between and English language statement of an activity and the actual code that is created. His course uses Visual Basic but this would likely work in any language.

    What he calls Geek language is really what we are used to calling pseudo-code but I like to idea behind Geek language. Students know that "pseudo" means fake or not real and it seems to me that they often resist using it for that reason. Talking about Geek language as a way of explaining what the program code is actually doing seems a lot more like documentation or even just simple explanations. It has the feel of a middle step that is actually worth doing.

    I find that when I teach programming I like to use Geek language myself. It is more clear at to conceptual level than the actual programming language. At the same time it is close enough to standard English that it is easily understandable by a beginning audience. The important thing is that students understand what is going on at the conceptual level. Jumping too quickly to "real" code and specific programming languages leads to "cook book" programming and detracts from real understanding. Given how often programming languages appear (and more slowly disappear) it is important that students be able to recognize the concepts in a new syntax so that they can quickly learn new programming languages.

    The use of pseudo-code (or Geek language) is a good way to focus on what is happening or needs to happen rather than on the specific language syntax. Concepts first - specifics second. It's always worked for me.


  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Information Technology Worker Demand Up - Supply Down


    An interesting article in the Westchester County Business Journal (NY) reports that the demand for IT workers in the US and especially in the New York City area (generally a leading indicator in my experience) is on the rise.

    In Westchester [just north of New York City], the Pace SkillPROOF Information Technology Index for the third quarter of 2006 showed a 43 percent jump in IT jobs compared with the year-ago quarter -- reflected in a climb in the index score from 61 to 104. A fourth-quarter index will be released this month.

    At the same time enrolment in computer science programs is in a five year decline.

    Drawing more students to IT jobs has become a mission for Merritt and Pace. During the five years ending last year, enrollment in the computer sciences school dipped 30 percent from its all-time high in 2001, to the current 1,400 students.

    The math adds up to a lot of oppertunity in the near future for students looking into studying computer science these days. A lot of the jobs are the sort of local, hands on sort of jobs that are very unlikely to ever go over seas.

    A growing number of IT companies are assigning jobs to domestic companies. That should step up this year, in part because many companies will scramble to upgrade or replace their computers to accommodate Microsoft’s new Vista operating system, said Christopher Furey, chief executive officer of Another 9 L.L.C. in Tarrytown.

    IT is not a field that is going away. In fact if anything it is growing in importance and in oppertunities.


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