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

March, 2007

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Programming for Kids Who Cannot Read and Write

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    The Boku project is an interesting research project that lets young children create simple programs to more a robot around an imaginary three dimensional world. Laura Foy of On10 has a video of the very first public demonstration.

    I've been hearing about this for a while and hope to see it myself on my next trip out to Redmond. There are several interesting features of this besides the cool factor of running on an Xbox 360 and the great graphics. One is that there is not a lot of need for reading and writing. No typing for sure. But even still one can create some simple steps for the robot to follow and get an early feel for the highs (and perhaps some of the lows) of real programming. Clearly though the big win is the need to think things out, solve problems and create what are really algorithms. Little kids don't know that things are supposed to be hard. Its a great time to get them to try things, learn from things, and get some idea that things can be fun.

    I can't wait to see Boku become available so that people can try it out.

     

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Computer Science and Information Technology Symposium at NECC

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    Microsoft is a sponsor of this high-profile event, hosted by CSTA and ISTE, being held on June 28th 2007 in conjunction with the National Educational Computing Conference (NECC) 2007.

    The CS & IT Symposium is a professional development opportunity for computer science, information technology, and computing applications teachers who need practical, relevant professional development programs to help them prepare their students for the future.

    • Explore issues and trends relating directly to your classroom and curriculum
    • Network with top professionals and educational leaders from around the country
    • Interact with other teachers to gain new perspectives on shared challenges and opportunities

    The $50 registration fee includes breakfast, luncheon, resource materials, vendor giveaways and a closing reception.

    Registration and additional information may be found at the symposium web site - http://www.csitsymposium.org/

    Oh, by the way, I'll be speaking about computer lab issues including classroom management, lab setup and commonly asked questions about all of the above. Should be fun.

     

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Programming Proverbs 12: Leave loop variables alone

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    Another way of expressing this is to use loop as if they were read-only constants. Loop variables should be initialized and changed only in the loop statement itself. The problem with doing it anywhere else is that it is too easy to either make the modification incorrectly or to do so in the wrong place.

    Changing loop variables outside the loop statement also makes programs more difficult to debug and to modify. debugging gets complicated when one has to search for the locations where a variable is modified. Modifications to loop variables should only happen in one place to keep it simple. By treating loop variables as read-only and never modifying them inside the loop the debugging process is simplified at least a little. Sometimes every little bit helps.

    A lot of beginners think that once they are done with a program that it will never be revisited. That may be true for programs that are created as class assignments but it is generally not the case for most any other programs. Students should always write their programs as if someone else will later come along to either maintain or enhance it. It's a good habit to get into as it forces better design practices. When it comes to maintaining or more importantly adding code to a loop the last thing you want is problems figuring out where and how the loop control variable is modified.

    Keeping it simple (like leaving loop variables alone) is a good idea and a good habit to teach.

    This is the twelfth of a series of posts based on the book Programming Proverbs by Henry Ledgard. The index for the series is an earlier post and discussion of the list as a whole is taking place in the comments there. Comments on this "proverb" are of course very welcome here.

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