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

April, 2007

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Edubloggercon 2007 - the place for education bloggers to meet


    I received the following announcement in email the other day.

    Edubloggercon 2007 - This first-ever, international, one-of-a-kind all-
    day "meetup" of educational bloggers will take place on Saturday, June
    23rd, at the Georgia World Conference Center in Atlanta just before
    the start of NECC (
    All are invited-whether you yourself blog, are just an educational
    blog reader, or even just want to hang out with an interesting group
    of people. The event is free, and you can indicate that you are coming
    (and see who else will be there) at the Edubloggercon wiki:
    Edubloggercon 2007 will be unique in that it is going to be organized
    by the participants in real time at the wiki. We have access all that
    day to the large Open Source Pavilion room at the Conference Center
    and there will be free wi-fi: beyond that is up to you. So come join
    the discussion and help us plan a fun and stimulating experience.

    This looks like it will be a great event. I am hoping to make it myself for the chance to connect and learn from education bloggers from around the country and the world.


  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    More Teacher Training Opportunities


    I've been hearing from more and more people who are offering summer training opportunities for high school computer science teachers. Here are the latest ones I know about. (Descriptions copied from announcements and web sites.)

    An AP CS Work Shop

    AP CS Work Shop at The College of New Jersey

    The 2007 AP Summer Workshop for High School Computer Science Teachers will include a combination of instructional sessions and laboratory time to help you achieve your goals. Emphasis will be placed on teaching computer science, as well as the concepts and technologies involved. Workshop participants will return from the workshop with activities that can be used in their classrooms, an understanding of the new Advanced Placement® Case Study – GridWorld, and many other useful resources.

    Our list of focused topics will include, but is not limited to the following.

    • The Gridword Case Study – Activities for introduction and mastery by students
    • Role playing and kinesthetic learning activities for your classroom
    • A sample reading activity to better understand how the AP tests are graded
    Depending upon participant interest, other possible topics may include robotics in the computer science classroom, the Alice programming environment, Karel J. Robot, the Greenfoot programming environment, and Java graphics programming.

    Where: The Computer Science Department, The College of New Jersey, Ewing, NJ (map)
    When: July 16-20, 2007

    • $350 per participant for the full week (includes lunch each day)
    • Optional on-campus housing is available through TCNJ for an additional $300. This includes on-campus breakfast and dinner and a dorm room linen package during your stay

    Some Alice workshops

    • Learning to Program with Alice

    • Alice and Media Computation

    Registration Deadline: May 1, 2007

    (The workshops are free!)

    Led by the experts:

    • Dr. Stephen Cooper, Saint Joseph's University
    • Dr. Wanda Dann, Ithaca College

    Funded by grants from the National Science Foundation these workshops are designed and particularly appropriate for those wishing to:

    • Decrease the attrition among computer science students
    • Attract students into computer science
    • Provide a programming component for a computer literacy course

    Appropriate for high school instructors, to aid in AP CS courses

    Two three (3) day workshops will be offered on the teaching of Alice and Media Computation together in a CS1 course:

    1. July 26-28 on the campus of Roger Williams University, Bristol, Rhode Island
    2. August 1-3 on the campus of Georgia Tech, Atlanta, Georgia

    This workshop will include (approx) 1 ½ days of instruction in Alice; 1 day instruction in Media Computation; and ½ day instruction on combining the two for teaching CS1.

    Learning to Program with Alice workshop will be offered August 8-10 on the campus of California State University, in Dominguez Hills, California. Workshop will include:

    • Introduction/review of the Alice environment
    • Scene set-up
    • Programming constructs, including objects and classes
    • Interactivity
    • Teaching tips
    • Curricular models
    • Instructional materials
    • Transitioning to Java/C++
    • Alice in an existing CS curriculum
    • Advanced topics: Arrays and Lists (Visual and Non-Visual)
    • Sound
    • Camera control
    • Presentations by attendees about their experiences.

    Registration and questions to Barbara Conover, Project Manager, Center for Visualization (Alice Grants), Saint Joseph's University at

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Programming Proverbs 15: Avoid tricks


    Tricks are fun. It is often pretty satisfying to add a bit of code that is tricky, difficult or perhaps something that not everyone is going to understand. Well it's fun when it is done but later when the code has to be changed, modified, or worse - debugged its not always so much fun.

    Tricks often work because they take advantage of ambiguity or implementation inconsistencies. or they rely on some deep understanding of low level details. The problem comes into play when those features change. For example a trick that takes advantage of overflows in a 16 bit word will break when the application moves to a 32 bit computer. Or a trick that takes advantage of a loop checking a value at the bottom even though the specification calls for it to be checked at the top of the loop will fail when a compiler that correctly implements the specification comes out. I actually know of cases where that latter problem happened!

    There is a reason things are called tricks after all.

    Tricks also make maintaining and debugging more difficult. Programmers really need to think about the person who will maintain their code. Most coding happens to existing code that someone else has written. If the next programmer doesn't know the trick they may very well have trouble working with your code.

    Of course if you can't avoid using a trick at least comment it well. Explain it in detail so the next programmer to look at it will have a fighting chance to figure it out.

    This is the fifteenth in 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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