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

May, 2007

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Educational Uses for Microsoft Surface


    You know every so often someone writes a simple blog post that when you read it makes you want to hit your head and say "how in the world did I not think of that?" Vicki A Davis did that yesterday in her Cool Cat Teacher blog. No wonder she is one of the most linked to education blogs around. Vicki talks about the educational potential of Microsoft Surface.  As Vicki says

    The applications here for education are incredible! How about a word wall that changes depending on the class that is in your room. Think about the manipulatives potentials -- use them but NO clean up -- just a little Windex and wipe off the fingerprints!

    Think about collaborative work as several students sort objects. Very little children sorting letters or words or images of shapes. Older students organizing individual images to create storyboards. OR maybe taking note cards and placing them in order for a presentation or the outline for a paper. Or perhaps interactively drawing lines to show relationships. Or annotating geometric shapes. Sure you can do some of that with a Tablet PC today but working collaboratively is going to be so much easier with these Surface devices.

    I'm thinking that the potential in special education is also going to be interesting. Lots of special education students have either physical or processing differences that make traditional devices difficult. This new tool should allow them to visualize and manipulate things in powerful ways.

    While the initial costs are high for educational uses that will change over time and then watch out. What do you think? How would you see this tool being used in education?

    [Note: I originally wrote this for the education blog at On10 the other day but the more I think about it the more it is relevant here as well. I think it ties in with the note I wrote here about thinking differently about I/O.]

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Changing the Way We Think About Input Output


    The first computer I ever programmed was the IBM 1130 and initially input meant using a card reader. Output meant using a line printer. Now if you were really lucky, which means you were in an advanced course and had permission to use the computer after hours you might be allowed to use the console keyboard or even signal the computer using the toggle switches on the CPU's front panel. Pretty heady stuff back in the early 1970s.

    Later of course came light pens on early CRTs and then the mouse. Ah, the mouse. I still remember the first time a mouse made sense to me. I tried out a drawing program on an early Apple Macintosh. Wow! What control; what power; what else would you use it for though? Of course I learned what else as more and more applications took advantage of the mouse's capabilities.

    Recently I really started discovering the benefits of using the Xbox 360 Controller as an input device. While I initially got my 360 controller to play games, and create my own using XNA Game Studio Express, I soon found out that I could use it for other things. I have used the 360 controller to mover simulated robots around in Microsoft Robotics Studio's simulator.

    Even more fun though has been using the controller to "fly" thorough the virtual world on Virtual Earth. They've just added a lot of 3-D views of New York City and several other metropolitan areas BTW. In any case using the 360 controller lets me move around the world, zoom in and out and generally navigate in a very natural way. I'm just waiting for creative people to come up with more applications that use this device in innovative new ways. Oh and since the controller vibrates I can see "output" possibilities as well.

    What's new today? The Surface Computer that lets you use your hands to directly interact with a computer. There is a great video demo at On10. The demo starts with a paint program. Where have we seen that before? There are some interesting sample applications - wait until you see the video puzzle in the last two minutes of the demo. But for me the interesting thing there will be to see what new applications or more specifically new and interesting ways to do things this technology will bring in the future.


  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Parent's Guide to Windows Vista


    Most new PCs these days are coming with Windows Vista on them. If you are a parent, especially if your children are younger, this can be quite a boon to you as there are many new security features in Vista that can be helpful to parents. Blake Handler has done a very nice job of setting out step by step instructions for parents. I highly recommend his post to you.

    If you are responsible for monitoring school computers some of this will be very useful as well. You'll want to look more into the security and control that Windows Vista provides. These features will make life easier for a lot of school technology people.

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