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

May, 2007

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    XNA In The Classroom

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    There really aren't a lot of books on XNA available yet (though some are coming) and real textbooks seem to be trailing the rest of the books. None of that is stopping the really innovative teachers though. Not in universities, not in community colleges and not even in high schools.  

    Brian Scarbeau has been blogging about his plans for an XNA-based high school computer science course next year. At his post you will find some discussion of scope and sequence as well as information about the resources he is using. There is a book review of one of the early XNA books as well. Brian is a real pioneer who works hard to keep up with the latest technology developments and to share them with his students.

    Tom Indelicato has started experimenting with XNA with his AP CS students now that the exam is over. He and his students are learning together. He's purchased some XBOX 360 controllers and is letting students experiment with the starter kit. They're running into some issues with limited hardware which is disappointing but unfortunately all too typical in schools where minimal systems are often the rule. Tom is having his students keep engineering notebooks during this learning experience. The goal for Tom is to help the students learn to learn and learn to document the process. Students may think that they are learning about game development but in actual fact they will be learning a lot more than that. Games are a tool and not an end in themselves.

    Last week I was at New Hampshire Technical College observing the XNA-based semester projects of students there. Those students were second semester freshmen in NHTI's Program in Animation and Graphic Game Programming. I think this is the first program of its kind in a 2-year community college. They have an impressive curriculum, a great faculty and all the right hardware to support development, learning, and sharing what people are doing/learning.

    Some of the games were pretty good especially for the short amount of time that students had to work on them. Some of the graphics were down right amazing - professional grade. It was of also pretty cool watching the demos play on a large screen being projected by an XBOX 360. The students were all highly motivated to learn new things so they could make their projects better. Caring about the results went far beyond just a grade thing. They've already had to learn a lot about things like matrix operations, math for physics and graphics and much much more. They also had to work out how to use the XNA libraries and development software. Most of the students told me they expected to continue to develop their games which means more to learn. I can't wait to see the output these students produce next year as they learn more.

    By the way, congratulations to Brian Scarbeau for being elected to the board of the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA). That's just one way he contributes to the wider community. He's a frequent speaker at technical events in the Orlando Florida area and beyond. I'm proud to list him among my friends.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Health Care and Computers

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    One of the things I talk about over and over again is how ubiquitous computers are becoming. There are in just about any line of work you can imagine. And of course health care is no exception. Recently I came across a Microsoft health care focused blog. It includes "Comments from Dr. Bill Crounse and the Microsoft Healthcare and Life Sciences team on how technology can improve healthcare delivery and services around the world." There are some interesting posts there. As a long time Disney theme par fan I completely enjoyed the post on "if Disney ran health care."

    In any case if you are interested in reading about how technology and health care intersect - or perhaps you know someone else who is interested - the HealthBlog may be a blog you want to start following.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Maker Faire 2007 - Why does the west coast get all the fun?

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    There is a whole write-up about Microsoft's presence at the upcoming Maker Faire on the Coding 4 Fun blog. I've been hearing about some of this from my friends Mark Hayes and Sam Stokes who will be there at the Microsoft booth again this year. They went last year and had a blast. There is just so much cool stuff going on its hard to believe!

    Maker Faire is the ultimate Geek do it yourself event. Some information from the Coding 4 Fun site is below.

    Quick Facts

    • Dates: Saturday and Sunday May 19th – 20th, 2007
    • Location: San Mateo Fairgrounds, San Mateo, CA
    • Admission: $15 adults
    • Website: http://www.makerfaire.com/
    • Video of Phil Torrone & Bre Pettis talking about Maker Faire 2007

    What is Maker Faire?

    • Maker Faire is a two-day family-friendly event celebrating science and technology projects and the Do-It-Yourself mindset.
    • Maker Faire is being produced by our partners at Make Magazine, an O'Reilly publication and this is the 2nd year that Microsoft has been a sponsor.

    I really want to go but that's not happening this year. Its on the wrong side of the country for me. I wish they would do an east coast version one of these days. But if you are anywhere near San Mateo, CA May 19th or 20th and interested in having fun with science and technology Maker Faire would be a great way to spend the day.

    And if you go, stop by the Microsoft booth - there is going to be a lot to see there. There will be sample games using XNA, an amazing number of robotics projects and a lot of other ways to program various kinds of hardware. You might be surprised at the ideas you get for projects yourself!

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