Additional profile information on Alfred Thompson at Google+
OK here's the deal. If you are teaching Visual Basic, programming in Visual Basic for fun or profit, or just interested in how Visual Basic works you really should be subscribed to the Visual Basic Team Blog. Why? A couple of sample links should tell the story.
Four posts by Matt Gertz are particularly good and potentially very useful for teachers, students and hobbyists.
Creating a "paint by numbers" puzzle application in a four part series. Useful individually or collectively.
Those of you who used to print out your forms in VB 6.0 or who are just interested in printing out VB forms now will really appreciate the last post. But undo/redo and loading and saving files will also be really useful either as ways to learn yourself or to point students to when these things are outside the scope of your usual curriculum.
Brian Scarbeau and I had an interesting conversation in Atlanta last week. Brian blogged about some of it. One of the concerns we both have is the shrinking pool of high school computer science teachers. A friend of ours just left teaching to take a job in industry. (of course I have done the same thing I admit.) Many of the computer science teachers we saw at the CS & IT symposium and that I saw at NECC last week are older. Not old really but a lot closer to retirement than to the beginning of their career. A good number of great teachers have retired in the last couple of years and that will only continue in the near future.
So who is going to take over for these teachers. In far too many cases no one is. There are schools where the computer science program has basically died after a teacher has retired because there was no one to replace them. We don't see a whole lot of young people moving in to take their places. There is a growing shortage of teachers in general of course. And high demand jobs like math and science teachers are leading the list of specialties in short supply.
Let's face it, if you really know your stuff in computer science you can make some good money in industry. But even if you feel a calling to teaching (and I feel it still and hope to get back to it some day) the system doesn't make it easy for you. There is no national standard for certifying computer science teachers. And in fact more states than not have a complete mess when it comes to certification for CS teachers. Often one has to be a either a math (ok close) or a business (what?) teacher to teach computer science. There is seldom a stand alone CS teacher certification. In fact if there is one I am not sure I know where it is. How do you even know what/how to prepare?
There are a bunch of problems here. At yet teaching high school and even middle school students (some people love teaching middle school others prefer other grades) computer science is a wonderful, enjoyable and rewarding career. But it is hard to communicate that in a society that keeps score based on income. We really need to find a solution here and not just for computer science education but for education in general.
I've been telling students and others that "reading the manual is the shortcut" for years. I really believe it. When a program isn't working out the way one expects re-visiting the manual is often a great short cut. Sometimes the manual in question is really the documentation for the project or the program. Often the manual in question is the language manual for the programming language being used or the documentation for the class/function libraries that are being used.
Often times there are functions/methods/classes that have already been created that can be used. Lots of shortcuts can be found that way. Manuals, in today's world the word manual often means online documentation of course, can also be a great way to understand error message as well.
No one knows it all. Manuals, online or old-fashioned paper books, can be a great source of information. I have a whole bookcase of programming books and I refer to them often. Real life is an open book test and knowing how and when to use books can be a huge advantage in life.
[Note: I am away on vacation this week so I decided to finish up this series and have these posts show up while I am away.]
This is the twenty-fourth 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.