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

July, 2007

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    2007 STEM Summit IV: Accelerating Forward (Massachusetts)


    If you are in Massachusetts and interested in improving STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education you will want to be aware of the fourth annual STEM summit being held this October. Registration is now open. I have attended the last several of these and have learned quite a bit.

    The "2007 STEM Summit IV: Accelerating Forward," will be held on Wednesday, October 17, at the Sturbridge Host Hotel and Conference Center, Sturbridge, MA. Educators, both PK-12 and higher education, community and business leaders and state and local-level policy makers are invited to attend. The combined efforts of all stakeholders can and will accelerate successful student preparation for careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in Massachusetts.

     Some scary statistics to those of us who care about getting more people interested in STEM fields from their web site.

    Fact: In 1999 26% of Massachusetts SAT test takers indicated an interest in a STEM field major.
    Fact: By 2006, this had dropped to 19.9% and has stayed at this level.
    Fact: To get back to 26% by 2010, Massachusetts needs to prepare and generate 4,000 students over and above the 11,900 currently indicating the intention to major in STEM at the higher education level.

    There is work to be done but clearly people in Massachusetts are not shying away from it.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Camp MMU from MathMovesU


    I received an announcement from the people at MathMovesU (I first wrote about them in June) that they have opened up their summer program called Camp MMU. It looks interesting and there are prizes!

    Put the math skills you learned during the school year to the test! CAMP MMU is the virtual math camp that rewards you for solving how math is used in fun, summer activities. 
    Come back each week and complete twenty math problems from two cabins to be entered to win awesome prizes:

    • Nintendo® Wii™
    • Playstation® 2
    • Phillips 10.2" Portable DVD Player
    • Singing Machine Karaoke Machine
    • Land Ranger Metal Detector
    • 36" Twin Motor Remote Controlled Boat.
    Want to get your name posted on MathMovesU? Show us the math behind your favorite summer camp activities for a chance to have your name and math problem featured in an upcoming MathMovesU challenge!

    Kudos for Raytheon for sponsoring this program.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Changing the Way We Teach Computer Science


    When two different and completely independent articles pop into my inbox at about the same time that are this closely related I interpret that as a sign to write a blog post. No, really I do.

    The first thing I found was an article about Owen Astrachan, a professor of the practice of computer science at Duke University, being awarded an NSF grant to redesign the way computer science courses are taught. The second was a set of notes posted by Liz Lawley about a session at this week's Microsoft Research Faculty Summit on the same general theme.

    As the NSF has stated in their award to Prof. Astrachan "Unfortunately, despite the deep and pervasive impact of computing and the creative efforts of individuals in a small number of institutions, undergraduate computing education today often looks much as it did several decades ago." I've been saying for a while that we need to seriously re-work the way we teach computer science. I'm pretty sure I'm not smart enough to figure it out but Owen Astrachan is one of the best and smartest teachers of computer science around. So I am hopeful that he'll come up with some great stuff. I like this idea of problem based learning that the article talks about.

    Liz writes about using social relevance in CS education. Actually she writes about a bunch of ideas (too many for me to summarize here and her notes are well worth reading in total) for changing the way we teach computer science, especially the first few courses. I like the idea that different people are taking different approaches. We need a variety of ways to teach if we are going to attract a more diverse group of people into the field.

    I wish I'd been able to make it to the Faculty Summit this year but since I can't be there I am really glad that Liz is blogging about it.

    So how would you change the way we teach computer science? Or is the old way that you learned under good enough? Are there people/schools out there that you think are really doing it right?

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