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

July, 2007

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Maybe I Should Go On Vacation More Often


    You may not have noticed but I have been away on vacation the last two weeks. I was out of the country (mostly in Norway with some short stays in Iceland and Sweden) and really didn't have Internet access or time to use it when I did have it. Before I left though I wrote nine posts and queued them up to show up while I was away.

    And while I was away some conversation broke out. Six of the nine posts have a total of 15 comments and trackbacks. The last post before I left which I didn't have a chance to really monitor had several as well. I'm not sure if I just got lucky or what but I was really pleased to see the activity.

    The post on "why would anyone want to teach high school computer science" had the most activity with 8 comments. I haven't had a chance to weigh in with more thoughts of my own but I will once I get caught up on things. I had about 1,000 email messages waiting my attention and I don't even want to talk about how many unread blog posts there are in my RSS reader!

    I have a number of things to blog about soon. Several of the email message I have read already have information well worth sharing. Hopefully I'll get to them soon. Likewise I expect there are a lot of good useful posts to link to in my RSS reader. So things will be back to normal here soon. In the mean time I hope people will continue to join the conversations in posts already made and in the ones soon to come.

    I hope those of you who are taking vacations this summer (especially the teachers who read here) have as great a time on vacation as I have had.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Programming Proverbs 26: Don't be afraid to start over


    The statement "Don't be afraid to start over" seems obvious to the breed of programmer today who starts off assuming that they will always throw away the first several versions of their program. There is some indication that this idea of rapid prototypes followed by several revisions, starting over from scratch, produces good results in the long run. OK I don't buy it but then I haven't really tried it.

    This proverb was originally written at a time when rapid prototyping was barely even thought of and starting over from scratch was a difficult idea for many to get their heads around. Of course even today it is hard for some people to give up on a piece of code after they've put a lot of time and energy into it. The truth is that sometimes once you get into a program you realize that some important things were not thought of during the planning process. Sometimes you have a piece of code that you can modify easily and fit the new code in nicely. In the real world though more often that can be very hard. There comes a time when banging and beating a piece of code to include new things is not really a good idea.

    The thing that gets me interested in starting over is how big a mess the code becomes when new features or functions are added - or attempted to be added. Maintainability of code is a big deal to me. When the costs of maintenance will get too high using the current code base it may be time to think about starting over. Hopefully all the things that were learned the first time will make the second version a lot easier and faster to create.

    [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-sixth and final 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.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    If You Like Mixing Math and Programming


    If you are looking for some mathematical programming challenges either as exercises, smaller projects or just because you or students you know like mathematical puzzles than you will want to look at  Project Euler.

    Project Euler is a series of challenging mathematical/computer programming problems that will require more than just mathematical insights to solve. Although mathematics will help you arrive at elegant and efficient methods, the use of a computer and programming skills will be required to solve most problems.

    The motivation for starting Project Euler, and its continuation, is to provide a platform for the inquiring mind to delve into unfamiliar areas and learn new concepts in a fun and recreational context.

    There are 158 problems there when I checked and from the one line introductions some of them look like fun. There is probably something there for just about everyone.

    [Found thanks to a link from Mark Punzalan  a.k.a. "Punzki"]

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