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

September, 2007

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Do We Still Need To Teach HTML


    Brian Scarbeau asks "Should html be taught in a web design course?" The comments at his blog are all a resounding "yes" which surprises me. While I do agree that there is a lot of value in learning the underlying HTML in a first course I expected others to disagree. Am I really that main stream?

    I expected people to say that the focus would be on design or perhaps on concepts independent of HTML. Or perhaps people would reject the use of HTML in an editor with a preference for tools that hide it all.

    Just how important is knowing HTML these days? Look at how much one can do without it. Major mashups with Popfly. Personal site customization with Facebook, My Spaces and many easily skinable sites for people of all ages. Tools for creating websites that are drag and drop designers seem to be increasing in pervasiveness. Do students really need to know HTML?

    Honestly I think they do because of the language being so foundational. But with so much possible without knowing raw HTML couldn't it really wait until a later course? Leave a comment with your opinion here. Or drop it over at Brian's blog - especially if you disagree about needing to teach HTML.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Imagine Cup 2008 is Ramping Up


    The Imagine Cup, an international set of competitions for computer college/university students, is starting up again. The theme this year is "imagine a world where technology enables a sustainable environment." This is a chance to make an impression on the world. Actually since there are 9 different events there are multiple chances.
    US students you may want to visit the US specific site at to read about the premier event - the Software Design Invitational.

    The Software Design Invitational is the one event that is run initially at the national level. The top teams from a country or region not only wins the national prize but goes to the international finals (Paris France this coming year) to compete face to face with top teams from around the world. In recent years several of the top teams have demonstrated their projects to Bill Gates and other senior Microsoft executives. Other teams have shown their projects to venture capital firms which in some cases has lead to start up funding.

    An other event of interest is the Game Development event. This one is new this year but seems to be interesting to a lot of people. Getting your game before a large audience and potentially winning a major international prize has got to be a helpful kick start for a game development career doesn't it?

    The world wide site is so if you are not in the US you will want to start there. If you are a college/university student with entrepreneurial aspirations the Imagine Cup may be an opportunity you want to take advantage of.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    New Robotics Curriculum from Microsoft Robotics Studio


    Recently the Microsoft Robotics Studio team released a seven unit introductory course in robotics.  I borrowed a bit of the overview and posted it here.

    Robotics Introductory Courseware Overview

    The robotics introductory courseware is a set of labs that can be completed individually or as part of an introductory course on robotics. The labs take you through common robotics concepts such as reading sensors, controlling actuators, designing simple behaviors, and having a robot interacting with its environment using Microsoft Robotics Studio.

    Going through the labs you will learn how to write services for Microsoft Robotics Studio using a combination of Microsoft Visual Programming Language (VPL) and C#. While the labs are introductory, they do require basic knowledge of Microsoft .Net and C# to complete.

    Many of the labs can be completed either using Microsoft Robotics Studio Simulation or actual hardware in the form of an iRobot Create. In Lab Tutorial 7 (C#) - Multirobot Coordination you will need two iRobot Creates or use Microsoft Robotics Studio Simulation to simulate the robots. In addition, some of the labs such as Lab Tutorial 5 - Using Vision to Estimate the Distance to an Object use additional sensors including cameras, microphones, and speakers that need to be plugged into your PC.

    You can read more of the details of the program and get it here.

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