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

September, 2007

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Great Deal on Microsoft Office for College Students


    Why doesn't Microsoft do great deals like this for high school students? Mostly I assume because it is harder to verify eligibility. That's just life. But for college students this deal is a real bargain. No wonder they call it the Ultimate Steal.

    Microsoft® Office Ultimate 2007 for just $59.95. The web page has links to the same offer in local pricing in Canada, the UK, France, Italy, Spain and Germany. (Although in some countries the offer doesn't start until September 20th it is coming.)

    BTW my favorite student feature in Word 2007 is the way it handles citations. Building your footnotes, end note page, or bibliography has never been easier no matter what style guide your school requires you to use. No lie!

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    The Important Things We Are Leaving Out of Computer Science Education


    Recently eWeek had a great article entitled "Programming Grads Meet a Skills Gap in the Real World" that I think every computer science/software engineering/computer engineering teacher at any level you read. Agree or disagree it is a powerful and important story. Not long ago the VP of a large development group told me that it takes an average of a year and a half to take a graduate from a top ranked computer science (college) program and make them a fully productive member of the development team.

    Think about that for a minute. A year and a half after graduating with a degree in computer science or closely related field. That's a long time. And these graduates are not being hired at cheap rates either.

    In the article John Montgomery (his team at Microsoft created the Popfly mashup tool I have written about before) lists six things that he'd like to see computer science programs teach. The quotes items are from John.

    1. Communication skills. "The best developers are often the ones who can explain problems and solutions the most clearly to others"
    2. Teamwork "Very few developers really work alone"
    3. Analytical skills, particularly around ambiguous problems.  "It's important that developers understand the intention of what they're being asked to do as well as the implications of a solution they're thinking of and can weight and communicate these"
    4. An understanding of development processes. "Not a theoretical one—they need to work on teams that use formal, top-down development process, agile development, teams with other developers, teams with test processes, and so on"
    5. An ability to learn on the fly.
    6. Competence in several programming languages. "C++ is typically a must; C# or some other managed-code language is also mandatory"

    Some of these are difficult to teach but some are easy. Even high school students can easily learn multiple computer languages. In fact I wonder if that isn't the easiest time for this to happen. In high school there thinking is not as calcified as it will be as they age. The article mentions more dynamic languages like JavaScript and that while it is valuable to learn these different programming paradigms the most valuable thing is to know when to use which.

    So what do you think of this list? I know that a lot of educators resist the notion of university as a place to prepare workers for industry but it seems to me that all of these skills are required for researchers and graduate students. Wouldn't adding more of this to the curriculum help everyone? I think so.

    BTW what do you think of the rest of the article?

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Tablet PCs in Action in the Classroom


    OK this is too cool not to share. On Monday I blogged about the Thomas Jefferson school that uses Tablet PCs in the classroom. Yesterday I found out that the school was on local TV with coverage on how the Tablets are being used. They have the video up at the school web site.

    It's a great video done by the local TV news team. They show the Tablet PCs being used in a calculus class, interview some teachers and students and talk about how the PCs are changing the way classes are being taught. The teachers report that they are still learning new ways to use the Tablets.

    The video also show some great interaction and sharing using OneNote. Robert Carlson from the school tells me that "Using OneNote with the wireless projectors has been an amazing paradigm shift in the classroom." And from the interviews in this video I can believe it.

    The teacher talks about how easy it becomes to save the class notes for students who are out of class or who just want good notes to review. It's pretty cool stuff. I think you can see that I am a big OneNote fan. It just seems to be an under appreciated gem of a piece of software to me.


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