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

November, 2007

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Math Add-in for Microsoft Word


    Here is a little goody for all of you out there (especially you math teachers) who are always struggling to add mathematical things (formulas, graphs, etc) into Word documents.

    The Microsoft Math Add-in adds computational and graphing capabilities to the Equation Tools Ribbon of Word 2007.
    With the Microsoft Math Add-in for Word 2007, you can:

    • Plot a function, equation, or inequality in 2-D or 3-D
    • Solve an equation or inequality
    • Calculate a numerical result
    • Simplify an algebraic expression

    I tried this out and it is very easy to use with lots of helpful explanations and "how to" instructions. You have to have Word 2007 of course but the add-in itself is a free download. More information and the download are here.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Is Computer Science Dying


    Well that is a pretty dramatic title. I didn't think it up myself though. I'm not so pessimistic. It is the title of a post I read recently though. There does seem to be a lot of bad news in the field of Computer Science these days. I also read recently that Cambridge University in England is having trouble attracting as many computer science students as they would like.  One quote from the article is interesting.

    Cambridge professors blame the dwindling enrollment figures on their field’s ongoing image problem

    Image problem? Well yes. Would you want to be many of the computer geeks you see on TV and the movies? And worse still there is the image of all the jobs going away. Scary stuff. And in fact there is a lot of evidence that the actual need for computer scientists is going up. Bill Gates who regularly laments on a looming shortage recently also brought up a desire to see more African-Americans and other minorities in the field. Now even if you see that as some sort of politically correct purely social goal or see real value in a diverse workforce I think most would agree that computer science offers a good career path for many people. It should be open to all regardless of race, gender or other attribute.

    But if I can come back to the article that started me off on this thread - the one called "Is Computer Science Dying" - one of the things I really like about it is that it addresses the famous quote by Edsger Dijkstra who claimed, "Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes." It's worth the read just for that discussion.

    My answer to the title question is that computer science is not dying. It is changing and the perceptions of it are changing. I think it is also rapidly becoming ingrained in more and more disciplines. It is like math in that even people who don't major in it are increasingly finding themselves in a position where they have to study it more than perhaps they originally thought. Rather than moving more into the hard sciences as an engineering it is becoming more and more a true "liberal art."

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Advertising Free Wiki Space at WetPaint


    One of the problems with many "free" Internet services is that they are supported by advertising. Generally that is a pretty minor issue and for most applications where "free" as in no out of pocket costs is a requirement its a non-issue. In schools though this can be a huge issue. In fact it can be a showstopper. You just cannot have students using a site where you have no control over content.

    So I was pleased to find out the other day that the WetPaint wiki site is now allowing educational wikis to be advertising free. I don't know much more about them than I found out by looking around for a while but they do seem to have a thriving educational contingent over there. They recently named a teacher as an Educational Ambassador which seems like a second step in a positive direction.

    You can get more information at their Wiki in Education portal. There are limitations and a qualification process but it sounds reasonable.

    The email I received said that my site had come up in a survey they did asking teachers for blogs they read. Assuming they were not just making that up to flatter me (always a possibility) I  would welcome comments on the WetPaint service from any of my readers who have used it.

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