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

December, 2007

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Projects for a Programming Course


    At their best teacher blogs are full of information and idea sharing that benefits other teachers. For teachers of computer science or computer programming one of the most useful things teachers do is to share projects. A good project engages students while at the same time enforcing important concepts that have been covered in class. A prime example of this is a recent post by Mr. Higgins (aka Higgy).

    In this post he lists out and describes the projects he is using with his Advanced Placement Computer Science A course (APCS A). The list includes some fairly basic and perhaps familiar projects like ASCII and number base conversion up to some more complex and new (at least to me) projects like a Galton Board. For some he has links to more complete descriptions that I think many teachers will find extremely helpful.

    All in all this is one of the most useful CS teacher blog posts I've run into in a while.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Use Your Wii Controller To Fly Through Virtual Earth


    Now I love Virtual Earth and I especially enjoy using my Xbox 360 controller to fly around, zoom in and out and otherwise travel though the three dimensional maps. Its all so much better than using the mouse or arrow keys. Virtual Earth supports the Xbox 360 controller "out of the box" which is great for me. But of course this being the 21st century there are people who want to use all the interesting toys together. Enter this interesting demo by Brian Peek.

    The idea here is to use the Wii controller (WiiMote) to navigate around the virtual world. The interface it uses is not fully supported but based on the demo it seems to work just fine. There is sample code in both C# and Visual Basic as well. There are links to related information there in case you want to learn more. Interesting little project I think.

    Oh and if you have a wired Xbox 360 controller plug it in to your computer and try it out with Windows Live Earth.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Updates on Beginning Programming Languages


    I would imagine that a lot of people are looking for interesting things to do with brand new computers this week. Some people are (I hope) looking for ways to teach young people about programming. Or perhaps you are looking for your self regardless of your age. Well it seems like this is also a time when I am finding updates on some of the popular and more interesting beginning programming languages.

    For example I received an announcement from the Scratch team about a conference they are running this summer at MIT. Information is here and it looks like a potentially very good conference. One of the best things about Scratch is how light weight it is and how few resources it requires. I also like the sharing that goes on through their web site.

    For a bit more sophistication there is always Alice from Carnegie Mellon. The advantage of Alice is that it allows for three dimensional worlds and very detailed control over characters. It's been a favorite of teachers for several years now.

    For languages that are a bit more traditional there is Leopard and Phrogram.  Leopard is just out with a new version 2.2 that adds loops, discussion structures (if/then) and a bunch of other new features.

    Leopard has a long standing partner ship with Weather bug but I see that Phrogram also now has one. There is information on programming with Weatherbug and Phrogram here.  Information on programming Weatherbug and web widgets with Leopard are on their main page here. I'm impressed with the growth in both products. There is an interesting article about Leopard being used in a classroom here BTW.

    Now the the very traditional but still approachable programming there is Microsoft's Beginning Developer Learning Center and the Microsoft Visual Studio Express products. Lots of curriculum, projects, videos and other information at the Beginner Developer Learning center.

    And for special interests there are:

    Everything on this list is free by the way. For several things there are paid versions that offer more capability or support but all let you get started for free. And free is a good price at this time of the year.

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