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

January, 2008

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Update on DigiGirlz Days at Microsoft


    I got this announcement this week and thought it worth sharing and reminding people that sign ups open soon.

    Technology career options offered for high school girls

    4th Annual Microsoft DigiGirlz Day connects high school girls
    with Microsoft women executives to explore opportunities
    in business and technology

    High school girls interested in technology and business will have the chance to learn about career opportunities in these fields, thanks to an upcoming day created just for them.

    March is Women’s History Month, and to celebrate diversity in the workplace, Microsoft will host its 4th annual Microsoft DigiGirlz Day series. The day was developed with the goal of giving girls an inside look at careers in business and technology. Female attendees from high schools worldwide will join Microsoft women executives for an interactive day of discussions and career-focused activities.

    Registration will open in mid-January and will be first come, first served. Interested parents or students should visit or email

    There are some 16 events around the US and one in Canada on the schedule. Signups begin very soon. I know people involved in this and it should be great. The program has been expanding rapidly because of the success of previous events.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    A Fine Arts Degree in Computer Programming


    The first thing I think we have to get out of the way is that programming and computer science are not the same thing. They are overlapping but clearly computer science is a lot more than just programming. Often times that means that programming doesn't get the respect that it deserves. To me programming has always been something special though.

    As long as I have been programming (about 35 years now) a common, recurring, and never ending discussion though is how to categorize programming as a discipline. Is it:

    • A science (fully in computer science)
    • An engineering discipline (software engineering)
    • An art
    • A craft (close to art but not quite the same thing)

    There are arguments for all of the above. Personally I don't think it is really a science though it is clearly dependent on science and science is dependent on it. I wish it were engineering but the engineering training in me believes that the lack of reliability in software today precludes us saying that we've made it there yet.

    I am between an art and a craft. To me art creates something beautiful and requires a special talent. A craft requires some talent but training can do more for a lack of talent than it can with an art. It is with that argument in mind that I read a really interesting post by Joel Spolsky yesterday. In this post Joel makes a case for a BFA (Bachelor's in Fine Arts) in Software Development.

    The real problem is that these schools are not doing anything positive to attract the kids who are really interesting in programming, not computer science. I think the solution would be to create a programming-intensive BFA in Software Development--a Julliard for programmers. Such a program would consist of a practical studio requirement developing significant works of software on teams with very experienced teachers, with a sprinkling of liberal arts classes for balance. It would be a huge magnet to the talented high school kids who love programming, but can't get excited about proving theorums.

    It is an interesting idea. I can hear people yelling "but that is just a glorified trade school" but I don't think that is fair. I think that there is a real art (and a touch of science and engineering) in creating outstanding software. Real trade schools focus on the tools of the hour much more than the concepts of all time. A BFA program could, should and probably would spend a lot of time on concepts.

    I wonder if Neumont University's program is like this? In any case it would be interesting to see a mainstream college/university adopt the BFA idea. What sort of interesting projects would they produce? As Joel points out universities used to be known for cool and important programming projects but we don't see much of that anymore. And that I think is a sad thing.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Calling All Games


    The XNA Team is looking for cool XNA based games to highlight. From the announcement:

    We’re looking for a few 2D and 3D games created using XNA Game Studio for an upcoming opportunity to showcase the great work our community has been doing since we released the tools over a year ago.  This could be the chance you and your game have been waiting for to enjoy the spotlight and anything that may come as a result.  You will additionally have a chance to participate in an upcoming closed beta of a new XNA technologies.

    The deadline is January 18th so if you have a game that is really cool and already in good shape you may want to head over the the XNA Team blog for complete information.

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