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

January, 2008

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Technology Questions for a Teacher Interview


    Jeff Utecht is a really cool teacher with a very interesting blog. Jeff is a K-12 Technology Specialist at Shanghai American School in Shanghai, China. I've actually met him briefly at NECC and he's a great guy. He's also very much on top of educational technology. So when he posted a list of technology related questions for teacher interviews its not surprising that it is a great set of questions.

    In this post Jeff lists a number of questions that a school that  "schools who have decided to make 21st Century Learning a priority" should be asking. Personally I believe that principals and school districts should be raising their sights on technology competence for teachers, especially younger teachers. We wouldn't accept ignorance of basic writing and math skills in a teacher. Nor would we accept that they didn't know how to use basic research and teaching tools. Today those basic research and teaching tools are increasingly computer and technology related. Can we really have technophobes doing a great job teaching today's multi-media and online generation? Not easily.

    Check out Jeff's questions. Are they the right ones? What would you add or subtract and why? Do you even care about how much teachers know about usign technology? I'd love the hear thoughts from others.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    How To Teach Your Child to Program


    Randy Guthrie is a member of my team out west who used to be a professor of Information Systems. He's a very knowledgeable guy and a very good teacher. Recently Randy's son asked him to teach him about programming. Well it's hard to turn down a request like that so Randy has started.

    He's started his son off with some web development and HTML work. That's a pretty common and popular way to begin. Randy is blogging about the experience in hopes that others can learn from his experience. I suspect that other parents who get the same request (or who wonder what they will do if/when it does come) will find Randy's blog particularly interesting and valuable.

    BTW if you are interested in other resources for teaching your or anyone's child how to program I have a list of beginner programming languages and other resources at a post I wrote in December. You may want to check it out.

  • 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.

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