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

April, 2008

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Computer Literacy 3.0


    Computer literacy is a topic that seems to be growing in controversy as quickly as it it is growing in importance. Recently Larry Press, California State University, Dominguez Hills, sent me an announcement of the Computer Literacy 3.0 blog he has created and is adding information to about this very subject. His blog is about what he sees as the third generation of completer literacy and what computer literacy courses should be about. From his About this Blog section:

    This blog is concerned with questions like

    • What skills should be included in computer literacy 3.0?
    • What concepts should be included in computer literacy 3.0?
    • Who is developing courses that teach these skills and concepts?
    • Should we teach computer literacy as a stand alone course or disperse it throughout the curriculum?
    • Does computer literacy require two full courses?
    • Should all students take the same computer literacy course or should there be different versions?
    • Is the term computer literacy too narrow?

    Already there is a lot of interesting material to read there and I highly recommend it. If you are serious about changing or developing new computer literacy courses you will find of particular interest his list of web presences for existing computer literacy courses that are out there or being developed. Check that out!

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Boston Public Schools Cyber Safety Program


    The Boston Public schools have a very nice cyber safety program with a home on the Internet. This site has resources for teachers, students and families. These resources include posters and presentations that can be downloaded and used. While they are clearly branded for the Boston Public Schools (BPS) the themes and information is universal. There is some really good stuff and the bright colorful graphics (characters were designed by students by the way) will appeal to younger students.

    Besides the main web site there is also a cyber safety blog that is updated with new and current information to help parents and teachers keep up with the latest tools and issues. Check it out.

    Also if you are interested in Internet Safety you can use the Internet Safety tag on this web site to search for other information that I have posted in the past. Or use this link (Internet Safety) if reading using an RSS reader.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Is It Ever Too Early To Teach Security?


    About 25 years ago, back in the mini-computer era, I was a developer in an operating system group. My team was working on a brand new print and batch spooling system. We were creating a system with a lot more power and flexibility than the previous system. Plus we were working with an operating system that was making changes to the security/privilege model. Very early on in the design process we started talking about system security. Because things were getting more complex we wanted to make sure that we didn't open new security holes. And of course plugging any existing ones was a thought as well.

    Security was part of the plan from the beginning. We convinced the core OS team to add some features just for us to make sure that communication was more reliable and to make it less easy to fake credentials. That benefited others as well of course and I think ultimately made the whole OS more secure. But the main point is that we designed security in from the start. It wasn't something that we retrofitted or added on later as part of a separate security initiative.

    I've been out of the OS development business for a long time now but security of applications is something that is still near and dear to my heart. It's hard to teach in early computer science classes though because the projects are, for the most part, small, simple and artificial. But I still think that it is something that should be talked about and hopefully thought about.

    Along those lines I came across some useful and free information about Microsoft's Security Development Lifecycle. Michael Howard, Principal Security Program Manager, has written a short article titled "Building Security into Windows Vista and the Microsoft Culture" that talks about the cultural change that had to be made at Microsoft and that has to be made at many places to really get security right.

    Related to this is a new document called "Security Development Lifecycle Guidance" that is available as a free download (registration is optional but recommended if you're really interested in this topic.) I think the introduction would be a reasonable read and kick off for discussion with a class of students. If you are in the target audience for the book (policy makers and software development organizations) by all means you'll want to read it all.

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