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

April, 2008

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Popfly Coin Flip Mashup Tutorial


    This is a tutorial I put together to provide a hands on experience for some teachers I am doing a workshop for today. I did a copy from a Word document and paste into Windows Live Writer to see how it works as a blog post. Sorry about all the images if you are on a slow connection. I don't usually include much in the way of images.

    Open Popfly –

    Sign in

    Select Mashup from the Create Stuff menu


    Drag a Timer, Calculator, LessGreaterCompareClass, and SimpleImages blocks

    Timer under Tools

    Calculator under Tools

    LessGreaterCompareClasss under Everything else

    SimpleImages under Display

    (Hint – use the search feature as a shortcut)

    You should have something like this:


    Connect the blocks with arrows by clicking first on a blue dot on the right of the input/sending block and then on the changing color dot on the left of the receiving block.


    Note: The ! signs indicate that commands must be specified for those blocks.

    clip_image010Set the Timer

    Click on the wrench symbol to expand the block

    1. Enter 0.5 for the Frequency

    2. Enter 50 for the number of ticks

    3. Click the wrench to return to normal

    Set the Calculator to return a RandomWholeNumber with a maximum value of 2


    Set the LessThenCompareClass block to Return coin images


    1. Set the source for Item 1 to Calculator and the Value to [output integer] which is the default

    2. Set the value for item2 to 1 so that the random number will be compared to see if it is equal to, less than, or greater than 1

    3. Select a coin to flip from the list below and place one URL for equal and less results and the second image URL for resultIfGreater (Note: Images are from the US Mint for educational uses) (penny front) (penny back) (nickel front) (nickel back) (dime front) (dime back) (quarter front) (quarter back)

    Set SimpleImages to get an imageURL from LessGreatorCompareClass


    Select Preview clip_image018 to run your mashup

    Done with pennies it should look something like this:


    Select Customize to return to editing your mashup


    Select Show Console to get a close look at what is going on behind the scenes


    Use the Save As option at the top of the screen to save your mashup


    On your own:

    1. Use the User Input block to let the user select the number of times to flip coins

    2. Use the SimpleLight block to get randomly placed coins

    Note: The original version of this mashup was by Mark Frydenberg of Bentley College

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Pitching Your Idea - An Interview About Presentations


    Perry Lowe, a marketing professor at Bentley College and Philip DesAutels, were at the recent US Imagine Cup finals giving some presentations to the competitors. They were talking to the teams about making presentations about new ideas to venture capital companies specifically but with points that are really about all kinds of presentations to convince. Clint Rutkas interviewed them and the interview is now up at Channel 8.

    I think that a lot of people, especially the young and creative, like the idea of starting their own company, getting some funding, and creating the next big thing. This interview gives one a taste of what to do and why some work and many fail. Also at this link are links to the PowerPoint decks that Perry and Philip used for their presentations.

    I should mention that Philip has an amazing background with both large companies (Microsoft & IBM) and a bunch of Internet startups, the W3C and even setting up Internet operations in Uzbekistan with the Peace Corps. He knows startups and he knows presentations. Though just between you and me, I think his slides, while they have a ton of great information, have too many words on them :-)

    Check out the interview and look for the link to their presentation decks.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Best Practices: Designing Mobile Applications


    These days mobile devices are everywhere. One of the cool things about Windows Mobile devices (Smartphones and Pocket PCs among others) is that they can be programmed fairly easily using Visual Studio. Built in simulators allow for quick debugging without the need for an actual physical device. The big difference between programming for a mobile device and a standard PC though may just be the user interface design.  The screen size is one obviously piece of that but there is also the differences in input – small keyboards, styluses, and no mice.

    Recently Hilary Pike presented on the subject of mobile application design and then wrote about it on her blog. She posted her slide deck as well. I learned a lot from the blog post and associated deck.

    I know a number of teachers who have their students create mobile applications after the AP CS exam (coming up on May 5th this year I think) for something different. This deck and blog post may be very useful if you are one of those. Or honestly for anyone thinking about creating their own mobile applications.

    Oh and before I forget, Hilary also posted a bunch of links to sample Mobile applications here.

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