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

    XNA Links for Teachers (and other learners)


    I’ve been hearing from a lot of high school computer science teachers that they are looking for some fun and educational things to do with their AP CS students once the exam is over. For some of these teachers some XNA looks promising. For those people and more I decided to put this collection of resources together in one place. I’m open to adding more if people leave me comments or send me email. What works for you to get jump started with XNA and game development?

    Official XNA Sites


    Projects – By and For Educators

    Very Silly Games

    Very Silly Games is a "Library of Gameplay silliness" from which you can pull down fully working XNA games you can play instantly on your computer or, once you have joined the XNA Creators Club, on your Xbox 360.

    XNA Game-Themed Assignments

    Kelvin Sung from the University of Washington at Bothell has a project that is building XNA Game-Themed assignments for use in computer science classes.

    The project home page is here.

    The Release Guide with a lot of information and links is here.

    Video Demos


    GuitarMatey is a 3D game for the Xbox that allows you to improvise guitar music with the accompaniment of a backing track. Five pirates dance for you as you play the game. While GuitarMatey lacks a real objective or purpose, it is perfect to help you learn about developing 3D games for free using XNA and our partner tools. 

    Full details and links to the videos may be found here.

    When Cods Collide

    Betsy Aoki has created a simple 2D game in XNA that involves collision detection. It looks like a useful series and it is a fun read. So here are the links:

    · Making a 2D XNA Game - When Cods Collide - Part 1

    · Making a 2D XNA Game - When Cods Collide - Part 2

    · Making a 2D XNA Game - When Cods Collide - The Final Chapter

    Modify an existing game in 10 minutes

    Hilary Pike has created a short quick moving demo/screen cast on modifying an existing 2-dimensional XNA based video game. In just 10 minutes she walks the viewer through some key gaming concepts and then adds Collision Detection and Score Keeping to the game.

    XNA Pong Game

    Dan Waters has created a Pong game as a tutorial for beginners. This might be a piece of code a bright student might enjoy improving on themselves.

    Other Sets of Links From Teachers

    Brian Scarbeau’s XNA Class links -

    Patrick Coxall’s collection of videos -

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Bootstrapping XNA into High School Computer Science


    I've been talking to a lot of schools lately that are experimenting with game development using XNA in their courses. For some of them at least some of the motivation is to attract more students into their computer science programs. Springbrook High School has a video advertisement that shows students playing one of the games they have created. It is an interesting way to get students to think about taking some real computer science courses.

    Other reasons for adopting XNA courses include wanting to find a more advanced course for top students. Creating real video games requires a serious knowledge of computer science concepts and frequently pushes math knowledge to higher levels. (See this interview with a game developer.) The games may be fun to play but a lot of learning goes into the process of creating them. And then there is filling the void left by the College Board dropping the AP CS AB exam!

    One struggle here is that often the level of knowledge required is beyond that of teachers themselves. Few teachers are game development or graphics programming experts. More often than not teachers are learning along with the students. That's not a bag thing but it does mean that some people are going to be intimidated into not starting. When I talked about this with one of my co-workers, Sam Stokes, who teaches a college game development course he came up with an interesting idea. More and more colleges and universities are offering game development programs. Maybe a good outreach (and student service project) program would be for college students to bring what they learn to high schools?

    Perhaps in some cases the students could run after school programs for advanced students? Or in other cases they could teach units using XNA as part of existing advanced classes? The move from Java (which AP classes teach) and C# (which XNA uses) is really very small as students get started. Several schools that I have talked to are already mixing XNA with their AP CS courses (usually near the end of the year or after the AP exam) so it should be doable. Or maybe they can just volunteer as tutors for interested teachers who do not have time (or money) to take a full blown university course.

    These are just some random ideas off the top of our heads. What do you think?

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