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

July, 2008

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    trueSpace7.6 FREE Fully-featured 3D Authoring Package

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    Several months ago Microsoft acquired a company called Caligari largely because of their advanced 3D toolset called trueSpace. Well now the latest version of this powerful tool is available for free. Yes, the favorite price point for educational organizations!

    What can you use it for? Glad you asked. I first found out about this from the Virtual Earth team who is excited because this tool lets users build 3d models and use them with Virtual Earth. If this interests you at all you will want to read all the details over here. If it doesn’t interest you then you may also want to read the Virtual Earth blog post so you’ll have more information to make up your mind. Personally I see some really educational potential here for teachers of geography to say nothing of courses that are about teaching the power of Web 2.0.

    Now for you game people this tool should interest you because you can use it to create 3D models for use in XNA games. And since it imports 3D models from a number of different formats it may be a good way to use models that have been created by and for other applications. Actually for those of you who are “in to” graphics arts or teaching graphics arts this may be a great tool for your classes as well. Did I forget to say that it lets users animate their models as well?

    You can go directly to the Caligari trueSpace 7.6 site from here. Lots of details there.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Microsoft Visual Studio Middle School Power Toy 1.0

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    The Microsoft Visual Studio Middle School Power Toy 1.0 was originally created by Microsoft China to help meet the curriculum needs for teaching programming in that country. According to regulations/policies of China’s Ministry of Education (MOE) almost all Chinese high school students need to learn computer programming. Bring that up at the next meeting you attend where the need for programming/computer science is questioned! But I digress. This week the English language version of these tools were made available.

    The Power Toy is a set of five tools that add into Visual Studio to help beginners. These tools are a free download. Three of the five work equally well with both Visual Basic and C#. Two of them (the assistant class designer and flow chart creator) only work with C# at least for now. The following descriptions comes from the download page. I plan to have individual posts on each of these tools in the very near future.

    • The Visual Sort Designer Control is a supplementary teaching tool developed to help middle school students learn the basic concepts, algorithms, and implementations of popular computer sorting algorithms. It supports bubble and insertion sorting. The control generates initial values automatically and demonstrates intermediate states in the sorting process. It also generates sorting source code for both Visual Basic and C#.
    • The Visual Search Designer Control is a teaching tool developed to help middle school students learn the basic concepts, algorithms, and implementations of popular data search algorithms. It supports binary and sequential searches. The control generates initial values automatically and demonstrates intermediate states in the searching process. It also generates source code for both Visual Basic and C#.
    • The Visual Declarative Designer is an intuitive variable declaration tool designed for novice programmers. During the coding process the student can declare variables of various types and generate the corresponding source code. Visual Variable Declarative Designer provides a visual approach to variable declaration. Teachers in the Information Technology (IT) field can use this designer to teach students the basic concepts of variable declaration and naming, variable types, access modifiers, and initial values.
    • The Assistant Class Designer is a visual class designer intended for novice programmers such as middle school students. During the design process, students can easily add classes, properties, methods and events. The designer also generates source code that can be inserted into a project and modified as needed. By using this class designer and code generator, complicated classes can be easily created and configured. The Assistant Class Designer provides an intuitive approach to designing classes and helps students to understand key object-oriented programming concepts such as classes, encapsulation, inheritance, and polymorphism.
    • Visual Programming Flow Chart is a supplementary teaching tool designed to help students understand program control flow. It generates flow charts for functions and saves them in the JPG picture format. This tool is easily activated from the Visual Studio Integrated Development Environment (IDE) by simply right-clicking on a function name and choosing “Generate flow chart…” from the context menu. The resulting flowchart can be customized by changing its colors and other effects. This visual tool provides an intuitive way to explore source code, to examine its control flow, and to identify logic errors.
  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Opening On the Academic Relations Team at Microsoft

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    Have you ever thought “Alfred has an interesting job. I’ll bet I’d like to do that” or perhaps “I’d love to show Alfred how the job could really be done” or even “Boy I’d like to work with Alfred.” Well if so, there is an opening on the academic relations team based in the Pacific Northwest. You can read about it here or if that fails go to www.microsoft.com/careers and do a search on the Job Title: Developer Evangelist – Academic.

    This is a great team and  besides being made up of some of the smartest and most interesting people at Microsoft we get to work with the best and brightest students and faculty members in the whole country. This is a job where your brain can get full long before you get bored.

    It’s not for the stay at the office doing paper work or writing code types. I call this a “make friends and influence people” sort of job and a personality is absolutely required. This is for people who like to get out and meet people in person as well as online. Presentation skills are very important as you’ll be giving talks to all sizes and types of audiences. You’ll need to have and maintain some serious technical cred as well. If you have some teaching background (or perhaps a textbook in your resume) that would be a big plus because understanding the academic world and how it is different from the business world is important.

    So if you think you are interested check it out and apply online.

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