Microsoft Visual Studio Middle School Power Toy 1.0

Computer Science Teacher
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.
  • Sounds cool.  Too bad it does not work with Express editions.

  • Yes it is too bad that some limitations in the Express editions keep these tools from working with them. DreamSpark which will be available for high schools very soon will make the VS Pro free and easy for high school students. And schools can join the MSDN AA program for a very reasonable price and provide students with access at school AND at home. So there are work arounds.

  • I will have to keep an eye on the DreamSpark.  It does not seem to be working at the moment.  Since my present CS budget is anything I can download for free DreamSpark is the solution to the MS software I need.  We are a small Catholic school with tuition rates for the average local population so my whole CS curriculum is based around "free". I just got a grant to buy some Lego Mindstorms robot kits so I am excited to get the kids using MS VPL and C# (both free) with the robots.

  • Garth, send me an email at alfredth (at) microsoft.com and let me see if I can help. After teaching in private Catholic schools for 9 years they have a soft spot in my heart. Actually I have a soft spot for schools in general too. :-)

  • You know what I am going to say?  It starts with repo- and ends with -sitory...

    The CSTA one that is...

    :)

  • Such wonderful resources and development tools, looks forward to developing some interesting curriculum programs with this. Just have to wait for dreamspark and the MSDN AA for High schools to hit New Zealand, have been told from head of Microsoft New Zealand that it will be soon.

  • Such wonderful resources and development tools, looks forward to developing some interesting curriculum programs with this. Just have to wait for dreamspark and the MSDN AA for High schools to hit New Zealand, have been told from head of Microsoft New Zealand that it will be soon.

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