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

August, 2008

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Microsoft Institute


    Here is something more for the administration side of the education business.

    Microsoft Institute Overview

    Participate in a unique professional development experience that will provide you and your organization with tools and resources to create and support innovative environments and organizations. Based on key learnings of Microsoft initiatives and our Partners in Learning program, (which has already reached nearly 3.5 million educators in more than 100 countries), this program will give you new ideas to implement in your organizations, district, classroom, or workplace.

    You’ll have ample opportunity to participate in, investigate, and debate different theories and practices that can lead to improved learning environments and more effective organizations. We limit each three-day session to 40 or fewer participants to ensure an environment in which everyone can contribute, offer unique perspectives and learn from one another.

    Guests are strongly encouraged to attend the full three-day experience. Each day builds on the knowledge gained the previous day. Multi-functional teams from organizations ready to create change are the preferred audience. There is no registration fee to attend a Microsoft Institute.

    What you’ll learn

    The Microsoft Institute will expose you to new tools and educational resources that have been developed through the Partners in Learning projects as well as our experience in education, government, and innovation. You’ll learn about the vision for the School of the Future and the process that went into creating it. You’ll learn how to use the Education Competency Wheel—the professional development and hiring tool used at the school—in your organization. You will be exposed to new technologies and learn how to implement them. You will get glimpses into how we run our business and think about managing innovation.

    Who should attend

    Organizations are encouraged to send multi-functional teams—visionaries and implementers, teachers, school leaders, administrators, superintendents, city officials, and school board members, and technical and non-technical stakeholders.

    Yes, it is free to attend. You do have to pay your own transportation and accommodations but if you are near upcoming locations like Tampa, FL or Washington DC you may very well want to check this out. A sample agenda is here.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Five Minutes is a Long Time


    Mark Twain once said “I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” If you have any doubts about the truth in that statement try to write a five minute presentation sometime. Last week I did just that – twice.

    Last Thursday and Friday I took part in a presentation skills workshop. This was the third presentation workshop I have taken part in during the last five years. That’s at least two more such training than I took part in during nine years of classroom teaching BTW. Makes you wonder doesn’t it? Anyway, during the two days each of 14 people gave two 5-minute presentations. All of these people give presentations, often to skeptical or even unfriendly audiences as well as friendly ones of course, as part of their job. Many of them have been doing this for years. Several have been university or high school faculty. All are comfortable in front of all sorts of audiences. In short, this was not amateur hour. But for everyone preparing a five minute presentation was a lot of work.

    I spent at least two hours on each of my presentations and that was using and modifying an existing presentation. In one case I had previously taken a 40 minute talk and pared it down to 20 minutes. Now I had to pair it down to five minutes. What do you take out? What do you keep? And how do you keep the audience awake and interested when you are one of 14 people giving a talk based on the same original presentation? I’d love to report that mine was the best – but it wasn’t. I put myself in the middle. It was a great learning and somewhat humbling experience. It caused me to completely rethink how I use PowerPoint BTW. Some of my team is just amazing at putting together visual interesting slides that augment rather than distract from a talk. Now I am going to re-do all of my slide decks.

    One of the big things that I learned  from this experience is that one can really pass on a lot of information in a five minute talk. Obviously you can cover a lot more with more time but I think that all too often speakers add a lot of filler in order to fill the time they have available. By forcing oneself to think about the five minute time limit one really gets to the heart of what they are trying to say.  I wonder if a five minute talk would be a good way to introduce or perhaps review a topic for students? I’m pretty sure that asking students to cover a topic in a five minute talk would be a good exercise though.

    I can see a bunch of students thinking “ha, five minutes. I can do five minutes in my sleep.” But I’ll bet that many will go too long and others will fit their talk in the required time only by leaving things they know are important out. They’d learn something though. Do this often enough and they’ll get good at it though. I really think this is a valuable skill. Some of them will eventually want to work on the 30-60 second “elevator pitch” and this will get them going in the right direction. Others will find themselves with only a few minutes to explain an idea or a project or a product to a senior manager some day. All of them will have to think very hard about what is and is not important in a topic and that is a valuable skill in itself. This is as import in computer science as it is in any other field.

    Sorry this is so long. I really didn’t have time to shorten it. :-)

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Reality Check: Laws of Identity


    Kim Cameron is one of the top experts on identity and personal information management in the world. He may be best known for his Laws of Identity. Over at the Identity Blog he has listed these laws in easy to understand English. They are also listed below:

    • People using computers should be in control of giving out information about themselves, just as they are in the physical world.

    • The minimum information needed for the purpose at hand should be released, and only to those who need it. Details should be retained no longer than necesary.

    • It should NOT be possible to automatically link up everything we do in all aspects of how we use the Internet. A single identifier that stitches everything up would have many unintended consequences.

    • We need choice in terms of who provides our identity information in different contexts.

    • The system must be built so we can understand how it works, make rational decisions and protect ourselves.

    • Devices through which we employ identity should offer people the same kinds of identity controls - just as car makers offer similar controls so we can all drive safely..

    It seems to me that the start of the school year is a great time to have a classroom discussion about privacy and identity and what they mean in today’s connected world. This is a topic that we all need to think about. And of course companies need to think about being good citizens of cyberspace and taking good care of the information they acquire. Bring it up with your students and if you have opinions (one way or another) or ways to make this list more understandable let Kim know about it. This is something we need some consensus on and Kim is a good listener.

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