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

August, 2008

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Challenge and Success – Behind the Code with Rebecca Norlander


    The latest “Behind the Code” interview at Channel 9 is with Rebecca Norlander who is an executive with Microsoft. She started as a software developer and moved up and up in the company into a very senior role. So if you are looking for another example of the field not being all male this is it.

    In the often male-dominated world of computers, Rebecca Norlander has made a name for herself by taking on big challenges and proving that she has what it takes to deliver results. Learn how Rebecca got her start at Microsoft, advancing through roles where she had tremendous impact on Excel, Internet Explorer, Windows XP SP2, and Windows Vista Security, and now as technical strategist to Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie.

    Rebecca shares her insights around the obstacles she has overcome, the lessons she has learned, and how she became a strong advocate for customers while working on a variety of high-profile projects.

    Behind the Code with Rebecca Norlander is available on Channel 9.

    Also take a look at the Women in Microsoft series at Channel 9 for more interesting women who are making a difference. One interesting interview is titled Jillian Venters - A Goth inside the Deathstar OH yes, Goths at Microsoft - who knew?

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Typing Tutor Online


    Thanks to a post by Christopher Dawson I found this typing tutor program for younger children at the BBC web site. It looks like something students would have some fun with. Few schools seem to teach touch typing anymore. When I was a student it was mostly a high school course but my Dad sent my brother and I to secretarial school while we were still in middle school. Dad thought that typing was an essential skill for students and while he was (and is) a pretty quick hunt and peck typeset he wanted us to have an advantage in speed and accuracy. So for a month we two little middle school boys were in a class with a bunch of “older women” who were probably no more than 19-20 but were intimidating to us. :-) But I have to say that time paid off in spades for both of us. We’ve used that skill though school up through the graduate level and in work far more than we ever anticipated back in the late 1960s.

    Clearly typing is an important skill in today’s world. It’s important in work and important in school. Since we expect students to use computers more and more at younger and younger ages it makes sense for them to learn to touch type early. I’ve read several articles that say that third grade is about the youngest for touch typing though. Before that hands are just too small and bad habits will be learned to adapt for that. But I have seen third and fourth graders (and up) really have a good time learning to touch type in the right environments. Making it a game and using cute, colorful characters as this tutorial does seems like the way to go. There is no reason in the world that learning shouldn’t also be fun.

    BTW the BBC site also has some worksheets and the like that can be printed out and used offline.

    [Edit: Late breaking news. Hilary has an example of a Popfly typing game called Type Type Revolution on her blog. ]

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Fall Is Education’s Spring


    I have a guest post up at the CSTA blog today. The CSTA blog is running a series of posts about people’s first day of school. That means different things to different people and I give my take at it there. I see fall as a sort of spring for education. Fall is when the work starts and seeds are planted. All during the year (or semester) teachers work hard to cultivate their students – to help them grow in knowledge and wisdom. In the spring (end of the school year) we see what has grown up. The first day of school is the key preparation day.

    One of the things I mention in that post is that I really want to visit more classrooms this year. I want to see what teachers are doing, learn what students are motivated by and when ever possible help to support the work that teachers are doing in their own schools.

    One of the things I have learned over the years is that people with industry jobs can provide some very real support for teachers by what a salesman I worked with many years ago called a “swears by it.” Students listen to teachers but are often skeptical that what they are learning is really valid or relevant to industry or even to further academic endeavors. When someone from industry comes into a classroom and reinforces what the classroom teacher is teaching (or swears by it :-) ) the students tend to believe it more. The industry person validates what is going on in class. It’s a shame that it takes this and in some societies, where teachers are properly valued, its not necessary but for now all to often this is a surprisingly valuable assist. Plus for me it is a real treat to talk to students so I see this as win-win-win.

    If you are a teacher within driving distance (say two hours or so) from Southern New Hampshire and would like a guest speaker let me know (AlfredTh (at) and maybe we can work something out.

    Yes, I’d like to visit schools outside the area and when travel permits I will. But believe it or not I have a limited budget for travel. In some cases I may be able to arrange for other people in the education team to make some visits. Most of them are better looking than I am and (don’t tell them I said this) smarter than I am as well.

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