Additional profile information on Alfred Thompson at Google+
The Live Geometry project is “A computer model of plane geometry that allows you to create interactive ruler and compass constructions and experiment with them.” Looks very cool to me. I can imagine lots of ways for teachers and students of geography to use this in constructive ways. This is the kind of tool that I think we need more people developing. Everyone learns more by doing and if we can make “doing” easier and more fun and keep it real and educational everyone benefits.
You can see an online preview at http://geometry.osenkov.com The author’s blog is at http://blogs.msdn.com/kirillosenkov and you can read his announcement here. Kirill’s pages have much better screenshots because he actually knows what he’s doing in geometry.
Computer science educators are fond of saying that computer science is a lot more than just programming. Programming has a bad reputation. And in some ways so do those of us who find programming to be a lot of fun and very interesting. So there are some good reasons to deemphasize programming to some extent. But can we avoid it completely? A couple of people I respect have taken up some form of this question lately.
Mark Guzdial has a great post on his blog titled Programming is central to Computer Science. Mark makes a good case for programming being a central notation system that is essential for computer science. The whole thing is worth reading and I can hardly do it justice in a summary. One the other hand, the Wicked teacher of the west takes a slightly different view on her post titled Is programming necessary? She riffs off of some comments by Robb Cutler (another really smart guy who I wish would blog) Robb “thinks we could teach introductory CS at the K-12 level without any programming at all.”
Well, yeah, I guess we could teach some computer science without programming. The CS Unplugged program is one great example of that. There is a lot of good computer science education there. But is it enough? I’m not convinced. Teaching computer science without computer and programming is like teaching physics without math and experiments. One can go so far but no further. I do think that it would be worthwhile to teach some computer science concepts without programming. Let’s get people to understand where the path leads. But taking them as far as they need to go is going to take some programming. There we need to make it more interesting and relevant.
This is a good discussion to have though. Where does the need for programming start and how far can one or even should one go before introducing it?
One of the questions I get all the time is “I have a student/child/nephew/daughter/etc who wants to learn programming on their own. Where should they go?” My answer is always the Beginner Developer Learning Center and from there to the Kid’s Corner. I may also recommend Popfly as a starting place because it is so much fun. But if they are interested in more than mashups and games, which many of them are, the Kid’s Corner is the place to start. Well this week the Kid’s Corner went though a complete re-design and re-launch and it is better than ever.
The same great resources that were there before are still there but there are some great new ones as well. One of them that I particularly love is a new video on classes and objects. This video is 10 minutes long and features a bunch of kids explaining objects, classes, inheritance, and more using themselves and cardboard boxes as examples. The language is suitable for students as young as middle school without losing the important parts of the concepts. It may be the best 10 minute explanation of objects and classes I have ever seen.
There is also a seven minute explanation of what the Internet is and how it works. This is also suitable for younger students. I can see it being used by a lot of computer literacy classes. I’m sending a link to it to my 83 year old father too.
Everything at the new version of the site is rated Beginner, Intermediate or Advanced to help people select where they should start. So for home schoolers, after school programs, individuals who want to learn on their own or even teachers looking for supplemental resources this is a great place to start. Of course teachers will also want to make sure they check out the resources at the Pre-Collegiate Faculty Connection site as well.
Note: Edited to correct a link.