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

December, 2008

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Links For Girls, Links for Career Stuff, and Going Green


    So I got a number of links to links today. OK some are direct to the items but some are to pages with just too many links to copy. Wouldn’t be right. The first big set of links I found at the NCWIT blog post titled 100 Recommended Resources on Gender in S&E (S&E  stands for science and engineering). It links to Ruta Sevo’s “10 x 10 List.”There are a lot of great resources there and it’s not all for girls. Headers are below:

    For anyone:

      • Self study guide – reading for newbies
      • Libraries, knowledge centers, Bibliography

    For parents and afterschool leaders:

      • Biographies of women in science and engineering (Role models)
      • Video’s and CD’s designed to inspire girls
      • Guides for parents and afterschool leaders
      • Afterschool Activities, materials and kits

    For educators and researchers:

      • Training and Consulting Services, Technical Assistance Projects
      • Best practices resources – K-12
      • University-level transformation/change
      • International activity
      • National policy reports
      • Research on discrimination and women in S&E
      • Statistics on diversity in S&E
      • Title IX and S&E education
      • More organizations

    For girls and boys:

      • Games and online activities for children

    From the Ideas for Teaching Computer Technology to Kids blog I found two great resources.

    Going Green – There is lots of talk about the environment, using less energy and related topics these days. The UK issue of TechNet magazine is a special “green edition.” How does computer hardware and software relate to saving energy? Check it out!

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Cheating, Ethics, Computer Science


    It all started when I saw a link to this article about students creating videos to show others how to cheat. These young people don’t see anything wrong with cheating or helping others to cheat. Oh they understand that their teachers don’t like it but they don’t seem to really understand why. This led to a little chat on Twitter. The problem is everywhere. The way I see it students have decided that the goal of school is to get good grades. So if cheating helps them get to that goal they are by some definition a success. Now personally I always saw the goal of school to learn things but apparently that is not the case any more.

    So where does this attitude come from and where is it taking us? Well according to David Callahan's book "The Cheating Culture: Why More Americans Are Doing Wrong To Get Ahead” (book review here) cheating is pretty much everywhere in our culture today. Is winning everything? Is “how one gets there” no longer important? Important and scary questions.

    But you’re no doubt waiting for the promised tie in with computer science. Well let me start with that great line “with great power comes great responsibility.” It seems to be that the rapid rate of growth of computer controlled systems is providing computer scientists and information technology professional with great power. This is not power we want controlled by unethical people. This is already worrying people.

    Visit this article about computer-controlled battle robots. (NY Times free subscription may be required) The article talks about robots that will battle people not other robots. The “research hypothesis is that intelligent robots can behave more ethically in the battlefield than humans currently can,” according to Ronald Arkin, a computer scientist at Georgia Tech. Does that say something scary about humans to you? It does me. These robots will be programmed by humans though. A mixed item that. One hopes that ethical rules can be agreed on and programmed and that robots will avoid making unethical choices because of fear or bigotry or other emotional issues. But those programmers has better be highly ethical or we’re all in trouble.

    There are of course a lot of artificial intelligence issues to worked out for these robots as well. But ethics is always going to be important. I believe we need to start talking about that early. Not just for computer science of course but those of us involved in CS education have to make sure that our students don’t miss out on it. We should not just assume that they will learn it in some other class. And we should be particularly distrustful of the idea that they will learn ethical behavior when they leave school. There are just too many examples of the opposite happening.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Online Tech Communities for Students


    There are lots of places online for students who are interested in technology to congregate and get information. Microsoft has been running the Channel 8 site for a while now for example. It has lots of videos, some by Microsoft people and some from students, and there is a forum with some good discussion. But while I love it (and have linked to it often) there have been requests for a way for more students to interact online with Microsoft employees. So back in September Microsoft launched Microphone. (My friend Diane announced it here and I included some of that announcement below)

    You've asked, we've listened! You wanted to have a conversation with Microsoft, to talk with us about the issues you care about and to know we are listening.  So we've decided to expand our Facebook presence...  In addition to our good 'ol Facebook Page, the Academic team has now launched Microphone! 

    The Microsoft Microphone Community is our way of bringing the conversation to you, in the places that you want to talk. Welcome to the conversation, engage with us, make an impact.

    This is an attempt to go where the students are. And there are a lot of them on Facebook. :-) What’s different about this site is that it about dialogue. There are regular featured conversations in the discussion forums with people from the various product groups. Students get a chance to interact online with people who are actually doing the work many of them want to do some day. And all sorts of other topics including several about job hunting in general and Microsoft in specific. I get involved from time to time but a great many of the Microsoft team who are involved are a lot closer to college age than I am. :-)

    And there are prizes for participation because, well, everyone likes a little incentive.

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