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

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    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

    Tetris for Small Basic

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    Talk about a great sample of the week – the Small Basic blog announces a version of the classic Tetris written in Small Basic. At a little over 500 lines of code (530ish) its a pretty cool and yet manageable game program. If you were thinking of writing a version of Tetris of your own in any language this may be one you want to look at for ideas. The code is all there. And if you were not sure how for the simplicity of Small basic could take you (or students) this may impress you. It did me.

    I’d love to hear what others think about this program and/or what they were inspired to do themselves after viewing it. And if nothing else, Tetris is always a great way to kill time until vacation ends. :-)

    Oh and make sure you have the latest 0.2  version of Small Basic (feature information here.)

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Why Do So Many Programmers Use One Character Index Variables

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    There is a commercial on TV these days where a little girl is helping her mother and grandmother prepare a large turkey for a holiday dinner. The little girl asks the older women why the turkey only has one leg. The other leg has been cut off and the older women explain that this is because the little girl’s great grandmother always did it that way. Then a flashback shows that the reason the leg was originally cut off was because the great grandmother didn’t have a pot that whole hold the turkey unless one leg was cut off first. Her daughter and granddaughter and great granddaughter could probably easy buy a pot large enough. In fact the pots they have now might be large enough. But “because that is the way we have always done it” these women were still cutting off one leg.

    I remember Grace Hopper once saying in a talk that if we every said “because that is the way we have always done it” she would appear behind us and haunt us. I can’t hear the phrase without thinking of here over 30 years later. But in a real way that is why so many programmers using index variables of one letter and that the letter is between “i” and “n.” So what’s the story?

    For many people back in the day the principal programming language was FORTRAN. Early versions of FORTRAN would let you specific the variable type of a name but the default values for integers were variables that started with the letters “i” through “n.” Also with some systems longer variable names took up more room in memory. And memory at that time was expensive. So to make it easy a lot of people used “i”, “j”, and “k” as their first choice for index variable names. That’s how I learned it.

    Those of us who learned FORTRAN as a first language brought that habit with us to other languages. To BASIC, and C, and Java, and even PASCAL. And many many more. Why? “Because that is the way we have always done it” Shame on us. And the people we taught taught the same thing to others. That’s not really good. “index” is such a better variable name. In specific cases there are even more helpful, more descriptive and more useful variable names. For counting loops, for variables to pass to methods and many other places. Generally most of use have gone beyond the one character variable name. The last big sticking point seems to be index/loop variables. It’s probably time we all got past that. At least we should teach better practices to our students.

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