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

February, 2009

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    TCEA 2009 Day One


    So I arrived in Austin Monday evening and settled down at my hotel. I’m a short walk from the convention center which I’m pretty pleased about. Today was a sort of pre-conference day for me. That is to say that I didn’t have much assigned work to do. I have already connected with a bunch of people though. I had dinner with friends from Dallas area schools tonight. Earlier this afternoon I spent some time at the “Bloggers Garage.”  This is an open area with tables, comfortable chairs and power outlets where a lot of people who use blog and/or Twitter will be hanging around. I was able to meet several people who I have only known from Twitter face to face. And I was able to talk to some people like David Jakes (too briefly) and Miguel Guhlin (a huge FOSS in education advocate who is still a nice guy). And yes more people who I really should shout out to but I’m tired. Sorry people.

    I did spend a good part of the day working on the talk I will be giving tomorrow to the TA/CS SIG. I’ve been working on the talk for a while of course. But somehow I am never satisfied.

    I managed to tweak the PowerPoint deck a good bit and finally I have it in reasonable shape. I think. The other thing I spent time on was some demos that I want to do. I’m going to demo Kodu for one thing. Kodu is not quite ready for release but its getting close. It will be available on Xbox marketplace this spring. But honestly I am excited to show it to teachers to see if they see the same potential in it that I do. For me it looks like a very exciting way to introduce some basic programming/computing concepts to young students in a fun way.

    I’m going to show a sort of “hello world” on top of an existing sample program. The second line in the program below tells the program to say “Hola! TCEA!” every 20 seconds. In the mean time the robot will be wandering around picking up apples.


    I think the icons and amazing graphics will appeal to a lot of young students. And the novelty of using an Xbox 360 controller as the control device is going to spark some interest.

    I’m also going to show off Small Basic. One of the demo programs that I plan to show is a Tetris game someone wrote. The idea here is that not only is Small Basic simple and easy to use but that it is also powerful and flexible  enough to do something as advanced as Tetris.SBTetris

    But I’ll also be talking about the general need to use computer science and computer software to help students learn about other subjects. Computer science should be more integrated into the broader curriculum. I see this as much the same way that math, reading and writing become tools for learning and not just subjects to learn for their own sake. We’ll see how it goes.

    If you are in the TA/CS SIG at TCEA I hope you’ll come by the SIG meeting and hear my talk. And if not come find me. Or Twitter me at, email me at alfredth (at) or call my cell at 603-819-1877 I’d love to meet you.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Exploring Binary


    The latest blog to be added to my RSS reader (I use RSS Bandit) is the aptly named Exploring Binary. Some interesting posts there already. For example

    I think there is some good stuff here. I love the twelve cent binary calendar. And there is a write up (with a picture) of The Binary Marble Adding Machine. So if you are looking for more ways to discuss, introduce or learn about binary numbers check out this new blog.

    Side notes: Using the Binary tag you can find other things I have written about binary numbers.

    I’m at TCEA in Austin TX this week. Come look me up if you are also there.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    From Java to C# - How, What, and Why – SIGCSE Pre-conference Workshop


    Just on the heels of my finding the Java to C# Orange book I received the following announcement of a pre-conference workshop for SIGCE. Joe Hummel always does a great job with his workshops so I have no hesitation recommending this workshop.

    The Microsoft pre-conference workshop, From Java to C# - How, What, and Why, is now posted off the SIGCSE homepage




    The .NET platform is incredibly rich, allowing you to build a variety of applications with a multitude of languages.  Using a common development environment, students can program in languages such as C#, VB, C++, F#, and Python, creating software with a range of interfaces (console, GUI and web) and functionality (scientific, database, distributed, service-oriented, game and robotic).  Microsoft's flagship development environment, Visual Studio 2008, is freely available to students via Microsoft's DreamSpark program, along with Windows, SQL Server, and Expression Studio.  These same tools are available for a nominal fee to institutional departments through Microsoft's MSDN Academic Alliance.  If you prefer, you can work outside of Visual Studio with command-line compilers, editors, and 3rd-party IDEs, or step off the Windows platform entirely and work with .NET on Linux, OS X or BSD using Mono.

    This half-day pre-conference is intended for Java faculty interested in learning more about the .NET platform, C#, and Visual Studio 2008.  Attendees will learn C# by comparison to Java, and see how to build various types of applications using Visual Studio 2008.  Attendees will understand not only C# syntax, but its underlying type system, generics, I/O, and technologies such as LINQ.  If you bring a laptop with Visual Studio 2008 installed (any version supporting C#), you'll be able to participate in the preconference hands-on exercises; those without laptops will be able to interact with the presenter as he works through the exercises on the overhead projector.

    The preconference is being delivered by Joe Hummel, PhD, Associate Professor of Computer Science at Lake Forest College.  Joe has been teaching Microsoft technologies, both academically and professionally, since 1992 and the days of VB3.  Joe has created and presented summer workshops on .NET since 2002, numerous SIGCSE workshops on .NET since 2003, and over 40 MSDN webcasts related to .NET.

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