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

February, 2009

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    DreamSpark High School Now Open


    Dreamspark is a program that Microsoft first announced last year for college and university students. Ever since then a Dreamspark program for high schools has been “coming.”  Well just before Christmas a beta version of the program and web site soft launched. Soft launch means it was there if you stumbled upon it or if you heard about it by work of mouth. The idea was to try the system out with small numbers to make sure things work before making a big announcement. Well it’s ready for real now and I wanted to be one of the first to talk about it. (Though Brian Scarbeau found out about it during the beta and blogged about it already.)

    Now privacy and the care of personally identifying information on minors is a huge concern for us all. Likewise we wanted to make sure that adults were able to see/read/understand/explain the EULA to students. So the way Dreamspark high school works is that a school administrator or teachers signs up for a school. There is a verification process and than the responsible adult at the school is given a set of keys or approval codes to hand out to students.  Students use that code to log in and get access to a whole lot of software for free!

    Developer tools, server operating systems, Robotics Studio and XNA Game Studio and more. Don’t miss the IT Academy Student Pass for free training either! And yes the college/university program is still there and still the same great program that thousands of students have already taken advantage of.


  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Five Year Blogging Anniversary


    Today marks five years of blogging for me. That day was a Saturday as well. Funny how things work out.

    I have to say that time does fly when one is having fun. My first blog post was at a blogging/community site called the Spoke. I wrote about business travel that day. It was the start of an experience that has made me friends and acquaintances all over the world. And broadened my thinking on many topics.

    Today the Spoke has been closed but I have moved my blogging in more directions. I blog about social computing and other more random topics at by blog on Live Spaces – my Alfred Thompson the Cyberspace People Watcher  blog. I blog about computer science and education topics at blogs.msdn – my high school Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson blog. I blog about random stuff at  Mr T's rants and ravings – a blog hosted by a former student. And I micro-blog at Perhaps I should consolidate into one blog somewhere. Perhaps one day I will. But for now this is working for me.

    So to all who read my blogs, link to my blogs, comment on my blogs and those who have participated in blogging with me for the last five years – Thanks!

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Finding the Titanic


    The closing keynote TCEA was given by Dr. Robert Ballard of oceanographic explorer fame. It was a talk that was both interesting and inspiring. One thing he said was particularly thought provoking to me. I think it is highly relevant to the current and worsening recruitment problems we are having in computer science – especially with non-traditional CS students.  Dr. Ballard explained that for many years he was making important discoveries in science. Uncovering secrets of the earth and of life that caused people to throw away the old textbooks. Revolutionary discoveries. And yet all his graduate students were from over seas. Children had never heard of him. There was no excitement in the field outside of the field. Then he found the Titanic!

    Within weeks he’d received 16,000  letters from young people with two questions on their mind – "What do I have to do to do what you do for a living?" and "The next time you go, can I go with you?"  From relative obscurity he and his field had grabbed the imagination of young people in a way that was unprecedented. These days all of his graduate students are Americans and many young people grow up wanting to be like him and make the sorts of discoveries that he and his teams are making.

    It makes me wonder – what is the computer science equivalent of finding the Titanic? What is that one thing that will grab the imagination and inspire a generation to enter the field?

    It may not even be central to the field. In fact I suspect that it will not be. Perhaps it is some tour de force that proves a controversial concept or theory. After all finding the Titanic was a great demonstration of equipment that was really designed to do other more centrally scientific things. I don’t know what it will be but I am pretty sure that we need to find it. Slow and steady is losing us ground. So … any ideas?

    PS: A good review of Ballard's TCEA talk here.
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