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

April, 2009

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Links Twittered April 27th 2009


    I didn’t Twitter as much as usual last week because I was in Toronto (blogged a little about that here) But I did find an pass alone a few interesting things. This week will be very sparse as I will be at the Foundations of Digital Games conference most of the week. Since the conference is on a cruise ship and I’ll have no Internet or cell phone access I will be pretty quiet. I may pre-post some things to show up during the week if I can. But for now, here are some links.

    I’ll start with a couple of Tablet PC links I passed alone. For chemistry teachers take a look at ChemPad from Brown University.

    ChemPad allows chemistry students to draw molecule diagrams on a Tablet PC or tablet-enabled Windows Vista PC and have the computer automatically generate the corresponding 3D models. As always, ChemPad is free to download and use.

    And then there are the Tablet PC PowerToys.

    If you are in Boston/Cambridge there will be a Tech Tuesday meetup at MS NERD on Tuesday (April 28th) where among the technology available will be the Sectera Edge Smartphone (the one Obama uses). Also Dan Bricklin will be there with copies of his new book.

    The Microsoft On The Issues blog has a post last week titled Why Earth Day Matters to Microsoft posted by Microsoft’s Chief Environmental Strategist Rob Bernard.

    U.S. Imagine Cup finals are being held in Cambridge this coming week-end (also at Microsoft’s New England Research & Development Center) and voting is open for people for vote for the people’s choice winner. So far the MangoBunnies, the first All-women's team to make it to the Imagine Cup US finals are in the lead.

    Todd Bishop reported a story about how a  Microsoft designer found a simple way to help kids hang on to mice. This is apparently a big deal for students/children with certain types of disability.

    Over at the Springboard Blog, Hilary Pike wrote a post titled Designing User Experiences and Mobile Applications.

    Sort of related is this post about modifing a screen saver so that users can comment on images that the program is loading written by Matt Gertz of the Visual Basic team. I really want to build this project when I get a chance.

    And lastly for this week’s list, at the Teaching Ideas and Resources blog Stu asks “is PowerPoint dead?”

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    FDG 2009 Day One


    So I am aboard the Disney Wonder cruise ship for the Foundations of Digital Games conference. Right now we are well out to see with no land in sight. The conference is going along quite smoothly though. We started with a keynote by Chris Satchell who is the CTO for Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Business (IEB). He presenting an interesting view of where the digital entertainment business is going in the next 5 to 10 years. He highly recommended that today’s students learn about things like linear algebra, statistics, and writing secure and maintainable code among other even more technical subjects for college students (distributed databases anyone?)

    Later I attended some panel talks – one on creating and maintaining an Academic Games Program and a second on the Funding Landscape for Games-Related research. Both were pretty interesting and gave a very broad description of what games programs look like and the breadth of games related research. Stuff is happening in this field. One of the panelists is with the Army group that looks at games and simulators for training purposes. It’s really interesting that the Army really believes in games for training purposes. They are seeing some great results from what they are doing already. But like many people now they are being asked for solid research data to back up what they believe. That seems to be a common thread so far. How do you know that what you are doing is really getting results?

    The casual conversations between sessions have already been interesting too. I had one short talk with a co-worker about operating systems design. A somewhat longer conversation involved several of my team and I talking with a faculty member from a university in New Mexico about programming languages. It ranged from different programming paradigms – functional languages, domain specific languages and compiler development. I’m learning a lot and that is always a fun thing.

    We also had a session that was unique to me. It was called “One-Minute Madness” and it gave every speaker attending the conference one minute to “pitch” their talk to the audience. Yes everyone was held to one minute and many finished early. Quite a rapid fire event but it was interesting and it was enough to change my plans for sessions to attend tomorrow I think.

    After dinner tonight there are two tutorial sessions from 10:30 to midnight. Not sure many conferences run workshops that late but this one does. Serious learning going on as this is a serious conference. Though not devoid of fun by any stretch of the imagination. More on that tonight after we have a few hours to visit Nassau, Bahamas.


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  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    How To Do A Conference ID Badge Correctly


    So I am attending the FDG 2009 conference this week. I signed in and got my conference materials tonight at the hotel. As with most conferences there is a lanyard with your conference ID badge on it. First good sign is that ones name is on both sides. These badges always get turned around and people can never see your name. Having the name on both sides is something obvious to many people I talk to but few conferences do it. I’m only seen it at Microsoft events as far as I can remember. Humm. OK to be fair I think the print should be a little larger but its not bad.

    Anyway, one of the other large hard to carry things one usually gets at a tech conference is a copy of the proceedings. It’s got all the papers and the other information the speakers submitted in one (often very large) bound book of paper. Not at FDG though! Nope. Built into a clasp in the lanyard is a small (240+ megabytes) USB flash drive with all the papers on it. Yep. Soft copy in a reusable USB drive. Smaller, less fragile and more reusable than a CD/DVD disk.  Is this the way of the future? I sure hope so.

    FDG 2009 is the Foundations of Digital Games conference and yes it is on a cruise ship again this year. Not next year from what I hear. It’s growing too big. Still going to be a great academic/technical conference.

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