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

June, 2009

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Jeannette Wing on Computational Thinking


    The kick off speaker for the SIGCT Forum at NECC this year was Jeannette Wing from Carnegie Mellon and the National Science Foundation. Her paper Computational Thinking, CACM vol. 49, no. 3, March 2006 is a must read for, well, just about anyone in education or in the computing field in my opinion. I also recommend a PDF of slides that he has used for a number of computational thinking talks similar to the one given at the forum.

    One of the questions I hear often is “what is computation?” Jeannette Wing defines “Computing is the automation of our abstractions” Computational thinking then becomes selecting the right abstractions and the right computer (where computers are defines much more broadly than just computing machines) to solve problems. I really like these descriptions because they really bring out how broad and wide ranging computational thinking really is.

    Dr. Wing also talks about how important computational thinking is to research in all disciplines these days. She relates that using computers the help sequence the human genome helped many in the biology community start to appreciate computers and computational thinking as important tools in that field. Much of this relates to data. Scientists and researchers are collecting more data than they can store let alone analyze. So computers and computer learning are the only way sense can be made out of all this information.

    The challenge for the education community that Dr. Wing brought up was “What are effective ways of learning (teaching)
    computational thinking by (to) children
    ?” I see these as huge issues. Sure we can use programming to some extent. Tools like Kodu, Alice and Scratch and others make programming possible at younger ages. Although I think we have a huge shortage of people who are really prepared to teach the concepts. Concepts being of course much more important than the tools themselves.

    Dr. Wing is an exciting speaker because her enthusiasm for the subject is clear, evident and contagious. It’s encouraging to have someone like her being at NSF. If you get as chance to hear her talk take advantage of it. And if not, read her paper and look through her presentation deck.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Gotta Have IT


    I stopped by the NCWIT booth at NECC today (it’s a partner booth outside room 147A in the conference center) and they asked me to blog about their Gotta Have IT materials. So of course I am. It’s a really great set of materials and they are really useful for building awareness and encouraging interest in computing. If you are at NECC you should really stop by and pick up a set of these materials for use in your school. Want more information or can’t get to NECC? Visit the Gotta Have IT web site where I got  the description below:

    Gotta Have IT is an all-in-one computing resource kit designed with educators' needs in mind. A select set of high-quality posters, computing and careers information, digital media and more, the resource kit builds awareness and inspires interest in computing. Gotta Have IT is for all students, but is especially inclusive of girls

    And if you do stop by their booth outside room 147A  tell them Alfred from Microsoft sent you. :-)

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  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Recent Links of Interest June 29th 2009


    The Visual Basic team has a new site called “I'm a VBthat they are having some fun with. You’ll find a bunch of interviews with Visual Basic developers – both those who develop the product and those who develop products using Visual Basic.

    My friend Andrew Parsons aka @MrAndyPuppy pointed me to Bulgaria's entry for Imagine Cup. It’s a cool system for teachers that lets a class full of students your their own mice on one computer at the same time. It has some interesting possibilities for schools who can’t afford a lot of computers. It is just one of the interesting projects at the web site set up for the people’s choice voting for the international Imagine Cup finals. Check them all out.

    Speaking of friends, Leigh Ann Sudol aka @lsudol wrote a post called The new image of computing which asks “what the right message to grow the number of computer scientists?”

    Have you seen that the Microsoft Security Essentials Beta is now available? Free protection against viruses & other malicious software.

    I forget where I found the link to this article and I apologize for that. Top Indian CEO: Most American Grads Are ‘Unemployable’  Could it be true? Whose fault might it be? It’s pretty scary really. How do we fix things so that no one says this in the future?

    Dan Waters posted a two part series on his blog about audio programming. Dan’s a musician and understands audio a lot better than I do.

    And last for today but not least, the Spring 2009 issue of the Journal for Computing Teachers (JCT) is now out. Check it out.

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