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

June, 2009

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Blog Reviews - Organizations


    There are a number of organizations, professional groups, whose blogs I find particularly useful. The Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA), it’s parent organization ACM and National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) are some of these.

    CSTA Blog

    The CSTA blog is updated by various members of the CSTA board and by their amazing Executive Director, Chris Stephenson. I find it essential for keeping up with news from CSTA such as Leadership Cohort Updates, Alternative Certification for CS Teachers, and Communication Skills for Computer Science Students. I highly recommend CSTA membership for anyone who teachers computer science in pre-collegiate education.

    Communications of the ACM: blog@CACM

    The CACM blog has posts from some of the top people in computer science. Some of the posts are very technical but many are potentially interesting for students, teachers and CS hobbyists alike. For example Matching Digital Photos to Identify Wildlife is about computer-assisted photo-identification of animals. Low-Cost Sensors Help People Turn "Green" is about “sensors for phones and homes that give people feedback on their habits and encourage them to save resources.”

    National Center for Women & Information Technology

    NCWIT is all about expanding the participation of women in technology. They provide a lot of resources for educators and others who are interested in this goal. The blog is updated a couple of times a month and updates readers on NCWIT programs such as the NCWIT Symons Innovator Award or Updates from the NCWIT Meetings.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    XNA Game-Themed CS1 Lab Workbook


    It seems like the XNA Game development curriculum keeps coming and coming. About two weeks ago I posted links to XNA curriculum that was highlighted on the Academic Resource Center. Today I learned about a new XNA Game-Themed CS1 Lab Workbook that has been developed at the University of Washington.

    This "Laboratory (lab) Workbook" is designed for instructors of introductory programming (CS1) classes. The materials presented uses video game-like ("Game-Themed") examples to reinforce fundamental programming concepts. These game-themed examples are implemented based on a simple library, XNACS1Lib, such that neither the instructors nor the students are required to have any background in computer graphics or games.

    The workbook is divided into three sections:

    • Section 1: Installation guide and tutorials on XNACS1Lib. This section guides the reader through basic software installation and then presents simple tutorials on how to work with the XNACS1Lib library.
    • Section 2: Lab workbook examples. This section is organized into seven independent topic areas. Instructors can teach their existing CS1 classes without any alterations and assign readings from Section 2 of this workbook as lab activities, extra readings, and/or assignments.
    • Section 3: Sample Game-Themed Assignments. This section contains seven sample programming assignment modules. Each module is designed around a "well-known"  topic area (e.g., 2D array) and has two accompanied assignments: a console (traditional text-based) version, and a game-themed version. These two versions of the assignment are technically equivalent. The console version can be used as a reference for instructors unfamiliar with graphics or games programming. Solutions and sample grading rubric for each version are provided. 

    The lab workbook is a result from the Game-Themed Introductory Programming Project funded by Microsoft External Research:

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Interesting Links June 22 2009


    It’s the end of the year for a lot of us. Not the calendar year of course but the school year or the fiscal year. I’ve been working on my input for my year end review a lot this week. And doing some preparation for NECC (I’ll be there from Friday of this week on – hope to see some of you there.) and other things for the next fiscal and school year. Not much time for blogging, Twittering or especially for relaxing. Still I did run into some interesting links to share with you all. BTW if you run into things you think I or the people who read my blog would be interested in please let me know. Send me email at AlfredTh (at), use the contact link on this web site or Twitter to me @AlfredTwo.

    Have you seen the new version of Deep Zoom Composer? The team has added a bunch of new features that people have been asking for for a while. This might be the thing for some interesting graphic design projects.

    With Deep Zoom Composer, you can take a collection of images of various resolutions (including large, high-resolution images) and arrange them into a composition. You can then export or publish the composition as either a single high-resolution image or a set of individual images with different resolutions. Once you export or publish your composition, you can use a standard broadband connection to quickly display and navigate a large, detailed image or a panorama of images that might otherwise be extremely slow to view.

    Check out the Expression Blend and Design blog for more information on this update of Deep Zoom Composer.

    Hilary Pike found this fun historical video of a new broadcast introducing the Internet. It includes an interview with a young Bill Gates – check out his glasses. :-)

    The Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) has a new document on Computer Science For Grades K-8? With Curriculum Resources!

    Joe Stagner AKA the MisfitGeek has a new Podcast called Episode #2 - Does VB have a future? If you’ve ever had doubts about the future of Visual Basic this is the interview to go listen to. Speaking of Visual Basic, Anders who was the driving force behind C# is also working on VB these days. Check out "Future Directions for Visual Basic" by Anders Hejlsberg and Jonathan Aneja Also the Visual Basic blog has an article about Implicit Line Continuation which explains how VB 2010 will do away with the need to explicitly specify some line continuations.

    Speaking of NECC! If you are headed there you may be interested in getting some information about Microsoft’s presence at NECC. Well other than me. :-) Stop by the booth and listen to some presentations and learn about what Microsoft is doing with education.

    Interested in robotics? The Microsoft Robotics team is Twittering @MSRobotics. last week they announced that Robotics Developer Studio 2008 R2 has been released. See the new Microsoft Robotics web site.

    Do you talk to students about coding standards? Personally I think that is something students should be exposed to early. From @pbarone and @zainnab I learned about these Free C# and VB Coding Standards Reference Documents.

    Products from Microsoft keep coming out supporting more (natural) languages. Last week it was announced that Small Basic V0.5 is Now Available in English, French and Spanish. A lot of teachers are already using this tool for beginning programming courses. Maybe it is something you will want to check out as well?

    Looking at 1:1 computing initiatives? Or perhaps you are thinking about bringing white boards into the 21st century? From @Microsoft_EDU I found this link from @chronicle to an article called Why a Tablet PC Beats Your Whiteboard which links to the real list - 11 Reasons Why a Tablet PC is Better. Take a look.

    Looks like the beta version of Alice 3 in available now. This is the version with avatars from The Sims.

    Last but far from least, Sir Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity at a TED talk that I stumbled upon last week. It makes for interesting listening. What are you doing in your teaching to promote creativity?

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