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

June, 2009

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Bing, Explicit Content and Safe Searching For Schools

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    One of the scary things about the Internet for schools and for parents is that explicit content is very easy to find – even by accident. Most web browsers have “safe search” settings but young people are savvy and it is not unheard of for them to change their settings. Content that comes indirectly, such as via a search engine, can occasionally sneak by filters which increases the problem. The new search engine decision engine from Microsoft called Bing has taken steps to help with this problem.

    The Bing blog has some information about this in a post called Safe Search Update. The key paragraphs are below:

    First, potentially explicit images and video content will now be coming from a separate single domain, explicit.bing.net. This is invisible to the end customer, but allows for filtering of that content by domain which makes it much easier for customers at all levels to block this content regardless of what the SafeSearch settings might be. This makes it much easier for filtering software to block unwanted content if SafeSearch has been turned off.

    In addition, we will begin returning source url information in the query string for images and video content so that companies who already use this method of filtering will be able to catch explicit content on Bing along with everything else they are already blocking for their customers. An example of such a query string is:

    http://ts2.explicit.bing.net/images/thumbnail.aspx?q=974382499649&id=12ae77a7fed979b0502840bedacd2552&url=http%3a%2f%2fwww.explicitsite.com%2fexplicit-picturegoeshere.jpg

    So if your school (or home or company) filters out explicit.bing.net then no matter what setting the web browser has you will not see explicit content in Bing results. This should be a big help to a lot of schools. It was done in direct response to feedback from companies, schools, and others concerned with making sure explicit content can be filtered out when that action is appropriate.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Visual Studio Learning Pack 2.0

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    One of the things I really like to see is when software is released in different languages. Now I only read English but I realize that lots of people in lots of places use other languages. The Visual Studio Learning Pack 2.0 is now available in Spanish, Russian and Chinese (Simplified). I understand that this release also has more/better support for Visual Basic and that is a language I care about too. :-)

    From the download page:

    The Visual Studio Learning Pack 2.0 is a software package created by Microsoft to help students learn about computer programming. It consists of the following five components:

    • Sort Designer Control is a supplementary teaching tool developed to help students learn the basic concepts, algorithms, and implementations of popular computer sorting algorithms. It supports bubble and insertion sorting. The control generates initial values automatically and demonstrates intermediate states in the sorting process. It also generates sorting source code for both Visual Basic and C#.
    • Search Designer Control is a teaching tool developed to help students learn the basic concepts, algorithms, and implementations of popular data search algorithms. It supports binary and sequential searches. The control generates initial values automatically and demonstrates intermediate states in the searching process. It also generates source code for both Visual Basic and C#.
      Using the Visual Sort Designer and Visual Search Designer Controls teachers can easily develop a sample program to demonstrate the fundamentals of sorting and searching. They can also customize the control's appearance by simply dragging the control onto a form and setting its properties. These visual demonstrations help in teaching programming concepts and increase students' interest in learning.
    • Visual Declarative Designer is an intuitive variable declaration tool designed for novice programmers. During the coding process the student can declare variables of various types and generate the corresponding source code. Visual Variable Declarative Designer provides a visual approach to variable declaration. Teachers in the Information Technology (IT) field can use this designer to teach students the basic concepts of variable declaration and naming, variable types, access modifiers, and initial values.
    • Assistant Class Designer is a visual class designer for novice programmers. This designer guides students through the processes of adding classes, properties, methods and events. The designer also generates the corresponding source code for new classes. By using this designer, teachers and students can easily create and configure complicated classes. Assistant Class Designer provides an intuitive and interactive method for designing classes and helps students to understand key object-oriented programming concepts such as classes, encapsulation, inheritance, and polymorphism. The Assistant Class Designer generates source code for C# only.
    • Visual Programming Flow Chart is a supplementary teaching tool designed to help students understand program control flow. It generates flow charts for functions and saves them in the JPG picture format. This tool is easily activated from the Visual Studio Integrated Development Environment (IDE) by simply right-clicking on a function name and choosing “Generate flow chart…” from the context menu. The resulting flowchart can be customized by changing its colors and other effects. This visual tool provides an intuitive way to explore source code, to examine its control flow, and to identify logic errors.

    Visual Studio Learning Pack 2.0 – Spanish

    Visual Studio Learning Pack 2.0 – Russian

    Visual Studio Learning Pack 2.0 - English

     

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Blog Reviews – Begin Game Programming & Teaching CS to Kids

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    I follow a lot of blogs that have to do with computer science and education in general. It seemed to me that reviewing some of them might be helpful or at least interesting to others who are looking for blogs to follow. Today I’m going to talk about two of them Begin Game Programming and Ideas for Teaching Computer Technology to Kids. Neither is written especially for schools or teachers but are more generally for anyone who wants to learn (or teach). I have found a number of things to link to them in the past and still more that I found genuinely interesting or helpful.

    Begin Game Programming is written by “professional games programmer with several years experience and numerous published titles on my CV” according to the the site’s introduction. I don’t know who the author actually is though. The posted tutorials use XNA Game studio and C# but there is information that is applicable to other languages and applications. For example a recent post is called “Working In Radians” and covers material that is required for many kinds of computer graphics. There is another recent post called “A C# view of accessors” that explains the movement from Get and Set methods to C# properties. I think this may be useful for people adapting from languages like C/C++ and Java to C# and even Visual Basic. This blog has an associated web forum as well. While there isn’t much there I can see that this is an opportunity to interact with the blog author at a greater and more detailed level. It will be interesting to see how this goes. For people interested in learning game development this blog is worth checking out.

    Ideas for Teaching Computer Technology to Kids is more of a link blog than one loaded with a lot of original content. But the links are good and there is usually enough information in each post to make an educated decision about following the link before you actually do so. There is a good list of “More resources for teaching Scratch” that I think will be useful to many people. Not everyone here is for older students either.

    For example a post called “Computer Terms Bingo” which is just what you’d expect. Although the game it links to is somewhat dated I’m afraid and I do wish that was noted. A post called “Excellent demonstration of sorting algorithm” links to a YouTube video of a 19-month old sorting different sized blocks. I can see that being useful in discussing sorting and how people do it. I believe that they article linked to by “Gallery: The evolution of the PC” is one of the things I have linked to from here after finding there. So this is a light weight site and not everything will be useful to everyone but the posting rate is manageable and there are often enough nuggets of good stuff that I check it regularly.

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