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

July, 2009

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Blog Reviews – Thinking About Computer Science Education


    Continuing with my plan to review and help promote some of the more useful and interesting blogs I follow I’m going to talk about two blogs that hit a little more of the theory and thought behind computer science education. These two blogs are both from people at universities. They are not aimed at high schools per se but I think there is a lot of overlap between introductory college computer science and high school computer science. In any case these two people always make me think and that is a good thing.

    Computing Education Blog

    Mark Guzdial is a professor at Georgia Tech and is one of the key people behind their Media Computation program. He’s done a lot of work at helping introduce computer science to students beyond computer science majors. His current blogging location (Computing Education Blog) is a new location and you should still be able to find many of his previous posts at his old blog (Mark Guzdial's Amazon Blog). One particular highlight from his recent posts is Women Programming, Just Not In CS which is some really interesting observations about how women view programming and computer science.

    In need of a Base Case

    Leigh Ann Sudol is currently a PhD student at Carnegie Mellon University but was a high school computer science teach in New York state for a number of years. Leigh Ann is the person who trained me to grade the AP CS exam the year I was a reader. She has an amazingly quick mind and talks fast at times as well. Fortunately she writes well; unfortunately she doesn’t write as often as I’d like. But what she writes is good. Recently she had a series of blogs posting her observations from the IES Research Conference.

    So please check these blogs out when you get a chance. And join their conversations.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Interesting Links July 6th 2009


    Last week was NECC and boy was I ever busy. On the other hand the places on the Internet were slow in some ways and busy in others. The education Twitter space was all NECC all the time. Many education bloggers were not blogging because they were just too all out busy. Searching for blog posts using the NECC09 tag this week should turn up a lot of news from there. But I did find some interesting tidbits that I do want to share with you and make more “findable” on the Internet.

    There is a new @Microsoft account on twitter and one of the first things they Twittered was “Anyone can make games now, Kodu is  available on Xbox LIVE Marketplace” Yes, it’s true Kodu for the Xbox 360 is now available in Xbox Live marketplace. I’m pushing for release of a PC version for schools and other educational use. So are many others so I am cautiously optimistic.



    Do you remember QBASIC’s GORILLAS.BAS? I do. I lost lots of time playing that in my earlier days. Well a version of it is this week’s Small Basic sample of the week.


    In other Twitter news, @MichaelHyatt Answers to the Top 10 Twitter Objections  If you haven't read it I recommend it. It may change your mind about Twitter.

    Interesting post from the schools matter blog Good Working Conditions and Respect for Teachers - A Foreign Concept Microsoft’s Anthony Salcito has a post along the same lines from the same conference at Assessments...are we doing it all wrong

    Scott Thompson blogs links to Word information he has been taking about at Microsoft Office Help – Monday’s NECC Follow Up it was great to see him at the Microsoft booth. (We’re not related so don’t hold me against him. )

    I found this interesting conversation with Sir Tony Hoare who invented the Quick sort among other accomplishments. I was able to meet him a couple of years ago at a Microsoft Research event and he was fascinating to talk to. Quite some guy.

    NCWIT still has some of the great free materials for promoting computing to students that I blogged about last week - Gotta Have IT.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Sponges and Participants


    Earlier this week Scott McLeod wrote a somewhat critical blog post (NECC - Vendor excess (aka Do pink Cadillacs really sell printers?)) about the exhibit hall at NECC. It was a thought provoking post not the least because I was working for an exhibitor at NECC. What I concluded was that there are several types of people who come to conferences like NECC. I loosely named them Sponges and Participants. I’m not completely happy with the terms because everyone participates and everyone is out to soak up as much as they can but bare with me.

    Sponges have as their main goal to soak up as much information, pick up as much literature, get as many ideas as possible and learn about all the things they didn’t have (critics would say make) time to learn during the school year. Once they get home others may “squeeze” them to get some of that learning out of them. Others (see my trouble maker post) will work hard to spread the information over objections. These people love the exhibit hall. Besides attending all the sessions they can and listening intently the also comb the exhibit hall for ideas and information. These are the people the exhibitors want to attract. At a conference as huge as NECC and only limited time in the day exhibitors need those eyes and hears to make their pitches. The pitches are often brief and buzzword filled “elevator pitches” because no one will listen long. They want to get to the next booth. Someone who does want to talk in depth may find that the exhibitors knowledge is not very deep or that they don’t have as much knowledge of education as one might like. These are the exhibit staff the “participants” find frustrating but more on that in a second. For many people this doesn’t matter. They will do more homework later on the Internet or perhaps call a salesperson later if the ideas gel for them.

    The people I call participants are more active in their attendance. They are asking all sorts of questions – often deep questions – at the sessions and at the booths they visit. These are the people who hang out at the blogger cafe talking at length to experts and other people trying to learn and understand deeply. These people also tend to be the people who engage in conversations (usually online in blogs, Twitter, nings and other discussion forums). These people are at NECC for the conversations and the networking – growing their personal learning network. The emphasis on glitz, glitter and fast sales pitches do not work for these people. They are their to share and to engage in high bandwidth conversations that are not possible online.

    I think in some ways these two groups exist in separate realities at a conference like NECC. I would not suggest that one way is right/better and the other is wrong/worse though. I would say that different people have different needs. Participants seem  to feel more at home at conferences like EduBloggerCon and wonder out loud why NECC can’t be an unconference. The sponges often (though not always – teachers are fearless) feel uncomfortable with the idea of an unconference. They like structure. They want to listen. The sessions and exhibit hall at NECC work for them. Good for them for coming – often on their own money.

    Either way NECC is big enough for both groups. Kudos to ISTE for facilitating the blogger cafe (although we’ll need more chairs and power next year). Participants are often the bleeding edge speakers and presenters that the sponges are there to learn from and we can’t afford to drive them away. We also need the multitude of sponges to bring ideas back to their schools. We’re all in this together.

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