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

August, 2009

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    New Windows Live Movie Maker Available


    I’m a huge fan of the Windows Live set of tools. I use Windows Live Writer to write and post all of my blog posts (to several different blog engines BTW) and Windows Live Messenger keeps me connected to friends all over the world. And Photo Gallery has a lot of great features. Sticking together several shots into panoramas is a big favorite of mine. The version of Movie Maker that was available for Windows Vista and Windows 7 lagged behind a bit. The version for Windows XP was actually a little better. But that has changed. I found this announcement in my email yesterday.

    Today, Microsoft announced the global availability of the new Windows Live Movie Maker. With the new Windows Live Movie Maker, it’s easier to turn videos and photos into great-looking movies and slideshows, using many popular camera types and file formats on the market today. It’s an effective tool for teachers to bring the benefits of multimedia to the classroom, where it can help engage students and increase retention.

    One of the key enhancements that teachers and students will use is the sharing capability. Once a movie is complete, it can be easily shared with other teachers, students or even friends and family across TV, PC or mobile device or by uploading them to video-sharing sites.

    Teachers and students can download the new Windows Live Movie Maker for free by going to

    I really like the idea of easy sharing for example. Students love to share their work and of course many of them are already excited about the idea of making movies. This is a multi-media generation and they are not interested in static poster board displays. Not in seeing them and not in creating them. My wife has been using a Flip video with her students and I know she is excited to do more with it this school year. I know a lot of other teachers who are doing the same. Making movies engages students. So I think the timing on this announcement is great.

    BTW I am hoping to put some educational videos together about various computer science concepts. This is the tool I plan to use to edit them. Are you working on video demos? I’d love to hear about them if you are.

    To learn more about the new Movie Maker (for Vista and Windows 7) and see real movies created with Movie Maker, please visit or check out the Windows Live team blog post. (Lots of helpful links and information at the Windows Live Movie Maker Blog Post BTW so I might start there.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Can we talk? Learning, Conversations and Networking


    Professional development for teachers in a field that changes as fast as computer science education is always going to be an issue. There is never enough time, enough money, enough of the right trainers or any thing else related to professional development. What makes this even larger a problem for compute science teachers is that they are often pretty isolated. They are often the only person in the building who has a clue as to what computer science is about. There may not be other computer science teachers at near by high schools either. So what is a teacher to do?

    Well a recent survey by the CSTA has some interesting information. While I have some concerns with the methodology so would be careful about expanding many of the results to the larger school population I think we can learn a lot about the people who teach computer science from the report.

    One of the key questions in the survey was What do you believe to be the most effective methods for delivering professional
    development to CS teachers?
    Workshops and seminars ranked highest. But Networking with others ranked a high second. Online resources and professional conferences ranked third and fourth (by my calculation) respectively. I have some theories.

    I think that online resources are valued and thought of as effective in part because they help with the time and money part of the equation. If you have no time or money being able to learn on your own online for little to no cost that’s going to be a lot better than a workshop that may not be on topic, be located far away, and cost a lot of money. Professional conferences provide some of what a workshop does and some professional networking but not always enough of either. I know that some people go to conferences just for the networking. Others just for the sessions. Any way you play it you are going to miss out on something because you can’t be in two places at once.

    Now a good workshop/seminar with a good instructor and good take home resources can be a wonderful thing. I’m not sure there are enough of them though I have been to some really good ones as part of pre-conference events. Networking it seems to me is too rare. I have some suggestions though. Probably too late for this summer but keep in mind for the future.

    If you are an AP CS teacher sign up to be an AP Reader. What? Yes, sign up to be an AP reader. The grading itself is like a graduate level course in exam creation and grading. Seriously you can’t pay for a “course” that good in my opinion. Secondly you will have networking time. Meals, evenings, breaks, through out the day you will have a chance to talk to some of the very best computer science teachers (high school and university both) in the country. I’d be a reader again in a heart beat if they would let me but I don’t teach AP CS or an equivalent college course these days.

    Secondly look for residential workshops/conferences that are held at various places around the country. Sure you may wind up living in a dorm but that helps keep costs down. But remember those late night “bull sessions” in the dorm when you were in college? Guess what? The are even better with a group of professional educators who care deeply about their work. Yes you may give up between a few days and a week of summer vacation but the networking alone will be worth it. Plus the shared learning and discussions with peers will teach you a great deal. You may make friends for life – I know I have.

    Look into the CSTA Chapters. There are a number of them out there and more coming all the time. If there are none in your area you can get involved in starting one. Networks don’t just happen – people create them and put work into maintaining them. If nothing else try to locate other teachers in your geography and get together for coffee and donuts from time to time. Be proactive though.

    Lastly think about getting connected online. Read some blogs (list borrowed from the Moving Forward wiki) like:

  • CSTA Blog
  • Brian Scarbeau
  • Kathleen Weaver
  • Leigh Ann Sudol
  • Mark Guzdial's Computing Education blog
  • Know of any more? Get involved in the conversation. Read the comments. Add your own comments. Help to build a personal learning network.

    You may also want to try Twitter. Besides me :-) you may want to follow

    • @mfh Michelle - Middle school computer science teacher; Director of Technology, CSTA enthusiast,
    • @lsudol teach computer science and am studying CS Education
    • @Guzdial Mark Guzdial - Professor in Interactive Computing, CS Ed Researcher

    And if you pay attention you’ll probably find other interesting people getting in on the discussions. That’s how things work when you network. One person introduces you to another and another and another.

    Note: Mark Guzdial has a blog post called Questioning the report that High School CS is declining that outlines a lot of the same concerns I have about the CSTA survey and the conclusions some people are drawing from it.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Interesting Links August 18 2009


    I hope I’m not the only one who sometimes pre-judges a link based on how sent it to them. I know better but still when I first viewed this link to a video about ordering pizza in the future I thought to myself “This is a polemic against Obama, the Democrats and the liberal “nanny state.”  because is came from someone who is not fan of the left. Then I took a close look at the URL. The video is from the ACLU – hardly a bastion of the far right. But of course the ACLU is noted for its defense of privacy and this is an area which can make from some strange bedfellows. Regards of who put it out I think it is an interesting take on data privacy. A very useful link for this discussion is also Kim Cameron’s Laws of Identity.

    One of the younger and much hipper members of the Microsoft academic team, DeVaris Brown just opened a new blog called Tales From the Road. Besides technology he'll be blogging about what his life as a technology evangelist is about. I'm subscribed.

    Have you run into teachers who say "I'm not very good at computers." And then they laugh and wave their hand as it if were cute and acceptable? Read this blog post by Scott McLeod (on Twitter @mcleod) for a take on this attitude. And perhaps send the link to your principal.

    Speaking of Scott McLeod are you aware of  THE PUSH project?

    Every single day for at least the next two weeks, we work together to identify excellent subject-specific blogs that are useful to P-12 teachers. Why? Several reasons…

    • To identify blogs that P-12 teachers can use to initially seed (or expand) their RSS readers
    • To create a single location where P-12 educators can go to see excellent subject-oriented educational blogging
    • To highlight excellent disciplinary blogging that deserves larger audiences
    • To learn from disciplines other than our own and get ideas about our own teaching and/or blogging

    If you know of great subject matter blogs that should be added to these lists please add them to the Moving Forward wiki.

    Matt MacLaurin (@mmaclaurin) from the Kodu team posted a roundup of some outstanding Kodu projects on youtube.

    Just in time for back to school, Microsoft recently redesigned their student page. Know students? Are a student? Check it out.

    From the Microsoft Teacher Tech team (@TeachTec) a couple of announcements:

    Ken Royal's beginning of the year tech tips look very helpful for teachers with labs that were “cleaned” over the summer. My question when I read Ken’s post was “Should school tech teams be training custodial staff on connecting/disconnecting computers and other technology? What do you think? Does your computer lab get messed up over the summer?

    Interesting post by Mark Guzdial (@guzdial) about how we make decisions about CS1 on the Communications of the ACM blog. Well worth a read.

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