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

August, 2009

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    A Couple of Links August 11 2009

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    Last week was light on really interesting links. Maybe it was me – who knows. I have a couple of to share though. The first is a plea from a project that is trying to capture really good blog links for K-12 teachers. There are two wiki pages that have been set up and I hope you will contribute to them if you know some appropriate links to add. And if you don’t know of some particularly good K-12 blog well then go visit and find some.

    • Education Blogs by Discipline – Computer science is down near the bottom with Business. We really need more links there so please help if you know any.
    • Resources related to K-12 blogging - Includes some good example blogs, school, classroom, etc to show people. If you are thinking about educational blogging go visit this wiki and I think you’ll learn a lot.

    Dave Briccetti has set up a Young Programmers Podcast series that is worth checking out.

    A video podcast for computer programmers in grades 3 and up. We will learn about Scratch, Alice, Python, Pygame, and perhaps Ruby, Java and Scala. From professional software developer and teacher Dave Briccetti, and a few special guests.

    Now if I could get him into Visual Basic and/or C# I’d be all set. :-)

    Oh and don’t forget to check out the CSTA Podcasts I blogged about earlier.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    CSTA Podcast Series

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    Getting ready for school to start? I understand that students are already returning in some parts of the US. Over the next three weeks or so most students will be back in class again. Are you interested in listening to some interesting podcasts to get yourself ready and get some ideas for the new year? Check out the CSTA Podcasts. Several new ones were added recently including one interview with yours truly.

    Just Added!

    Building CS Community Partnerships
    Alfred Thompson

    Level 1 of the ACM K-12 Model Curriculum
    Anita Verno

    The Critical Need for CS Education
    Chris Stephenson on the NPR show Digital Spin

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Math, English, Binary, Computer Science, What a Mix

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    Some years ago a first year teacher (Name withheld to protect all involved) was trying very hard to teach Binary numbers for a group of sixth graders. It was not going well. Not at all. At the end of class, on the way out one student turned to the teacher and said “This stuff is math. Why are we doing Math in computer class?” The teacher had had a long frustrating day (as days can get for teachers who are not really ready for this sort of thing) and they replied with a conversation what went something like this:

    Teacher: “Is this English class?”

    Student: “No” (note the student had a very confused look on his face – no surprised there)

    Teacher: “Then why are you talking?”

    This actually caused the student to stop in their tracks and think. The teacher explained that often times subjects were related and that one used things from one field in other fields. We have no idea if this idea stuck with the student but one can hope so. Even if this was perhaps not the best way to try and teach it.

    Those of us who have worked with computers for any length of time and in any real depth do understand how Binary numbers fit in with computer science of course. I believe though that learning number bases is generally helpful to math. Perhaps more helpful than for budding computer scientists.

    I was first introduced to number base systems as a grade school student – 5th or 6th grade as I recall. I was fascinated. Binary, Octal, Hexadecimal and more. I spend hours using base 5 for some reason. Base 12 made calendars make more sense to me. Was it the Mayans who used base 12 and base 60? I forget now but is was so cool. But the most valuable thing was that it made decimal make more sense to me. Sure I sort of understood the value of zero as a place holder but knowing that the same things worked in different number bases made it more real to me. It made math more fun to me. I lost that joy some where along the road (teachers? Me? peer stuff? who knows why) but it was computer science that brought it back.

    Math and computer science are tied together. But so is physics especially in terms of understanding hardware and its limitations and powers. And natural language for describing algorithms and plans and instructions and so much more. It’s all tied together. I am not sure we do enough of making that clear to students though. We compartmentalize things. Students think that math doesn’t belong in other classes when we know it is essential in science (all sciences) and even social studies. How do we communicate this to students? That may be the key question. If we can tie things together then students can see the relevance themselves. They will know it exists and not have to take things on faith.

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