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

September, 2009

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Visual Basic Resources


    I was asked on Twitter if I had a Visual Basic resource page for teachers and I had to admit that the one I used to maintain was sadly out of date. That’s just wrong. So I went through all the Visual Basic keyworded post on this blog, visited a couple of other sites and put this list together. I’m going to try and keep it up to date. Please let me know if you find other things that should be here, broken links or any other recommendations you may have.

    Curriculum Sites

    K-12 Faculty Community Site A source for curriculum resources, teacher forums, and program announcements

    Beginner Developer Learning Center A web site for people of all ages who want to learn programming and web development. Tutorials, videos, projects and web casts

    Projects and Feature Discussions

    Visual Basic .NET Projects - A set of projects for the classroom. There are teachers notes for each project as well as pages that can be duplicated for distribution to students  as programming assignments. You can find this (and more) at the K-12 Faculty Community Site as well.

    An article I wrote on creating control arrays. This article covers both Visual Basic .NET and C#. It is suitable for beginners. Teachers who are used to teaching with control arrays in Visual Basic 6.0 and earlier will find this useful.

    Simon is a simple game I wrote. Simon is a game that involves four different colored buttons that randomly depress and beep. The player then has to press the buttons in the same order that they beeped. This most useful part of this project is a special button class that inherits from the PictureBox object.

    Fun With Colors – This little project with about six lines of code may be a more interesting “hello world” than “hello world.” It uses some sliders to select a color to show up in a picture box. This is also a nice way to introduce how computers handle colors. Yes, the code looks like C# but if you remove the semi-colons it works just fine in VB.

    When Is A Short Circuit a Good Thing? Confused about the difference between And and AndAlso and Or and OrElse? This post explains it all.

    Sshhh… it’s a secret (Matt Gertz) Matt Gertz shows you how to code up and deal with substitution ciphers. Ciphers are a lot of fun and seem to interest both boys and girls.

    Prime Numbers, Code Challenges, and Programming Languages Coding up a solution for generating prime numbers. With some added discussion about different programming languages.

    Coding 4 Fun A web site for hobbyists and computer tinkerers - sample projects and information for doing fun and interesting thing with programming; often combined with interesting or unusual hardware.

    Code Samples A large collection of code samples in Visual Basic for doing all sorts of things. Looking for sample code for students to review and/or use? Send them here. (Provided by Microsoft) See also:

  • How Do I in Visual Basic
  • “How Do I” Videos — Visual Basic

    Exceptions, Data Validation and Political Correctness A discussion on the differences between different styles of error handling and data validation.

    Software Access

    MSDN Academic Alliance A Microsoft program for schools to get Microsoft Development software for labs, teachers, and students for very little money.

    DreamSpark for High schools DreamSpark High School provides professional-level development and design tools to students enrolled in an accredited, secondary educational institution at no charge. Sign your school up today and start handing out access codes to students and get out of their way. :-)

    Visual Studio Express Editions Free development tools (IDEs) for Visual Basic, Visual C++, Visual C# and Visual Web Developer

    Add ons and Tools

    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, Search Designer Control, Visual Declarative Designer, Assistant Class Designer and Visual Programming Flow Chart

    VB Coding Standards Document Not from Microsoft but still a very interesting look at what coding standards look like in the “real world.”

    Career Information

    Are you students asking who uses this Visual Basic stuff? Send them to the “I’m a VB” web site for interviews and videos with members of the Visual Basic team and lots of professional developers who use Visual Basic.

    Third Party Web Sites (Not Microsoft and I can’t vouch for everything there)

    Temple of VB web


  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Show Me The Data


    One of the things I have heard from students over the years is that the data they are asked to process is not relevant or is of so little consequence that they don’t see the point in writing a program to process it. And of course how difficult is it to sort 10 items? And what is the use of searching random data created by a random number generator? Students learn best when the projects they ask a computer to do actually require computer speeds to process. So the obvious answer is to use real data. Data that comes in volume and that is interesting and/or useful to students. Fortunately there are answers. There are sources of large data sets that are often actually free. Free fits in most budgets these days.

    My favorite place to start is the US Bureau of the Census. There are huge data sets there and they are often quite interesting. Are your students discussing income, poverty, and health insurance with all that in the news? Would looking at Tables of Income by Detailed Socioeconomic Characteristics be helpful? It’s there! How about state population data? There to as part of the 2009 Statistical Abstract data. Frankly if you can not find interesting data there you’re just not looking. They have a census in schools page with information and resources for both teachers and students as well. Do your social studies teachers know about this? What a way to mix social studies with math/computer science. Or sociology!

    Another great source of data sets is the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Take a look at the Databases, Tables & Calculators by Subject page for starters. And don’t forget the National Center for Education Statistics as well

    Now suppose you want something a little bit different. A company called AggData has some interesting data sets for sale. They have some free data sets as well. Complete List of Oscar Nominees and Winners? Free. Complete List of McDonald's Locations $49 which is still pretty reasonable. What would you do with that? Well since that data has geolocation data you could plot distances. Check out Where The Buffalo Roamed to read about someone who created a data visualization and calculated the furthest away from McDonalds you can get in the lower 48 states. The possibilities are endless.

    I encourage people to think about the data they use for projects. There is data out there that can spark the imagination. More than that there is data out there that allows people to be creative and to create useful mash ups of data. Exposing students to this sort of thing young will help prepare them for topics like data mining and business intelligence analysis of data later on.

    Speaking of which. For university people interested in a lot of data there is the Microsoft Enterprise Consortium

    The Microsoft Enterprise Consortium is a joint program between the Department of Information Systems in the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville (Walton College) and Microsoft Corporation (MS). The purpose of this joint program is provide to the academic community access to large and compelling real world datasets for both teaching and research. The datasets are to support business intelligence, data mining, database instruction, and data warehousing by university faculty and researchers.

    The initial large live datasets include –

    • Sam’s Club Sales Transactions Database with 6 tables and more than 55 million rows.
    • Dillard’s Department Store Sales Database with 5 tables and more than 128 million rows.
    • COPA Frozen Foods, Inc. Financials with 6 dimension tables linked to a fact table containing almost 12 million rows.
  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Interesting Links September 21 2009


    I’m convinced that the best online conversations about computer science education are taking place around Mark Guzdial’s blog these days. he recent blog post What changes CS Education? is a great example of that. besides the comments there (still coming in) there are blog responses by Leigh Ann Sudol (In continuation.. which adds to the comment she left on my response to Mark) and Ian Bogost (Computing as a Liberal Art) which has a lot of discussion in the comments as well. Check all three blogs and join in the conversations taking place.

    Via Twitter I learned about which is a group of young people trying to inspire others into technology. Read about them in a News story at Really interesting idea in their summer workshops.

    Know any college/university students? Have them check out this *amazing* deal: Get Windows 7 for only $29.99! That’s the site for the US program but there are similar deals in other countries.

    Thanks to @PeterVogel I saw this message from @MSSpringboard How to Start a Windows 7 Pilot Deployment This is just the sort of information that school and district IT support people may want to take a look at.

    Worried about the H1N1 virus and how you’ll deal with having a lot of students out of school for extended periods? have you see the new Office Live site around helping teachers prepare for N1H1 problems? Office Live workspaces may just be part of the answer for you. The site has information in videos and more. Directly related is a post called Create a Class Workspace, reach your students outside of class on the Teacher Tech blog. (@TeachTec on Twitter)  A few ideas for using virtual class workspaces with students  - please add your thoughts there.

    From @Microsoft_EDU I learned that Microsoft is partnering  with Samsung's Four Seasons of Hope to kick off a $1 million tech giveaway competition. Is your school entered?

    Have you seen the latest Did You Know video?

    This is another official update to the original "Shift Happens" video. This completely new Fall 2009 version includes facts and stats focusing on the changing media landscape, including convergence and technology, and was developed in partnership with The Economist. For more information, or to join the conversation, please visit and

    On a historical note from @estherschindler and @hashedbits it looks like the world’s oldest, working computer is being fixed up to reboot after 48 years.

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