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

October, 2009

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Interesting Links September 26 2009


    Windows 7 released to the general public last week so I have to start with a couple of Windows 7 links. OK maybe I don’t *have* to but there are a couple I wanted to share.

    From the Teacher Tech blog there is a list of 7 things teachers will like about Windows 7. From the Microsoft UK Schools News Blog there is “What is it like to be one of the first schools using Windows 7” I know that a lot of schools stayed with Windows XP and didn’t move to Vista. I really hope most of them will take a good honest look at Windows 7. I do believe this is the time to upgrade.

    Also coming so is a new version of Visual Studio. last week the beta of this product was released for people who want an early look. You can get any of the beta editions at the Visual Studio homepage.

    You can find some Visual Basic “How Do I” Videos for VS 2010 at the Visual Basic Team blog. And over at Channel 9 they have a Visual Studio 2010 training course.

    In other big announcements last week, Microsoft has donated the MSDN Academic Alliance program memberships to every high school in the state of Illinois. From the press release:

    With financial support and assistance from Microsoft Corp., the Illinois State Board of Education announced plans to provide more than 640,000 high-school students with an opportunity to use professional-level software tools to develop work-force skills and prepare for post-secondary education by participating in the “bliink” Web design contest, whose theme “I Imagine a Green Future” focuses on environmental sustainability. Students will compete against each other for cash and prizes by developing a Web site using Microsoft Expression Web software, which will be donated to every high school in Illinois as part of the Microsoft Developer Network Academic Alliance (MSDNAA) program. Tutorials and curriculum units, created by a team of classroom teachers, and mapped to national standards, will also be provided at no charge. Microsoft’s software donation has been valued at over $4 million.

    I’ve blogged about the Expression Web design course in the past of course but if you are in Illinois now you have another reason to look at it.

    Last week at the Massachusetts state-wide STEM conference a new program called Digits was announced.

    The DIGITS program introduces sixth grade students to a corps of STEM professionals –called STEM Ambassadors – who work in science and technology-based careers, are enthusiastic about their jobs, and interested in interacting with students.STEM Ambassadors, recruited from companies throughout the state, volunteer to visit sixth grade classrooms to tell their personal stories and engage the students in a series of interactive, multimedia exercises that help them overcome their fear of STEM subjects, encourage them to be more open to math and science, and stimulates their ability to visualize themselves in STEM jobs and careers.

    It looks pretty interesting and I am pleased that Microsoft is one of the companies that is planning to provide volunteers to help with this effort.

    Also at the STEM summit I participated in one of the workshops where a number of people and organizations shared resources and ideas for incorporating computer and Internet technology in schools. You can find the wiki with resources at Most of the resources I contributed are listed under the name Guarin because Edwin Guarin from my team was a key contact early on.

    Science today is more and more about the data – lots and lots of data. A new book about this is now available for free online. It is called The Fourth Paradigm: Data-Intensive Scientific Discovery It was produced by Microsoft Research and a friend of mine was one of the co-editors. Its an interesting read though and give lots of insights into the future of scientific discovery.

    From  @Microsoft_EDU on Twitter I found this link to a neat educational download. This featured free template from is a complete school report notebook kit with cover, binder spine, and divider tabs for Word 2007. Check it out.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Small Basic 0.7


    Small Basic is a great little project out of Microsoft’s DevLab that I have been following for a while. It’s a simple, little Basic language and IDE that harkens back to things like Qbasic and GBBasic and other early versions of BASIC that many of us cut our programming teeth on. The latest version has a feature that I think is just “killer.” As you can see in the image below there is a “Graduate” button now.


    The Graduate button creates a new Visual Basic .Net version of the program and opens it in the Visual Basic IDE. This looks like a very useful step in the process of moving from a simple learning environment up to a more complete, professional development environment. I’m looking forward to hearing from people using this feature with students or from self-learners who try it out.

    Other enhancements in SB 0.7 are still more local language options. Besides English, Small Basic now available in Chinese, French, German, Italian, Korean, Russian, Spanish, and Turkish.

    More information and the free download at

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    A Week For Computer Science Education


    Have you seen the announcement about Computer Science Education week yet? Congress has passed a resolution designating the week of December 7 as Computer Science Education Week. This week was selected because it covers the time of Grace Hopper’s birth anniversary. I think that is a wonderfully fitting time period myself.

    Cameron Wilson of ACM has a blog post about how Computer Science Education Week came about in the Congress. It’s really great to see that Congress “gets it” at least at some level. Cameron goes on to say:

    Because Congress voted on this week doesn't mean much if the community doesn't do something to make the week tangible. ACM plans on partnering with key computing organizations -- Microsoft, Google, Intel, the Computer Science Teachers Association, the National Center for Women and Information Technology, the Computing Research Association as a start -- to develop a website and outreach materials. Third, these resources can be plugged into the schools and to a variety of audiences including policy makers, school administrators, teachers, parents and the community itself to be used in a variety of ways.

    As these resources become available you can bet I’ll be writing about them here as soon as I find out about them. But it is not to early (or too late) to start thinking about and scheduling things for the week of December 7th. Let’s get out there and promote the idea of computer science education to students, administrators, school boards and the general public.

    This is not a completely new idea though. Brian Scarbeau has been promoting this idea for a number of years. One year he even got his city mayor to make a proclamation ( ) A grass roots version of Computer Science Education day (which both Brian and I pushed in our blogs) was started with limited success (largely because of little outside support) several years ago. A number of high schools have taken advantage of this idea to have events in their schools.  So this is an idea that has potential for impact with this Federal recognition and materials to support it.

    And much thanks to Cameron Wilson and ACM for taking this ball and running with it through Congress!

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