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

November, 2009

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Interesting Links November 9 2009

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    Welcome to this week’s collection of interesting links. Some of these I found on Twitter, some on various blogs, and some came by email from various people. I hope you find something useful here.

    The Innovative Teacher Network is now the new Partners in Learning Network, free public/private communities for teachers. Join & get AutoCollage & Songsmith free

    We are a global community of educators who value innovative uses of information & communication technology that improve learning outcomes. By joining the Partners In Learning Network, you can:

    • Create or join communities & discussions
    • Find lesson plans and activities, as well as share your own resources
    • Access free tools and learning programs for your classroom and school
    • Collaborate with like-minded colleagues, improve education in your own classroom and community, and ultimately help improve the quality of education globally

    Barbara Boucher Owens from ACM SIGCSE has an interesting post on Computer Science Education week. It’s not too early to too late to start thinking about having an event at your school.

    On the CSTA blog I found this cool picture of a sign explaining FIFO in every day life.

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    Great visual for explaining the concept I think.

    MIT BLOSSOMS STEM education initiative - math, engineering, physics and Bio videos for students.

    Here is a list of the most lucrative college degrees from Money magazine. Engineering and science degrees are at the top. Why are students not looking at them? Why are guidance counselors pushing students into other areas? I don’t get it.

    Are Your Students Good Problem Solvers, or Good Mimics?  Nice post on the CSTA blog. Are we really turning out critical thinkers or jsut students who can regurgitate solutions to known problems?

    Liz Davis @lizbdavis has some fine Scratch lesson material assembled. It is 6 45 minute lessons for her 8th grade class. Take a look and see if it fits into what you are trying to do.

    Do you or your students know what a really large data center look likes today? Take a peek into one of the new huge data centers Microsoft has been building.

    Recently a young "TIME for Kids" Reporter visited Microsoft to Learn About the Future of Education. They interviews Joe Wilson who is one of the senior people in education outreach in Redmond and someone I get to work with from time to time.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Pre-Collegiate Faculty Connection Redesign

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    Back a year or so ago Microsoft opened the Pre-collegiate faculty connection web portal to share resources for computer science, computer programming, web development and other related teaching areas. It’s been a pretty successful site with tens of thousands of teachers visiting it for news and resources. This week it was time for a site refresh. The new site is now up and I think it looks pretty good. Of course I like blue themes. :-)

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    More importantly the site navigation is (I think and hope you agree) cleaner and clearer. We’ve also added some colleague connections – links to other blogs and useful web sites that we think you will find valuable. Of course I’m biased as this blog is first on the list but the others are great as well. As before there are links to software for educational use, curriculum for various courses and topics, and links to online training resources that you can use for yourself or with your students. If you haven’t visited lately (or even if you have) please stop by and look around.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    But I Don’t Want to be a Programmer

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    One of the things I hear pretty regularly is that not everyone needs (or wants) to be a programmer. Some people want or perhaps even need to do some programming or more generally programming like activities but they don’t want to be full time programmers or computer scientists. These people can be a lot more effective and productive if they at least learn the basics at a fairly good level. Mark Guzdial talks about some of this on a recent post called Talk on Meeting Everyone’s Needs for Computing

    The “bigger” problem is the number of people who program and who want to learn more computer science, but who do not want to become CS majors or learn to be software engineers.  A paper out of CMU predicts that we’ll have around 3 million software developers in the US in 2012, and about 13 million end-user programmers.

    Another term that comes into use is non-professional programmers. In other words these are people who program but do not do it as their career/full-time profession. Non-professional programmers is actually a super set that includes end-user programmers and people who programmer recreationally or hobbyists. Yes there are people who write code for fun. Lots and lots of them.

    Thirty five years ago when I was first learning to program the idea of a software hobbyist was a pretty strange idea. They did exist of course but you had to have some real money (unlike Bill Gates I could not afford to buy an Altair computer to play with) and some serious interest. learning to program was pretty difficult. It was mostly assembly language on computers that hobbyists could get access to. The idea of end-user programmers was even more of a strange concept. Computers were kept in locked rooms with access tightly controlled and limited to highly trained professionals. All that has changed now.

    Computer science and programming have now become a life skill. It is something “regular people” can use in their daily jobs, for fun, and as a mental exercise. Computers are inexpensive and most people have access to them. Development software is cheap (often free) and easy to acquire. (See Microsoft Visual Studio Express Editions for example) In daily work life people have access to programming to modify their existing tools (see creating macros for Excel for example) Just last night I talked to a high school student who told me he was habitually creating macros for Excel to solve tasks. I suspect that he will have a huge advantage as a knowledge worker totally apart from any programming type jobs.

    I think that schools should be making sure that students have the option to learn and use these sorts of tools. Teaching computer science is not just about turning out computer programmers any more. Today teaching computer science is about supplying students with the tools to succeed in just about any field they go into. And as a plus some of them may find a lifelong hobby. You don’t have to be a fantastic physical specimen to create a great computer game. of course this mean we have to teach the subject well and in ways that interest students – that make them relevant to them. Media computation seems like a great example. game development? Sure. Robots? Sure. And yeah we can do the math thing for the math geeks. :-) But at the very least we need to expose everyone to this field. Let them try it first before they decide it is not something they want to learn and use.

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