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 and Twitter Lists


    Short work week last week. Not a lot of great links showing up in my RSS reader or my email inbox. It seems like a lot of people took the week off completely. I needed a bit of a break and I’m sure many others did as well. I do have a couple of interesting links to share though. Two of them are among my Twitter lists. Twitter recently added a feature that lets one create public and private lists of people’s accounts on Twitter. I’ve created several of them. And several private ones (like family members for example). I’d like to talk about two of the public lists though.

    @alfredtwo/education – This is a pretty good sized list – well over 200 people. Who is on it? Technology coordinators, computer teachers of all sorts, English teachers, Librarians, middle school teachers, education consultants, professors of education and related subjects and more. Basically I look for people who are in education and technology in education. This is the list of people I follow to learn about the latest in educational Web 2.0 applications. I look to this list to learn about new ideas in teaching, classroom management, dealing with administrators and tech support people and much more. This is my attempt to keep my finger on the pulse of education as it is shared on the Internet. It’s a pretty interesting bunch of people. One might even say eclectic as well.

    @alfredtwo/cs-teachers – This is a pretty short list right now but I really hope it grows. This is the list I use to look at Tweets (Twitter messages) from people I know to be actual computer science teachers. People in the trenches as it were who are teaching programming, serious web development, AP CS and other computer science courses. There aren’t enough of them out there in my opinion but I don’t want to miss anything the ones I know about say. If you know of people who should be on that list please let me know.

    You can follow either of those lists or any of my others if you have a Twitter account. Or just follow me @AlfredTwo and see what I find interesting during the week.

    Now for some other links.

    Karen Lang had a very interesting post at the CSTA blog called Down and Dirty Programming which is a fascinating look into a course she created to prepare students for programming competitions. It is a look into different learning styles, classroom management, and how students learn. This article is well worth the read and I hope you’ll do so and leave some comments over there as well. Join the conversation!

    CACM (aka Communications of the ACM) had an interesting article about how schools are making computer science relevant by adding video game development to CS courses. Closely related is a CACM blog post by called Games in Schools--Sugar-coated Learning? The latter is about educational computer games. Frankly I see a close tie between the two topics because I see a lot of interest in having CS students create games that are educational for other students. And perhaps as a way to  teach computer science. See Kodu for example.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Creating Games with XNA® Game Studio and C#


    New High School Computer Science Course

    Creating Games with XNA® Game Studio and C#


    Fall 2009

    Recruit students to your schools’ computer science classes by adding a new game development course!

    Students will develop computer science knowledge and skills by learning how to program in C# using the Microsoft® XNA Game framework and Visual Studio® platform to create games.

    XNAGame Studio 3.0 enables hobbyists, academics, and independent developers to create video games for Microsoft Windows®, the Microsoft Zune® digital media player, and Xbox 360.®

    Visual Studio is a professional development environment that has been taught in HS CS classes for years.

    Although students learn how to create games, this curriculum unit is “serious” computer science. It covers most of the fundamental concepts that high school students need to know in order to succeed in introductory college-level computer science courses. The topics that are explored in this course are applicable to the wider scheme of computer science and interactive media studies.

    Successful Teaching Scenario: Grade level: High School

    Length of study: one semester or more (This course can easily be extended into a year-long course by adding more advanced topics or longer, team-based projects.)

    Pre-requisites: Students need prior programming experience to succeed in this course.

    • Some experience working in a software development environment such as Visual Studio and languages such as Visual Basic, C# or Java.
    • Basic computer science or programming knowledge and experience including the use of variables, control structures, and object-oriented programming.

    Teacher preparation should include knowledge of object oriented languages and expertise in teaching computer science at the high school level. This course will be valuable as a second semester or year-long course in a computer science program or to replace the Advanced Placement Computer Science AB course.

    The free course materials include an e-textbook, timeline, suggested activities, presentations, project ideas and teaching notes. Educators participating in the pilot will receive a free, hard-copy XNA textbook.

    Educators will be thrilled with the depth and breadth of the teaching resources provided.”

    ~ Dr. S. E. Gunn, Ph. D., Professor of Learning & Technology

    The teacher who has been looking for a hook to keep students in computer science needn't look any further! Absolutely awesome materials … easy to follow, easy to teach, and easy to extend.”

    ~ Dave Jacobus, Retired Computer Science Teacher/Software Developer

    If you would like to sign up to pilot this course or would like additional information, please contact:

    Pat Phillips at: v-paphil (at)

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson



    Imagine you had a pickup truck that you used for work. One day the person in charge of company vehicles says to you “we’re going to replace your pickup truck with a Prius. We’ll be saving money on gas. Isn’t that great?” You of course reply with something like “But I need the room in the back of a pickup truck to carry things.” And they reply “well you’ll find a way to work it out.” Can you see that happening? Does it sound like a good idea? Of course not. One lays out the needs and starts from what meets the needs and then works in other factors. A Prius is a great car for what it is designed for but it was never intended as a pickup truck replacement.

    How about this version? A true story. Several years ago a teacher I know came back from summer vacation to find that all of her Windows PCs had been replaced by Apple Macintoshes. With no warning to her. Now of course none of the applications she had been teaching worked and the textbooks she could not replace were all wrong. But hey, the tech support people said “you have new computers! Isn’t that great?” Crazy? Well it happened.

    I hear these stories regularly. Someone decides that they are going to change the hardware and/or software platform for some reason that sounds good to them. But they don’t take the applications that are being used into account. They’ll leave fixing that to the user. Shouldn’t planning for computer use, in industry, at home and at schools, start with the user facing applications software? Select that and then go looking for an operating system and a hardware platform to run it on. Am I wrong?

    Most recently I have heard this in the context of people looking for “replacements” for Visual Basic because their school is migrating to some OS other than Windows. Even if I were not heavily biased towards Windows and Visual Basic (you know I am) this would drive me crazy. As it is none of the Visual Basic alternatives I have looked at look anything like a sideways more. A big step backwards is how they look to my (admittedly biased) eyes. But teachers being presented with this situation never seem to push back. Why not? Tech support is there to support  the teacher aren’t they?

    I was a high school technology coordinator for several years and I always viewed my job as being an enabler – someone who helped teachers teach. When ever evaluating operating systems, be it a change or an upgrade, the first thing we did was to get a list of all the applications in use. Then we tried to verify which ones worked and which ones didn’t work with the potential platform. I saw it as the technology department's role to make sure that either everything worked or their were viable replacements that the users approved of before making or even suggesting a change. Everything gets tested. Only when it all works is a change implemented.

    Of course to me the role of technology support goes beyond just careful evaluation of platform changes. When a teacher wants to use some new software it is tech supports job to research how to make it work not the classroom teacher’s. It drives me crazy when tech support who will not even let a teacher download solutions tells the teacher that they (the teacher) have to present technical solutions for them (tech support) to implement when software doesn’t work right.

    Who works for who in educational technology?


    Note: see also Your technology coordinator works for you, not the other way around by Scott McLeod.

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