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

December, 2009

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Web Development or Computer Science

    • 12 Comments

    I love to look at the logs to see how people find this blog. Some of the search strings people use amaze me. Sometimes I’m not sure which to wonder more about – how did that string find my blog or what in the world are they really looking for. Recently I saw a search for “is it better to study computer science or web development” that was a bit of a puzzler. I’m not sure those are separate subjects. Can you do good web development without a grounding in computer science? Can you be a knowledgeable computer scientist without some knowledge of web development? Probably not.

    I suspect that at the heart of this question was a vocational idea. What career should they go into? Programming (which is what many people think of when they think of computer science) or web development (which many people don’t seem to be aware requires some computer science to do well).

    These days most important web pages have database access, active response, and other “programming” that take them a whole level beyond the static web pages of the past. It’s hard to see how one can keep up with the trends towards AJAX, HTML5, Silverlight, Cloud computing and so much more of the direction of the web without a good computer science background. Sure there are self taught people who do great things  but having a good solid base of computer science knowledge would seem to be a big edge for learning the new technologies.

    Related to this is that I keep seeing people list HTML as a programming language. That confuses me. I’ve worked with mark up languages for years (anyone else remember Runoff?) and while they are useful tools I see them as data rather than as programming languages. Are they part of computer science? For sure. They take in data, meta data, process descriptions and much more. But HTML is not a programming language. Perhaps this is part of that whole confusion that has people thinking computer science and programming are the same thing? Are people calling HTML a programming language an attempt by people to try to justify calling web development computer science? If so, I think they are missing the point. Web development is a part of computer science.

    It may not have the prestige in academic circles that other parts of CS have but it is growing in importance in the “real world” all the time. I think we really want the people developing the next big web app (think Facebook, Twitter and Amazon.com) to know a bit about “the rest” of computer science. What do you think? Is HTML programming? Is web development computer science? Or is it rightly kept separate?

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Let’s drop English from the curriculum

    • 5 Comments

    Just for fun, at your next faculty meeting or school board meeting try the following out.

    Let’s drop or at least reduce the English requirement for graduation. Let’s face it these kids have been talking and writing for years. They know English. It’s not like they’ll all become professional writers. Some of these kids already speak better English than their parents.

    Probably will not go over very well. But somehow things like the following go over just fine.

    We don’t need a computer science requirement. Let’s face it these kids have been using computers for years. They know computers. It’s not like they’ll all become professional programmers. Some of these kids already know more about computers than their parents.

    Ok so an argument can be made that the two are not exactly the same but I think they are closer than many people would like to admit. And there is this fact that students have generally had 8 full years of English before  they get to high school and almost no one has a computer science course (computer science does not mean using applications BTW) before high school.

    Computer science is a critical piece of knowledge these days though. In any line of work or study computer science is going to be a tool that one will use. Sort of like how everyone will be reading, writing and speaking in any line of work or study. We really do a disservice to students by not giving them at least a taste, a vocabulary, some basic concepts of computer science.

    College is too late. In fact some would argue and I would probably agree that middle school is not too early. One of the things a good education does, at least in my opinion, is to expose students to as many possibilities as possible. Given how important computer science has become and its increasing importance how can we say a school is doing a good job if students are not exposed to computer science?

    Next week is Computer Science Education week. (Read the ACM Press Release.) Is your school doing anything for it? If you don’t have a real computer science program at your school perhaps this week can be a catalyst to get one started. Let me know if I can help.

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  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Interesting Links December 7 2009

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    A lot of links last week that anticipate Computer Science Education week came my way. Well you’d expect that and I have a number of them to share. But that’s not all. A little about Silverlight, a little about programming languages, and a little about other things. First though the CSEdWeek links.

    Besides Congress there have been other announcements from government and other officials about Computer Science Education Week.

    Plus some college.university announcements and web sites.

    Now for some additional (beyond what I linked to last week) resource links with ideas on how to celebrate.

    Leigh Ann Sudol sent the following announcement to the APCS mailing list.

    Another cool thing is the emergence of Keepon and BeatBots as an internet phenomenon. Keepon is a little squishy robot that was designed to dance to a beat - its breakout video is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPdP1jBfxzo&feature=fvw and an article about how its being used to help autistic children here: http://beatbots.net/2009/04/10/popular-science-robots-to-fight-autism/

    How do you feel about free software? Did you know you can download the beta of the next version of Office, Office 2010. http://www.microsoft.com/office2010 So far it has been downloaded over 1,000,000 times.

    Interested in Silverlight and games? Coding 4 Fun has a great post on creating a pinball game in Silverlight using the Physics Helper Library + Farseer Physics

    Peter Vogel (@PeterVogel) pointed me to an article called Top 10 Programming Languages Used at Microsoft. It’s an interesting list but believe it or not Java isn’t on it. :-)

    Interested in getting kids thinking about inventions? Or about how to go from idea to product and company?  From the TCEA Twitter feed (@tcea) comes a link to a fabulous Inventor's Handbook for students from the Lemelson-MIT program.

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