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

December, 2009

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Microsoft bliink Contest in the State of Illinois


    I made mention of this announcement when it was first made in October. I hope that if you are at a high school in Illinois you know about this and are getting involved. Note that it doesn’t have to be a computer science teacher/or class that gets involved. Microsoft is actively looking to create similar partnerships with other states so if you are working at the state level please let me know at AlfredTh (at) Oh and we're doing it in Texas too. See for more information.

    CHICAGO, IL. — October 8, 2009 — With financial support and assistance from Microsoft Corp., the Illinois State Board of Education and Governor Quinn’s Office announced plans to provide high school students an opportunity to use cutting-edge software tools to develop workforce 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. Participants will compete against other students 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 (MSDN AA) 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 $4,000,000.

    Despite our nation’s struggling economy, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that more than 300,000 technology-related jobs currently remain unfilled for lack of qualified workers.  Only five percent of American college undergraduates today are pursing degrees in science or engineering, compared with 42 percent of university students in other countries such as China and India. The National Center for Women and Information Technology reports that “U.S. universities will graduate qualified candidates to fill only 50% of the 1,500,000 computer- and information-related jobs expected by 2012.” The bliink web design contest, held in five US locations last year, successfully engages a wide group of students – not just those who are already technology experts.

    This challenge is part of Illinois Innovation Talent, a public-private initiative designed to connect schools with industry, government and community partners to examine and solve complex problems as members of diverse, interdisciplinary teams utilizing leading-edge information technology tools.  These initiatives create unique learning environments that are designed to promote innovation-centered education and increase student achievement in math, science and engineering by working as project management teams.  Innovation Talent is one of our strategies for demonstrating the integration of the updated National Education Technology Standards. 

    “The Microsoft bliink Web Design Contest offers a great opportunity for high school students to apply their creativity and technology skills through a real-world assignment,’’ said State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch. ``I hope as many Illinois high school students as possible will take advantage of this chance to develop workforce and academic skills to prepare for success beyond high school.’’

    Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, agreed: “By participating in the Microsoft bliink Web Design Contest, our students will benefit from the experience of working in teams to develop an original web site while strengthening their entrepreneurial and technical skills. The theme of environmental sustainability highlights the economic advantages of building new ‘green’ businesses in the State of Illinois and simulatenously improving the world.”

    “Providing students with cutting-edge technology tools and the resources to learn how to use them is a priority for Microsoft,” said Anthony Salcito, Microsoft’s Vice President of Worldwide Education. “We are pleased to partner with the State of Illinois to equip students to explore and develop their talents. They can download the same software for their home computers through Microsoft’s DreamSpark™ Program. Students who graduate from high school and college with strong technical skills will have a wider choice of career options in today’s global economy.”

    For more information about the Microsoft bliink Contest in the State of Illinois, please go to: For information about DreamSpark, go to:

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Women and Computer Science – Is It The Environment?


    The Internet was a buzz last week with reports of a study done on the effects of environment on women’s interest in computer science. (Links to articles below) While we’ve been talking about how the atmosphere in a computer lab or a computer class may be a turn off for women now there is a study that confirms this. Apparently not all women are into Star Wars, Star Trek or even science fiction in general. Shock! OK it’s not a surprise. In fact a lot of men are not interested either. So when these people run into a room decorated in Star Trek with people sitting around playing “Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock” they decide “maybe this environment is not for me.”

    So what do we do about it? Can we ban decorations? Seems harsh. But at least we can do some thinking about what decorations are put up. We can make the environment look less excusive at least? I think one thing we need to is make sure that there is diversity in the room. It may start with diversity of decorations but we need to make sure we encourage diversity in the people who inhabit the labs.

    When I was teaching high school our computer labs were a hub of activity after school. Most of the people in the lab were not doing school work but killing time while they waited for rides home or sports practices to start. So there were boys and girls of all types and we let them have some freedom as to what they did. If nothing else it made it clear that computer labs were not geek only environments. I like to think this was/is helpful. There were also a lot of kids doing school work using both applications and computer science projects. There was a lot of peer tutoring going on as well. That environment, I believe, encouraged students to share both their knowledge and their interest in computers with others.

    I’m sure there are a lot of other and perhaps better ways we can make our computer labs and computer science areas more diverse, more open, more inviting and less intimidating and exclusive looking. have you got some to share? I know lots of us could benifit from a sharing of ideas.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Interesting Links December 21 2009


    This will probably be my last interesting links post for the year. I’m taking some vacation time and hope to take a break even from the Internet. Hopefully you all will  be getting some rest and recharge time as you prepare for the new year as well. I’ve got a few posts up and in the queue so if you get bored there will be posts to read. And now for this weeks links.

    It’s not too soon to be thinking about summer professional development opportunities. I’m very excited to be involved in planning for CSTA's CS&IT 2010 conference which will be held at the headquarters of some advertizing company. Googol of something like that. :-)

    One of the people I started following on Twitter recently @weemooseus posts a lot of good links to Scratch/ Recently he tweeted about a summer Scratch conference this August 11 - 14, 2010: He also linked to a set of curriculum resources for Scratch from the Irish Software Research Council. Registration is required to get access to more than the first couple of modules but it looks pretty interesting.

    The fall issue of JOURNAL FOR COMPUTING TEACHERS (JCT) from ISTE's SIGCT is now available

    RT @guzdial: Blog post about the challenge of growing the number of high school CS teachers. Some interesting articles and I may find some time to read them offline over the break.

    Mark Guzdial (@guzdial) is inimitably involved in the effort to create a new AP CS course last week he posted a blog post called how I see the new AP CS effort which I think is a must read for people interesting in high school computer science in general and the APCS program in particular.

    I get updates on some of the animations created on DoInk. This Animation for a Math Class: The Pythagorean Theorem  is a pretty cool visualization.

    From @GISeducation I found a link to a nice chat with Microsoft Research, authors of worldwide telescope

    @TeachTec noted some benefits of signing up for the new  Partners in Learning Network. Look under "Resources" and get a free full copy of AutoCollage when you join.

    Interested in online safety education and events? You may want to follow @Safer_Online on Twitter. If not at least check out the an Informative event guide for your online safety event. Also, a useful presentation for your online safety event.

    From  @SimpleK12 and @stevekatz: Should Computer Tech Classes Be Required in High School? Some interesting discussions in the comments too!

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