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

December, 2009

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Microsoft at FETC 2010


    I’m going to FTEC in Orlando this January. This will be my first time at FETC and I’m looking forward to it. There isn’t usually a lot for computer science/programming/web development teachers at FETC from what I understand but this year Pat Phillips and I will be there to talk about the Expression Web development curriculum with a couple of sessions. Specifics on them below the announcement about Microsoft’s wider participation below.

    These are exciting times for technology in education with the recent release of Windows® 7, the upcoming release of Microsoft® Office 2010 and the even closer launch of the Microsoft Academic Toolkit. This year at FETC, learn about these recent innovations and learn new ways of engaging students in the classroom with web design, XML, Web 2.0 and more by attending a session at FETC.

    See the Microsoft at FETC site for a listing of sessions and registration information. Microsoft’s sessions Will be held in Room W205 across from the Exhibit Hall entrance.

    I hope to see you there!

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  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Don’t Lose It


    Years ago I saw a cartoon, it was probably in The New Yorker, that was set in what looked like an excusive upper class businessmen’s club. Two very well dressed overweight businessmen were seated in overstuffed chairs. One of them was saying to the other “I owe everything I am today to some advice my father gave me. He said ‘Son, here’s a million dollars. Don’t lose it.’” I’ve been thinking about that cartoon as I think about getting students interested in STEM and computer science. Aren’t most kids born with an interest in most everything? Somewhere do they lose some of it and if so why?

    Mark Guzdial has a short but interesting post last week ( Child Development Expert Offers Ideas for Promoting Early Science Learning and read the comment by Alan Kay) where he said.

    “… young children act as scientists.  My read of the literature suggests that kids don’t turn away from science until middle school.”

    IF you think about it kids start looking at science very early in basic ways. How many parents have heard questions like “why is the sky blue?” or watched as a small child sat enraptured watching ants in the dirt? And isn’t building things with blocks quite a bit like engineering thinking? When children are very young they have a fascination with the world around them – science. Counting things – math. And figuring out how things work – technology/engineering. But somewhere along the line they lose much of that. In some ways we teach it out of them. We take the interesting and turn it into he boring. We take the fun of learning and make it work. We often even take the fun out of reading (to bring up another pet peeve of mine) by assigning books that are “good for kids” rather than books that are interesting and fun to read. We could have it all.

    I will never ever forget the Materials Science teacher I had as a freshman in high school. The man was a nutcase in many ways but, boy, was he interesting. He was passionate about his subject, had a blast showing us experiments/demos and instilled in me a fascination with the subject. It’s a wonder I didn’t go into the field but at least I took a knowledge and understanding of the subject that has served me well through my life. He sure improved my love for science in general as well.

    How does this relate to computer science? Well I think that in the younger grades we can either make computer science look boring and like work or we can make it look interesting and like fun. Why not use tools like Scratch and Alice and maybe robots? (I’m working on a list of educational robotics resources for later this week BTW.) Why not use kinesthetic learning projects like those in Computer Science Unplugged? Let’s not kill the interest in computers by making it all about drill and kill with applications usage courses. Not that those applications are not important these days but let’s not use learning them as a way to kill interest. Let’s find better ways.

    Kids are born with an interest in science (and other things) so let’s not push them into losing that interest.

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  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Where to Find Computer Science Lectures Online


    With school vacations coming up this seemed like a great time to accept this guest blog post from education writer Karen Schweitzer. I can imagine a lot of people looking for ways to do something educational over the holiday. While many of these may be a bit much for high school students some will be ready for them. Plus they may be helpful for continuing education for high school computer science teachers and for undergraduate students.

    Where to Find Computer Science Lectures Online

    Computer science lectures are a great way to introduce yourself to the world of computer science or expand your current knowledge. Here are hundreds of college-level computer science lectures available for free online.

    Freshman Computer Science Seminar - This free computer science seminar held for college freshmen at UCLA includes ten audio lectures. You can play the lectures with Real Player, download them to an mp3 player, or subscribe through iTunes.

    Understanding Computers and the Internet - Harvard offers an excellent introduction to computer science with a focus on understanding computers and the Internet in this series of 12 lectures. Lectures are available in Flash, QuickTime, and mp3 format and include slides, transcripts, and other learning materials.

    Higher Computing - The introductory course for computer science at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) can be taken for free by watching a series of nearly 50 video lectures on the school's YouTube channel.

    Operating Systems and Systems Programming - UC Berkeley offers this series of free computer science lectures on operating systems and systems programming. Most of the lectures include an audio and video version. Some lectures also include accompanying slides.

    The Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs - This series of computer science lectures, also from UC Berkeley, includes more than 40 free audio and video lectures on topics like functional programming, object-oriented programming, logic programming, data abstraction, sequences, streams, and concurrency.

    Programming Languages - The University of Washington provides a series of free audio and video lectures on computer programming. Lectures include PowerPoint and PDF slides and can be played with Windows Media Player or downloaded to your computer or mp3 player.

    Programming Methodology - Professor Mehran Sahami for the Stanford University Computer Science Department delivers a series of free computer science lectures through Stanford's YouTube channel. Each lecture lasts 40 to 50 minutes.

    Multicore Programming Primer - The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) offers a series of video lectures that use the Playstation 3 platform to teach computer science majors about parallel programming and multicore architectures. The lectures include accompanying notes, a set of recitations, and quizzes with solutions.

    Introduction to Computer Architecture - Prof. Anshul Kumar, Department of Computer Science & Engineering, IIT Delhi delivers a series of six video lectures on the basics of computer architecture through YouTube.

    Computer Systems Engineering - This series of free computer science lectures, also from MIT, consists of more than 20 video lectures on computer software and hardware systems engineering. Lectures are accompanied by other learning materials, including lecture notes, assignments, and exams with solutions.

    Guest post from education writer Karen Schweitzer. Karen is the Guide to Business School. She also writes about online degree programs for

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