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

December, 2009

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Deploying XNA Games


    Kathleen Weaver, one of the many amazing computer science teachers in Texas these days, has been using XNA Game Studio with her students. Recently she recorded two videos that demonstrate how to deploy XNA games to other devices.

    Specifically this first video shows how to deploy a game from your PC to an XBOX 306.

    This second video ( shows how to deploy an XNA game to a handheld Zune device. I give her extra credit for this one because she is being filmed doing a live demo to a classroom full of students.

    Kathleen posted these links on her blog at where she posts fairly regularly. I found her comments on required tech classes to be interesting. They go hand in hand with my recent comments about students not being as computer savvy as many think they are. Kathleen is on Twitter at @KathWeaver BTW.

    Check out my XNA keyword for more posts on XNA resources.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Interesting links December 14 2009


    Last week was the first ever national Computer Science Education week in the US. I Twittered (tweeted?) quite a few links to announcements, interviews and web sites (including Microsoft Research’s CS Ed Week site) during the course of the week. I really hope that CSEdWeek will draw some needed attention to the issue of improving and increasing computer science education in the future. Rather than link to all the CSEdWeek links I had I thought I would just do one. The article is Computing Our Children's Future, an op-ed by Maria Klawe, Andrew Chien, Rick Rashid and Alfred Spector on HuffPost. That includes people from Intel, Microsoft and Google as well at Harvey Mudd University. We’re all agreed on the need for CS education. An excerpt is below.

    To the age-old question -- "What do you want to do when you grow up?" -- children today give many modern answers: "Help feed hungry families." "Prevent and cure diseases." "Find sources of renewable energy." "Understand the universe."

    One clear path leads to each of these aspirations: the study of computer science. Computer models and applications enable farmers to increase crop yields, HIV-positive patients in Africa to receive lifesaving treatment, industry to reduce its carbon footprint, and explorers to study the stars. Computing has become the universal underpinning of scientific advancement and economic activity.

    Now for some other links. I see that the governor of Texas, Rick Perry Announces State Investment in Robotics Education Programs. Long story short, Texas is putting some serious money into promoting robotics programs in high schools in conjunction with FIRST Tech Challenge. I’m a fan of all the FIRST Robotics programs because they involve turning consumers into creators. It involves engineering of several types, computer science, and many more things in a fun and interesting experience.

    Microsoft Partners in Education program announced their new Partners in Learning Network, free public/private communities for teachers. Join & get AutoCollage & Songsmith free. Those are tools you can use to help excite your students who are multimedia focused.

    Robb Cutler, past president of the CSTA, had another good post on the CSTA blog When Technicalities Interfere with Learning. Do we hurt learning by insisting on too much complexity and technical vocabulary?

    Ever wanted your own Wikipedia Entry? Microsoft Research may be able to help with Entity Cube. Read about it here Microsoft labs tests a Wikipedia of average Joes


    There is a new Student Career portal from Microsoft that focuses on Information Technology (IT) careers. You may want to point students to it.

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  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Be Not Afraid


    Several years ago I was helping out at a school book sale (private school, parents bought textbooks) and was standing behind the computer science books so I could answer any questions. A parent of an incoming student stopped by and said that their child knew a lot about computers. “Probably more than his teachers.” If I thought he knew who I was I would probably have taken great offense. But I wrote it off with the assumptions that a) he had no idea how much the computer teachers knew and b) he had no idea how little his son actually knew.

    Students, at least in high school and earlier, generally know less about computer technology than they think they do. They generally know far less than what their parents and other adults think the students know. That’s not to say that there are not students out there with extensive knowledge of computers out there. There are. But knowing how to IM, download from iTunes, find funny videos on YouTube and turn on a computer doesn’t make someone an expert. Often the knowledge that students have is more limited than meets the eye. Recently a teacher I know asked a long time iPod using student for some help setting up her iPod. The student was all over downloading music but had no idea at all about downloading applications or podcasts.

    I used to watch students taking a placement test for a computer applications course. These were students who self-selected and declared themselves more than knowledgeable enough to skip that course. Generally about a quarter of them were right. On the other hand I saw some amazing things. A spreadsheet “expert” taking out a calculator to add a row of numbers so they could enter the result into the computer. No really! Honestly I think I could teach the average adult who was a willing learner enough to pass that placement test in a couple of hours. They may not have retained it all much beyond the test but they would know enough to figure things out again later. It’s not really so complicated.

    I think many of us let technology intimidate us. We think we’re too old to learn new things. Plus we see kids pick up a lot of technology as if they were natives to it. (I don’t believe they are and a real expert, danah boyd, says much the same thing) This scares us still more. But really most adults have the skills, the background, the intelligence, the ability to learn that makes catching up with students not so bad. Most of us just need the will, the attitude, the motivation and perhaps a patient tutor.

    And if students know something we don’t, so what? We learn other things from them all the time so why not technology? Students don’t mind sharing what they know. They do it with peers (do you think all those kids figure their iPods out on their own? Not hardly) and they are willing to help adults. This can actually build mutual trust and respect.

    If students start going off in new directions or beyond what their teacher knows, so what? Rather than see this as a threat many teachers I know see this as an opportunity to learn with students, to model lifelong learning, and to build teamwork between teacher and student. What’s wrong with saying “OK we’re going beyond what I know so let’s learn it together.” Seems just about ideal to me.

    Knowledge in the world is expanding far too quickly for us to limit our students to what their teachers already know. It’s an exciting new world out there but we need to face it together and with some courage. And, yeah, perhaps some humility and a sense of humor.

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