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

January, 2010

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Microsoft Institute Series for Teacher Leaders

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    February 10-11 in Austin, Texas

    Register Now:

    Part 1 Registration
    Wednesday, February 10 1 p.m.-5 p.m.

    Part 2 Registration Thursday, February 11 8 a.m.-12 p.m.

    Are you an educator responsible for providing technology training to colleagues? Do you frequently lead teachers with best practices on how to integrate technology in the classroom? Then this event is for you!

    The Microsoft Institute now offers workshops dedicated for teachers and teacher leaders. The project-based workshop curriculum is designed for educators who are charged—either formally or informally—with leading technology professional development for classroom teachers.

    The Teacher Leader Program was created for teacher trainers, curriculum integration specialists, master teachers, technology coaches and coordinators, department heads, and others. A workshop is now scheduled for your area.

    What You’ll Receive:

    • Free, hands-on training on project-based, student-centered activities for K-12 classrooms
    • Microsoft Teacher Leader certificate
    • Free access to professional development curriculum for your use in your school
    • Support from the Microsoft Partners in Learning Network community
    • Eligibility for clock or credits hours (*will vary by state)
    • A “21st Century Classroom Pack for Students” upon completion of teacher training at your school*

    What To Bring:

    *Attendees are expected to:

    • Attend a follow-up conference call with the workshop facilitator and other attendees to answer any questions
    • Deliver at least one teacher professional development activity at your school or district based on this workshop
    Contribute a teacher professional development best practice to the Microsoft Partners in Learning Network community


  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Can Movie Computer Screens Help Us Design Better

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    NPR did a story recently on the computer screens that we see in the movies. You know the ones with big read “Access Denied” messages that look nothing like anything you have ever seen in real life. The story was called Hollywood's Computers: Telling A Story In A Flash and it got me thinking. My first thought was that students would love creating that sort of thing. But of course many teachers believe, too often correctly, that students spend too much time creating graphical user interfaces and not enough time creating code as it is. On the other hand I wonder if we teach enough about good user interface. Perhaps we can (or should) avoid the effort on creating UIs during the first course but shouldn’t we start somewhere?

    I was speaking to students recently and asked them “How many of you have used a computer program that your parents could never figure out how to use?” Lots of hands went up. (Note students will never admit in front of their peers that they can’t use some program.) My reply to the students was that we need to fix that problem and maybe they will be the ones to do it. Well I can hope but can they really if they don’t learn about user interface design? Which actually brings me back to the movie mock ups.

    One of the comments on the NPR article by a designer is that the screens have to tell a story. That makes perfect sense in the context of a movie doesn’t it? But what about in working applications? The book “Made To Stick” talks about telling stories as a way to make ideas stick in people’s minds. Good teachers tell stories all the time and we know it works. So could our computer user interfaces tell a story? And if they did would they be easier to use? It’s an interesting idea I think.

    So I wonder if students could spend some time creating mock up user interfaces and seeing if they can do a bit of creative story telling. I’m not exactly sure how it would work but Visual Studio and languages like Visual Basic and C# make it pretty easy to do. (You can use the free Visual Studio Express Editions, inexpensive MSDN AA membership or DreamSpark for students to get it) Could we challenge students to make user interfaces that are easy to use, that are expressive, and that just plain communicate better with users. We can follow it (or lead into it) with discussions about UIs that work well or work poorly, that are confusing or simple, that are easy or hard to remember. Can we take lessons from the movie mock ups to create user interfaces that work? Any one know if there is research on this? Does it sound logical to you? Talk it up with students, peers, and others and leave a comment or two here. I’d love to know what others think about this idea.



  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    DigiGirlz Days Spring Schedule

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    Well the latest batch of DigiGirlz Days are starting to get scheduled. What are DigiGirlz Days? They are fun, interesting and educational events, sort of like a cool field trip, that show girls what technology and technology careers are about. From the web site:

    This one-day event, held at multiple Microsoft locations worldwide, is designed to provide high school girls with a better understanding of what a career in technology is all about.

    During the event, students interact with Microsoft employees and managers to gain exposure to careers in business and technology and to get an inside look at what it's like to work at Microsoft. This exciting event provides girls with career planning assistance, information about technology and business roles, thought-provoking exercises, and interesting Microsoft product demonstrations. By participating in the Microsoft DigiGirlz Day, young women can find out about the variety of opportunities available in the high-tech industry and can explore future career paths.

    I’ve helped out and one of these events and while men are there they generally have a supporting role rather than a leading role. There are some great women role models out there and Microsoft employees a lot of them. They and other women in professional technical roles really let girls see themselves in the field. Check out the DigiGirlz Day home page to find dates and locations near you. I suspect that more events will be showing up but I want to make sure you know about these early and often as they say. So if you don’t see something near you check back in a week or three and see if new ones have been added.

    And if you can’t make it to a DigiGirlz Day there are also some online DigiGirlz Classes.

    Experience a new world of fun by exploring our on-line DigiGirlz courses! These classes have been developed with you in mind and will expose you to some of the content that is taught during our DigiGirlz program. Have fun and show your friends and family how creative and innovative you can be.



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