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

April, 2010

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Visual Studio 2010 Now Available


    Well it is official – the final release of Visual Studio 2010 is not available. If your school has an MSDN AA account you can download it from ELMS now. If you don’t have MSDN AA, why not? Also for students who are part of the DreamSpark program you can download Visual Studio 2010 from there as well!

    For everyone, the Express editions are also now available as free downloads/net installs from the Visual Studio Express Editions web site.

    For those of you working at schools, including high school, colleges and universities, that have MSDN AA memberships Hilary Pike posts detailed steps for how to access Visual 2010 in MSDN AA, DreamSpark, and MSDN AA ELMS:

    Visual Studio 2010 RTM and .NET 4.0 now available through DreamSpark, MSDN, MSDN AA, and TechNet

    MSDN AA Admins Enable Visual Studio 2010 Downloads from ELMS

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Interesting Links 12 April 2010


    What does this say?

    01000010 01100001 01110010
    01100010 01101001 01100101

    It says “Barbie” in Binary coded ASCII. See Barbie Goes Binary  for more on the display on Computer Engineer Barbie's laptop and the design on her blouse. I wonder how many little girls will notice? Well at least we geeks know it is there.

    The nice people at @fuselabs retweeted this link from @planetkodu about an interesting post from the Planet Kodu Blog: 6 surprising ways Kodu can help you. If you have looked at Kodu and wondered what it would do for students that post is a great place to start reading.

    The @koduteam twittered about some little-known-facts on Kodu cut-and-paste (keyboard shortcuts work!) By retweeting a link from @scoy6 to his new Kodu tutorial on programming User Interface on the Kodu blog.


    Speaking of research projects that are useful for teachers, Microsoft Research just released a new Chemistry add-on for Word.

    The Chemistry Add-in for Word makes it easier to insert and modify chemical information, such as labels, formulas, and 2-D depictions, within Microsoft Office Word. Additionally, it enables the creation of inline “chemical zones,” the rendering of print-ready visual depictions of chemical structures, and the ability to store and expose chemical information in a semantically rich manner.

    Joe Osborne, one of Microsoft’s Student Insiders (Twitter @joeosborne87) Twittered a link to his interview with Twitter's Raffi Krikorian. One of the things they talked about is geotagging. Information of where people are is becoming quite the issue on the Internet these days.

    Last week I started guest blogging at the Educators’ Royal Treatment. I expect to blog there a couple of times a week, usually about general education technology issues rather than computer science specific topics. My first post there is called The Missing Question From Technology Plans I hope you will check it out and comment as appropriate.

    Looking for Alice teaching workshops this summer? Good list at (The Alice home page is at

    Are you a Moodle user? @mrdatahs wrote a post on ZDNet Education about Microsoft Education Labs integrates Office with Moodle.  This is one of a number of releases by Microsoft Education Labs and it is not the only resource for Moodle users that you will find there.

    Are you one of those people who likes to incorporate photos and videos in Office documents? @Officegal twittered about new photo and video tools in Office 2010 on The Microsoft Office Blog.

    The Microsoft Jobs Blog interviews Microsoft Games Studio Writer John Sutherland - from Pong to Natal. An interesting story about one man reinventing himself and moving into new career options. Worth a look and not just if you are interested in game development.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Is Computer Science Too Big For One Degree


    For a number of years I have been on an industry advisory for the computer science & engineering department at Taylor University. In one of my early discussions, back 7-8 years ago now, I remember asking if it was really possible to fit everything they wanted to fit into a computer science degree into four years. It was a struggle to be sure. When I was an undergraduate at Taylor there wasn’t even a full computer science major and I tool almost all the courses they offered. I couldn’t do that today because there are so many more offerings. Computer science is growing as a field of study. In many universities it seems as though there are more required courses for computer science degree than for most if not all other majors. It’s overwhelming. Taylor now has four different degree programs including a BA in CS for those entering industry and a BS in CS for those who want an academic career and advanced degrees.

    Mark Guzdial talks about the split ups at Georgia Tech (a much larger school with even more options) in a post at Cleaving Computer Science into New Degrees. This is the sort of thing that I believe a lot more universities will be facing in the near future if they haven’t already looked at it. I answer the question posited in the title with an strong “yes.”

    What does this mean for high school computer science programs? Several things. One is that they will have to face a reality where they can’t possibly teach all the things that there are out there to teach. That’s pretty easy to face because there are so many limits in time, teachers, money, scheduling options and more. But I state this outright to encourage people not to obsess over it. The larger problem which impacts students more than teachers is that it is difficult to advise them on university plans.

    There is a computing careers and degrees document and web site from the ACM that is very helpful. I recommend that as a great starting place. But it is still pretty general and the diversity of computer science programs is getting more so rather than less. While that document covers multiple degree and major programs it is starting to look like CS degrees are on the verge of splitting into still more programs. There is no easy answer to this. There is too much flux, variability, and program differences across the country – the world really. I think that students are really going to have to start doing more research on their own these days.

    I think that discussions with recent graduates may be helpful. Both for students to understand what schools are really like and for faculty to learn more about what is current in higher education. Discussions with faculty from various institutions of higher education will also be helpful. I also think that universities are going to have to start really describing their programs online and in recruiting materials. They do that to some extent already but I think that some (how many? not sure) are going to have to do more to explain why someone might choose one program over another. They have to do that both for recruitment as well as retention. helping students select the right program early on should improve retention rates. Students who start off on the wrong path can get frustrated and leave a CS program if they feel they have to re-do too much time to take a new path in computer science.

    Generally most programs have a base of courses that span CS degree programs or concentrations of course. But while that somewhat minimizes the pain of changing a focus/concentration it doesn’t remove it completely.

    When I look at the computer science field now and compare it with what it was 35 years ago I am amazed at the growth. Not just in the impact computers have in our daily life but the amount of information we expect undergraduate students to learn to get a degree. I can’t help but wonder if it all overwhelms some students. How do we help them make good decisions and avoid scaring them away? Clearly we have to have academic paths that don’t take supermen and wonder women to complete. And we may want to think about making sure they have time for a life as well.

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