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

April, 2010

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Resources for Teaching Binary Numbers


    I’ve been collecting resources for teaching Binary numbers and number systems lately. Today seemed like a good time to share what I have collected so far. And of course to ask people if they have others they recommend.

    MathmaniaCS Lesson Plan

    A lesson plan/activity for teaching Binary numbers from the MathamaniaCS web site. Includes a graphic on counting in Binary on ones fingers.

    How to Count to 1,023 on Your Fingers

    This site talks about base ten, base six, Binary, Binary Coded Decimal and Hexadecimal and includes a cute applet that demonstrates counting in those bases on your fingers. As always beware the Binary value for four.

    Binary Counting Cartoon - 

    This cartoon (available as a downloadable PDF file) demonstrates how to count to over a thousand by using binary numbers and your fingers.

    The Binary System

    A guide to a quite confusing concept by Christine R. Wright with some help from Samuel A. Rebelsky. Written for college students and fairly comprehensive.

    Cisco’s binary teaching game -

    This game challenges students to set and reset bits to display a binary representation of specific decimal numbers. It is an interactive way for students to practice what they know about binary numbers.

    Exploring Binary blog -

    This blog is completely focused on binary numbering and data representation. It is written by Rick Regan who has a B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in computer science.
    Some outstanding sample posts are:

    The Binary Marble Adding Machine -

    This site shows a wooden binary adder that uses marbles to set and reset “bits.” There is a demo video and a link to plans for making a device yourself. Building one is recommended only for people who have experience with wood working but students will enjoy and learn from the video demo.

    Converting from Binary to Decimal

    A very math centric set of examples of converting to and from decimal and binary numbers.

    Why learn the Binary (Base2 ) number system? - 

    Part of a set of Base Number System information pages ( ) by Bill Davis of Florida State College.

    Alfred Thompson’s blog entries tagged with the Binary key word -

    From time to time new binary number educational resources are written up on this blog. Using the keyword Binary will list the most recent of them.

    This post keeps getting hits so I thought I would add some more links I recieved via the contact form. (thanks

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    2010 US Imagine Cup Community Showcase


    Please join Microsoft for the

    2010 US Imagine Cup Community Showcase

    The US Imagine Cup team would like to extend an invitation to you to attend the Software Design and Game Design Finals at Washington DC’s interactive and inspiring Newseum. Now in its eighth year, the Imagine Cup is the single largest annual investment that Microsoft makes to inspire students by combining their imaginations with Microsoft technology to make the world a better place.

    Microsoft Imagine Cup Community Showcase

    April 26, 2010 from 9:00 AM – 2:00 PM, Newseum, Washington, DC

    Register HERE: and use registration code GOV0426.

    Event Details


    Key Attendees

    • Craig Mundie, Chief Research and Strategy Officer,  Microsoft
    • Anthony Salcito, Vice President of Worldwide Education, Microsoft

    Event Agenda

    • 9:00 AM - 11:00 AM Finalist Presentations (optional)
    • 11:30 AM - 12:00 PM – Tour Community Showcase of finalist projects
    • 12:00 PM – Keynote and award ceremony
    • 12:30 PM - 2:00 PM Meet Winners and Community Showcase Part 2

    What’s In It for Students?

    • Make an impact on your community! Microsoft has partnered with United Way and Ashoka/Youth Venture to facilitate project ideas with faculty and students to impact their local communities.
    • Trip to Washington D.C. and a great experience to interact and share ideas with peers from around the country and potentially around the world.
    • Real world experience to add to their resume.

    Cash Prizes:

    • $10K Student Loan Sweepstakes for registrations.
    • Grand Prize: $8,000
    • First Prize: $4,000
    • Second Prize: $3,000

    Register Today:


    Microsoft Imagine Cup Community Showcase


    April 26, 2010 ~ 9:00 AM – 2:00 PM, Newseum, Washington, DC

    Register HERE: and use registration code GOV0426.

    Be inspired! Have fun! Network with your peers! See great student projects! This event will leave you in awe; we hope you can make it!

    Please feel free to contact us with any questions or comments at We look forward to seeing you there!


  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    The Intersection of Education and Entertainment


    How many times have you heard a teacher say something like “I’m here to educate them not to entertain them.” Sometimes it almost seems as though they regard education as bad tasting medicine that students need to take whether they like it or not. Other times is it is a reaction to students complaining about being bored and perhaps someone suggesting that the teacher “do something” to make it more interesting. Dealing with students who have grown up in a world where they expect constant amusement and entertainment can be frustrating. This is especially true for some “old school” teachers. But should there be a separation between entertainment and education?

    Marshall McLuhan famously said "If you think there is a difference between education and entertainment, you don't understand much about either." I think he was on to something. Let’s face it, we all learn best the things that are most interesting to is. Is everything interesting? Well, everything is interesting to some one. The trick is for people to make what they find interesting become interesting to others. That is where entertainment comes in to play (no pun intended).

    Anything can be presented in a boring fashion. I sometimes think that scholarly research papers have to be boring to be accepted into peer reviewed journals. If the bare facts and details are not interesting to you then you have no business reading the paper. This is sort of the opposite of attracting people to your ideas. It is making them work for them. This is not the way we want to teach young people though. Not by a long shot. They often don’t even know what sort of things they will find interesting. It is up to teachers to communicate that something is or should be interesting. And that is where we wander into entertainment.

    Have you ever had a really interesting teacher? Someone you enjoyed listening to or whose class you enjoyed attending? I think most of us have. When I look at the teachers who really got me interested in the subject they were teaching I find that they were entertaining. The did interesting things. Perhaps they told jokes or funny stories to make a point. Or they did demonstrations. I still remember my materials science teacher standing on a table as he help up a long polymer that he hard created in class. Funny? Sure! But it’s been 40 years since that demonstration and I still remember an awful lot of what that man taught in that class.

    Computer science lends itself to entertainment. No really. Think about visualizations. I ran across this sample sorting visualization written in Small Basic today.


    It creates these squares with boxes in a random order and then sorts them using three different sort algorithms. You can check the program out directly on your browser here:

    That is every bit as entertaining as it is educational. In fact I can see assigning students to add other sorting anlorythms to this program and then viewing them the same way. Many things we learn in computer science can be visualized with the right graphical display. Students can be entertained my this for hours as they experiment and treat the discovery process as a game.

    And then there are role plays which seem to be gaining traffic in computer science education. The Computer Science Unplugged activities are one of the better know set of kinesthetic learning exercises that can be used in computer science.

    Of course we can also help by allowing students to create their own entertainment – game projects are challenging and entertaining at the same time. And why not use them?

    Now I know that some teachers don’t see themselves as entertainers. They see entertainment as somehow frivolous or non-professional. But I think that perhaps that means they don’t understand entertainment. Or maybe not education. Or just maybe they don’t find the material they are teaching as being potentially entertaining! That is the scariest thought of all.

Page 1 of 8 (24 items) 12345»