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

July, 2010

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Visual Programming Languages


    There seem to be a growing number of visual programming languages available these days. Kodu (below) is for creating games by younger people. It’s “When"/Do” model is simple and easy to learn. It’s a bit limited though. It is really a domain specific language for games.


    Scratch is also a visual language that is widely being used to teaching young people, especially in middle school but as old as college. I love it and it has some wider applicability. And a richer language to some degree than Kodu.


    Alice is the big elephant in the room in terms of visual programming languages for teaching. But it too feels limited to its domain and development environment. Great for teaching/learning but no one is  going to program an accounts receivable package in it. BTW is it just me or does Scratch’s blogs look cooler and more fun than Alice’s blocks?


    So here is the real question running through my mind – could a general purpose programming language be created that removes the syntax issues the way that Kodu, Scratch and Alice do? Why not? What would be the issues? And why has no one done this yet?


  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) Certifications


    This week Microsoft announced a new set of entry level certifications that may be of interest to many schools and colleges/universities. Personally I think that this is just the sort of program that many career/technical high schools have been waiting for. The program is called the Microsoft Technology Associate program. There are seven exams in two categories – Developer and Information Technology.

    Developer Exams

    • Software Development Fundamentals
    • Web Development Fundamentals
    • Windows Development Fundamentals
    • Database Fundamentals

    IT Professional Exams

    • Networking Fundamentals
    • Security Fundamentals
    • Windows Server Administration Fundamentals

    More information from the Microsoft Technology Associate FAQ

    Q. What is the Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) certification?

    A. The Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) certification is a new, entry-level certification designed to help individuals take the first step toward a career as an IT professional or developer.

    An MTA certification is based on 80 percent knowledge and 20 percent skills. The next step in the Microsoft certification path is Microsoft Technology Specialist (MCTS), which requires hands-on experience with the Microsoft technology platform.

    Students can download and install a complete developer tool set at no cost through the DreamSpark Program.

    Additional information:

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Career Outlook for CS Students


    The CACM web site has an interesting interview with Joel Adams (Joel Adams Discusses the Career Outlook for CS Students) Joel Adams’ report on The Market For Computing Careers summarized employment data and projections from a number of sources and shows an optimistic about job openings. Unfortunately the number of people being prepared for CS and IT careers is not projected to meet the need. This is a problem for the companies who need these trained people but it is an opportunity for students and the educational programs who could prepare them for future careers. The interview includes discussion on a number of topics beyond the job projections though.

    For example, this exchange is related to my blog post on making CS interesting again where discussion of words like “geek” and “nerd” came up in the comments.

    Speaking of the “nerd/geek” stereotype, some people, such as David Anderegg, a professor of psychology at Bennington College , have suggested that the terms “geek” and “nerd” should be banned External Link. What’s your reaction?
    I agree that the stereotypes are damaging, but I disagree that the terms should be banned. I believe in responsible free speech, and generally dislike strategies to ban pejorative terms and introduce “politically correct” (PC) replacements. The PC replacements eventually become pejorative, and the cycle starts over.

    So I think a better strategy is to admit that there are some nerdy/geeky computer scientists, but not let them be the standard bearers for our discipline. We need to find a way to leverage the power of mass media to create a more positive association for the term “computer scientist” in the average person’s mind.

    I highly recommend the whole interview though. Lots of things to make you think about the future of the computer science field in the US and beyond.


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