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

August, 2010

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Silverlight 4 XNA Platformer Level Editor for Windows Phone 7


    Interesting in developing games for the Windows Phone 7? David Rousset has just finished a complete series of blog posts explaining a demo he’s built around Silverlight 4, Windows Azure and XNA on Windows Phone 7 :


    Ignore this ( KMYFS7S9C6FQ  ) as it is just a claim tag to prove I own this blog to Technorati.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    10 Most Popular Posts June and July 2010


    It’s early August and while many teachers will not be returning to their classrooms for a couple of weeks many are already back. I’m in Texas as I write this and here teachers already back in many districts with students showing up next week. I know that many of you are really busy taking a break from school and also from things like email and blog reading. So you may not have been keeping up with my posts. I’m ok with that – really I am. But while I’d love to think you’ll spend some of your limited time catching up with all my back posts I know that is not likely to happen. And again I’m find with that. I understand. So what I have done below is summarize the ten posts from June and July that had the most traffic – the most interest – in hopes that you’ll at least take a look at some of  them.

    1. Visual Programming Languages – Kodu, Scratch, Alice, App Inventor and more. Are they helpful? Can we make them more general purpose?
    2. Over-Educated, Yet Under-Qualified? – Is education and qualification as closely tied as we’d all like to think they are? Can students get jobs and do them well right out of school? Some good comments here as well.
    3. Critical Thinking – It’s important and we all agree on that. I think anyway. But are we teaching it and teaching it well? Join in the discussion.
    4. How many types of Programmers are there? – Are there only a couple of fairly narrow goals for programmers or are things more complex? The post talks about three types and asks “are there more?”
    5. Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) Certifications – Learn about these new entry level certification exams and materials and decide if they fit the goals of your school. If you are at a career/technical school it is highly likely that they do.
    6. Advice for an Imagine Cup team – Pat Yongpradit is an award winning computer science teacher (Pat Yongpradit Selected to participate in the 2010 Microsoft Worldwide Innovative Education Forum in South Africa!) who mentored a high school team that made it to the US finals of the game division of the Imagine Cup. In this guest post he gives some useful advice for teachers mentoring groups of students who would like to compete this year.
    7. A Show About Computer Programming – Some interesting comments on this post already. It asks the question “what would a TV show about computer programmers look like?”
    8. Multiple Paths into Computer Science – Start in high school or college? Skip college and learn on your own? Four year college or community college? What are the paths into computer science careers today?
    9. Microsoft Research Illuminates Mars in 3-D With WorldWide Telescope – Lots of interest in the World Wide Telescope Mars data set. A great way for students and adults to learn about the Red Planet and for teachers to help build interest in the skies.
    10. A Rose is a Rose – How important is selecting the right names in a program? Does it make a difference in understanding, debugging, or later review of code? There are some code examples to discuss and some discussion in the comments already. Join in.

    I also recommend that you look at some of the Monday morning interesting links posts. There are always a gem or two in them for most readers.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    What do you want in a Textbook


    I’ve been thinking a lot about textbooks lately. Do students really read/use them? What is the difference between a textbook and a reference book and what are the pros and cons of each in education? What about books designed for professionals rather than for teaching? They seem to be half way between a reference book and a textbook. And is larger always better or are shorter textbooks as useful as large ones? Ultimately it boils down to what is a great textbook like? I’m still working on questions and looking for answers.

    Recently I have found links to a couple of free books. Or parts of books. For example, There is a new edition of Rob Miles (@robmiles) C# Yellow book text available. That’s a textbook designed from the ground up to be used in Rob’s courses at the University of Hull. No doubt the text and course fit like hand in glove.  From Microsoft  Press there is a second draft preview ebook of Charles Petzold’s upcoming Programming Windows Phone 7! Download the PDF here. Download the XPS here. And download the sample code here. )

    This is a book designed for people who already know some programming, from what I can tell, but who are interested in learning programming for the Windows Phone. This preview has 6 chapters and about 256 pages. This compares to Rob Miles book which is complete at 197 pages. Of course I have copies of some textbooks that are 600+ pages as well.

    I have this love/hate thing with large books though. For a novel I see value in part as volume. I read quickly so a 900 page novel that is well written and tells a good story is gold to me. A 200 page book is read and gone too quickly. On the other hand many a student sees a huge textbook (or any book some times) as intimidating, as too much to handle and as something to avoid. So I tend to favor shorter textbooks for classroom use.

    Ah, but a shorter book can only cover so much material. What about stretch learning? I tend to think that a reference book is better for the “extra” stuff.  It’s too much to have students buy reference books or even to buy a classroom set. I like to have a couple of reference books on the shelf though. That allows me to occasionally point a student in a direction and get mostly out of there way. Sure it’s all there in the online documentation and some will make do with that. I guess I’m old fashioned but I don’t find online help or ebooks to be the same as a paper book.

    So how do you see the textbook situation? Do you have textbooks you like and if so what makes them great? Do you like the huge books, short books or something in between? What works for you?

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