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Chances are you have heard about the Kinect for Xbox 360 which lets you play games without a controller. The Kinect is a full body motion sensing device that lets you use your body as the controller. You may be wondering how it works though? The magic is in the software! OK, sure the hardware is important to but software is what makes the hardware go right? Anyway, here are some links to more information about how this exciting new technology works. Update: You can lsten to a podcast of me talkng about how the Knect works by vistng http://www.mos.org/events_activities/podcasts&d=4858 I recorded that intervew at Boston's Museum of Scence in February 2011.
And a couple of videos looking at the device using IR imaging. Not sure what these really mean but my more geeky friends are all excited by them.
When something I think about a good deal turns up in two or more blogs written by other people my feeling is that this is a sign that I should blog about it. Blogging helps me get my thoughts in order. So when Mark Guzdial writes “Computer Science as a Path to Computer Application Efficacy” which discusses if learning computer science translates to people being better at using computer applications and CSTA Vice President Steve Cooper, writing in the CSTA blog, writes “Program or be Programmed” which talks about making computer science learning relevant and helpful for other subjects I know I have a topic.
My friend David Klappholz tells me that there is a lot of research that shows that various subjects have far less transference than we in education would like to think. For example the theory that learning Latin helps learn English turns out to be pretty much a myth. Learning problems solving in math tends not to transfer to problem solving in other subjects as much as we wish it might. Now Dave is a very smart guy and has done a ton more research than I have ever or will ever do in my life. So perhaps I should assume that there is not much transference between computer science and anything else. But I’m stubborn. And like most people I tend to believe what I want to believe. So here is what I think about learning computer science.
I think it does transfer to learning and using computer software. Now that is a big thing because we all use software more and more. I talked to a former student of mine some time ago. He’s a blacksmith now. Yeah, hammer, hot iron and an anvil sort of work. But he uses CAD software to design a lot of his custom iron work. He told me that he feels that having had some computer science helps him understand new CAD software better. Mark Guzdial’s post (address) contains similar talk from students. Now antidotal evidence is not proof but it is enough to start some working theories.
My first thought was that learning computer science helps understand how computers and computing works and so helps understand the limitations and abilities of software. I think it is a probability. But I wonder if another piece is that learning computer science helps one understand how programmers think. A lot of programmers think differently. From each other and from the rest of society. Some of that is personality and some of that is dealing with the constraints of the hardware and software. Some of it may also be the culture of thinking that CS has developed and which is perpetuated by how we teach computer science. But for what ever reasoning for these thought patterns they shape how software works and so understanding the mindset may help. It’s a theory. Feel free to shoot it full of holes.
On a more mundane but main stream way of thinking I believe that using many applications is easier if one understands computer science concepts. Using a database tool is easier if one understands Boolean searches for example. Even using an internet search engine (I use Bing to do my googling ) is better if you know how to use Boolean commands. Using a spreadsheet is better if you have a grasp of conditionals and how computers like to see formulas expressed. There is also a matter of understanding ones results in the context of how literal computers and computer software can be. And probably more as well.
Maybe learning computational thinking for/with computer science doesn’t transfer to more general problems solving. But maybe it does. My gut tells me that if we teach it correctly, not always easy, it will transfer. I think this because computer science is, to me, a lot of understanding thought, learning, and thinking. Not just how we do it or even just how the machine does it but how the two work together. Or don’t as the case may be. I think that computer science expands how we think. And wishful thinking or not I believe that this is something that transfers to other areas. Now go ahead, confuse the issue with facts.
Oh BTW also closely related to this post of mine is Mark Guzdial’s post “Computing Education Research vs Real Education Research”
I got a new Xbox 360 with a Kinect device last week. I spent much of a day “testing” it out and some evenings playing it with my wife. Kinect Adventures can be a real workout. So can Dance Central. I wonder how long before we see Kinect devices in schools and senior centers and after school programs getting people up and moving. It was fun for sure. It’s really pretty amazing at how well it works. (I posted some links to how Kinect works last week BTW) Now that doesn’t mean I was goofing off all week. No sir. I have a good collection of links to share and some good posts coming up through this week as well. I may do a follow up on the idea of gaming in the classroom but for now, Garth explains the motivation behind his programming students creating games in class -my curriculum is going gaming He makes a lot of sense and I recommend the post.
Here now the list grouped by topic because there are so many of them.
Microsoft Office Resource Links
Windows Phone 7 Development Links
Imagine Cup Links
Kinect and Xbox Links
Especially for School IT and Tech Support People