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

December, 2010

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Interesting Links 20 December 2010


    I’ve been on vacation since a week ago and gotten a lot done. My office is now neater and cleaner than it has been since my wife and I created it out of an unused bedroom. In between working on the office and trying to relax I have been unable to stay away from the computer or off the Internet though so I still have a bunch of links to share with you. I hope you find some useful.

    Last week there were a number of posts recapping Computer Science Education week. One of the best is Computer Science Education Week Extends Its Reach on the Blogs at CACM (Twitter @blogCACM)

    Game Design: the way you can go from gamer to developer and do something fun as well! This article is about the game division of the Imagine Cup competition for students. For more information about developing games using XNA there is a New and Updated Windows and Xbox 360 Developer Education resource set on App Hub! Includes new Space War starter!

    Also Rob Miles (@robmiles) wrote a new blog post:- Free “Windows Phone Blue Book” Course. So if you are looking for resources to teach programming using Windows Phones as a platform you’ll want to check that out.

    The Atlantic (@TheAtlanticTech) has an interesting article about the new exhibit at the Smithsonian Celebrating COBOL's 50th Anniversary. The Smithsonian’s new COBOL web site is here.

    Did you see my post about  the CS&IT 2011 Call for Proposals – This is THE Computer Science Teacher training event of the year and it is a great place to share the ideas you have created and used with success with other teachers.

    Interested in the Microsoft Technology Associate exams there are not some Free Microsoft Technology Associate Exams study guides available.

    Lynn Langit wrote a post about how to Teach a Kid to Code a Holiday Card which uses Small Basic. May be a fun project for younger would be programmers.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Computer Science Teacher Education


    Mark Guzdial makes a strong case that the Best hope for CS Teacher Education is in-service, not pre-service. Basically there is not enough demand for strong pre-service CS teacher education because there are not enough people in education programs who have as a goal teaching CS as their main topic. There is not enough demand for the teachers either. Mark also asks why someone would go into teaching CS when there is so much constant learning and relearning required compared to other subjects. This is a little weak because I don’t know that many would be teachers go through that thought process. They decide they want to be teachers and they decide what topic they like NOW and think they would enjoy teaching. I’m not sure 19-21 year olds are thinking that far ahead. Some are but not all and not always that deeply. But still people in college who find that they love computer science do tend to think of other, non-teaching, careers that pay better. I have talked to several undergraduate CS students who think they would like to teach it though. Some of them will do so and will probably also be good at it. But that is not the way to bet of growing to 10,000 CS teachers over the next several years. So ultimately in-service education, helping people who are already teachers, teach better and learn new things is probably our best hope.

    That brings up the next question – where are they going to get that training?  A lot of teachers take college courses either in bricks and mortar schools or online. For many people this is the idea way to learn a new programming language, get stronger at specific paradigms, and see someone else teach a topic. It’s helpful but often not practical. Summer programs by universities for HS CS teachers are my personal ideal way and I will always be grateful for the summer programs I attended at Carnegie Mellon University over the years. CS4HS programs which started there at CMU have expanded nationally. They are worth looking into if your summer plans call for professional development.

    There are workshops for AP CS teachers every summer. Most of them are very good and are taught by experienced teachers and APCS exam readers (aka graders). That helps a lot if one is going to teach APCS. What about other areas though like specific teaching techniques or topics for courses before or after or in place of the AP CS exam? There is not as much of that. There are a couple of conferences in education technology but most of them contain very little for CS teachers. It is hard to justify travel and hotel and conference fees for several days for a couple of one hour workshops. Even the big conferences like ISTE, TCEA and FETC are very light on CS content. The SIGCT at ISTE has been working hard to improve this and I give them a lot of credit. They are why I attach ISTE. Likewise the TA/CS-SIG (Tech-Apps/Computer Science Special Interest Group) at TCEA works very hard and draws a strong turn out of CS teachers. Of course SIGCSE, while focused on higher education, does an outstanding job of providing very high quality and good quantity of workshops, sessions, papers and perhaps best of all networking opportunities for HS CS teachers. This is a must attend conference for me.

    The real future may be in the hands of the Computer Science Teachers Association though. ( There are two things going on here. One is the continued growth of the Computer Science and Information Technology Symposium. While traditionally a single day event CS & IT is expanding in 2010. You can read about some of these changes and give feedback on the CSTA blog at CS&IT Workshops. As a multi day event with expanded workshops this is going to be huge for CS teachers in 2010. I’ve been involved in some of the planning (I was on the program committee for last year’s event) and am very excited about the possibilities. (Did you see my post about the call for proposals the other day? CS&IT 2011 — Call for Proposals )The other thing that CSTA has been doing is creating regional chapters. I’ve attended meetings in several states in the last two months and the potential for teachers helping teachers to become better teachers is very encouraging. I highly recommend getting involved with or helping to start a local CSTA chapter where you live or work.

    For those of you for whom travel is a brick wall there are online resources you can seek out. I try to blog about many of these as I find them. For example the Windows Phone 7 Development for Absolute Beginners series can help a teacher (and their students) learn about programming Windows Phone devices. Many companies are creating videos for their products and increasingly they are becoming aware of the need to target students (and teachers) with supplemental resources. This is something I am working on at Microsoft. I hope to have more resources for teachers to announce soon. Beside the already strong content at the Faculty Connection which not enough people seem to know about yet.

    Is there enough in-service for computer science teachers? Honestly I think not. But not everyone is taking advantage of what there is yet. One of my goals this coming year (2011) is to do what I can to help both parts of that problem. So let me know if you have or know of good opportunities for professional development that I can share. We’ll all work on this together.

    Note: I am on vacation this week so this post was prepared in advance for appearance now. To subscribe to this blog please use as the RSS feed source. Thanks.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Microsoft bliink…a web design competition for high school students


    I’ve talked about Bliink in the past. (See bliink) Over the last couple of years Microsoft has run this web development competition in schools across the county. It’s been limited to individual states, state-wide organizations, or large school districts so far. This year we are going wider – national (US) in scope. My friend Gautam is running the program and blogged about it at his web site - Microsoft bliink…a web design competition for high school students

    The goal of the Microsoft bliink contest is to build the student interest in technology and increasing the STEM pursuits in education and careers in the US. high school students with a positive experience with being creative with technology are more likely to pursue STEM studies and careers.  We make this possible by providing high school students with the software tools, training and experiences through the Microsoft bliink contest.

    Microsoft bliink contest 2011 will launch January 5th, 2011, with the registration window being open until February 28th, 2011. Website submissions (using Expression Studio software) are due March 1st, 2011 for fabulous prizes of XBox360 consoles, the new Kinect and XBox360 games. Any US high school student between 13 and 19 years of age is eligible to register and submit their websites to the  Microsoft bliink 2011 contest, participating in teams of 2 – 4 students.

    So visit Gautam’s blog for the full scoop and if you know students who are ready to show off what they know tell them to keep an eye out for the official January 5th 2011 launch.

    Note: That I am on vacation this week so this post was prepared in advance for appearance now. To subscribe to this blog please use as the RSS feed source. Thanks.

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