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

January, 2011

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Seven Reasons to Teach Windows Phone Programming


    I had an email from Pat Yongpradit over New Year’s week end. Pat is an award winning high school computer science teacher whose students do impressive work under his guidance. Pat has been using XNA game studio in his school for some time. He uses XNA and games for Zune pocket devices in an after school program to encourage girls to develop an interest in computer science. He uses XNA and Xbox type games with his regular classes and even has students entering the Imagine Cup game competition. Last year one of his student teams made it to the US Imagine Cup finals. More recently Pat have been teaching Windows Phone 7 development. As a result of this he sent me this top 7 list and offered it to me as material for a blog post. I’ve tried to add some useful detail and some related links.

    1. All the development tools are free (Visual Studio Express and XNA Game Studio). You can use the free Express Edition of C# or join the MSDN AA program for professional level tools for use in the classroom and to send home with students. Yes, there are free development tools available for some other platforms but these are both professional strength AND useful for developing for more than just phones
    2. Marketplace access is free for students ($99 value) through Microsoft's Dreamspark program. Students do not have to pay to submit applications to the Windows Phone 7 or Xbox Marketplace online store programs. This combined with free development tools means that many students can try their products in the marketplace of real world applications at no cost. There is some incentive to put some polish on a project!
    3. Free and more importantly, excellent textbooks have been written by a funny guy (Rob Miles) Rob is a lecturer at the University of Hull and a frequent speaker at tech conferences. He also has a sense of humor. I have always found that students respond well to humor and find a lot of textbooks dry and boring. This is not much an issue with these materials which are also technically very sharp. 
    4. Java and C# syntax is very similar. This has benefits in two ways.One one hand if your students already know Java they will find C# a piece of cake. They can focus on the Phone development parts without a struggle to learn a completely new programming language. On the other hand if you use a Windows Phone 7 programming course before you move to Java your students will also find it an easy transition. I know one high school student who passed the AP exam knowing only C# which he mostly learned on his own.
    5. Deployment to a Windows Phone 7 or Zune is handled through the IDE. It is actually just a couple clicks, and voila!  Two more steps and you can stick it on an Xbox!
    6. Built in emulator. With the emulator built in to the IDE testing applications is a simple step with great debugging tools. This means you don’t have to have a phone for everyone and you don’t have to have a separate and secondary testing/debugging environment.
    7. A national and international competition, the Imagine Cup, exists to celebrate XNA and Windows Phone 7 development. We’ve seen some impressive work from high school students in this competition. One HS Windows Phone team won at the world-wide level last year.

    A bonus is that once you know XNA, a variety of peripherals can be used for additional projects on Windows or the Xbox. Try Xbox gamepads, Guitar Hero controllers, dance pads, steering wheels, and in the future? Well, we’ll have to wait and see I guess.

    Young people are all about the phones these days. XNA (or Silverlight for that matter) allow students to learn a great deal while creating applications for an environment – phones – that matters to them. It just may help you interest more students in your curriculum.

    BTW see also Randy Guthrie's Summary of Windows Phone 7 App Development Resources

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Imagine Cup News January 20111


    Are you back at school yet? Hope you had a good holiday break. I know I did. The other day I got the Imagine Cup newsletter via email and thought that this might be a good time to share some of the competitive opportunities that you may know a student or group of students who are interested in taking on a challenge. The Imagine Cup has a number of them:

    Imagine Cup 2011 Challenges
    Even if you are already competing or are new to the Imagine Cup, you still may want to do even more to help solve the world's toughest problems. Sign up to compete in a Challenge. Challenges are cool because they offer two different ways to compete - either incorporate the Challenge requirements into your current Imagine Cup project or build the Challenge solution from scratch. 2011 Challenges include:

    • Interoperability Challenge: Build technical bridges and blend out-of-the-box Microsoft technologies with other technologies to create applications that connect people, data, and diverse systems in new ways.
    • IT Challenge: Tests the brightest minds in developing, deploying, and maintaining IT systems that are efficient, functional, robust, and secure.
    • Windows 7 Touch Challenge: Envision technology that allows people to use their computer in a more natural, accessible, and interactive way. Develop solutions that use Touch technology while expanding the possibilities of how a user can interact with a computer and make the world a better place.
    • Orchard Challenge: Innovate and define an indispensible module that everyone will need by using Orchard—an up-and-coming open source CMS platform.

    And of course there are the main events as it were.

    Check out what’s new in 2011!

    • Software Design: Designed for the best programmers, thinkers, and solution builders. Competitors are asked to use their creative genius to develop a software solution inspired by the 2011 theme.
    • Embedded Development: Go beyond the desktop, work on tomorrow’s technology, and use creativity to build a complete embedded device that will help solve the world’s toughest problems.
    • Game Design: Where art and science come together. Through one of the three game design competition tracks competitors will learn and advance toward a career as a game developer or entrepreneur.
    • Digital Media: Video and photography enthusiasts create web video submissions that touch on issues in our global society related to the 2011 theme and then devise a plan to share it with the world.
    • Windows Phone 7: Be one of the first developers to build an XAP application, exclusively for the revolutionary Windows Phone 7 platform.

    Imagine Cup Solve This!
    Want to create an Imagine Cup project that may have real-world impact? Need an idea for your Competition or Challenge entry? Or maybe you've already started your Imagine Cup project and you want to see how it might impact a specific problem from an IGO, NGO or non-profit?

    Even if you are a current competitor, returning to the Imagine Cup or a new competitor - the Imagine Cup Solve This program invites you to research real-world problems submitted by IGOs, NGOs and non-profits that you can then incorporate in to part of your Imagine Cup project. Search the Imagine Cup Solve This library and find an issue that matters most to you. Put your ideas into action as you create solutions that could change the world.

    There are also a number of good resources for learning what one needs to know to compete. And ways to get more information about the whole Imagine Cup “thing.”

    Learning Center & Student Resources
    Need resources to help you get started? Visit the Learning Center & Student Resources page for trainings, free eBooks, seminars, tools, and more. New resources are added all of the time, so check back often for the latest information.

    Get Connected!!!

    What are you waiting for? Register for 2011 Imagine Cup today!

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Interesting Links 3 January 2011


    Happy New Year! I hope your year is off to a good start. I know mine is. I’m very excited about the promise and potential of this year. Last year was  a very good one and the momentum continues. I was on vacation last week but that doesn’t mean I was off line. I guess I can’t stay away. So here are a few things I found interesting over the last week or so.

    Ruthe Farmer (@ruthef) of NCWIT  (@ncwit) was interviewed by Robert Scoble (@Scobleizer) about women in computing. Good interview. Ruthe is director of strategy at the National Center for Women and IT.

    Are you interested in functional programming and the possibilities of using it for game development? Then this post from the F# team is for you Project templates for F# games, libraries and applications on Windows Phone 7 using XNA

    Lynn Langit (@llangit ) posted the slides for a talk she has been giving called Microsoft Developer Tools NOW for Kids and Adults 

    There is now a Role Playing Game Starter Kit for Windows Phone 7 using XNA. Something to point interested students at perhaps.

    Just for fun I set up a splash page on @aboutdotme – check it out!


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