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

February, 2011

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Interesting Links 28 February 2011


    Lots of interesting posts by computer science teachers last week. And some news from various sources to share. But let’s start with the teacher blog posts.

    Kathleen Weaver writes about her experiences with Programming for Windows Phone 7 for teachers and students. Kathleen has a couple of applications in the Windows Phone 7 app store already and is now introducing her students to Windows Phone development. Looks like fun. I can’t wait to see what her students come up with.

    Interesting "find the max" project by Ben Chun (@benchun) There is some really good discussion in the comments about objects early or late and teaching the concepts in general.

    Rob Miles (@robmiles ) posted an interesting Programming Puzzler. The useful part is the discussion in the comments. And I see that Rob did add more detail to the post itself since I originally read it. It’s a good discussion question.

    My manager Bob Familiar helped Andrew Parsons with a multi-day game development camp at Pace University over the weekend. Bob wrote about it at Get your app on! Students learn XNA and Silverlight Gaming at Pace Game Camp They even has a 12 year old student there who was very successful. Seems like game development doesn’t have to start in high school let alone college. In more Windows Phone 7 development news, read about  My School App: A First (Real) Windows Phone 7 App Project for Beginners. Mark Frydenberg of Bentley University has created and posted a fun and easy first Windows Phone 7 app project on the Microsoft Codeplex:

    The Microsoft Tech Student Twitter account (@MSTechStudent) has a reminder for us Visual Basic people about Visual Basic Windows Phone 7 Series: How to create a microphone application for Windows Phone 7 using Visual Basic.

    Speaking of gaming news – did you hear that a Kinect for Windows SDK to Arrive Spring 2011? Designed for educational and research use by the good folks at Microsoft Research. What will your students do with it?

    Under the heading of both fun and educational xkcd takes on the problem of address space humor at its finest. A possible conversation starter as well.

    And this video from the UK, Introducing Nellie the School Computer (1969) shows just what operating a school computer was like in the late 1960’s. You’ll like the way they teach how a binary adder works as well. Something to think about today.

    In more Microsoft news,  Microsoft now has local tech news sites for Silicon Valley, Boston, Chicago, and LA .

    Last but not least, I see there is a Math 4.0 teacher guide out along with a bunch of other guides including one for Movie Maker that looks useful

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    FizzBuzz–A Programming Question


    Projects or exercises that lend themselves to many different “correct” solutions are just about the best sorts of learning experiences I can imagine. They really open the possibilities for discussion and from discussion – questions, answers, explanations – comes real learning. Recently Dennis Shaw, a student at Old Dominion University and a Microsoft Student Partner, told me about the FizzBizz exercise. (see Using FizzBuzz to Find Developers who Grok Coding for where it comes from) This is exactly that sort of multiple solution but not that difficult sort of exercise I love. Briefly stated the exercise is:

    Write a program that prints the numbers from 1 to 100. But for multiples of three print “Fizz” instead of the number and for the multiples of five print “Buzz”. For numbers which are multiples of both three and five print “FizzBuzz”.

    So there you have it. It involves using some sort of conditional of course. Nested or unnested? It can be done either way. Which way is best? Do you check for multiples of three first or five? Do you check to see if the number ISN’T one of those cases  first or if it IS one of those cases? Or rather than If statements is there a different way completely? Perhaps a select/case structure? Does creating functions/methods complicate of simplify the result? If students know multiple programming languages is there one that is better for this than another (think especially about functional languages v. procedural languages). Are there special operators (like perhaps the ternary operator in C#, C/C++ and Java) that might make the code “tighter?” Is there a trade off between complication and understanding? Oh and of course, does your solution actually work?

    Justify your answers. (Don’t you just just love the teacher-ness of “justify your answer?” Smile)  I can see asking students to write up an explanation of how their solution works and why they did it that way as a means for forcing examination of the solution. And as a side benefit a lot of students can benefit from yet another writing exercise. Code that can’t be explained isn’t properly understood and that causes problems in the long run. A piece of code should not be “magic” to the person who wrote it.

    There are many solutions on the Internet to the FizzBuzz question. So yes, some student might go searching for one and even try to use it. The “justify your solution” question means that they still have to understand and explain how it works and why they like it. I can’t see a student saying “I like this solution because I found it on the Internet and it works.” Well, I hope they wouldn’t try that. But if they do, grade them on how well they explain the benefits of using borrowed code and if they credited the original source properly. And of course they should also be able to explain why this solution is better than others they might have found. Surely they were not so lazy as to hand in the first solution they found?

    BTW a couple of related posts of mine are Teaching, Learning and the Job Interview and Characteristics of a Good Programming Project

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Important News For Imagine Cup Game Teams - 2011


    I know that a lot of you have been working hard on games. I know that many of you who read this blog have students of teams who have been working very hard of games as well. I have some awesome news.  If you submit your Game Design project on www.ImagineCup.COM (note the .com extension) before the deadline on 3/7 and on www.ImagineCup.US (note the .us extension) you have TWO chances to win with twice the prizes.  You have to register on both sites ( and and submit before the deadlines.  Please let me know if you have questions.

    Note that there are two deadlines and the one for the world wide event is 3/7/2010 which is a week before the US only deadline is 3/14.  The submission requirement to both is the same (thank goodness). So don’t miss out. Make sure you are entered in both if you are in the US.

    Can't believe I forgot this other option - the marketplace for Windows Phone apps -  see Student Access to the AppHub for Windows Phone 7. If your game is good people will want to buy it right?

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