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 7 February 2011–TCEA Notes

    • 2 Comments

    I spent the weekend in Miami for a meeting of a joint ACM and IEEE committee working on a new/updated set of curriculum recommendations for four-year college computer science programs. It was a great meeting with a lot of learning on my part. A very exciting project. Today I head over to Austin TX for TCEA. I’ll be doing some talks about Small Basic among other activities. Lots of Microsoft scheduled events at the bottom of this post. If you are at TCEA I hope you find something there worth attending. They’ll all be good.

    Andrew Parsons and I were interviewed for .NET Rocks last week. You can listen to us talking about education, the Imagine Cup and more at http://bit.ly/gyZiDD Sound on me could be better as I was recording my piece while on the Auto Train heading south.

    If you are or know of a student interested in the Imagine Cup Game design or Software Design Invitational there are fewer than 10 days to go enter here  in the US.Check it out at http://imaginecup.us

    Speaking of the Imagine Cup - Why should you compete in the Imagine Cup Software Design competition? Rob Miles (@RobMiles) asks "Why wouldn't you?"

    RT @MSTechStudent: Windows Phone 7 Design Guidelines – Cheat Sheet http://dld.bz/JT9V

    Microsoft Education Labs  has released some new prototypes. Read about them here  - http://bit.ly/e9BskO You may want to take a special look at the MSR Collaboration: Chemistry Add-In for Word added to Outercurve Foundation’s Research Accelerators Gallery: http://bit.ly/iaoid2

    Side Meeting Schedule TCEA 2010

     

    Tuesday Feb 8th

    Wednesday Feb 9th

    Thursday Feb 10th

    Friday   Feb 11th

    9-10 am

     

    Curriculum Resources for Educators: 

    Expression Studio -

     Pat Phillips

     

    Introduction to 

     Programming Through Game Development

    Using Microsoft XNA Game Studio - 

    Bryan Baker

    10-11 am

    The Cloud in Your Classroom -

    Tony Franklin

    Introduction to 

     Programming Through Game Development

    Using Microsoft XNA Game Studio - 

    Bryan Baker

    Introduction to 

     Programming Through Game Development

    Using Microsoft XNA Game Studio - 

    Bryan Baker

    Small Basic Teaching  Programming - 

     Alfred Thompson

    11-12 am

     

    Microsoft Beyond the Horizon (Interrobang, WW Telescope Etc) -

    Tony Franklin

    The Cloud in

    Your Classroom -      

      Tony Franklin

     

    1-2 pm

    Microsoft Beyond the Horizon (Interrobang, WW Telescope Etc) - Tony Franklin

    The Cloud in

    Your Classroom -            Tony Franklin

    Microsoft Beyond the Horizon (Interrobang, WW Telescope Etc) -

    Tony Franklin

     

    2-3 pm

     

    Microsoft IT Academy, Industry-Recognized Certifications and  

    College and Career Readiness - Nita Brooks

    Curriculum Resources

    for Educators:

    Expression Studio - 

    Pat Phillips

     

    3-4 pm

     

    Small Basic Teaching Programming -    

      Alfred Thompson

    Microsoft IT Academy, Industry-Recognized Certifications and  

    College and Career Readiness - Nita Brooks

     

    4-5 pm

     

     

    Learn about the

    opportunities to scale with Windows Multipoint Server. One computer shared by

    multiple students.

     

    Mezzanine Room #9 |Second Floor of Austin Conference Center

    TCEA Sessions By Microsoft People

    Monday, February 7th | 2:15 – 3:15 PM | Presentation Room 15

    · The Cloud Defined (System Administrators Academy), Presenter - Barbara Chung

    Tuesday, February 8th | 8:00 – 11:00 AM | Room 5B

    · Introduction to Windows 7 and Office 2010, Presenter Scott Thompson

    Discover how easy it is to navigate Windows 7. Find your files, create digital storytelling projects, manage TV and more using Windows 7. Learn how you can use your voice to control your computer, explore the Internet, and compose documents. Also learn about free tools you can download and use in your classroom to improve teaching and learning.

    Wednesday, February 9th | 5:00 – 6:00 AM | Room 16b

    · The Cloud Defined, Presenter Barbara Chung

    Learn about the Cloud in this engaging session and how you can harness the Cloud in your school district and classroom.

    Thursday, February 10th | 10:30 – 11:30 AM | Room 3

    · Instructional Innovations on your PC, Presenter Scott Thompson

    In this fast paced session, Scott Thompson is back, showing you how to take back your classroom using Microsoft Office 2010.  Develop high quality instructional content and spend less time on the small stuff.



  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Kindergarten Computer Science

    • 0 Comments

    Well actually Karen North, an energetic elementary school computer science teacher and a friend of mine, has twice testified before the Texas State Board of Education about the need for more real computer science in grades K-5 (Links to her testimony from her blog at Programming in Elementary School) I think she makes some good arguments

    Interestingly enough I found out about Karen’s work the same week that yet another “Does Everyone Need to Learn How to Program?” post shows up on the CSTA blog. Well of course not everyone needs to learn how to program anymore than everyone needs more math than basic algebra. Right? And you can get into an Ivy League college with no more  math than that right? Ah, well, maybe not. There is a higher level of math that is concerned required for a good college. Even if you don’t take any more math in college. What’s wrong with this picture?

    Let’s separate programming from computer science for a minute. (Yeah I know that is hard for some of you) But really aren’t some computer science concepts really a part of being a totally educated person? And can’t we teach some really interesting things (like sequencing, planning, story telling, and more) using programming tools like Kodu, Alice and Scratch at pretty young ages? This seems like a good thing. And if they happen to discover that they like being in control and making a computer do interesting things and decide to go into computer science so much the better.



  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    To Hack or Not to Hack

    • 3 Comments

    The other day I solved a problem in a slightly out of the box way. That is to say that it worked but its not the sort of solution you will see recommended by anyone as “the right way” to do things. The reasons for having to do this are not relevant except that this is an example of what I would call a hack. I said something on Twitter to the effect that I might still have some hacking in me. I received the following reply (the account has protected updates which is why I am not showing their name)

    1 of the 1st questions my tech students ask is "Do you know how to hack?" then, "Are you going to teach us how to hack?"

    My reply to that was to suggest asking students what they thought hacking is and why did they want to learn it. I think one would get a wide variety of answers from students. And from professional or other experience programmers as well. So what is hacking and is it good or bad? As with so many things there is a lot of grey here.

    In most areas of endeavor hackers are not good things. In fact one dictionary I looked up the word gave as one of the definitions “a person who engages in an activity without talent or skill.” A hack golfer is someone who is not very good at golf. A “hack” in most fields is something that is not put together very well. Most professional would get pretty upset if you called them a “hack [whatever].”

    Only in computer stuff do we elevate hackers to high status. Clearly we have a different meaning than most people/fields. I tend to define a computer hacker as someone who gets computers or software to do things they are not really supposed to do or to do things in ways they were not designed to operate. OK that is still rough but you get the idea. But is that really a good thing? Maybe, maybe not.

    In general I think people hack when they don’t know “the right way” to do something. Often they rationalize think there is no right way or supported way to do what they want. On occasion they may actually be right. Of course that there may be a good reason not to support what they want to do may not occur to someone who likes to hack by nature. Smile 

    Early in my career computers were far more memory limited. Program sizes had to be very small. Once you ran out of room you had to get clever. The operating system I was developing for allowed one program to easily start a second program using a method called chaining. Getting context and information to that second program was necessary but the ways to do so were limited. Almost any solution was pretty much a hack. It wasn’t pretty and there were few standards. But people did it and it sort of worked. Fortunately we don’t have to do that anymore – generally. Someone who continues to write code that way is still hacking but when it is not a necessary thing its not really a good thing. Support becomes a big issue as it does with most hacks. Why? Because often few can understand the tricky nature of a result that bends and mutilates the standard ways of doing things. And of course if the supported tools change in ways that break the hack it is all over.

    The good thing is that a hacker tends to have some good knowledge, often of things most people don’t know about, as well as a real creative streak. Call it the ability to look for novel solutions to unusual problems. The more knowledge they have the more interesting and complicated problems they can solve. Hackers by nature tend to be information sponges – they absorb lots and lots of information and when you need some you can “squeeze” then and get some of it. The trick in managing them is to get them to understand that not every project is a chance to show how much more clever or tricky they are than everyone else. In the long run a non-hacked solution is easier to maintain, to modify, the enhance, to understand, and to generally get the job done in ways that are best for everyone.

    So are you a hacker? Have I got you wrong? Are you a wanna be hacker? Have I described what you want to be or do you see a hacker completely differently? Do you hate hackers (perhaps think of them all as script kiddies or people who break into other people’s systems) and think I make them look too good? Let’s discuss hackers and hacking.



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