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

April, 2011

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Learning With Visualizations

    • 2 Comments

    A picture is worth a thousand words so what is a video worth? Add some music and off you go reaching today’s multi-media generation. Yes I love a good visual aid. From several sources recently I found a set of demonstrations of how different sorting algorithms work. Fold dance and computer science may not be the most natural assumption you make but there videos work. They were created at Sapientia University, Tirgu Mures (Marosvásárhely), Romania. The group is on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/AlgoRythmics and more dances are promised. I love this idea. [Note: updated 3 April 2011 with more dances]

    Not quite the musical treat as the dances from Algortythmics but still useful and interesting are these algorithm demonstrations at Open My Mind. (Thanks to Doug Peterson for the link) Here you will find a number of important algorithms with example code and the chance to see how they work on an interactive web page.

    Each of these examples includes a code implementation (looks like some C variant – could be Java, C++ or C#) and some images (see below) that let you see the results as you step through the algorithm. You can go as fast or slowly as you like. This may be very helpful for classroom demos or as review tools.

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  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    XNA Game Development Tutorial

    • 0 Comments

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    From the makers of the “XNA Game Studio Beginner’s Guide” DVD’s, the next evolution of Game Development training for Beginners!

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    Online. Plaintext Searchable Code. Lessons for Design, Art, and Programming. Everything You Need, Free.

    Jump in at: http://create.msdn.com/gamedevelopment

    Developed in Collaboration With MSDN Channel 9, XNA Game Studio, and App Hub

    Bite-Sized Lessons, A Great Single-Screen Experience

    This combination video and text tutorial set teaches basic 2D game development on Windows, Xbox 360, and Windows Phone 7 using XNA Game Studio 4.0.

    • Videos are each less than 5 minutes in length
    • Accessible with a web browser, no special installs needed
    • All source code is plaintext, easy to copy and paste
    • Assets and code projects downloadable for a quick jumpstart
    • Downloadable checkpoints throughout to keep learners on track
    • Entire experience can be run windowed, side-by-side with Visual Studio

    COMPREHENSIVE EDUCATION

    Learn the following lessons in our easy-to-follow chapters:

    • · Game Design from Start to Finish
    • · Animated and Static Art Creation
    • · The Game Loop Explained
    • · The XNA Content Pipeline
    • · Rendering Static and Animated Sprites
    • · Player Input on Windows, Xbox 360, and Phone
    • · Collision Detection and Response
    • · Debugging Game Code
    • · User Interface Design and Rendering
    • · Sound Playback
    • · Information on Xbox LIVE Indie Games and Windows Phone Marketplace

    How Do I Get Started?

    Just browse to: http://create.msdn.com/gamedevelopment

    You’ll Find the Link to the Tutorial Right On the Page.

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    You'll ALSO FIND…

    • A full “graduation path” for game developers from Beginner to Pro
    • Step-by-Step guidance for each level
    • Information about Xbox LIVE Indie Games and Windows Phone 7 marketplaces.
    • Links to “Going Professional” guidelines and contact points for Xbox LIVE Arcade and Microsoft Game Studios

    Special thanks to the Xbox LIVE Arcade and Microsoft Game Studios Xbox LIVE on Windows Phone 7 teams!

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  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    The Internet is the Answer for School Reform–Or Not

    • 3 Comments

    A friend of mine sent me links (via Slashdot which I occasionally read for the articles myself) that he thought were an interesting contrast.

    We are seeing a lot of growth of online education these days. Universities are putting curriculum on the Internet by the terabyte. Virtual schools are becoming options for credit recovery and taking courses that are not offered in local schools. In industry the move to provide education and training in the form of webcasts and videos appears to many to be the answer to supporting customer and employee training easily and inexpensively. It all seems so perfect. But is it?

    Talking to friends who are teaching online courses results in tails of high drop out or non-completion rates. Students are not doing the work online just because it’s not in school. Why not? I have some ideas. Students don’t go online to work – they going on line to connect with their peers. They go for fun. Putting school online doesn’t instantly make it fun. And worse still it doesn’t have the same connected feeling that a bricks and mortar schools have for students. Deep down though students are not as good with the Internet as we’d like them to be and are often far less capable than the adults in their life think they are.

    Bill Gates blames poor textbooks for much of our US education issues. He thinks that great presentations by great teachers can and will fix that. I think he’s overly optimistic. In theory great video and better text and the chance to work around their own schedules feels like the answer but perhaps we are asking the wrong questions. I think that if good books were the answer we’d be in better shape. While one can easily criticize textbooks libraries are full of great books. Kids have access to these books in town/city, school and university libraries just about everywhere they go. And didn’t Abraham Lincoln well over 100 years ago self-educate himself with books? Of course he did. But believe it or not, not everyone is Abraham Lincoln. Bill Gates is well known for self-educating himself on a wide variety of subjects and for being very well read. He’s pretty exceptional though. Most students don’t go out of their way to read books about things they don’t know or want to learn. No matter how good the books are or how exciting the videos are what is the incentive for a student to dig into them? They don’t have the motivations and intrinsic self-motivation that adults like Bill Gates has. In fact I suspect few adults do either. Great content, online or in paper books, is pretty useless if no one uses it.

    One of the things that schools are not horrible at is forcing students to take subjects they don’t know they need or think they are interested in. On the Internet not only does no one know you are a dog, no one knows you are sleeping through class. Well they might wonder when you fail the exams but how do you keep track of students on a shorter term basis? And how do you convince students what to learn? You can lead a student to great sources of information but it is hard to make him learn.

    In the long run Internet resources can be very helpful. They make great supplements. They make good entertainment in a good way with people who really love the material sharing that excitement. But as stand alone education making bricks on mortar schools obsolete? Not until the nature of children changes in a big way.



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