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

June, 2011

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Interesting Links 20 June 2011


    This time next week I will be in Philadelphia for ISTE. I’m pretty excited about it. Some really great things going on there. Plus I get to see a lot of people face to face. many of these people I have met in person before but many of them I will be meeting face to face for the first time after interacting with them through this blog, through Twitter, and through email. The face to face meetings are the best! If you will be at ISTE I hope you will look me up either at the Microsoft booth or one of the sessions I am attending. I will be at a number of the SIGCT promoted events and several bigger Microsoft events. I’ll have a full “what is Microsoft doing at ISTE” with an emphasis on what I’m up to (hey it is my blog Smile) tomorrow but if you want a jump start visit the Microsoft at ISTE page now. And now for some more links.

    Microsoft has opened up voting for the “People’s Choice Awards” of the worldwide Imagine Cup. Please take some time to see what these amazing students are doing and to vote for your favorite! Thanks!

    Myra Deister, CS and math teacher and member of the CSTA Board of Directors, asks how to you set your Priorities for making sure everything gets done. She notes that teaching computer science takes more time than teaching math. Is that the same for everyone I wonder?

    clip_image001Challenge, discovery, insight, surprise: Rader & Grzeda AP Students accepted ‘missions’ in InterroBang that had an impact in the community and once completed, each ‘deed’ was given points correlating into the grading process.

    In case you missed it, Microsoft released the beta of a supported software development kit for the Kinect Sensor device for use with Windows. (I wrote about it here) Earlier when the news that this SDK was first coming one of the demos what a drivable lounge chair that was controlled by hand motions and a Kinect. Last week those nice people at @coding4fun released information about how to do it yourself  -  Jellybean, the Kinect Drivable Lounge Chair Do you have a robotics or engineering program as well as a programming course? This may be the cross curriculum idea or at least the germ of a whole bunch of new ideas.

    In computer history news,  IBM turned 100 last week. Yes, the former Calculating Tabulating and Recording company has been around since long before computers. 

    Lastly, the Microsoft Feed web site (on twitter @Microsoft_Feed) did an email interview with me and posted it at  Meet Alfred Thompson. IT came out pretty well if I do say so myself.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Kinect SDK–Think Beyond the Mouse



    Finally! The officially supported Kinect Software Developer Kit for the Kinect Device for Windows is now available. Kinect SDK download. To help you get started there are also the Kinect QuickStarts. What do you get?

    This SDK includes the following features:
    • Raw sensor streams - Access to raw data streams from the depth sensor, color camera sensor, and four-element microphone array enables developers to build upon the low-level streams that are generated by the Kinect sensor.

    • Skeletal tracking - The capability to track the skeleton image of one or two people moving within the Kinect field of view make it easy to create gesture-driven applications.

    • Advanced audio capabilities - Audio processing capabilities include sophisticated acoustic noise suppression and echo cancellation, beam formation to identify the current sound source, and integration with the Windows speech recognition API.

    • Sample code and documentation -   The SDK includes more than 100 pages of technical documentation. In addition to built-in help files, the documentation includes detailed walkthroughs for most samples provided with the SDK.

    • Easy installation - The SDK installs quickly, requires no complex configuration, and the complete installer size is less than 100 MB. Developers can get up and running in just a few minutes with a standard standalone Kinect sensor unit (widely available at retail outlets).

    This SDK is designed for non-commercial purposes only; a commercial version is expected to be available at a later date.

    What I am hoping for is that people will think beyond the mouse and keyboard – even beyond touch. For example I hear people say “how can I use Kinect as a mouse” and wonder what’s the point? Mice do what they do very well. The Kinect, using your whole body, is a blunt instrument for what the mouse does. I would rather see people think “what is it that I can’t do well with a mouse but can with my body?” What would I do if the computer could see me move? If I move both hands can I do things that are different from two fingers on a touch screen? What about moving more limbs than hands or arms? And let’s think beyond games too! The possibilities are unlimited!

    Now what do you need to program with it? Well C++ as you might expect is what a lot of the samples are in. But the .NET languages are also supported so if you are a Visual Basic programmer (like me), a C# programmer or even an F# programmer you are good to go. So far it seems like more of the examples are in C++ and C# but I am sure we’ll see more VB samples soon. I know I am working on some myself.

    Of course you will also want a Kinect device. If you buy the Kinect device as an add-on you will get a power cord that you can use to easily hook up to a PC. If your Kinect device came as part of a bundle with an Xbox 360 you will need an additional power cord.


    You can get a Kinect Sensor Power cord from the online Microsoft Company Store or from Amazon. I think bricks and mortar Microsoft stores may have it but I am not sure.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Is Internet Education the Answer


    A friend sent me a link to this inforgraphic  about Internet education. I have mixed feelings about all this. I am ok with distance learning – where the lecture is live and interactive just remote. I’ve done some of that and it seems to work fine. I’m not sure about just posting a bunch of videos on the Internet (the Khan Academy model) It seems that learning that way, just like sitting someone in a library with a bunch of books, takes some self motivation and a real desire to take advantage of the lessons. And a good lecture is still just a good lecture. I ran into this post last week (Multiplication smackdown: Sal Khan vs Vi Hart—who’s got the ‘insight’?) that really suggests that technology permits some “lectures” that are a lot more than just a recorded lecture. Recording a white board talk is not in and of itself innovative or great use of technology in education. Short opinion, Internet education can be a great step forward but I am unconvinced we are using the tools to their fullest yet. Still the infographic makes interesting reading. What do you think?

    How the Internet is Revolutionizing Education

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