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

June, 2011

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    US Kodu Cup Winners Announced (2011)


    Yesterday the Unlimited Potential team announced the winners of the inaugural US Kodu Cup competition.

    Today we are announcing the winners of the first U.S. Kodu Cup. It’s a competition that challenged kids across the United States (from the age of 9 to 17) to use Kodu – a free game development tool from Microsoft – to create their own video game for the chance to win great prizes and the chance to attend the Imagine Cup World finals in New York City in July.


    Kodu was created by FUSE labs in Microsoft Research to help children learn how to use computers while developing useful skills such as problem solving, creative thinking and planning in a fun, engaging and creative way. Kodu is proving to be a great took for fostering children’s interest in exploring a career in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).


    There were some surprises in the entries – namely that students found things to do and ways to use the tool that the people who created it had never thought about. And of course there was amazing creativity and a lot of hard work in evidence. That makes the results even more exciting to me. I love the themes of the winning entries as well. The entry by Hannah Wyman 10 years old, from Massachusetts, had a theme around saving the environment by planting trees and getting soot out of the air. A very creative game for sure. You can see her video below but visit the Unlimited Potential blog post to see more of them.

    More information on Kodu and STEM education



  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Interesting Links Post 13 June 2011


    Kodu Cup Winners Announced - late edit in today's post

    I spent part of this weekend installing new kitchen cabinets. Not all of us computer geeks are afraid of hand tools and physical labor. Smile On the other hand I’m sort of looking forward to less strenuous work today. And getting my act together for ISTE the end of the month. Speaking of ISTE, my friends at Dell (DellEDU ) are getting ready with plans with preconference info, social media, and sessions. Including this event jointly with Microsoft.

    • Microsoft Innovative Educator pre-conference workshop Sunday, June 26, 8:30 a.m. A hands-on professional development session on using technology effectively in the classroom. Register early.

    Full details on what Dell is up to at ISTE here

    Also Dell announced a  ‘Digital Artists’ art competition for you more creative media types in school. Check it out.

    Telle Whitney  of NCWIT was featured on Fox Business with a discussion about why it's so important to get more women into tech. Watch online

    Lots of news about the 2011 U.S. Innovative Education Forum with an announcement of the second round of finalists here and more information including project descriptions here.

    Lynn Langit has been busy with posts including TKP Tips: Making a Small Basic runnable flash drive

    Read Ed Donahue’s (aka @creepyed 's) reviews of some of this year's Imagine Cup finalist games

    My friend Edwin Guarin (aka the EdVangelist) has been busy this week and I wanted to send out some link love to some really interesting posts he has written.

    Some good stuff there. And something for everyone.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    What is Digital Literacy? And is it enough?


    Someone on twitter sent out a link to an article/video from the BBC called Are children becoming 'digitally illiterate'? that got me thinking. What does it mean to be digitally literate? Are our children digitally literate or not? In fact, if they are not now, were they ever? It depends on what you meant by “digital literacy” of course. For many people that means able to use the computer and its applications. Things like the Office Suite and perhaps web browsers and some other application. Is that it? And that is where the debate begins. The article I linked to above talks about digital literacy as being a function of knowing how to program. (Near the end they show young students learning about programing using Kodu BTW. I thought that was cool.) The heart of the article, especially the print part, is about a small inexpensive piece of computer hardware to use for teaching programming. Frankly I am not sure that lack of availability of hardware is a problem in the developed world. In the developing world it is but so is a shortage of good infrastructure, good Internet, good teachers, and just about anything else you need. But that aside, let us come back to the question of digital literacy.

    The first thing that many bring up is the difference between digital literacy and digital fluency. A difference that is lost on many and of great importance to others. Fluency though clearly indicated a higher level of ability. There is a difference between someone who can read – is literate – and someone who is fluent – who can read well with a wide vocabulary. Both of these terms, in the digital context, seem to focus on use of applications though.  I think that most people do see computer literacy and computer fluency in terms of applications and their use with programing being some next level. The debate here becomes whether or not that next level is needed or for what percentage of the population is it needed? While we are at it, perhaps we need a new term for a next level that includes knowing how to program? Or should some knowledge of programming be required to be considered fluent?

    I lean towards programming being required for fluency but not literacy. I do think that students of the sciences, and I include the social sciences like sociology, Psychology, and political science in this category, should be fluent and that fluency should include programming. I recently linked to a post by Gail Carmichael (@gailcarmichael) called - Why Computer Science is Relevant No Matter What You're Teaching which is just one of many arguments I have read that explores the necessity of programming, or more completely computer science, for students of most if not all academic disciplines. Several people I read are calling computer science the “new math” because of the critical role it plays in science and engineering today.

    Computer science is fundamental. As an engineering student (in high school no less) I was required to take drafting. It was not enough to be able to read a drawing (literacy) but we had to be able to create them (fluency). Today for an engineer, a scientist, a business person to be able to use applications is literacy but for a professional we expect fluency. Not that we expect them to all write their own programs, though many of them will, but that we expect them to understand how they work, what their powers and limitations are. One really should have some knowledge of programming and computer science for that.

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