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

July, 2011

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Worldwide Telescope Tour Contest


    Have you explored outer space using the WorldWide Telescope? Do you have a favorite tour of space that you share with friends. Now you can share your tours of the universe with 8 million+ people. From now until September 1, 2011, participants in the WorldWide Telescope Tour Contest working alone or in teams can gain fame as winning entries will be featured in the WorldWide Telescope project and on their homepage for millions to see!

    With the Worldwide Telescope, you have 3-D navigation to explore the universe. Not only can you visit, but you can create an interactive and educational tour of your journey. And on top of that, you have a chance to have your tour featured in Worldwide Telescope!

    The contest is open U.S. Citizens age 14+ and all relevant information, including themes, can be found here:

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    CS & IT 2011 Day 3


    I’m not sure I can do yesterday justice. It was awesome of course but I am also exhausted from all the activity and travel of late. (Doug Peterson has a great post about this day as well. Read it here.) I’m taking some vacation time coming up and I hope to come back recharged. But I’m going to try to at least summarize what went on for those of you who couldn’t make it to CS & IT this year. Hopefully you’ll be able to make it next year. Today we started with a breakfast talk from Dean Kamen the man behind many inventions as well as FIRST Robotics. I got to introduce him which was a pleasure for me – I’m a big fan of FIRST. And FIRST is what he talked about today. He ran through some of the history of FIRST and how it has grown into a major international player is getting kids hooked on science, technology, engineering and math. He has an easier time getting support from major companies to support FIRST with money, gifts in kind and the time and energy of professional developers than he does getting support from school administrators. Schools who will pay football coaches more than they pay teachers  will not pay stipends to teachers who mentor FIRST teams. Seems crazy to me when one very  important difference between members of football teams and FIRST teams is that every student on a FIRST team can turn pro. You sure can not say that about football players.

    AlfredKentSuziDeanDean Kamen at CS&IT 2011 (I’m the guy with the hat – Dean is the guy with the hair)

    The key concept I got from Dean today came early in the talk when he said “We don’t have an education problem – we have a culture problem.” I think this is so true. We reward sports star more than we reward academic success. The priority is off. FIRST is trying to change that.

    After breakfast we all bussed over to NYU and the Games 4 Learning Institute. Paul Tymann from Rochester Institute of Technology talked about his unofficial pilot of the new CS Principles course.

    SavedPicture (23) Paul Tymann from RIT

    Next up we heard from, and better yet had demos by, students of Ken Perlin from the Games 4 Learning Institute. They are developing games to test various theories about what makes a good game for learning. In other words what games not only capture kid’s imaginations and interests but also show improvement in learning and understanding.

    SavedPicture (19) Ken Perlin (standing on the far left) and students on the right at the Games 4 Learning Institute

    One of the students is a high school student doing his second summer internship there. The others are graduate students. They are doing interesting work and once they have publishable results they will be sharing more of their games including possibly source code. I think that a number of teachers attending were getting ideas for educational game projects for them to work with in their own classrooms. The Institute is also experimenting with Kinect devices in games. It will be interesting over time to see what they learn from that about learning games that get people up and moving.

    We finished the day at the WorldWide Imagine Cup closing ceremonies. We all got to look though the showcase where all the finalists were demonstrating and explaining their projects. There were some inspiring projects. I should do a whole writ up on that but you know what? You’d be better off reading the news at the Imagine Cup New page.


  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    CS & IT 2011 Day 2


    Wow! The day started off with a bang. Doug Rushkoff, who wrote Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age , was the opening keynote. Agree or disagree with what he says he was a dynamic speaker. I think most of us would have been ok if he had run long. One of the things he said is that when it comes to teaching programming it is all children left behind. It’s a scary thought to many of us. The talk was recorded and when it becomes available online I will be sure to link to it.

    SavedPicture (10) Douglas Rushkoff presenting the CS&IT keynote

    The first session I attended was by Bootstrap: Algebraic Programming for the Middle School Classroom by Emmanuel  Schanzer. Emmanuel is a great speaker – high energy, clear and concise and his enthusiasm really comes out.  His Bootstrap program really looks exciting for introducing algebraic programming to middle school students. His curriculum is based on functional programming languages like We Scheme but a lot of his pedagogy is applicable to procedural languages as well.

    SavedPicture (13)bootstrapiconEmmanuel Schanzer from Bootstrap

    After the first break I attended Peggy Fisher and Pat Phillips’ session on web development with Expression Web. Peggy is yet another teacher whose enthusiasm for teaching is infectious. You can get a lot of the resources she talked about at the Expression Education Page. The curriculum is concepts based rather than tools based.

    SavedPicture (12) Peggy Fisher (Standing) and Pat Phillips (seated)

    I had to miss the Quick Start to Small Basic with Damian DeMarco because it was at the same time as Peggy and Pat and I had to introduce them because I am on the program committee. I did sneak in and get a picture of him in action though.

    SavedPicture (11)Damian DeMarco presenting on Small Basic

    There seems to be a lot of interest in Small Basic these days. A lot of people are using it and looking to see how it fits in their curriculum.

    Mark Hindsbo (VP of Developer and Platform Evangelism at Microsoft and my boss’ boss’ boss) came to CS & IT today at lunch time. He spent some time talking to individual teachers as well as gave some brief remarks.

    SavedPicture (16) Mark Hindsbo (on Twitter at @MHindsbo)

    Mark really believes that we need to do more to reach students with computer science at a younger age. As such he has been quite supportive on my work and the work of others involved in K12 CS outreach. It was great to have him make that support explicit by attending CS  & IT especially as his schedule is totally packed with the Imagine Cup finals going on this week elsewhere in New York.

    After lunch I attended Game On: Three Years of Game Development at the Secondary Level Using Visual Studio with Rodrigo Anadon

    SavedPicture (15) Rodrigo Anadon presenting on Visual Studio, Visual Basic and the rest of his game related curriculum

    It was interesting that he does a lot of console applications along with the GUI programming. He spent a lot of time looking for sample code for tic tac toe to make sure he would know if his students just grabbed solutions from the web. Rodrigo uses the MSDN Academic Alliance to get Visual Studio for his classroom and students. He also uses some open source software and Linux for some things.

    Then is was my turn to co-present Excite Students About Programming in a Fun, Easy and Free way! Use  Kodu From Microsoft® Fuse Labs®. with Peggy Fisher. I love Kodu for younger kids but even high school kids love it. Honestly Peggy does most of the talking. It’s more important, I think, for teachers to hear from teachers. I’m mostly there for support and to occasionally slow Peggy down when she gets too excited. Smile

    SavedPicture (17)Alfred Thompson presenting on Kodu

    Peggy and I had a great time presenting. Kodu is one of those things that works best as a demo rather than a straight talk. So we, well Peggy mostly, did a lot of demo.

    Closing Keynote SPIRAL: Combining Learning, Play and Exploration by Ken Perlin.

    SavedPicture (18) Ken Perlin presenting the closing keynote.

    Ken really like the Kinect sensor device as a way to expand the way we interact with the computer. He showed off some of the work that they are doing with it at NYU. I need to find some links to it because it looks really cool.

    One day left but I already have a ton of things to think about. So I will be writing some of those thoughts up and posting them over the next week or so. Were you are CS&IT? What do you learn? What was cool? What was bad/not good? I’ve love to hear your feedback.

    BTW Doug Peterson was also there and posted his notes and reflections (and better pictures) on his blog.

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