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

September, 2011

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    When Fish Fly


    global forumHow excited am I about the Partners in Learning Global Forum? I’m seriously thinking of taking vacation days and paying my own way to Washington DC to see if I can “crash” it. I had a great time and learned a lot judging the US event (Innovative Education Forum–Judging Day) this summer. I met some great teachers doing a whole lot if interesting things. One of the special things about this year’s event is that the attendees were grouped into teams and asked to create a “learning excursion activity.” The team that created the best activity as judged by their peers would be the “tenth team” that the US sent to the Global Event. Well the winner was announced this week at Flying Fish & Kinect help lead the final U.S. team to the Partners in Learning Global Forum.

    The winning team is made up of:

    • Doug Bergman, computer science, Porter-Gaud High School, South Carolina
    • Johnny Kissko, math, Frenship High School, Texas
    • Margaret Noble, media arts, High Tech High, California
    • Donna Thomas, computer science, Sherwood High School, Maryland
    • Lou Zulli Jr., computer science, Lakewood High School, Florida

    Some of those names will be familiar to regular readers of this blog. For example Doug and Lou have been congratulated before for their performance at the US IEF event. (Congratulations Louis Zulli Jr. and Doug Bergman) Johnny Kissko and his KinectEducation site have been linked to several times as well. Margaret Noble made a trip to a United Nations conference on Education  in the Middle East that she documented at Guest post: A reflection by a U.S. educator visiting Jordan “…a United Nations conference for education” and which I linked to.

    Their project is really interesting and I encourage you to read all about it at Flying Fish & Kinect help lead the final U.S. team to the Partners in Learning Global Forum. But in brief,

    The intent of “When Fish Fly” is for students to work in a collaborative design team to create an Xbox Kinect game (using the Kinect SDK among other tools) that replicates the sights, sounds and “sense of place” of this iconic venue within the Pike Place Market (you all have likely seen or heard of the Pike Place Fish Co., it’s the fish market where they throw whole fish when you place an order!). Of course not all students will have a chance to visit this market so the lesson was extended to be applied to any noted venue or location in your community.

    Lou Zulli is having his CS students implement the project for real. I look forward to haring more about it in the very near future.

    Doug Bergman wrote about this on his blog as well - When Fish Fly: A new kind of Project

    On a separate, but related note on Kinect : On Friday we released new lesson ideas and activities for use in the classroom with Kinect. These resources, aligned to Common Core Standards, were created by a team of educators (including one member from this team – thanks Johnny!). Check out the site and let us know what else you need to bring together gaming and learning in the classroom.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Robotics @ Home Competition


    The Microsoft Robotics team has released a new software stack for controlling robots  – RDS4 Beta. There are a couple of very exciting new additions in this beta:

    • Uses Kinect for the eyes
    • A new reference design for consumer robots – write code once, run it on any robot.

    You can see a lot more of the details at this Channel 9 video:

    They are also interested in encouraging others to use this new software so there is now the Robotics @ Home Competition.


    Do you have a cool idea for an @home robot?

    Here’s your chance to show us what you’ve got. Describe that cool idea to us in a PPT, PDF or Word Doc and submit it. If your concept is picked, you could be one of 10 finalists who will be loaned a real robot that you can use to bring your concept to life. If you are chosen as one of the finalists, your second challenge will be to submit a video of your robot in action. A grand prize winner will be selected and awarded up to $10,000!

    What do I do to enter?

    • Step 1: Sign up for the competition newsletter so you can get alerts and important info.
    • Step 2: Review the Official Rules section below for entry requirements.
    • Step 3: Come up with a cool @home robot idea and submit it. Don’t forget to sign up for the newsletter on our homepage to keep up to date on the latest contest news too.

    What types of @home robot scenarios can I submit an entry for?

    We have created three main categories for you to use as a guide for @home robot usage scenarios. You can submit as many entries for as many categories as you’d like, as long as each entry is unique – but only one entry may be selected to advance to Round 2 of the competition.

    Consumer Usage Scenarios
    Examples : Gaming, Video, Music, Security, Productivity, Education, etc.

    Human Robot Interaction
    Examples : Gestures, Speech, Behaviors, Skeletal Tracking, Face Detection, etc.

    Autonomous Navigation
    Examples : Smart Drive, SLAM, Metric Maps, Obstacle Detection, etc.


  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Interesting Links 26 September 2011


    Autumn has technically arrived in New Hampshire. The leafs are starting to turn but the weather has stayed a bit unseasonably warm. Even still school is in full swing all across the US and my little part of the world is no exception. It’s also fall advisory board meeting time for the career technical schools and I have several such meetings in the near future. It’s always interesting to hear how the various programs are going. Some are under more financial stress than others but at least at a career technical high school programming and web development are more than just ordinary electives. From antidotal evidence enrollments in computer science in other high schools and college prep private schools are still all over the map. Some up, some down. A lot seems to depend on administrative support as well as things like NCLB for public schools.  What ever the situation is like at your school I have some links and hopes that one or more will be useful for you.

    My friends at NCWIT keep reminding me (and I you) that they are now accepting applications! NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing – These CS award for girls in grades 9-12 are a good chance to get some recognition for girls with interest and potential in computing fields. Give a girl some encouragement and nominate one (or more)

    I have a couple of interesting links related to Kinect this week:

    I read an interesting post by Frank McCown on cheating in computer science courses last week. This is a serious issue that we really need to deal with. What is the difference between code reuse and cheating? What happens to learning with pairs or team programming? How do we best teach the concepts at depth without encouraging cheating? A lot to think about in that post and I highly recommend it.

    Are you in Kentucky or Washington state? Register for the Microsoft Innovative Educator 2-day seminar (free) coming your way

    Cool stuff on the Teacher Tech blog - Guest post: A reflection by a U.S. educator visiting Jordan “…a United Nations conference for education”

    This is a guest post from Margaret Noble a Media Arts educator from High Tech High in San Diego, CA. Margaret who had the opportunity to participate in the Microsoft Partners in Learning Middle East & Africa Innovative Education Forum and collaborate with educators from across these Middle East & Africa. Margaret partnered with math educator David Stahnke and became a finalist at the U.S. Innovative Education Forum this July. They will be two of ten educators representing the U.S. at the Partners in Learning Global Forum in November. Learn more about their project here.

    Educators of all kinds and subjects, don't forget about all the free Microsoft education resources. Lesson plans, teaching guides and more.

    Scott Newcomb has an interesting new blog called The Mobile Native about Learning & Teaching with Mobile Learning Devices. It’s worth checking out. Scott is a fourth grade teacher BTW. Kids are using mobile device young.



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