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

September, 2011

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    What is an app?

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    In the Mobile Game Design and Mobile App Design categories of the NFTE World Series of Innovation students are asked to design an app or a game for a mobile device such as an Windows Phone. But what do an “app” mean in that context?  The meaning of words changes over time. I hear that the word “awful” used to mean the same thing as “awesome” but over time awful was used so often in a sarcastic way that the meaning changed. Seems plausible – true or not. A word today that seems to also be changing meaning is “app.” In general it is a short form of the word “application” as you can see in this partial definition from WikipediaApplication software, also known as an application or an "app", is computer software designed to help the user to perform specific tasks. ” Increasingly though the word app is used as a short form of “mobile application” or “mobile app.” That’s a nuanced meaning to some but I think “app” is starting to have a narrower more specific usage than a short form for the more general term “application.” If I had to define it I might say something like “a small application with a simple to use user interface for performing one or more closely related activities. Generally on a mobile computing device.”

    What we are talking about for the NFTE World Series of Innovation are small application not some huge monolithic application like one would add memory to their high powered desktop to run.

    NFTE is proud to have Microsoft as the presenting sponsor of the World Series of Innovation. Microsoft is issuing a challenge for students to create mobile phone apps and games that raise awareness and provide solutions for common student and school issues. Microsoft will provide the winning teams with a development partner to take the idea and bring it to market.

    The other thing about apps is  that they tend to be personal. By that I mean they are designed to be useful for individuals. Apps help people find their way, help them get information from online sources, and in short help them solve personal problems. Here are some sample ideas for apps from the NFTE World Series Toolkit that teachers receive after registering:

    • Helping new students find their way around a school
    • Making friends and building the school community
    • Managing school and class schedules
    • Dealing with bullying
    • Improving the school grounds (cleaning it, building new features)
    • Improving school safety
    • Helping students and schools protect and improve the environment
    • Help students get and stay healthy
    • Simple learning games—helping students learn subjects (math, geography, science, history)

    Here is an example of a simple app that students might want to create (or use themselves!)

    Nearly every school publishes a handbook, and most have web sites that contain important information, such as school directory, maps, class information, athletics,
    latest news, and other details that are important to students. When people aren’t at a computer, however, it’s often difficult to get this information. In addition,
    school administration and faculty need a quick, centralized way to get new information out to students and parents.

    MySchoolApp is a Windows Phone app that provides school information to students and parents, such as news, school events, important links, faculty
    directory, and school maps. School administrators can publish information and notifications via the app as easily as updating their school web site.
    Windows Phone users can download the version for Bentley University here: http://bit.ly/nftebentley

    MySchoolApp gives you access to school news, faculty directory, school calendar, maps, sports, alerts, and notifications—right from your smartphone! It’s great
    for students and parents, as they can get the information anytime and anyplace, and it’s great for schools as it will help them communicate information quickly
    and efficiently.

    It’s simple, handy (a lot easier to carry as part of your phone than a hard copy paper book), and useful with timely information. What sorts of apps can your students design? The NFTE World Series of Innovation encourages that with the possibility of having the winning design turned into a real app for use by students everywhere.

    Some additional links that may be useful:



  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Interesting Links 12 September 2011

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    After a wonderful long weekend for Labor Day I spent the rest of last week in San Antonio Texas for a series of meetings. This didn’t leave me a lot of time for blogging or for looking up new things to share. But I did stumble across a few things I hope some of you will find interesting. And let’s start with the jokes.

    Not just any jokes though – geeky computer jokes. These two three passed across my screen this week and they are too good not to share.

    • The problem with jokes about CSS is that everybody interprets them differently.
    • The best thing about UDP jokes is that I don't care whether or not you get them.
    • I’d tell you a UDP joke, but you might not get it. (This one was left in the comments and I want to make sure people see it.)

    OK not everyone is going to get them but for people who do get them they are pretty funny. Trust me on that one. Smile Now for a couple of contests you may want to think about entering.

    Speaking of Kinect, the people at Coding 4 Fun (@coding4fun) have an interesting new project that involves both Windows Phones and the Kinect called  KinectoPhone – Kinect and Windows Phone working together

    The Huffington Post had an article called Curious about QR codes? written by Lee Kolbert (one of the judges at this year’s US Innovative Educator Forum @TeachAKidd on Twitter) about a project by from Melanie Wiscount (@mwiscount on Twitter), who won the Educator's Choice award at the EIF. Melanie is looking into using Microsoft Tags next year. Microsoft Tags offer some interesting advantages over ordinary QR tags such as color and the ability to embed images.

    One last public service announcement - the 2012 ISTE Call for Participation is now open!



  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    NFTE World Series of Innovation

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    nfteInnovation! What is is and how can we teach it to children? Big questions today as many of us believe that innovation in many forms is absolutely critical to success in these “interesting” times. Anyone who has spent any time with children (of any age) knows that they are creative and out of the box thinkers. All too often we don’t find enough outlets for that creativity. The Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE)  is an organization that has as its mission helping to deal with that problem by encouraging and supporting the teaching of innovation. One event that they run is called the NFTE World Series of Innovation. This is a multi-aspect competition for students that encourages them to develop their ideas. This year Microsoft is proud to be one of the major sponsors of this event. From the press release:

    The World Series of Innovation extends NFTE's message of the power of entrepreneurship education and the importance of innovation to young people nationwide by challenging teams of students to devise innovative products and services targeted at specific market opportunities and show how they would sell and market to the public.

    NFTE is proud to have Microsoft as the presenting sponsor of the World Series of Innovation. Microsoft is issuing a challenge for students to create mobile phone apps and games that raise awareness and provide solutions for common student and school issues. Microsoft will provide the winning teams with a development partner to take the idea and bring it to market.

    "Microsoft and NFTE have worked together for a number of years as both our organizations share the goal of encouraging young people to look at the world differently and to think about how they might contribute to make their communities stronger," said Anthony Salcito, Vice President, Worldwide Education, Microsoft Corp. "We are excited to see the mobile app and game ideas students will come up with to improve education. As they gain real world experience in this competition, we hope the students will gain new skills that may help them jump start a career and turn their ideas into reality."

    Several other companies and the US department of Education are supporting subsets of the competition as well. The Microsoft challenge for students is to create mobile phone apps and games that raise awareness and provide solutions for common student and school issues. Students are asked to create the concepts and design not create the app or game themselves. The winning team will work with a development partner to make the app or game a reality. Microsoft is working on supporting materials for teachers to use with students to help them develop their ideas and learn about the processes of innovation. These resources will be available upon registration.

    Please visit press  release at NFTE World Series of Innovation, Presented by Microsoft, Selected as Featured Event for Global Entrepreneurship Week and the NFTE World Series of Innovation. website for more information.

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