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

December, 2011

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Bentley’s CIS Sandbox


    Last week I accepted an invitation from Professor Mark Frydenberg of Bentley University to attend the open house for their new CIS Learning and Technology Sandbox. I’d been invited before but once I posted about perfect computer labs last week it seemed like this was an invitation I should really accept. So I took a drive down to Waltham and the beautiful Bentley campus. I’m glad I did as the CIS Sandbox is a very nice facility. It comes equipped with the latest hardware and software as you’d expect. There is an Xbox and a Kinect and there are systems running Windows 8 Developer Preview for example. But the layout and supporting setup really make it different from most computer labs I have visited. It is really set up for tutoring (a principle goal of Sandbox from what I can see) as well as team projects and exploring new technologies.

    WP_000251Here you can see one of several workspaces. The table comfortably sits at least five people for team projects or one to one tutoring. The large screen monitor can be connected to student laptops via an easily accessible VGA cable. There are plugs for both power and wired Internet in the center of the table. There are several of these workspaces in the Sandbox. Oh and the chairs are comfortable as well. People may discount that but I have found that a confortable chair is a big plus for a serious work session. It just removes a needless distraction of uncomfortable chairs. On the Sandbox website there is a list of staff and the courses they are prepared to tutor in. This is pretty exciting as it really makes it easy for students to get help with their classes. I think this (the facility and the tutorial set up) shows a real commitment by the university to help their students succeed. That is something I think one really wants in a good university.


    WP_000253Also in the room is a casual area with decidedly un-office like seating, a very large screen and an attached Xbox 360. This is not a goof off area though I can imagine some people taking a “study break” here. In this picture students are demonstrating an Xbox game that they wrote themselves. Last month Microsoft ran an XNA workshop for students and several of them are working on interesting games. The book shelves on the left of the picture have reference materials on them BTW. So if you want to study from you textbook comfortably and have additional resources – including well you know actual people – around this is a great place for it.




    WP_000252Of course there is a ceiling mounted projector with a large section of wall to project onto. Here you see students trying out one of the demo programs that comes with the Kinect for Windows SDK. There is also a smart board in the room. In fact pretty much everything you'd want. Bring your own laptop or use one of the desktop systems there if you want to. The desktops in the Sandbox are running a mix of Windows 7, some flavor of Linux, and (when I was there ) two systems running Widows 8 Developer Preview. One of the Windows 8 systems has a touch screen which means one can really try out the new user interface easily. All in all a good place to try out new technology. A place to explore and try new things is a huge plus. Especially where there is a staff of helpful and qualified people to help you out.

    Is this the future of student learning spaces? Well perhaps for some. For now it is the present at Bentley and I suspect they will keep moving forward.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Interesting Links 5 December 2011


    Happy Computer Science Education Week! Hope you are doing something fun and interesting to encourage students to study computer science this week. And maybe encouraging more schools to offer computer science education. I have some links to resources for that in this post. First a confession. Normally I take my time and put this post together on a Sunday night but this weekend I was away for a family wedding and didn’t get a chance to work on it. So I am actually writing this at what is a little early for me. Hopefully I’ll still get it right. Though it may be a bit shorter than usual.

    First a link to the many online resources including curriculum, posters, CS facts, videos and much more on the CSEdWeek site. And also some CS education week resources including a poster from the CSTA (Computer Science Teachers Association – you are a member right? IF you are involved in computer science education in a teaching role you really should be a member.

    My young friend, Patrick Godwin is the  November 2011 Tech Student of the Month. Mark my words you’ll be seeing more and more good things from Patrick over time.

    Kinect links seem to always be popping up. Especially from Johnny Kissko (johnnyeducation) and Coding 4 Fun. Here are a couple of them:

    There are some great resources for using Microsoft products in the classroom over at The Partners In Learning Network:

    One last CSTA reminder. Last week I posted the 12th Annual Computer Science & Information Technology Conference. - Call for participation. If you are doing innovative things in the computer science classroom I hope you will consider submitting a proposal. And in any case at all, try to attend this wonderful professional development opportunity. 

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    CS Bits & Bytes From the National Science Foundation


    Another good lead from the CSTA today, the national Science Foundation is starting a new bi-weekly newsletter called CS Bits & Bytes aimed at high school students and teachers. From the home page (emphasis mine)

    The National Science Foundation, in support of Computer Science Education Week 2011 (CS Ed Week), is proud to announce its rollout of CS Bytes, a one-page, biweekly resource that will spotlight what's new, wow, and now in computer science.

    Aimed at high school educators and students, each CS Bytes issue will be filled with highlights of innovative computer science research, and links to interactive activities, videos, and snapshots. The series will emphasize how computer science permeates and improves our lives and supports progress in many other disciplines. CS Bytes issues will also include profiles of the individuals who do this exciting work.

    NSF will release CS Bytes biweekly, beginning on December 5 and continue publication through the end of the 2011/2012 academic year. It is our hope that educators and parents will use CS Bytes to inspire students to engage in the multi-faceted world of computer science, to become not just users but creators of technology, and to develop the skills to bend computation to their own ends, no matter their interests.

    You can get more information and sign up for the newsletter at It looks like thinks will not be fully in place until next week but you can sign up for the newsletter now (I have) and be on top of things from the start. This sounds pretty cool and I hope it will reach a lot of students and be helpful to and used by a lot of teachers.

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