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

January, 2012

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Interesting Links 23 January 2012


    Last week really reminded me of how much I miss being in the classroom. Two all-day workshops with a mix of students and adults. Lots of good learning going on. It was wonderful to see people “getting it” and learning some new things. I need to get in front of more students more often. A lot of links to share this week. The first one is the big one.

    Time Running Our for Proposals for the CSIT Conference
    This message is brought to you by the CSTA member listserv.

    The proposal submission deadline for the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) 12th Annual Computer Science & Information Technology Conference is January 31, 2012.
    The CS&IT 2012 Program Committee seeks proposal submissions related to the practice of teaching and learning computer science and information technology in K–12. Proposals will be accepted for one-hour presentations or panels and for three-hour workshops. All proposals will be submitted through the online symposium submission system that can be found at:

    I’m sure some of you are doing interesting things that more teachers should know about. Please consider submitting a proposal to present as CS & IT and get it in this week. Deadline is the 31st of January!

    New last week is for teachers, students or anyone else There is also a blog post with 7 power tips for working with SkyDrive across a group with Macs and PCs and a detailed how to video.  If all you know is Google docs you owe it to yourself to check this out.

    My friend Tara Walker and my manager Bob Familiar have both written about the Big App on Campus event for college students. Check out either Want Fame? The Big Apps On Campus is the Way or Big App On Campus! Your Time to Shine! for more information.

    Big App on Campus (BAOC) is open to US College and University students who build apps for Windows Phone. Each app created from August 1st, 2011 until February 14th, 2012 can be entered and students can submit multiple entries. Win big cash (15k) or a trip to South by Southwest. More Details:

    My friend Andrew Parson’s mother, a retired teacher is now tweeting at @moppyp and blogging at  Everything I Learned About Learning!. I really liked her recent post - Can video and RP games encourage reading It’s an interesting question with some interesting opinions of the answer.

    VisualStudio_logo1[1]In an interesting coincidence, Mark Guzdial wrote Do badges get in the way of learning to code?  at just about the same time Microsoft was releasing an add-on for Visual Studio to let developers earn Achievement badges for what they do while coding. Check out the Geek Wire Article The coding game: Microsoft's Visual Studio gets badges, achievements and leaderboard but don’t miss the official announcement on channel 9 about Visual Studio Achievements.

    Where creativity meets technology – a fascinating interview with Jennifer Chayes who is the Managing Director of Microsoft Research New England. She talks a lot about the importance of STEM especially for girls.

    Ken Royal is one of my favorite Ed Tech writers. He has just opened his new Internet home at Royal Reports Follow Ken at @kenroyal on Twitter as well


  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Time Flies When Learning Is Fun


    I did some work workshops with the great people from Digital Wish again this week (see also Teaching Teachers and Students Together) We did a full day workshop on web development using Expression Web using the Heavy Metal Car tutorial workshop from We were able to cram a lot of learning into one day and by the end of the day the students (high school students and faculty mixed) had created a web page that included quite a bit of learning. Actually it was a pretty crammed day but pretty much everyone was able to keep up with the fast pace. I think the fact that Expression Web uses a lot of the same sorts of icons, command ribbons and generally has a look and feel a lot like Microsoft Office has a lot to do with the fast learning curve. Day two was another Kodu workshop. Honestly I think we learned some things about workshops like this from the previous one and we covered more in less time and had more fun. In fact there was an interesting exchange just before the lunch break.

    The head of Digital Wish announced that we were going to take a lunch break and that we had been going at it for about three hours already. One of the students popped up and said “What? we’ve been doing this for three hours?” and looked at the clock. This was followed by him turning to his peers and saying “Guys we’ve been at this for three hours already!” This was followed by the students almost waking up from a trance. Honestly I have seen very few students engrossed in learning something as these students learning Kodu.

    WP_000303I’m not sure the students in the picture on the left even knew that I was walking around taking pictures. For some of these students Kodu was not their first experience with visual programming tools. Some had used Alice (from Carnegie Mellon) while others had used Scratch (from MIT). now I love both of those tools and I’ve seen them used with great effect. I do recommend them myself. But at least in my face these students were enjoying Kodu more. I see this as a statement of one size not fitting all more than as a criticism of those other wonderful learning tools. One of them would still rather use Game Maker for example for their own projects.  Since the students in this workshop are going to be teaching other, younger students I’m glad they were enjoying themselves with Kodu of course.

    The highlight of the day for me was one other comment from a student. I didn’t catch it all as he was talking to his peers but it was along the lines of “I thought programming was all dull and boring but this is really interesting and fun.” That to me is one of the real goals of using Kodu, and to a real extent some of the other visual programming languages. We want students to see some real success and create something meaningful to them. Once they have that success and realize that they can program and that they can create value they become much more willing do to  the hard work that moving to more advanced programming entails.

    I know a lot of students who really enjoy programming games using XNA for example. This is much more complex and difficult than Kodu. But knowing what is possible (Kodu is written using XNA for example) and knowing that they can have fun while learning is a great kick start. Students will work hard to learn things that interest them. They will also find it fun. Really that’s not such a bad thing.

    Related links:

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Two New Imagine Cup Challenges for 2012


    The Imagine Cup just keeps getting bigger and bigger. Today two more challenges were announced via the Imagine Cup blog (Microsoft Announces Windows Metro Style App and Kinect Fun Labs Challenges for Imagine Cup 2012). One challenge is specifically for Kinect applications while the other is for Windows Metro Style apps for Windows 8!

    Kinect Fun Labs Challenge
    The Kinect Fun Labs Challenge brings Imagine Cup into the living room and expands the role of Kinect in competition, inviting you to think about entertainment with a social conscience and solve the world’s toughest problems using Kinect technology for the Xbox 360 console and Xbox LIVE – an Imagine Cup first!

    For the Kinect Fun Labs challenge the first 100 teams that advance to Round 2 will each receive a free Kinect sensor! Read more about this challenge at Kinect Fun Labs Challenge.

    Windows Metro Style App Challenge
    Windows 8 is coming and Metro style apps are the center of the Windows 8 experience. With this Challenge, you can be at the forefront of creating Windows Metro style applications!

    The Imagine Cup Windows Metro Style App Challenge will test your team’s ability to prototype a Metro style app that takes advantage of Windows 8 features and Metro design styles to deliver an experience that solves one of the world’s toughest problems. We’re bringing the platform – you bring the ideas! 

    This is just the event to get you jump started into Windows 8 and the future of application design and development.

    Complete details and applications are available on the Windows Metro Style App and Kinect Fun Labs Challenge pages. You can also stay up to date on Imagine Cup news by becoming a fan on Facebook and following the Imagine Cup on Twitter!

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