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

January, 2012

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    CS & IT 2012–Participate Actively!


    Back in the end of November I posted the call for proposals for the 12th Annual Computer Science & Information Technology Conference. Did you see it? Have you been thinking about a proposal? have you submitted a proposal yet? The deadline is rapidly approaching (January 31st 2012 is the deadline) So you  still have time but you do need to act soon. Ok so you ay be thinking “what could I present on?” or perhaps “I’m not a professional presenter? or even “I’m not good enough to present to that audience.” If so the only thing you really have to worry about is picking a topic. Let me give a few suggestions before I tackle the other concerns.

    • Are you doing something different than what you have heard about from others and finding it works for you? Bingo! Great topic. Everyone is looking for new ideas. That is far better than rehashing the same old ideas.
    • Are you teaching a new programing language, development tool or IDE? Great! People what to learn about new things from people who use them.
    • Are you doing special things to attract more students? Especially girls and other underserved populations? Super! We’re all looking for ways to do that.
    • Have you gone against the grain in some way – dropped APCS, added gaming, or media, or mixed in art/music/social studies/what not with CS? Love to hear about it. multidisciplinary things are the future!
    • Are you playing with hardware? Kinect, robots, remote sensors, something weird and off the wall? Tell us about it. We need ideas for connecting the real and virtual worlds for students.
    • Nothing on this match what you are doing! Best answer yet! Out of the box is in fashion.

    Now for the rest. If you are a classroom teacher you ARE a professional presenter. Period. End of story. If you can hold the attention of a room full of fidgety middle or high school students you can hold anyone's attention. You’re good to go. And for this audience nothing resonates like actual classroom experience. The audience at CS & IT is the most open and supportive audience a computer science or information technology teacher can have! This is fun people. The questions will be good ones and be respectful in nature. People are there to learn and that is the best sort of audience of all. You can do it. And we all want to see new faces and hear new voices. So go for it.

    If you are still not submitting a presentation you can also be active in other ways. Help Shape the CSTA Annual Conference: Be a Proposal Reviewer IF you’ve ever asked yourself “who approved that talk?” or “why are their no talks on <foo>” then this is your chance to influence the paper selections. We want in fact need the community to be a part of the review process. We all want the best papers to be excepted and that requires multiple fair and honest reviews by practitioners – ie. people like the teachers who attend CS & IT.

    And lastly don’t forget that the 12th Annual Computer Science & Information Technology Conference will be held July 9-10 2012, in Irvine, CA (Orange County). Hope to see you there!

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Microsoft Bliink 2012 Illinois Web Design Competition


    Registration for the Microsoft Bliink 2012 Illinois Web Design Competition is now open.

    Bliink ( is open to Illinois students ages 13-19 participating in teams of two to four.

    This year’s competition is co-sponsored by Illinois Institute of Technology, Illinois Technology Association, and the Chicago Public Schools. We hope educators will include Bliink in their lessons this winter and excite their students with this engaging, real-world team project and the cool prizes they can win by designing websites with Microsoft Expression® Studio.

    Students will:

    • · Receive Microsoft Expression®  Studio professional software at no charge
    • · Work hard to earn prizes that include Xbox 360 and Kinect

    Teachers will:

    • · Receive Expression Studio professional Web design software for their school at no charge
    • · Engage students with big ideas and meaningful problem-solving activities using the free curriculum resources

    Students can submit projects created in or out of class.

    Visit for free Expression Studio learning resources.

    Inquire about receiving Expression Studio software free of charge for your school:

    Students can download Expression Studio free of charge for their personal PCs at  DreamSpark  after they register.

    Complete details are posted on the Bliink Contest website.

    Register your students today!

    Important Dates:

    • Registration deadline: February 28, 2012
    • Project submission deadline: March 20, 2012

    Questions? Email Pat Phillips at

    Please distribute this message to the individuals, schools, and educational organizations that will value this opportunity for their students.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Computer Science Orphans


    I had a conversation with one one of the senior managers of the FIRST Lego League challenge. FIRST Lego League or FLL is a robot related competition for students in grades four through eight. I mentioned that I had been to the Maine State FLL championship  recently (Creating Engineers One Student At A Time) and found that there were many more FLL teams than there were high school FRC or FTC (FIRST Robotics Competition or FIRST Tech Challenge) teams for them to join when they moved up to high school. Apparently the FIRST people see this as a problem of FLL orphans – students who get excited about robotics in middle school and have no place to continue with this in high school. I recently reviewed a paper about a computer science outreach program for middle school students that shows some really wonderful results. Unfortunately some of those students, many in fact, will go to high schools with no computer science programs for them to continue with. There are some cases of high schools being drawn into adding computer science courses to meet the demands of the incoming middle school students. The same is true to some degree of FLL students helping to create new teams in high schools.  But this sort of thing is still an uphill climb.

    Middle school is an important time for students. It is a tie when they are really starting to figure out what they are interested in doing with their lives. They are deciding what is fun, what is within their reach, and what they are motivated enough to do with their talents. They may decide that computer science (or math or science) is “hard” or “Boring” or both! Or they may discover that computer science is fun, interesting and even cool. Getting students interested in middle school is a great thing. But what will happen when they get to high school? Will they lose interest in computer science or robotics? If they do keep their interest how will they keep learning and developing? It can be hard for them. This is why I get requests for information about summer camps every spring for example. Or after school programs. Or just other ways that students can learn on their own. I wish there were ore high school computer science programs. But until there are we need to help those students who want to learn on their own do so.

    This is part of the motivation (an important part) behind programs like DreamSpark and why it includes students who are not in university yet. It is why there are a lot of other resources for people to learn on their own such as:

    There is also Pex 4 Fun ( ) which is a set of coding puzzles that students (anyone really) can use as learning exercises.

    It is always why I encourage high school students to work on their own to enter the Imagine Cup especially in the Game Design Xbox/Windows, Game Design Window Phone, Windows Phone Challenge and Information Technology Challenge. It’s not first about winning. Though we have had some high school students do very well. It is about using a project as an internal locus of control motivation to learn – to strive – to keep going and to do new things. Sure it looks good on a resume for college or for internships or part-time jobs. And yes it would be (and has been) awesome to earn a trip to the US finals (often at Microsoft HQ in Washington state) or even the world-wide finals (Australia this year). But win or lose working on a project that means something and has a tight schedule can act as a wonderful learning experience. If you don’t have a real computer science course to take and force a schedule it can be hard to keep up the learning on ones own. But a contest can help. Actually it can help even as part of a formal course. I know teachers who use the Imagine Cup as a project as part of existing courses. Every little extra incentive helps.

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