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

February, 2012

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Microsoft at SIGCSE 2012

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    For the first time in several years I am not attending SIGCSE this week. I’m really missing it as so many of my friends will be there. But no use crying over what could have been. Even though I am not there the Microsoft presence is going to be awesome. I wanted to highlight some of it. As you can see from the schedule below there are both short booth sessions with prizes, some regular sessions and a workshop. When you go to these talks please do two things. One is come back and leave your thoughts on the session (or anything else about Microsoft’s presence) on this blog and Two TELL EVERYONE ALFRED SENT YOU! Smile And the Microsoft people in the booth can’t wait to talk to you about what they brought to show off so keep the booth busy.

    APCS teachers will really want to talk to Susan Evans about the Pex4Fun for APCS that she has been working on. I have previewed some of this and it looks great. It gives a chance for students to work on interesting and relevant exercises online and on their own time. Great practice for students. Related in some ways is Try F# which is an online tool for learning this great functional language.

    Rob Miles is an outstanding speaker and has been teaching Windows Phone development for a while so if you are interested in phones go hear him talk. For something really different related to phones catch the talk on TouchDevelop which lets you do your phone development on the phone itself!

    Pat Yongpradit will be talking about XNA and Kodu as well. Always a great talk from him. For people  who like a little bit of hardware to play with NET Gadgeteer  was a big hit last year. If you didn’t see  it then you will want to see it this year.

    This year, we are having 10-min Demo Talks at the booth at 15 past each hour during peak times, which include a lucky draw for great prizes . Attendees can be a winner at a demo, or just be a winner by spending time with our experts.  The timetable for Demo Talks and prizes is:

     

    Day 

    Time 

    Demo Talk

    Presenter 

    Prize

    Thursday 

    10:15 am

    Windows Phone

    Rob Miles 

    Windows phone

    12:15 pm

    Project Hawaii

    Arjmand Samuel 

    Windows phone

    1:15 pm

    .NET Gadgeteer

    Scarlet S. Grosche 

    .NET Gadgeteer Toolkit

    3:15 pm

    TouchDevelop

    Peli de Halleux 

    Windows phone

    Friday 

    10:15 am

    XNA and Kodu

    Pat Yongpradit  

    Kinect for Windows Sensor

    12:15 pm

    Pex4fun for APCS

    Susan Evans 

    Windows phone

    1:15 pm

    Try F#

    Nigel Horspool 

    Three F# books

    3:15 pm

    Faculty Programs

    Arkady Retik 

    Kinect for Windows Sensor

    Saturday 

    10:15 am

    Imagine Cup

    Kimberly Voltero 

    Kinect for Windows Sensor

    As part of the main program Microsoft is presenting 4 Sessions and an exciting Workshop on TouchDevelop on Saturday. The schedule is:

     

    Day 

    Time 

    Topic

    Room 

    Thursday 

    10:45 am–12:00 pm

    Empowering Students: Teaching Software Development with Windows Phone

    305A 

    1:45–3:00 pm

    Creative Uses for Kinect in Teaching—with Curriculum Materials

    305A 

    Friday 

    1:45–3:00 pm

    Fun, Phone, and the Future: Microsoft XNA Game Studio, Windows Phone, and Kinect SDK

    305B 

    3:45–5:00 pm

    Cloud in a Classroom: Faculty Experiences Panel

    305A 

    Saturday 

    3:00–6:00 pm

    Workshop on Engaging Your Students by Teaching Programming Using Only Mobile Devices with TouchDevelop

    305A 

    So if you are at SIGCSE be sure to visit that Microsoft both to see some cool educational technologies and to tell them I sent you.



  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    How Young Can/Should You Start Teaching Programming?

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    Or perhaps how young should you try? And to top if off, why do you want to start them so young in the first place? I received the following from a teacher friend of mine the other day and it has had me thinking ever since.

    Can you please tell me why anyone thinks it is a good idea for 6th grades or 7th grades to learn to program? I do not see them trying to teach physics or pre-calculus to them. Lord knows they are not looking at having 6th graders learn geometry. Now why do they think (not sure that word works here as that’s the underlying problem with teaching 6th graders to program) that students that have yet to understand problem solving in a class build to help them understand problems solving could start problem solving 2 or 3 years early? They do not have 6th graders read say Gatsby even though most of the basic vocabulary is there. I just don’t understand why you would want to show middle school students what goes into networking when adults with a better understanding of abstract thought have hard times working and using it? The idea of “Well we want to show them so they can get a feel for what is going on?” should then also work for teaching trigonometry or calculus. Or how about chemistry???

    I am blessed  with a LARGE number of very bright (HS) students and I still have many who just start to understand what all is being asked of them. Tell me how they think a group of students with less on the ball and minds that are less focused can do what they hope to teach and not make bad habits or outright destroy any chance of learning programming? Any teacher after them will have to undo so much bad though and habits it would depress said teacher. And yes I know there are some kids that can do the material very well even at the 6th grade, but that number would be small to start with and those students would be in with the great unwashed masses of their peers, a heart breaking situation to force a bright student into.

    I hear this from others as well. In fact I have run into the same attitude from university faculty talking about computer science at the high school level. The greater question, or more basic question, is “when are students ready to learn programming?”  It’s a fair question. We know that trying to teach concepts before students are ready for them emotionally, intellectually or other wise can be counter productive. We have also seen some good success with students learning programming in middle school (some guy named Bill Gates learned in middle school and did pretty well). Tools like Alice, Kodu and Scratch are widely used in middle schools and even younger. It seems like there are some good results there. But are we not hearing (or paying attention) to down sides? Do we focus on the students who do well with it and assume that all students are keeping up when in fact, perhaps, they are just precocious students leaving the rest in the dust?

    In my  heart I want to introduce middle school students to the joy and excitement of computer  science and computer programming. They are making decisions at this age – consciously or unconsciously – about their academic futures. I want to see CS included in their thinking as an option. I think middle school is old enough for some of this. I have no data to support that idea though. It may exist somewhere or maybe it doesn’t. How about younger children? Remember Logo? That was used with still younger children. Kodu and Scratch have been widely used with elementary school students. Does it work out ok if we don’t try to do to much or go too deeply? Or are we going to force them into bad habits that someone will later have to break?

    What do you think? At what age did you learn to program? How young have you taught programming? How young is too young as students are not yet ready?

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    One week left to enter the Kinect Fun Labs Challenge!

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    I know that here and there you might have some really great Kinect game or app ideas at your schools. If they haven’t already entered the Kinect Fun Labs Challenge, please encourage them to do so before March 6th!

    Round 1 is super easy – it’s a simple one-pager that represents a concept design – and the top 100 teams get Kinect for Windows devices along with a brand new Unity plugin we’ve developed to make Kinect access even easier. They’ll use these tools to create their submission for Round 2.

    Plus, they could have an opportunity to be published on Xbox Live (and of course, paid for their creation).



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