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

February, 2012

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Key Imagine Cup 2012 Dates Approaching

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    Randy Guthrie wrote a long information packed post about Key Imagine Cup 2012 Dates Approaching in the very near future. If you or your students are entering the Imagine Cup I highly recommend you read Randy’s post or at least visit the Imagine Cup site to verify that you have the correct dates in mind.

    And a special reminder to teams in the US who are entering the game design events – be sure to enter both the US competition (http://imagineCup.us) and the world wide competition (http://imagineCup.com ) This gives you two chances to win. If you only enter the US competition you are not automatically entered in the world-wide competition and if you only enter the world-wide competition you are not automatically entered in the US competition. So don’t miss out!

    Randy has all the scoop at Key Imagine Cup 2012 Dates Approaching so check it out. Some deadlines are as early as next week!

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Hello From Texas

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    You may have noticed I haven’t been blogging as much this week. I’ve been in Austin TX at the TCEA conference. I’ve been pretty busy from morning until night. Doing what? Well you may ask. I have been spending some time at the Microsoft booth talking to teachers who come by. But I have also been involved with a couple of presentations. Yesterday Pat Younpradit talked about how he is using XNA and game development in his computer science program which was cool because Pat is doing great things. Pat’s responsible for much of out XNA curriculum materials including the XNA Jump-start: A 5-week Intro to Game Development curriculum that a lot of people are using as either an intro to game development or a post APCS exam unit.

    We’ve also been talking a lot about Kinect at the conference. Microsoft sponsored the game zone which includes two Xbox and Kinect systems. We’ve had a lot of teachers playing educational games. Microsoft has a web site about educational uses for Kinect where you can learn about a lot of the options schools are using. You can also read about the various games including my favorite Body and Brain Connection. I love the math game that shows a number and an equation (for example 8 on one side and 5 + 2 on the other side) and ask students to move their arms to show which side is greater than the other. IT gets students up and moving while they are learning. Not just drill and kill but thinking on you feet. I talked to a teacher who told me her kids loved it with each child not only getting a quick run at the game but actively engaged watching and shouting out suggestions to the student who was in the game.

    There are a growing number of educators creating their own educational games using the Kinect for Windows development kit. From these teachers we are seeing fun new games across the curriculum. Johnny Kissko has his KinectEdcuation website for example. Lots of sharing of ideas and code at that website. Ray Chambers is a teacher in the UK who is developing educational games as well. For you computer science teachers he has a lot of posts about how to do software development for the Kinect as well. My good friend Bryan Baker gave a talk about his work with Kinect with his students as well. He’s in the process of involving teachers from a variety of disciplines to create a multi-media games that support curriculum across the board. Oh almost forgot – speaking about learning there are the Channel 9 Kinect quick start series.

    One of the Microsoft Imagine Cup events this year is a Kinect Fun Labs Challenge. And… the top 100 Teams that advance to Round 2 will receive a free Kinect for Windows sensor! If you are seriously interested in incorporating the Kinect and its natural user interface for development you will want to have students enter this event. I’m hopeful that we’ll get even more good educational games out of this challenge as well.

    OF course at the booth we’re talking to teachers and administrators about things like Microsoft office and Office 365 for cloud based solutions. And all the rest of the Microsoft offerings for educators. For example this list of Free products and services for teachers

    So there has been plenty to talk about and plenty of people to talk to.  I’ve been working on some improved demo code for Pong (talked about this at When Just Working Isn’t Good Enough) but haven’t had a chance to write it up yet. Hopefully after things calm down next week.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Tools for Teaching Adults to Program

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    We seem to be developing tools to teach younger and younger people to program. Kodu in theory is for students 8 and older but I know that some 6 and 7 years olds do very well with it. Last week I read about Scratch Jr which will be aimed at teaching programming to children from  preK to grade 3 (basically ages 4 to 8). I admit that the first question I asked myself is “is that too young?” Are children that age ready for programming? Maybe maybe not. But the second question that came to me was “what would programming tools designed for adults (say 25 plus) look like? Honestly I have no clue.

    Now I have taught older students. In fact I recently wrote about teaching middle and high school students in the same class as adult learners. (http://fuse.microsoft.com/page/kodu) Young people and adults learn this stuff differently. The younger learners have less fear and are more likely to boldly try new things and accept things being “broken.” I’m not sure if the issue is the tool or the teaching style though. Or are there just basic differences in teaching adults that are not as much a factor of the tool as they are the nature of the students?

    Could we come up with a better teaching tool for adults than what we have now? Or do we just want to adapt something of the way we teach with existing tools of the sort we use with young adults (16 to 25)? I’m open to suggestions here. Is anyone looking at this (or doing it regularly)? What works well with adult learners who have no prior programming experience? What do people recommend? Is what works in college just as good for people in their 30s, 40’s 50s, and up?

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