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

February, 2012

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Interesting Links 6 February 2012


    I’m headed to Austin TX  today for the Texas Computer Educators Association (TCEA) conference. Hoping to see some old friends and meet some new friends. If you are at TCEA  I hope you will stop by the Microsoft booth and find me. Also I am looking forward to a couple of talks including Pat Yongpradit (twitter @MrYongpradit) presenting - Games for Social Causes using Microsoft XNA Game Studio. Wed 2/8 9:15 a.m. and Bryan Baker talking about his work with Kinect on Thursday. Should be a good week.

    Ed Donahue blogged about the Big App On Campus College students – submit your app for chance to win $15,000 or a trip to SXSW!!

    As a reminder, up to 100 of the top teams competing in the Kinect Fun Labs Challenge will receive a free Kinect for Windows sensor and a Kinect Gadget Accelerator Kit (“GAK”) with which they can build their Round 2 gadgets (see additional details). Please encourage your local students to participate in this Challenge. Remember, Software Design teams can also compete in Challenges, and vice versa.

    Scratch Jr programming for preK to grade 3? Now that is an interesting idea.

    Kinect Sweepstakes For Schools Win an Xbox/Kinect package for your school

    Are You Applying for the 2012 US Forum? Read about it and some of the teachers who did last year

    Some Serious Fun With Kodu Programming – That project and its challenge blew me away. Take a look for yourself.

    RT @TheOfficialACM: ACM Queue has launched an online programming challenge! Get involved today!

    I found a new CS educator on Twitter @DrStephenFalcon and his blog at He’s been added to my CS education blog roll at

    Using the Windows 7 USB Download Tool with ANY .iso file -  Randy Guthrie explains how to do it. I think you will find it very useful especially if you have netbooks or other computers without optical disks.

    Chevon Christie, our January Tech Student of the Month! See what makes Chevon so special you could be featured next!

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    When Just Working Isn’t Good Enough


    tttvbI wrote a tic  tac toe game for my Windows Phone today. It works just fine. I’m just not happy with it. I loaded a screen shot of it to the left. Oh it is obvious that the graphics are not so hot. Graphic design and UI design are just not my thing. I’m actually pretty happy that (in theory at least) I could give the XAML code off and have someone who is good at design fix it all up for me so I could just worry about the code. No, it’s the code I am unhappy with. Why? Well it’s a mess. It wasn’t designed. Now I’ve written multiple tic tac toe programs in my time. I know how it should work. But each time I just wing it. With close to 40 years of programming behind me I do a fairly good job of winging it. Unfortunately that same experience lets me recognize poor design when I see it. So what went wrong? Generally that old ready, fire aim mentality crept in to the process. You see I didn’t set out to write a great tic tac toe program. I set out to learn some Silverlight for Windows Phone development. So my focus was on other things than writing the best tic tac toe program I could write.  In retrospect every tic tac toe program I have ever written was not written to write a great tic tac toe program but to either teach or learn some concept, tool, or idea. This is, unfortunately, all too often an occurrence for what I might call educational programming. I had a student complain once that the Advanced Placement Computer Science exam was one big set of examples about how not to program. It was hard to argue with him.

    Sometimes this is ok. Sometimes doing it right means too much complication or at least too many lines of code for use in a test or as a simple concept example. Pro developer examples generally don’t go that route though. They are, usually, examples of exactly how to do it right. They’re great for professionals to learn from but too often are completely overwhelming for raw beginners. is there a middle ground? I’d like to think so. Finding it is the trick though.

    I have a couple of example programs I have been using lately (Tic tac toe, Whack a Mole, and Pong) that are optimized for fast and easy creation in a demo or hands on lab setting. There is just a ton wrong with them. The tic tac toe and whack a mole could greatly benefit from some well designed custom object classes for example. The Pong (which in my defense someone else wrote but I have translated into VB fro the original C#) just takes too many shortcuts. All three programs look like they could have been written by a beginning programmer. What I have decided to do is to take some time and do all three of these game a lot closer to right. It’s a point of personal pride which I why I an posting this. I want people to ask me from time to time when they are going to see the results. You know – just to keep me on my toes.

    Designed programs work better than hacked together programs. They are easier to debug, to maintain, to enhance and they look better. To me at least there is a feeling of satisfaction from a well designed and developed program that I just don’t get from something I have hacked together. I know that not everyone feels this way. I sure know that for some students just having a piece of code that compiles and meets the minimum standards is success. And that is fine as far as it goes. Other people pride themselves on hacking things together with at least the illusion of development speed unhindered by “wasted time” planning. That is just not me. Slapping things together today made me realize that I need more. I need that planning first. I need my code to be designed. I need to take the time to avoid coding bugs. No matter how much I tested today I just don’t feel as comfortable as I’d like that it is going to work in all cases. And that is not good enough.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    DreamSpark and AppHub Sign Up


    We’ve had some changes in the DreamSpark program lately and the web site feels all different to me. So what I decided to do was to step though the process of first signing up for DreamSpark for students with Activations codes such as you get in a high school Dream Spark program of if you get a code from someone at Microsoft. The first step is easy – head over to and find the link (highlighted in yellow below) for how Dream Spark works for students.

    Registration with DreamSpark


    Clicking on that link gets you to this page where you find the sign up link (circled in red).


    You will be asked to enter account information for your new DreamSpark account. Use the email address for a Windows Live ID (You can create one for free if you don’t already have one) Note that there are several options for verification. The Institution/School and ISIC Card options are for university students. If you are at a university and have a EDU email address you can use one of them. For most high school students we’ll be using the Activation code.


    Pick a good password. The system wants letters, numbers and special characters so give it some thought. After this you will get an email to validate your address. Be sure and check the email account you used and validate the address before going further.

    Registration with AppHub

    Now jump over to the AppHub at and sign up. Be sure to use the exact same Windows Live ID that you signed up to Dream Spark with. Why? Because AppHub is going to verify that you are a student who is allowed to register phones and submit apps to the marketplace for free. Free is good. You will get to a page like this one below. Be sure to select the right country and that you are a student. Also accept the terms and conditions.


    Once you accept the system will attempt to verify you with Dream Spark. Assuming you validated your email and used the same Windows Live ID for both DreamSpark and the AppHub you should get the next screen to enter you personal details.


    Be use to answer this all accurately. You may want to get paid for your software on the market place some day. Smile 

    Next you pick an avatar and a gamer tag. The gamer tag is used for the Xbox market place and if you have an existing gamer tag you should use that. If not now you can create a new one.



    The activation registration will be sending your email another activation link. Yeah again. Just trying to make sure people are using real working email accounts.


    Once you verify your email address you will get this screen and know that your account is all set up.


    Now if you have a Windows Phone (and if you don’t go get one!) you can register it as a developer phone for free. This will let you test your apps on the real phone and not just on the emulator. The instructions for this are pretty clear at Just scroll down to Registering Your Phone to Unlock It for Development

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