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

July, 2012

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Teaching Teachers


    Next week is the CSTA Computer Science & Information Technology Conference in Irvine CA. I’m taking part in a session on July 10th covering phone app development. I’m a little nervous about it. Partly that is because I am one of three people presenting different development environments for different types of phones. You know I want mine to be the coolest and easiest and best of all of course. That’s scary enough but it is also a little scary presenting to teachers. And not just any teachers either – some of the best and brightest and most innovative computer science teachers in American come to CS&IT every year. They know what a good demo and presentation is and they are not afraid to let you know in the session reviews. All of the sessions will be top notch and given by people who know what they are doing. It’s the sort of thing that makes you want to be at the top of your game.

    But there is more to it than that. I’ll never forget my first experience presenting a professional development session for teachers. Well actually I do forget some of it – like what it was about. What I do remember though is my principal, a wonderful woman who taught me a lot my first year teaching, who told me 5 minutes before I was to go saying “I didn’t want to tell you this too early so you wouldn’t worry but teachers are the worst audience in the world.”  She was wrong in some regards and right in others. The worst audience I ever had was a group of high school students in a large room who would not stop talking among themselves even with their assistant principal in the room asking them to be quiet. But I digress.

    Teachers are a different sort of audience. For one thing they are used to being in charge of a classroom. This means that if they have a question they will ask it. There is just no stopping them. This is one of those things that cuts two ways. In one respect this is wonderful. How many teachers are just begging for their students to ask questions? On the other hand it is pretty easy to get off track. That can be good if you are teaching a semester course but in a 45 minute session it can be deadly. They also have their own ideas about what order things should be presented with so if you tell them “I’ll get to that shortly” they may or may not be willing to wait.

    Oh and did I mention that they do a lot of things they would not put up with their students doing? Things like talking to their neighbor to ask questions. If you bore them they will stop paying attention too! Teachers know how to present well too. A lot of university professors, sad to say, are not good presenters (though some are) but the level of presentation skill for teachers tends to be pretty high. So if you are doing a poor job they will notice and they will sometimes notice that more than the topic of your presentation. Or just stop paying attention.

    All of that aside I have found that teachers are my favorite audience. Sure I feel challenged but I love the interaction. I learn from the critiques and its pure joy when I’m told I did well. There is never a temptation to “phone it in” when presenting to teachers. You know the audience will be interested especially if they picked your session from among a bunch of interesting concurrent sessions. You know there will be questions which drives you to prepare and learn and be ready. And if you really believe in what you are presenting (and I do) then you have that feeling that just maybe you are going to make things better for teachers, for students and who knows even change the world in a small way.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Interesting Links 2 July 2012


    I was pretty quiet last week. Some family stuff going on kept me away from work and (largely) off the Internet. Still over the last few days I have been catching up with things and I have captured a few good links. Several of them I would normally have posted as complete blog posts but the places I am linking to do as good if not better job at explaining what is going on. So here are the best of what I found.

    “Girls can’t program in their heads”: gender and games in the computing classroom from the  Communications of the ACM blog. Seems like a lot going on with regards to gender balance in the computer field this week. Microsoft research also had a couple of videos on the subject. MSR and the National Center for Women & Information Technology @NCWIT in the campaign to increase diversity.  Also from @MSFTResearch Video of the Week: MSR Cambridge’s Jasmin Fisher, on research & her advice to women entering the field.

    My manager wrote up a link to a lot of Windows 8 Developer Camps and Hackathons – Coming July to September

    I liked reading 'Should CS Principles be the first CS course in High Schools?'  This was written by one of the teachers who has been piloting the new CS Principles course and I like their take on a first computer course in HS.

    Microsoft NERD@MSNewEngland has a new Facebook page. LIKE them and get the latest NERD Center‬ photos, events, jobs & more. …

    Microsoft launches ‪Office365‬ 4 Education --FREE and available now--students can do homework anywhere on any device! Please check out Office 365 for education – a game changer for teaching and learning.

    Critics of the Microsoft Surface just don't get it via @halberenson Hal, who wrote this post, is an old friend of mine. We've worked at the same three different companies, he says I’m following him, but he's currently retired from Microsoft. In any case I enjoy reading his well thought out ideas.

    How to Create a Metro Icon Yet another useful post by my friend Ed Donahue.


  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Microsoft Research Faculty Summit Live Stream 2012


    msrfc2012I received this news from the ACM recently. The Microsoft Research Faculty Summit will be available live  for the public this year. I’ve ben fortunate enough to attend this event a couple of times and it is a unique event that mixes industry researchers and academic researchers across the computer science community. It mixes sub areas in a way that most other conferences do not. So this is a great chance to view some outstanding content without leaving home.

    For the first time, Microsoft Research will present its Faculty Summit in a virtual forum freely accessible by the public. On July 16 and 17, 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Pacific Standard Time (PST) (noon to 5:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time), hear leading academic researchers and educators, as well as Microsoft researchers, product group engineers, and architects explore new opportunities in computer science research and advances that address real-world challenges. The event will feature such luminaries as:

    • Eric Horvitz, Microsoft Research Distinguished Scientist, on harnessing large amounts of data for generating insights and guiding decision making
    • Patrick Baudisch, computer science professor at the Hasso Plattner Institute, on research opportunities and challenges in natural user interface research
    • David Breashears, founder and Executive Director of GlacierWorks, on vanishing glaciers of the Greater Himalaya

    Whether you are a computer scientist, researcher, or student, you will benefit from the rich and valuable content presented in this virtual forum, and also have a chance to share ideas and ask questions in real-time on Twitter at #FacSumm. A web page for the streaming video will be available in ACM's Learning Center on July 16.

    BTW this is one of THE hot tickets for academic computer scientists. The chance to view these talks live and for free is a big deal. I’ll be watching as much of it as I can.

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