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

July, 2012

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    2012 Microsoft Research Faculty Summit Day One



    Oh what a day! I’m at the Microsoft Research Faculty Summit at Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond WA this week. This is a big event for Microsoft Research with over 400 faculty from around the world hear for two days of presentations, demos, and lot and lots of conversations. We started off with a keynote by Eric Horvitz, Distinguished Scientist and Deputy Managing Director, Microsoft Research who talked about machine learning and inference and basically making “smart” software. Really interesting stuff. The undemand video for his talk and many others should be available at the conference website today.

    The first concurrent session I went to was called Social Media: Analysis and Application. It was sort of funny that all of the tweets using the faculty summit hash tag during this session came FROM this session. The rest of the day tweets seemed a lot more evenly balanced across sessions. There is a lot of interesting research going on in this area but I think the main thing I took away from these talks was that the separation of virtual and physical worlds is really an artificial one.  I’ve always known that online activities had “real world” consequences but these takes were eye opening to me. Also there is now a book by Jamie Pennebaker that I’m probably going to have to read called The Secret Life of Pronouns.

    Lunch was al about the conversations. One of the smart things they decided to do a couple of years ago was to not have talks during lunch so people could process, talk to other people, and basically network.

    After lunch I attended a session on NUI Research – NUI is Natural User Interface. What were they talking about?

    • Recent work toward scaling multitouch at whole room scales
    • Research on using the human body as an antenna, exemplifying how touchless gesture interfaces could become ubiquitous
    • A specific application of touchless gesture interfaces in surgical settings
    • A pen-based prototype diagramming tool that uses constraint inference and a novel beautification algorithm to enable the drawing of precise geometric diagrams

    Amazing stuff. We are, I think, at the beginning of many new ways to interact with computers.

    The next session I attended was on End-User Programming for Mobile Devices which focused on some of the research and application of TouchDevelop which lets people program for their Windows Phones ON their Windows Phones. TouchDevelop is being used in some introductory computer science courses with great results. Check out the TouchDevelop teaching resources for more information

    OK I missed the closing keynote. IT wasn’t intentional but I got caught up in some great conversations. Some of them will result in future blog posts. I’m learning a lot here!

    I did make the dinner cruise though for still more conversations. Again you’ll be reading about some of them in future posts. Today some of the summit will be live streamed at the Faculty Summit web site. Also on demand videos will be available as soon as they are processed. SO be sure to visit the Virtual Faculty Summit site to see what is going on.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Interesting Links 16 July 2012


    The Microsoft Research Faculty Summit starts today (about noon eastern US time) Much of it will be streamed at This is a first for the conference. I’m going to be there and blogging and Tweeting what I find interesting. You can also follow the activity from the MSR Faculty summit using the #FacSumm hashtag if you use Twitter. And follow me at @AlfredTwo. if you are not doing so already. But it’s early today so here are my usual set of interesting links.

    Doug Bergman ‏@dougbergmanUSA will be one of the judges for this year’s US Partners in Learning Forum. On his blog he writes his thoughts about judging and participating in the forum. The PiL Forum is a great event with some of the most interesting and innovative teacher projects going.

    Geeky image? Macho culture??  Men & women disagree why IT is less attractive to women. This is an interesting read. Guys like myself tend to make soone set of assumptions about why women do or do not do things. Apparently we can be wrong – no surprise there.

    I liked reading 'Old and New Dogs; New Tricks'  interesting post by Doug Peterson @DougPete

    Nifty CS assignments is a site with a great collection of interesting computer science education projects. We had a session on this at the recent CS & IT Conference and it seems like a good time to remind people about this great resource.

    Exploration of Computer Science on Smart Phones is a video about an engineer who is using smart phones and smart phone development to help teach computer science.

    From the Windows development team:  Windows 8 will be available for VL/EES schools and universities early August and the world in October!

    Kathleen Weaver gave a session on how she raises money for her school projects at the CS & IT Conference. Via her blog and a Moodle page she is looking to share her ideas with others.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Post CS & IT 2012 Thoughts


    CSTA pThe first part of this week was spent in Irvine CA for the 2012 CS & IT Conference. It’s amazing how this event just gets better and better every year. I only wish more computer science teachers could make it there. Being in California we had a lot of teachers from that state but not as many from the east coast. That's to be expected with the current economy and the fact that professional development funds from school districts seem to being cut back in many places. While unfortunate in any field it seems particularly worse for a field like computer science where new tools, programs and even things to teach are changing and growing at a steady rate. Be that as it may those of us who were there learned a lot and I am hopeful that many attendees will share things with teachers in their local area. I encourage people to look out their local CSTA chapter (or start one) and help create local professional development events.

    The sessions this year were really well done but I expected that. I attended as many as I could. I attended some that were on technology that competes with Microsoft offerings. Some good stuff out there but I still feel like what Microsoft has is as good or better than most of the competition. In terms of Microsoft technology there were presentations on XNA and Kodu. There was a session on HTML 5 that was HTML 5 focused but which also talked about how well Expression Web works with it. The Expression Web curriculum has been updated for HTML 5 BTW.

    The most fun for me was the Mobile App Throw down session though. We gathered three people to create a tip calculator app for phones live from scratch. We each had 15 minutes to do so. I did Windows Phone of course (see my application here) while others did iPhone and Android phone. Tough to do in 15 minutes but we all got through it and I think gave people a good understanding about the three platforms. I left feeling pretty good about how Visual Studio holds up against the other platforms. Particularly I like how the same development environment and programming languages are used for Phones and Windows and even Xbox 360. This makes it easy to add some projects on phone to an existing programming course. C# is close enough to Java that something like modules from the second semester game development curriculum which includes XNA and Kinect as well as Windows Phone game development can be added for after the AP exam. This feels like a real advantage to me.

    I want to link to some other people who blogged about the conference as well.

    Doug Peterson wrote about the open house and reception that the University of California Irvine Bren School hosted for CS & IT attendees at Field Trip to UCI Doug also created a Storify of Tweets from the CS & IT Conference that makes interesting reading.

    Kim Wilkens wrote her on her blog here CSIT 2012 Conference Reflections and described many of the sessions she attended.

    All in all a great conference but not just for the sessions. The conversations between sessions, at meals, in the evening were all worth the trip in their own right. I expect the conference will be back in the east next year. I also expect it will be even better. So start saving your nickels and plan to attend next summer.

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