Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Lift Ticket Project

Have you bought lift tickets at a ski resort lately? There are a lot of options. Different age groups, different days (week days, weekends, holidays) and different options for how long you will be skiing or which hills you will be on. I can’t imagine any of this working without computer terminals. Well not without having smart people taking time that you don’t want them to take. So obviously this is a good programming project.

I’m working with decision structures with my programming students. I was trying to think of something new to do. Something that would involve if statements with a little complexity and that might I thought of lift tickets. Off I went to the website of a ski resort I have enjoyed (Bretton Woods in NH) and took a snapshot of their rates. The whole thing is more complicated than I wanted for now so I just recorded the weekend rates for full-day, the various age groups and the different prices for resort guests and non-guests. I asked the students to put together a program to ask for an age, resort stay status, and show the price for a single ticket.

clip_image002There are four age ranges not including younger than 5 and older than 79 which are groups that ski/ride for free. Having the two options for each age group almost forces nested if statements. Almost but not quite.

The thing I may like most about this project is that there are many possible ways to solve it. So far I seem to have almost as many different solutions as I have students. Even better – not all of them work in all cases. Our next class is going to involve looking at different solutions and discussing them.

It should make for an interesting class.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Interesting Links 8 February 2016

We’re into the second semester at my school and things are off to a good start. Although we did miss a day last Friday because of snow. I had my programming students do some puzzles on Code Hunt. They could write and test code in the web browser no matter what computer they have. Winning!
I collected a bunch of good links to share including some I found while staying home from school. Always working. Smile

Like to bring Computer Science to your high school? Apply to teach CS50 AP. Workshops include CEUs and certification. Upcoming workshops in in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Washington, District of Columbia, London, United Kingdom, Redmond, Washington, San Diego, California, and beyond. Training by Harvard University with funding from Microsoft. Training is free. Travel and Expenses on you.

CS Discoveries is the newest curriculum-in-development from - an introductory Computer Science course that empowers students to create authentic artifacts and engage with CS as a medium for creativity, communication, problem solving, and fun.
How to write unmaintainable code – a prety interseting and some time humorous look at what not to do when writing code. 
Mesa day care worker fired over social media post   Kids think SnapChat is safe for them because images "go away." They're wrong.
A student’s concussion leads to Kinect-enabled diagnostic app Sure is interesting when a student combines knowledge of software development with a personal interest in a problem. 
Programming Software for Beginners revisited Garth Flint has one of his students review various programming software tools for beginning programmers. 
The only way is ethics Miles Berry writes about the need for including ethics in courses teaching about computing. He is on Twitter at  @MBerry
Why We Need to Teach Kids to Code By Abby Fichtner AKA @HackerChick Hacker in Residence at Harvard and cooler than I could ever be.
Win a trip to the Imagine Cup World Finals with new Hello Cloud Machine Learning activities! An event in Microsoft’s Imagine Cup competitions still open for students to start. 

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Microsoft Research Open Source Challenge

Now this is interesting. Not often you think of Microsoft and Open Source in the same sentence. Although it does seem to be happening more and more often. This looks like it is for university students. An internship at Microsoft Research would look pretty good on a resume.

Microsoft Research is delighted to announce its first Open Source Challenge that uses the many and various open source computer science tools from our researchers. From artificial intelligence to programming models, cryptography to education, there is something for every enquiring mind.

See for full details. Closing date: April 11, 2016.

MSR OSCProfessors – please circulate this email to your students.

Experience the power of open source software from a top research lab.

Join students all round the world in solving problems with Microsoft's open source tools.

Win big prizes, or the opportunity to interview for an internship at Microsoft Research.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

This announcement went out to CSTA members (and others) this week.This award does include computer science teachers!

The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (#PAEMST) is launching its 2016 Nomination Drive and needs your help! Do you know an outstanding math or science teacher? 
Submit your nominations this week to be included in the drive. Together, we can make 2016 a great year for teachers! 
Nominations can be submitted on our website, The nomination deadline is April 1, 2016, and the application deadline is May 1, 2016.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

An Online Community for CS Teachers Using Microsoft Tools

One thing I am constantly looking to do is to learn from other computer science teachers. There are some good online communities for this purpose. I’m a member of a couple of Facebook groups for example. And I regularly follow conversations on the SIGCSE and AP CS mailing lists. A few months ago I joined an online community for teachers using Microsoft tools to teach computer science.

In the group are teachers using the tools I use a lot – Visual Studio, Code Hunt and TouchDevelop for example. Also some tools I occasionally use but have liked for years like Kodu and Small Basic. And somethings I am still learning about like Minecraft and the BBC Micro:Bit. And more. It is a very friendly and helpful bunch of teachers and I am learning a lot.

If you are using Microsoft tools/products to teach computer science, you’ll want to join. Sign up at

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

A Framework for K-12 Computer Science Education

Last week about 25 or so computer science educators met in Austin TX for two days to work on A Framework for K-12 Computer Science Education. This was not the first meeting of course. Meetings have been taking place online and in person for some months now.

The process started last fall with meetings of thought leaders and stakeholders in CS education. (Mark Guzdial wrote about one of these meetings and the start of the process at the BLOG@CACM in Advice for CS Education from Science and Mathematics Education.

With all the attention computer science education is getting these days (finally) it is important that the community have quality resources to work with. This framework (and standards like those that CSTA is updating) are huge parts of filling that need.

A steering committee initially comprised of the Computer Science Teachers Association, the Association for Computing Machinery, and is overseeing this project. And there are many top CS educators involved.

Of course a project like this needs a lot of eyes looking over things. Transparency is a must. So there will be review periods. In fact, the first review period launches with a webinar (link) on Feb 3 at 8 pm ET / 5pm PT. More information about being involved in the review is on the K-12 CS Framework web site. It is very important that a wide representation of computer science educators be involved in this project. I hope many of you will get involved.

Related posts:

Monday, February 01, 2016

Interesting Links 1 February 2016

Initially the big deal for me last week was working on the CS K-12 Framework (an effort by, CSTA and ACM) and then the President’s weekly Saturday address was all about an inititive Giving Every Student an Opportunity to Learn Through Computer Science for All  That links is to a YouTube video of his 4 minute talk.

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US Chief Technical Officer Megan Smith took to the official White House blog to go into a lot more detail.

The BBS Micro:bit is one of my Computer Science Education Things to Watch in 2016 and I’m watching. It looks like another delay as the BBC confirms Delayed micro:bit computers will reach teachers after half term. They still plan on a million of them being distributed and a lot of teacher training is ongoing
Lego Land has mosquitoes by Garth Flint talks about some of the issues he has had getting Lego software working for his students. It’s about more than that though as it is an insight into what sort of thing CS teachers often have to deal with that makes their work different from other teachers.

The College Board has an AP Computer Science Principles Toolkit with a bunch of resources.

Stacey Armstrong talks about how High School Programming Contests Rock! Programming contests are big in Texas where he teaches and he’s got some good resources in this post.