Tuesday, September 01, 2015

NCWIT Aspirations in Computing 2016

It’s that time again! Visit the website at https://www.aspirations.org/ for more information but I have included some details to get you thinking.

From the web site:

Applications for the 2016 Award for Aspirations in Computing are open from September 1 to October 26, 2015 (8:00 p.m. EDT).

The NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing honors high school women who are active and interested in computing and technology, and encourages them to pursue their passions. This multi-tiered competition includes recognition at the national level (sponsored by Bank of America) and at the local level (sponsored by Microsoft), serving 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and all U.S. military bases overseas.

Each local award taps into the powerful network of NCWIT Alliance members: teams from academia, non-profit organizations, startups, and corporations come together to build a community of support for young women interested in computing.



Any U.S. high school woman in grades 9 through 12 is eligible to apply, if she also meets both of the following criteria:

  • She attends a high school in the U.S. or is a U.S. citizen attending a high school in Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, or on a U.S. military base.
  • She has a U.S. Tax Identification or Social Security Number.

Aspirations Award recipients are chosen for their outstanding aptitude and interest in computing, proven leadership ability, academic performance, and plans for post‑secondary education.

There is a category for educators as well.

  • Apply now for the NCWIT Aspirations in Computing Educator Award
  • Advocate for young women in computing
  • Receive recognition for your support with the Aspirations in Computing Educator Award by encouraging young women to apply for the Award for Aspirations in Computing
  • Connect with a vast network of other educators
  • Find resources to help teach your students about the current trends in technology

Monday, August 31, 2015

Interesting Links 31 August 2015

Well school is back for real now. I had students in class most of last week so we’re completely live. I have great students. My Honors Programming class has a bunch of self-starters who have learned a lot before they got to me. Challenging them is going to keep things interesting. Speaking of interesting, here are this weeks links to share.
Why I’m Not Looking to Hire Computer-Science Majors is an opinion piece in the New York Times last week. There was a bunch of discussion on Facebook about it.  Hadi Partovi has one of the best replies which he posted on Quopra some time ago at Does college make you a better coder? This issue keeps coming up. I thought about writing a whole blog post on it but Hadi says a lot very well. The advice I give students is to not limit themselves to what we cover in class.
Leigh Ann DeLyser doesn’t blog often enough in my opinion but when she does post her posts are worth reading. For example Jumping Back In – Academic Papers all CS Teachers Should Read
More cyber security professionals needed, but few CS grads available—especially women. The article on CNBC is The growing need for more women cyber sleuths
Using Cortana to interact with your customers (10 by 10) some useful information about adding Cortana, Microsoft’s personal assistant that is not available on Windows 10 as well as Windows phone. I need to get my IT person to upgrade my lab.
Apple retail chief Ahrendts thinks covert Apple Watch use in the classroom is a good idea None of the teachers I know agree with him. I think deliberate use is a fine thing. I have students look up answers to questions that come up in class discussion all the time. Using devices for cheating is not something I’d advocate for. 
MobileFusion: Research project turns regular mobile phone into 3D scanner – So far this is still a research project at Microsoft Research but I can see lots of great educational uses for this.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Are You Ever Really Ready?

Last year I changed (improved I hope) every PowerPoint deck I used based on how the presentation when and how I realized I could make things more clear. Over the summer I revisited many of them and improved them some more. This morning and afternoon I revisited and updated the presentations I plan on for the first few days of school. Nothing is ever done.

Tomorrow (Wednesday) is “Show Time” – the first real day with students. I’ve been though my scope and sequence documents over and over again. Each time hoping to make them better – more natural, more efficient, more able to help students learn. No doubt I’ll change it all again over the course of the semester.

I’m excited about new projection equipment which should make demos better. I’ve got ideas about making the class more interactive and student driven. So much good coming together this year. Time to rock and roll!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Interesting Links 24 August 2015

I meet my freshmen today! Yeah! I am excited. I’m pretty sure I’m ready. I’ve even got a new LCD projector. Although as someone pointed out it is a little sad that I am excited about getting the kind of equipment that just about every industry meeting room has had for a while. And they have even more tools as well. But I’m glad to have it anyway. And now a few links to share.

Searching for Computer Science: A Google-Gallup Research Report was all over my social feed this week. You can read the full report Searching for Computer Science: Access and Barriers in U.S. K-12 Education online. Some 91% of parents want more CS in schools. Only 7% of principals think there is a demand for more CS in schools and only 25% of principals say they have programming/coding/CS courses. I think many of those 25% are wrong. I wonder if principals and superintendents are reading this report.

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So you think you want to be a computer science teacher? Part 2. this by Garth Flint a personal hero of mine A lot of CS teachers will relate to this post by him. Especially if you are, like many are, the IT department as well as the CS teacher. I bunch of problems here we have to solve to make CS work in our schools.

Scottish siblings win global coding competition I met these two over the summer. Good kids with parents who are dedicated educators.

New video from @codeorg on the Impact of (Computing on) Innovation It’s a good one! 

Assistive Context-Aware Toolkit (The open source app used by Professor Stephen Hawking)  is now available as an open source project via @ch9 I took a look and as you might expect it’s pretty involved. I may show it to students as an example of a complex program.

CodeSpells  mixes magic and coding in a game to teach programming via @codespells The video intro A Video Game That Teaches You How To Code is on @YouTube

Speaking of programming games. I spotted "It's the assembly language programming game you never asked for!" More at their web site: Zachtronics TS-100

The @codeVirginia Teachers Lounge blog has a great list of Competitions/Awards for Computer Science Students They were missing the ACM/CSTA Cutler-Bell Prize but it is still about the best such list I have seen. Check it out. 

ICER 2015 Report: Blocks win--Programming Language Design == UI Design via Mark @guzdial talks about some recently released research comparing block programming to text programming as teaching tools. Makes for interesting reading.

Friday, August 21, 2015

How I Spent My Summer Break From School

I'm in school today - first day back for teachers. I guess that means that summer is over for me. Every fall and through the year I always tell myself that I’m going to spend the summer doing what my friend Lou Zulli calls “retirement practice.” And every summer I pretty much fail to do this. This summer was no exception. Oh I did get out to the golf course during the week a couple of times but no where near what I thought  I’d do. Rather I spent a lot of time on professional development. I might even have over done it.

Image from SimpleK12’s Facebook page

First was ISTE in Philadelphia. My wife who is a library media specialist really loves this conference. I like it as well. Not as much CS as I’d like but more than there used to be. So I learned some things for sure.

Next was the CSTA Annual Conference followed by the CSTA board meeting. I love this conference. I learned quite a bit both at sessions and informal conversations. If you teach computer science and only do one PD event a year THIS is the one to do.

I was home over night and left for an unconference in Charleston SC. This one was small but everyone there could (and many have) speak at ISTE or CSTA. Most attendees were Microsoft Innovative Educators including some people who have gotten national and international awards for their innovation in the classroom. Inspiring only begins to capture it.

The last big event was a two day teacher boot camp at Harvard regarding their adapting of CS50 for the AP CS Principles course. That was pretty cool and I learned a few things I will be using in class this year.

Like most teachers I spent a lot of time working on my curriculum. Every year I try to take what I have learned from teaching the previous year and use it to improve. I think I’m ready. Well close anyway.

In case you are interested in more about any of these events I did blog about them over the summer.



Charleston Mini-Conference

CS50 AP Teacher Boot Camp

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

So You Think You Want To Be A Computer Science Teacher?

Recently I was asked an interesting question: “if a foresighted student asked how to prepare to be a CS teacher, what advice would you give him or her?”

My initial reaction was that I would first ask if they were interested in teaching first and CS as the subject to teach or if their interest was computer science but they didn’t want to work in a traditional CS career (ie. writing code for a living)? In the first case I thought I would recommend an education major and a CS minor. In the second a CS major and an education minor.

In the first case one would really want to go deep into education but one also needs a solid grounding in computer science. In the second case, one may find themselves looking outside of teaching at some point and the deeper and broader knowledge in CS would come in handy then.

But I’m not so sure those are the best recommendations. I have some experience with curriculum for a computer science major. I was on the ACM/IEEE 2013 task force after all. But I don’t know much at all about education programs. I got into teaching through a back door more or less.

I think my ideal answer would be to attend a program in computer science education so that one could learn both the CS and the specifics of how to  learn CS at the same time. Good luck trying to find an undergraduate program like that!

There are some people who think it is easier to teach a teacher the computer science they need to teach those courses than to teach a computer science person how to teach. I’m skeptical of that idea. I think it can be done either way and I’ve seen it work well both ways. But too often I think that a “repurposed teacher” learns enough to stay a lesson (or a week) ahead of their students that first year and is tempted to stay at that level. After all there is a lot of work involved in getting deeper into computer science.

Most high school computer programs don’t get much deeper than the first two or maybe three courses a computer science major in a university would take. So why bother learning more? I think we’d have a problem if a physics, math or English teacher only took the first two or three courses in that subject while in higher education. Sure there are people who make it but is that the way to bet your child's education? I don’t think so. We really want teachers to be subject matter experts.

We don’t see summer programs that promise to turn art teachers into English teachers in two weeks. Or English teachers into French teachers in 5 face to face sessions and Google Hangouts during the school year. Why are we so ready to accept that sort of thing in computer science?

Monday, August 17, 2015

Interesting Links 17 August 2015

My summer break is almost over. Many of you are back already. Where does the time fly? Last week was interesting and I started (finally) to work on my course outlines for the coming year. Making some changes. Also Google announced a reorganization under the banner Alphabet with the website abc.xyz. Someone, everyone suspects Microsoft, registered the domain http://abc.wtf which takes on to bing.com. Geek humor!
A number of things that came my way last week resulted in blog posts of their own. If you missed them or haven't read the comments people left for me please go back and read them. Greater wisdom in the comments than my posts. Even still  I have a few individual links to share.
I know that some of my readers have jobs in tech that pay more than a teacher’s pay. You may want to think about Helping create a Saturday Hacking Space for kids  Mike Zamansky runs some good programs in NYC. Lien Diaz@Lien_Diaz from the College Board posted “Need ideas for back to school? Check out these nifty activities from #APCSP teachers: http://bit.ly/1L5BF2y “ I've added vizwik and Actimator to my blog's list of drag and drop programming tools at the same time I complain about the number of them. Google for Education: Making it easier to engage and learn with Google Computer Science Education   via @googleforedu