Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Do We Teach Design for Everyone?

Summer is a time for me to think about how I want to teach better in the next school year. I’m always looking for ideas about this and recently came across this post about Designing Games for Everyone at Microsoft. Now I’ve been thinking about this for a while as part of my involvement with the K12 Computer Science Framework (see as this issue is a big one for us. It’s being covered in the principles section.

I’ve been thinking about how I teach this in my courses. Of course when we talk about web design and HTML I make a big thing about using the alt tag for images. I talk about why that is so important. And several places in my freshmen course we talk about color choices. Many students have no idea about various color blindness unless we talk about it in class.

I’ve thought about a unit on accessibility but at the same time I wonder if teaching it in context, integrated with other discussions, might not be the best way to do it.

While I’m thinking about this accessibility (dealing with people who have different abilities) is not the only thing to talk about when discussing designing for everyone. There are also cultural issues. Race, color, national origin, and more. This shows up in little things that can mean a lot. For example a shortage of female emojis. (See Google proposes new set of female emojis to promote equality ) Why were they not their from the beginning? Now isn’t that an interesting topic for discussion!

We need our students to think about these things and more. Inclusivity has to be designed in to our software. It can’t be an add on for later. Teachers need to help students see this before they develop bad habits. Doing this better is a goal for me for next year. I’m looking for resources over the summer. Suggestions anyone?

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Better Comments in Visual Studio

Thanks to Channel 9 I found an interesting extension for Visual Studio called Better Comments.

"Better Comments is a Visual Studio extension that gives you the ability to customize the font and opacity of your comments independently of the editor's font settings. It also adds four additional comment classifications, each classification with its own customizable foreground."

What I m thinking is that I will use it two ways. One is to highlight TODO items in starter projects that I supply for students. The different colors and fonts should make things stick out more.

The second way is when I review student's code online. I figure that the question type will make it more apparent with I want to ask questions about their code in their code. When I see code that should be deleted using the cross out comment will be more clear as to why I have commented something out. I'll use the important type to make sure they see specific hints and suggestions.

Anyone else using this or something like it?

Monday, June 20, 2016

Interesting Links 20 June 2016

I think my brain shut down when I left school last Monday to start the summer break. While I got a lot of personal business done last week my mind was really not on computer science. Oh I collected some good links (shared below) but I didn’t have much to say myself. So I didn’t say much in this blog. Maybe I’ll get on track this week. In the mean time check out the links to people who were thinking CS.

Learn to Program with Small Basic” a Book Review by Middle School Teacher, Martin Fish. I plan to do my own review soon.

Doug Peterson writes A colourful post  to introduce the RGBChallenge. That’s a fun little game to help learn the numeric representation of colors (or as my Canadian friend spells it colours)

Why Aren’t There Simple Programming Languages?   Maybe there are though. I think some block programming languages may fit the bill. I found the ideas interesting anyway.

Mark Guzdial talks about Five Principles for Programming Languages for Learners in one of his posts. His is based on research though so I take it very seriously.

Getting closer to "all" in #CSforAll: Instructional supports for students with disabilities in K-5 computer science covers an important topic that we really don’t know enough about. He has a link to some of the work by Maya Israel in this area.

Apple, Microsoft and Google race to introduce your kid to coding from CNet. I think Apple is coming late to the game and the Swift based tool is not available until the fall. One would have thought they would have wanted it available for teachers to try it out over the summer.

Microsoft MIE Teacher Academy Trainings  some online  PD for teachers

Having a PLN – Professional Learning Network – another great post by Doug Peterson. 

Monday, June 13, 2016

Interesting Links 13 June 2016

School is out for the summer! Well it is for me as of noon today. Teacher wrap up but my grades are in and my room is cleaned up for the summer. Looking forward to some time off mixed in with a bunch of summer professional development. Hope you are ready for the same. Here are a few links that may help with the PD.

I added the Mirobot to my list of robots for learning to program. It’s a kit that is Arduino compatible. Looks interesting.

I added Thunkable to my list of block programming tools. It’s based on AppInventor but they are working on supporting iOS which would be cool.

Do you teach Lego Mindstorms EV3? Take it to the next level! Small Basic has the tools for it.

Looking for some summer learning? 6 Summer Reads That Will Teach You—and Your Students—How to Code via @EdSurge

Don’t forget that the Final Review of the K-12 CS Framework is Now Open

Microsoft is giving Minecraft to schools for free -- here's why via @CNNMoney

K-12 Computer Science Education: U.S. State Reports from Google They looked at 11 states and found some interesting things out.

The programming guild doesn't want you to learn to code by Mark Guzdial. I think he is right and that there is a lot of fear behind the resistance of some software people to see CS expanding in schools. 

On a related note is Coding snobs are not helping our children prepare for the future

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Computer Science Because Students Like It posted this image of the class students like the most on their blog.


The full survey data is on slide 48 of this PowerPoint from the researchers who did the survey.

There is a lot of detail in the referenced PowerPoint but this is certainly an interesting  table. I’ve already seen a lot of discussion of it on Facebook. Being computer science people there are a lot of questions about what it means. The first one being is this result because CS is usually an elective and so we have self-selecting population? A close look at the dats suggests not. Why? Well AP CS scores higher than other AP courses and AP courses are generally filled with students who have an interest in the subject.

Still it would benefit us who teach CS to keep the required CS courses, which are coming more common, interesting. Looking at the courses with more or similar percentages of students who like them the ,most they al involve creativity. That suggests we need to make sure we make our classes as creative as possible.

Of course I think CS is inherently creative and fun. That’s why I have been involved in it for so long. As teachers we needed share that with our students. Cookie cutter assignments were every solution looks the same are not going to cut it with students. No matter how easy they are for teachers to grade. Let’s not teach the fun out of computer science.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

The Final Review of the K-12 CS Framework Now Open

Good stuff here. We really need a good review of this framework to make sure it is as good as it can be.

The ACM, CSTA,, CIC, and NMSI, along with lead states, districts, writers, and advisors, welcome you to engage in the third and final public review of the K-12 Computer Science framework. This review period began on June 8 and will close at 11:59 pm PT on June 29. Review a part or the whole - anything helps! The CSTA standards use the K-12 CS framework as an input.

The goal of the K-12 CS Framework is to describe a foundation for what all students need to know and be able to do in computer science. Instructions for individuals and facilitators of group reviews, an online review submission form, the review draft, and background materials are now available at

  • To provide an effective review of the framework draft, please read the about, FAQ, and the annotated presentation at

  • Watch the review period launch webinar recording on the review page. Learn about the development of the framework and how to provide an effective review.

  • All of the comments from the March 18 - April 5 review period were considered and the writers are still working to incorporate the feedback. Check out the April blog post for information on revisions.

Visit to start the review process and sign up for updates!

~ Pat Yongpradit, on behalf of the K-12 CS Framework project

Monday, June 06, 2016

Interesting Links 6 June 2016

Sorry there was no interesting links post last week. Long story – feel free to ask me about it if you run into me in person this summer. In any case I am back on track and hope to be more regular going forward. Perhaps a little slower in the summer but we’ll see. This time next week my school has its final day for teachers and then summer starts. My summer is packed with professional development so I hope to still have good things to share. Links below are from the last two weeks.

Check out BBC-Microbit and Kodu integration - now, even more fun ways to use Kodu!

New from Barbie Careers - Game Developer Doll Barbie – I’m not sure how I feel about this. Women I know have been buying them and sharing the link though. Some people are buying them to use as conversation starters about the role of women in game development.

Creating AR and VR Apps on Windows – I need to spend some time with this over the summer. Virtual Reality and Augmented  Reality should be a game changer for a lot of games. And not just the kind you play.

Anyone can now buy a BBC micro:bit Or at least order them. I’ve used this link for BBC Micro:Bit & accessories

9 Raspberry Pi Projects For Your Summer Vacation from InformationWeek. I really need to do something with the Pis I have this summer. Speaking of the Raspberry Pi - there is now GoPiGo a robot car built around a Raspberry Pi. Looks cool if a bit pricy

Nominations for 2016-17 Microsoft Innovative Educator program now open! Its a good opportunity to network with peers and learn about what Microsoft is developing for education.


Microsoft and Facebook to build subsea cable across Atlantic   Do students understand why this is happening? A good conversation started about the economics of the Internet.

Minecraft Education Edition beta goes live (for schools only) Anyone using it?

What do you think? Too young?