Monday, December 22, 2008

One More Reason to Be Proud of Working For Microsoft

Microsoft named top U.S. company for community investment in survey of peers Interesting article about “a survey of major corporations [of which companies are] doing the best job of investing in its community. The survey was part of a study published by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.”

IBM and Dell were 4th and 5th. Google and Intel were tied for 6th (although I think that should be seventh but what does it really matter.) Lots of the giving of all five companies is for education. This is not surprising as all of these high tech companies really require not only educated employees but customers.

I’ve been really pleased to be a part of a lot of work that Microsoft has done to support education over the past several years. There is a clear indication at all levels of the company that Microsoft has to support education. For the good of the students, society and Microsoft itself. I’m glad that other companies including those that Microsoft competes with feel the same way.

Friday, November 28, 2008

What are you?

Just for the fun of it I was taking a series of poll questions at Microsoft’s Microphone application on Facebook this afternoon and all of a sudden this question came up and I was stumped.

Do you consider yourself primarily a:

  • Gamer
  • Programmer
  • Computer Scientist
  • Artist
  • Technology Hobbyist
  • IT professional

And I didn’t know. Clearly not gamer or artist. IT professional? What does that even mean today? I work for a computer company but not really in an IT role. And while I have done that it never defined me. So that’s out.

These leaves technology hobbyist which feels ok but not quite. And then programmer and computer scientist. I want to say computer scientist. I really do. But do I reach that bar or am I “just” a well educated programmer? I think I would have to answer computer scientist but admit that this is as much aspirational as actual. And I have to think about how I define computer scientist.

So where do you see yourself?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Reading

Why post anything on Thanksgiving? I mean people are all spending time with family or sleeping through football games on TV and generally staying away from the Internet for a couple of days.  Well maybe not. I get bored and I don’t watch TV and my wife loves me enough to let me stay home while she enjoys “Black Friday.” Honestly she loves it. So typically some time over a long week end I get online hoping to find something to read. And lo and behold the Internet is closed. OK not closed but there is far from the typical amount of stuff out there to read. So clearly I should do my part for those of you who are like me. If any …

Here is an interesting article on games. The Army is spending $50 million over 5 years to develop games to train solders. That’s a lot of money. But even more than as something to train solders I think (hope) it might inspire a lot more people to look at other sorts of educational games. Especially those that are more customizable. [Hat tip: Brian Scarbeau for the link.]

Teamwork in searching? Interesting article in the NY Times (free subscription required) about a Microsoft Research project that allows several people to research together using different computers. The product is now available for free and is called Search Together. It seems like this might be a very helpful tool for students doing group research projects. Maybe you want to use some time this long weekend to try it out?

Functional Programming? Ever wonder about it? It’s getting a lot of attention in many higher education computer science circles. Sure you can use a special functional language like F# but what if you want to learn in a different context? Eric White has a blog post that introduces a set of tutorial information that uses Visual basic as the language for functional program. You may want to start out at Introduction to the FP Tutorial which makes the case for functional programming.

Study: Math Teachers 1 Chapter Ahead of Students – This is a typical problem in computer science education as well. I taught a course where I was only 1 chapter ahead of students once and still feel guilty over it. How can we fix it? I don’t know. If you have ideas I’m interested in hearing them.

Leigh Ann Sudol has a post titled Numb3rs and Trains and CS with a bunch of interesting links and a discussion on the TV show and how it relates to making computer science mean something to people.l

Friday, November 21, 2008

IT Challenge 2009 Worldwide Competition for High School and College Students Ages 16 and Over

Attention all high school students 16 and over. Are you interested in information technology?

Microsoft Imagine Cup Announces the IT Challenge 2009 Worldwide Competition for High School and College Students Ages 16 and Over. This worldwide competition is focused on finding solutions to real-world issues. We need imagine a better world, and then make it happen. 

You can still compete, but don't delay there's only 5 quizzes left!

Infrastructure 11/23/08
Application    12/9/2008
Application    12/20/2008
Management     1/14/2009
Management     1/31/2009

Sign up today:


Why should you participate?

  • You can further develop your IT talent by participating in a global competition.
  • You get a chance to compete with peers from other countries.
  • You have access to Imagine Cup forums to network with other students with similar technology interests.
  • The IT Challenge adds value to your education. The online quizzes are like mini-certification exams. You can use them as practice exams or see what it's like to take a Microsoft certification.
  • Eligible students who move on to round 3 have the potential to win up to US$8,000 in the WW Finals plus an all expense trip to the Imagine Cup World Wide finals in Cairo, Egypt, in July 2009.
  • There are no fees to register for the IT Challenge competition and guess what, you can compete online!
  • And better yet, you get access to virtual labs and 100+ hours of premium technical e-learning and e-books to prepare for the competition.

Check out past competitors


What’s the process for signing up?

The IT Challenge is an individual competition based on four themed online quizzes (client, infrastructure, application, and management technologies). Competitors are challenged to demonstrate proficiency in the art of developing, deploying, configuring and maintaining IT systems that are efficient, robust, and secure.  In addition to analysis and decision-making processes, this invitational challenges students to demonstrate proficiency in the science of networks, databases, and servers.
Remember, you are only required to participate in (and pass) one of the quizzes in Round One to move onto the round 2.  Every eligible entrant that receives a valid score of 50% or higher on any single Round One quiz as determined by Imagine Cup will advance to Round Two. Here are four easy steps:

Step one: Register for the IT Challenge
Step two: Compete in Round 1 online* (feel free to try practice quizzes before the “real thing”)
Step three: Eligible winners compete in Round 2 online.
Step four: Eligible students who move on to Round 3 have the potential to win up to US$8,000 in the WW Finals plus an all expense trip to the Imagine Cup World Wide finals in Cairo, Egypt, in July 2009!

For a complete description and information about eligibility and judging criteria, visit

Sign up today:


ABOUT IMAGINE CUP: The Imagine Cup brings together more than 200,000 students from over 100 countries around the world where they compete to help find the answers.  And no matter who comes up with the best solutions - everybody wins!

In 2009, the Imagine Cup challenges the world's most talented students to "Imagine a world where technology helps solve the toughest problems facing us today." Some might use technology to help a brother or sister get an education. Or find entirely new approaches for medicine.  Or discover ways to counter the inequalities that exist between genders around the world.  These students might ensure the sustainability of our planet or help deliver universal primary education.  Yeah, it's that important.

The United Nations has identified some of the hardest challenges in the world today in its Millennium Goals. This year the Imagine Cup uses these ambitious challenges as a guiding light to inspire change all over the world. Learn more about the eight Millennium Goals by visiting


Have you heard about Academic Second Shot? If you are planning on taking a certification exam, you get two shots at passing a Microsoft 072 (academic series) certification exam, and the first exam is offered at a student discount!

Register now for an academic discount on your first exam 

For more information, please contact Lani Fraizer at lani (at) or call (916) 458-6460.


Are you already participating in the Imagine Cup's IT Challenge or Academic Second Shot?

Please take a few moments to share your feedback with us: lani (at)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Announcing Small Basic From Microsoft DevLabs

Do you remember the old days of learning how to program with a simple, easy to use, uncomplicated version of BASIC? A lot of people including a lot of teachers (and more than a few professional developers) do. But in general companies are working on more and more powerful version with added complexity. Here now is step sideways. Not all the way batch to the command line but not so far forward that it takes a trained professional to use Small Basic is a new development tool for beginners. For over a year Small Basic was a part-time project by a software developer at Microsoft. He had a small number of people who experimented with it, tried it with their kids, and provided feedback. Today Microsoft released it into “the wild” as part of the new DevLabs portal. (Nice video there with Microsoft engineers talking about innovation and inspiration.

A little more information from the Small Basic portal site:

Small Basic is a project that's aimed at bringing "fun" back to programming. By providing a small and easy to learn programming language in a friendly and inviting development environment, Small Basic makes programming a breeze. Ideal for kids and adults alike, Small Basic helps beginners take the first step into the wonderful world of programming.

  • Small Basic derives its inspiration from the original BASIC programming language, and is based on the Microsoft .Net platform. It is really small with just 15 keywords and uses minimal concepts to keep the barrier to entry as low as possible.
  • The Small Basic development environment is simple, yet provides powerful modern environment features like Intellisense™ and instant context sensitive help.
  • Small Basic allows third-party libraries to be plugged in with ease, making it possible for the community to extend the experience in fun and interesting ways.

You will find a getting started guide at the Small Basic Portal BTW. Check it out and send me you feedback or discuss it in the Small Basic forums or the Small Basic Blog hosted my the developer behind it.

Cross posted from my main high school computer science teacher blog which is updated more regularly.

Tech Talk Tuesday For Teachers

I got a lot of “T” words in that title. What I found this week was a whole calendar of videos and presentations created by the “Microsoft in Education” team that are aimed at teachers, Tech Coordinators, and others involved in using computer technology in schools. Some of the talks are under the “Teacher Tech Tuesday” banner and are aimed specifically for teachers. Some of the talks are yet to come and can be joined live when they are being presented. Others have already happened but can be viewed on demand. A few of the upcoming talks are listed below (borrowed from Mike Tholfsen‘s blog which is worth you checking out as well.)

Here is the schedule for upcoming Teacher Tech events

Friday, October 10, 2008

Friday Links 101008

I have a small backlog of interesting links so I decided to group some of them in this post. Some are different from what I usually post and some are more typical. But I think they are all interesting to someone who is likely to be reading this blog. I hope so anyway.

I don’t usually link directly to a comment on another blog but this is an exceptional comment. Alan Kay replied to a post by Mark Guzdial recently. In it he compared computer science and programming to Jazz and creating music. A remarkable thought provoking post to say the least. My reply to Mark’s series of posts is boring and unenlightened by comparison. There are some good comments on Mark’s first post on the subject as well.

BTW Robb Cutler weighs in with the whole “Computer Science Without Programming?” question on the CSTA blog. Well worth a read. That makes four CS blogs weighing in on the subject. If you know of more leave me a comment, send me an email or Twitter me at

Web hosting is a question I actually get asked about from time to time. A surprising number of students and even teachers what to know about hosting their own websites independent of their school (or others their business. Clint Rutkas has a post about what is involved in a post called “Web Hosting, what to do and where to get it” He wrote this in response to a student who asked him the question. From now on I am just going to point people to Clint’s blog.

I found this article in ComputerWorld that postulates that the current economic crisis may help drive more students into computer science and information technology. Why? Well because finance and investment banking doesn’t look so good as a way to get rich anymore. Interesting idea. The article circulated about the team I work with and Randy Guthrie lays out some of his thinking in a post titled “Financial Crisis May Be Boost for Computer Science/IT Education” Something to discuss in your class or Personal Learning Network (PLN a term I learned from twitter.)

Speaking of Twitter, also on Twitter I found a nice video called “Adding binary numbers explained in 2 minutes” that is just what you’d expect. A two-minute video demo on how to add binary numbers. Sure you can do it yourself in class but you could also link to this as a resource students can access for review or watch a couple of times until they get it down pat.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Beginner Developer Learning Center

One of the questions I get all the time is “I have a student/child/nephew/daughter/etc who wants to learn programming on their own. Where should they go?” My answer is always the Beginner Developer Learning Center and from there to the Kid’s Corner. I may also recommend Popfly as a starting place because it is so much fun. But if they are interested in more than mashups and games, which many of them are, the Kid’s Corner is the place to start. Well this week the Kid’s Corner went though a complete re-design and re-launch and it is better than ever.

The same great resources that were there before are still there but there are some great new ones as well. One of them that I particularly love is a new video on classes and objects. This video is 10 minutes long and features a bunch of kids explaining objects, classes, inheritance, and more using themselves and cardboard boxes as examples. The language is suitable for students as young as middle school without losing the important parts of the concepts. It may be the best 10 minute explanation of objects and classes I have ever seen.

There is also a seven minute explanation of what the Internet is and how it works. This is also suitable for younger students. I can see it being used by a lot of computer literacy classes. I’m sending a link to it to my 83 year old father too.

Everything at the new version of the site is rated Beginner, Intermediate or Advanced to help people select where they should start. So for home schoolers, after school programs, individuals who want to learn on their own or even teachers looking for supplemental resources this is a great place to start. Of course teachers will also want to make sure they check out the resources at the Pre-Collegiate Faculty Connection site as well.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Microsoft Campus Tour Video

I’ve been taking a short blogging break this week. Frankly I’m just flat out with other work lately. Yesterday was meetings and preparation for a talk I gave today at Nashua Community College. I had a great time there because both before and after the talk I had a chance to talk to students in a casual environment. And well yes there was pizza too. One of the questions that often comes up when I talk to students, and a lot of adults as well, is what is it like to work at Microsoft? My work situation is a little less common than most but not as unusual as you might expect. Microsoft has a lot of people who work remotely where remote means from their own homes.

But most Microsoft people work in more traditional offices. These offices are literally all over the world and Microsoft has offices in a lot more places in the US than most people think. But the largest share of Microsoft employees work in the Seattle Washington area. Calling some of those buildings traditional may actually be a bit of a stretch though. Recently the Amazing Max (Agent 008) filmed a video tour of various buildings and campuses that Microsoft has in the Seattle area. Sure it is a recruiting sort of video but it really gives a view into what the Microsoft campus is like. I’ve been to most of the buildings Max tours and what he shows is how it is.

Check it out. I found it interesting, entertaining and informative. If you want to know what office conditions are like at Microsoft look here.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Fun With Colors

I’m in the middle of a deep review of some curriculum for developing web pages. (This curriculum was talked about in a previous post.) It’s really good stuff and I think a lot of teachers will find it valuable. During the course of this review I came upon the discussion of colors and how they are represented in web pages. Colors are defined using a mix of red, green and blue specified as a hexadecimal number. These values go from 0 to ff (or 0 to 255 for you decimal people.)

There are lots of tools on the web and elsewhere that let people pick colors and then supply the hex value they need of course. If you work with web pages on a regular basis you probably even have a favorite. But as a programming geek I decided it would be fun to write my own. Yes, there are people for whom writing a little code while everyone else is watching TV is our idea of fun and relaxing. So I came up with this:


I like sliders. :-) The user moves the sliders to get the color they want (the code sets the background of a picture box in this case) and the hex value is placed in a text box. I used a text box because it is easy to do a copy and paste from text boxes. The key code looks like:

ColorBox.BackColor =  Color.FromArgb( iRed,iGreen,iBlue);
txtHex.Text = iRed.ToString("X2")  + iGreen.ToString("X2")  + iBlue.ToString("X2");

Yes, that is in C# just to remind Clint that I do use it now and again. Interestingly enough when I made my Visual Basic .NET version I was able to copy/paste much of the code from the C# into the VB. Or course I had to delete all those semi-colons afterwards. In any case it is very nice that the ToString method lets the programmer request that integers be displayed as hexadecimal values. I was toying with the idea of writing a function to do that but a) I like the idea of using built in facilities and b) that is something I might leave for students in an assignment just because I am evil. :-)

A little side trick that shows the amazing coolness of Visual Studio and .NET, I opened up two copies of Visual Studio with the C# project in one of them. In the second I created a new Visual Basic Windows application project. Then I did a copy of all the objects on the form in the C# project and pasted them into the form of the VB project. Then I just added code. Again some copy paste, removed the semi-colons but with different syntax and stuff for specifying form level variables and functions/sub routines. I also did not have to explicitly initialize the form level variables because Visual Basic does that on its own. I’ll probably do it to make the program more self documenting though. That’s just good practice.

Hum, I wonder if I should set the color of the words above the slider based only on the value of that particular slider? Not sure how that would look. Left as an exercise for the reader perhaps?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Now These I Get

This is the basic digital lifestyle sort of video. I’ve seen it a number of times and am surprised Microsoft doesn’t make more of it.

This one is a fun look at business and the new Microsoft Office.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Online Programming Contest for Canadian Students

The DWITE programming competition for Canadian high school students is ramping up again for the year.

From their About page:

The primary purpose of the DWITE Online Computer Programming Contest is to provide an avenue for Canadian secondary school students to practice for more recognized programming contests like CCC and ECOO.

This is a series of five online events over the course of the school year. One of the great things about it from my point of view is that they allow a wide variety of programming languages. C, C++, Java, both Visual Basic 6 and Visual Basic .NET, PASCAL and even more. Yes, Turing (used a lot more in Canada than in the US) is on the list as well. So if you are in Canada and are a high school student, teach high school students or know high school students you may want to know more about this. Check out their web site here.

Crossposted from my main high school computer science blog.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Latest Bill and Jerry Video

It’s about 4.5 minutes long and you can see it here. I think its kind of funny. More on the what’s this all about here.

Alfred Thompson The Microsoft Education Blogger

Monday, August 25, 2008

Microsoft Institute

Here is something more for the administration side of the education business.

Microsoft Institute Overview

Participate in a unique professional development experience that will provide you and your organization with tools and resources to create and support innovative environments and organizations. Based on key learnings of Microsoft initiatives and our Partners in Learning program, (which has already reached nearly 3.5 million educators in more than 100 countries), this program will give you new ideas to implement in your organizations, district, classroom, or workplace.

You’ll have ample opportunity to participate in, investigate, and debate different theories and practices that can lead to improved learning environments and more effective organizations. We limit each three-day session to 40 or fewer participants to ensure an environment in which everyone can contribute, offer unique perspectives and learn from one another.

Guests are strongly encouraged to attend the full three-day experience. Each day builds on the knowledge gained the previous day. Multi-functional teams from organizations ready to create change are the preferred audience. There is no registration fee to attend a Microsoft Institute.

What you’ll learn

The Microsoft Institute will expose you to new tools and educational resources that have been developed through the Partners in Learning projects as well as our experience in education, government, and innovation. You’ll learn about the vision for the School of the Future and the process that went into creating it. You’ll learn how to use the Education Competency Wheel—the professional development and hiring tool used at the school—in your organization. You will be exposed to new technologies and learn how to implement them. You will get glimpses into how we run our business and think about managing innovation.

Who should attend

Organizations are encouraged to send multi-functional teams—visionaries and implementers, teachers, school leaders, administrators, superintendents, city officials, and school board members, and technical and non-technical stakeholders.

Yes, it is free to attend. You do have to pay your own transportation and accommodations but if you are near upcoming locations like Tampa, FL or Washington DC you may very well want to check this out. A sample agenda is here.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Foundations Of Digital Games Conference

The Game Development in Computer Science Education conference has been renamed and this year’s event is called the Fourth International Conference on the Foundations of Digital Games. This is the premier educational conference for faculty who use game development to teach computer science concepts and principles. In the past we have had a small number of high school computer science faculty come on the conference but I am hoping that by giving people early warning we can get more this time. A lot of the work being done for early university computer science scales to high school as well. Frankly I am also hoping that some of the pioneering high school faculty out there will submit papers (and hopefully get them accepted) and be able to present as well. My observation is that some high schools are really getting a lot of value out of game development courses and people can really learn from those experiences.

Conference dates:

April 26-30, 2009

Conference location:

Disney Wonder cruise ship, departing from Port Canaveral, Florida, USA


FDG '09, the International Conference on Foundations of Digital Games is a focal point for academic efforts in all areas of research involving computer and console games, game technologies, game play and game design. Previously known as the Conference on Game Development and Computer Science Education, this year's conference takes on a new scope covering the breadth of game research and education. The conference is targeted at researchers making contributions that promote new game capabilities, designs, applications and modes of play.

The call for papers can be found on the web site for the conference at The web site is still building out and more information will be coming over the next few weeks and months. I’ll post much of it here as well.

Oh and yes the conference is on a cruise ship but it is as serious and professional a conference as you can imagine. The venue (especially with very limited cell phone and Internet coverage) promotes an awful lot of serious, valuable and educational conversations. The networking potential (of the human kind) is in my opinion unparalleled. Some of the top computer science faculty in the world present at this conference. There is also good attendance and technical presentations by people in the main stream of the game industry. This is an amazing learning opportunity.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Interesting Links – 15 July 2008

I am struggling to  catch up from my vacation. One of the trailing points in my activity is blogging – both reading and writing. I’ve got over 500 blog posts (mostly in the education category – aren’t you all on vacation?) to read. But I’ve come up with a few things already that are worth giving some attention to.

The $40 Billion GorillaBen Chun had an interesting post complete with slide show on his talk titled “Bringing a $40 Billion Gorilla Into Your Classroom: Using Video Games to Teach Computer Science” with some links to some free resources he uses. $40 billion is the projected value of the video game development industry.

Learning Before Learning – A Canadian university student, Aziz, takes on the controversy about students learning things on their own before they are taught them in class in a post called “Learning Before Learning (or getting ahead of school curriculum)”. I have to think about this one still

Imagine Cup Advice – This year’s Imagine Cup recently finished up and involved students from around 100 countries this year. Two university faculty whom I respect greatly have posts about what it takes to make a successful team for a competition like this. Didith Rodrigo from Ateneo de Manila (Philippines) wrote her comments at a post called Moving forward from the Imagine Cup While Rob Miles from the university of Hull (UK) wrote a post called How to Make a Great Imagine Cup Entry A lot of their advice works for any important project (or start up business plan) that has to be presented to an important audience. Well worth the short reads.

Interesting Things Among My Team – I work with an interesting group of people just about any way you define “interesting.” A couple of them are up to special things these days. Clint Rutkas is getting very close to getting his self stabilizing skate board working. He’s got a video of him testing it on his blog here. Clint writes about some of his remaining issues here. I love that he admits in advance that his father is going to say “I told you so.”

The connection between music and math is fairly well known but there seems to be a connection between music and computer science as well. (I don’t just mean things like Dan Waters’ creation of Guitar Matey for the Xbox 360 using XNA either) DeVaris Brown who is a full time high tech member of the Microsoft team is also a professional DJ under the name DJ Fury. So when the Imagine Cup team needed a DJ for a major party in Paris they brought DeVaris along. The interview is here and you may find it very interesting just how computer technology fits into his DJ practice. He uses technologies like SilverLight and Popfly to bring his shows to the Internet. I wish I was a talented and as musical as DeVaris but I’ll probably have to stick with just being better looking. (I added that to see if DeVaris reads my blog. :-) )

Well I have a lot more catching up to do. More interesting stuff to blog about soon.

[Note: cross posted from to give my friends some extra link love.]

Friday, July 04, 2008

Imagine Cup – Student Environment & Technology Competition

The 2008 Imagine Cup finals is currently being held in Paris France. This international competition involves tens of thousands of university students around the world. This year’s theme is "Imagine a world where technology enables a sustainable environment." The creative projects that teams have come up with are downright amazing. I think that these teams are demonstrating ways that computer science and technology can make a real difference in the world. Exciting stuff.

The official Imagine Cup finals blog is open and active. There you will find regular updates from the staff at the finals event (no I didn’t get to go – maybe one day) as well as links to blogs by many of the competitors. The team is adding all sorts of information including team profiles, interviews, pictures and much more! There are also video updates at Channel 8 BTW.

There are team blogs from all over the world. The list alone is worth checking out to see not only who is their from your country or geographic region but from other parts of the world as well. (The US Software Design team blog is here.)

Also several friends of mine at there and blogging. Didith Rodrigo is a professor of Computer Science at Ateneo De Manila in the Philippines. I never miss an update at her blog and will be following her stay in Paris with interest. And Rob Miles who is a lecturer at the University of Hull in the UK is there. Rob is always interesting. Both have posted their first messages from the Imagine Cup finals.

Technorati Tags: ,,

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Above & Beyond Awards - Massachusetts

The Mass Technology Leadership Council is a great organization of people and companies in the high technology industry in Massachusetts. One of their big interests in supporting teachers who are using innovation in teaching in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Last fall I was happy to write about the 2007 winners to highlight both what teachers are doing and that someone is giving them a little attention for a change. Time is running out to nominate teachers for this year’s awards. There is cash money involved so if you know of a teacher who is doing innovative things in STEM education please nominate them. The deadline is June 30th so do it now.

Above & Beyond Awards - 2008 Application

Outstanding contributions in education too often go unnoticed. That is why the Education Foundation of the Mass Technology Leadership Council created the Above and Beyond Awards in 1996. The unique program acknowledges and rewards the unsung heroes who are encouraging the innovative teaching and learning of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (grades K-12) in Massachusetts schools.

Up to 10 Awards will be presented in the fall of 2008.  Individual nominees are eligible for a $1,000 grant, teams of teachers are eligible for a $2500 grant.

Link to online application:

Nominations are due June 30, 2008.

Please contact Heather Johnson, Executive Director, MassTLC Education Foundation, , if you would like more information.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Friday Interesting Links

Every so often I run into a number of things that I think are interesting and useful but that I don’t feel like I have enough added value to write a whole blog post about each one. This is one such week. I hope you will find at least one of these links interesting and useful.

CeeBots – from their web page (which is available in English, French and German):

CeeBot is a brand new concept that will introduce you to programming while having fun. The programming language you'll use is very similar to those used by professional programmers to develop their products. CeeBot introduces many modern concepts found in today's most popular environments like C++, C# or Java.
After teaching you the syntax of CeeBot, progressive exercises will lead you to use important concepts such as variables, loops, conditional branching, functions, classes, objects, etc.

OurCourts – This is a new project  that will eventually include an educational game about the US Court system Retired Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor is involved in this project. Right now it holds a lot of useful links and information but there should be more still by the fall.

Randy Guthrie interviews a student who will be an intern at Microsoft this summer. I hope he does a follow up after the summer. Randy also has a lot of resources for students here.

Chris Stephenson of the CSTA blogs about the recent meetings that CSTA ran to discuss K-12 computer science outreach with a number of universities and colleges. She discusses the various levels of support that universities are (or in some cases are not) putting into this effort.

On a related topic there is information about Microsoft Tech Trends events here. Tech Trends events are one way that Microsoft is working with colleges, universities and in some cases high schools to create and run events to get students interested in the CS and IT fields of work and study.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

May Posts in Review

May was an interesting month for me in several ways. One area that I struggled with though was blogging. Perhaps it is because the school year is winding down but I could not seem to stay on a roll. Still there were a couple of posts that received a lot of traffic. XNA was big because of the Zune announcement. And people seemed to be interested in projects for use in their classrooms. I have a long post about a good sized group project that I want to propose. It will be coming later this week if I finish writing it. The top discussion item was on code optimization.

Speaking of the Zune and XNA connection that post was here. In a bit of irony a lot of the traffic seemed to come from the trackback to the XNA blog announcement where there is really more original information. Though to be fair to myself I did link to other sources of information.  Speaking of more links, information about an online tutorial for Zune/XNA is here.

In the area of computer science programming project ideas I had one post (here) that linked to a number of good projects by someone else. But I also had a complete description of a code breaking program that got a lot of traffic. Lots of that came from search engines but even more of it game from Dzone. My thanks to the person who listed it and the others who voted for it. I need to figure out how to add Dzone links to my blog like the Digg one I have a Windows Live Writer plug-in for. More project ideas are coming. In fact my goal for the summer is to develop a bunch of new programming project ideas.

I had a number of useful things for people using Microsoft Office as well.  Here and here I talked about tools that make it easier to find things on the new Office 2007 ribbon interfaces. If you are teaching (or just using) Office 2007 those are tools you’ll want to check out.

Other cool things that I talked about in May included:

June is now off to a running start. Yesterday marked five years I have been working at Microsoft. The time has flown as I continue to have a good time working with great people – inside and outside of Microsoft. The best is yet to come I think.

[Note that this is crossposted from my primary blog at ]

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

An Analog Computer Clock

Every so often I like to highlight some technology that is just plain cool. The clock below is one such.

Michael Scherotter created this watch image using a very high end, very sharp looking watch with permission of the manufacturer. While I typically do not wear a watch I do have an appreciation for them. Digital watches are just plain boring while high end watches like the Ball are as much works of art as they are examples of fine engineering. So taking the looks of the watch and replacing the “works” behind it with a computer code is interesting. It may not be as portable or even as accurate (computer clocks are notoriously inaccurate) but it is a really cool clock for a computer desktop.

Michael has written a blog post about how he created this application that makes interesting reading. The purpose of this project was largely to show what can be done with Silverlight. I think we’ll be seeing a lot more cool Silverlight applications as the newer versions are released.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Who Cares How Fast the Code Is?

Ironically one of the problems teachers can have with teaching about optimizing programs is that computers are a) so fast now and b) getting faster all the time. Students often do not see the need to create more efficient algorithms because they assume that what they have is fast enough and if it isn’t then the next computer they buy will “fix” the problem by being faster. And truth be told with most of the toy programs we are forced to use in a classroom situation (not enough time for really large complicated projects) things do work out that way. But real life is more complicated then that. So we really owe it to students to discuss code optimization (and refactoring which is closely related.)

I’ve had a couple of conversations with students over the years that basically took the form of “yeah it is slow but it works and I’ll never need to run it again.” There is some logic to that of course. I once had a program that I ran maybe once a week. I had thrown it together in a hurry to meet an immediate need. Once I realized I would need it more often I also realized that it was very inefficient. I saw several ways that it could be a lot faster. But I did some math. It took about a minute too long (it could possibly run in seconds) and it would take me at least an hour to re-write it. Was I going to run it 60 times? Probably not so where was the payback for my time? I did get a new computer shortly there after which was fast enough that the run time was cut in half so now the payback time was 120 more runs – so it would really cost me more time to fix then it would save me. That sort of math takes place more than many would think by the way. But sometimes it comes out very differently.

Sometimes the issue is around applications that really need to be fast. Other times it is around hardware that has some limitations that have to be taken into account because changing the hardware is not an option. Cy Khormaee recently talked to Paul Oliver of Legendary Studios to come up with a list of optimizations that should be taken into account when creating games for the Zune device. The Zune was designed as a music player not a game device. Since XNA Game Studio 3.0 (now available in preview) lets programmers create games for the Zune this creates an interesting learning opportunity. Specifically the hardware limitations have to be taken into account if one wants to create a game that performs well enough for people to really enjoy. This is an opportunity to have a real “teachable moment.” The list Paul and Cy have makes for a good read and the start of some interesting discussions.

Also on performance, Dare Obasanjo, who deals with some very large data intensive social networking applications, took a look at some scaling problems with Twitter recently on his blog. He examines how basic design choices can make the difference between an application that really works and one that collapses under the weight of input/output needs. This is a discussion worth reading about as students consider that many of the most important applications revolve around how data is saved and retrieved.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Microsoft Education Team Blogs

The Microsoft Education US Specialist Team just started there own blog. This is the technical team that supports Microsoft’s pre-sales efforts to education. The blog itself should be interesting and there are a couple of introductory posts there already. One of the other useful things they have is one of the most complete lists of education related blogs by Microsoft people I have ever seen. It’s a world wide bunch with a number in the United Kingdom and at least one in Australia. There list is below.


  • It's all about edU
  • Off Campus
  • UC in Education blog
  • Higher Education Tech NE
  • Higher Education Tech Mid-Atlantic
  • Kevinsul's Mgmt Blog
  • Cool stuff and happenings for HiEd
  • HiED West Region News
  • Application Platform and Development Tools
  • A Work-Life Balance
  • Computer Science Teacher
  • Dan on eScience & Technical Computing @ Microsoft
  • Academic Care Blog
  • Microsoft Belfast - School Technology Innovation Centre (STIC)
  • UK Live@edu Blog
  • The UK Higher Education Blog
  • Microsoft UK Schools News Blog
  • The UK Further Education Blog
  • UK Academic Team Blog
  • OneNote and Education
  • Higher !nnovation
  • Thursday, May 22, 2008

    New Developments in XNA Resources

    Well the big announcement at the XNA Blog this week was the new community games option now available at XBOX Live. Well that and the new redesign and other extra added features of the XNA Creators Club site. It’s pretty interesting that premium members will now be able to create games, submit them for community review and then inclusion in XBOX Live Marketplace.  But for me the best part was the added new content and redesign of the educational area.

    The XNA Creators Club educational content catalog includes utilities, sample code, and starter kits for people to use to learn how to use XNA and some of the concepts that are most important for console game development. Me? I particularly like the new role playing game starter kit.

    Oh and speaking of content and links, Cy Khormaee has been having a guest blogger at his blog. Paul Oliver of Legendary Studios has been blogging there about his activity converting an XNA game to run on the Zune device. Interesting reading.

    Wednesday, May 21, 2008

    Some New Education Technology Blogs

    A couple of people I know and respect have jumped into the blogosphere in the last week or so. They have both been helpful to me with information and support so I wanted to give them a shout out – a little link love in blogger terms.

    Mike Tholfsen and his team at OneNote have kicked off the OneNote and Education blog. I linked to an interview with Mike (see it here) last January. In that post I introduced Mike in part with “Mike is the OneNote Ninja - there is not much about OneNote he doesn't know. But Mike also has a passion for education and where OneNote and education mix (which they do very well) Mike is nothing short of The Man.” This blog is new and there isn’t much there yet but I predict it will be great for anyone looking at improving the way students do note taking with OneNote. And I would expect Mike to come up with some innovative ideas that not everyone would think about.

    The other new blog I would like to recommend to you is EDUFun by Erik Leaseburg. Erik’s “goal for this blog is to allow parents, students, teachers/professors and administrators to share questions, ideas and resources on effective and fun uses of technology in and outside the classroom to facilitate life-long learning. “ He’s already posted on things like the new Worldwide Telescope, RoboChamps and Popfly Game Creator. It may be a race between us to see who can find and post the fun educational technology links first. Game on!

    Tuesday, May 20, 2008

    Schools As Communication Free Zones

    I have this general policy that when I don’t have anything to say I don’t say anything. OK I admit that I have trouble sticking to that policy sometimes. And at the same time I tend to be rather opinionated which means I often have a lot to say – which may or may not be a good thing. And while I do occasionally editorialize on this blog I have been trying to be more objective and resource sharing in my blogging here. But I find myself more and more frustrated with the state of online censorship within schools. So I’m going to rant a bit.

    Do we really  believe that students in school should be seen and not heard? Do we really believe that the only means of communication students should have with the world (or their friends) is voice communication in strictly supervised situations? Do we really believe that we are doing students favors by not letting them reach the social aspects of the Internet? Do we really believe that online chat and discussion sites are pure evil?

    A couple of events have brought this home lately. First was a couple of talks I gave as schools recently. One at a college had a couple of my demos not work because the web sites were blocked. The students were unsurprised and their response indicated that they thought it reflected poorly on the college than on me. A week later I gave a workshop at a high school and the tech person had done a good job of checking the sites I needed (even without me asking) to whitelist or otherwise unblock them. Of course the unplanned part of my demo that tried to use Facebook died at the firewall.

    Then last week a teacher reported that the RoboChamps web site was being blocked at his school as a “social networking site.” (details here on why I thought it good for schools) Seems weird to me but, well, what do I know? I wonder how many online help forums for technical and other educational discussions are being blocked as social networking sites? Speaking of social networking blockage, this morning teachers on Twitter were talking about ways to get to Twitter from school when Twitter is blocked and Netvibes is now blocked.

    I’m seeing a lot of interaction among teachers on Twitter these days BTW. (I’m at if anyone is interested) Students still seem to be oblivious to Twitter though. I’ve heard a lot of tails of blog sites being blocked at schools as well. Given how isolated many teachers, especially tech teachers, feel in their schools this interaction online seems like a great thing to me. Something to be facilitated and perhaps even taught rather than something to block at all costs.

    Why is social networking seen as automatically evil these days? Evil sexual predators? Come on – we know that students are more at risk at home than online. By about an order of magnitude. Is it the distraction? Sounds like a classroom management problem to me. Well they might put up something bad – what ever bad means. Are they really more likely to be “bad” at school then in the privacy of their bedrooms later that same day? I don’t think so. Aren’t we really missing some good educational opportunities?

    There are teachers doing creative and inspiring projects using blogs, wikis, Skype, and other web 2.0 tools. If kids are going to create videos for YouTube why not have them create and share educational videos? If they are going to write about their feelings why not use online journals (perhaps inside a school firewall) and other online publishing tools to let them create for the media they live in? Why can’t we take advantage of the teachable moments (and tools) of student activity rather than let them mess things up on their own?

    I blame administrators as much as anything. Followed closely behind by parents. People who don’t understand the web, don’t want to understand the web, and are just looking for the easy way out to make it look like they are doing something. Oh they are not all like that. There are many great innovative administrators and enlightened parents. But they are not the ones doing all the yelling and screaming. In the end it comes down to making life easy and appearing to do something.

    One last comment, the students are blowing through the filters as if they were not even there. Anyone who believes otherwise is only fooling themselves. Do you think students are not laughing themselves silly at getting to sites they know their teachers can’t get to? How much does that do for teaching respect for teachers, schools and authority in general?

    Thursday, May 15, 2008

    World Wide Telescope

    The other day Microsoft Research released their WorldWide Telescope application. This application uses imagery from a number of telescopes both on earth and in space to provide a way to look at the sky that is very easy and impressive. The navigation is very smooth and easy. You can also zoom in and out using a scroll wheel. I understand that there is a lot of imagery from the Mars rovers there so if you want to look around Mars in some detail you can.

    The New York Times had an article about this and I like this quote:

    There are many online astronomy sites, but astronomers say the Microsoft entry sets a new standard in three-dimensional representation of vast amounts data plucked from space telescopes, the ease of navigation, the visual experience and features like guided tours narrated by experts.

    “Exploring the virtual universe is incredibly smooth and seamless like a top-of-the-line computer game, but also the science is correct,” said Alexander Szalay, a professor of astronomy and physics at Johns Hopkins. “No sacrifices have been made. It just feels as if you are in it.”

    Getting the science right was important to the researchers who created this. The project leads are amateur astronomers with a serious interest in the topic. The WorldWide Telescope is sort of like having a planetarium on your computer screen. I’ve had a lot of fun using it this week and I expect to use it to help me find things in the night sky to view live as well.

    You can also view tours that others have created or even create your own. Also if you are one of those very serious people with a telescope that can be connected and controlled by a computer there is software to connect your telescope to this software see live what you are looking at recorded on the screen. If you have any interest in the night sky at all this is one application you’ll want to install. If you are teaching astronomy I can’t see how you’d want to live without it.

    Wednesday, April 30, 2008

    Best Practices: Designing Mobile Applications

    These days mobile devices are everywhere. One of the cool things about Windows Mobile devices (Smartphones and Pocket PCs among others) is that they can be programmed fairly easily using Visual Studio. Built in simulators allow for quick debugging without the need for an actual physical device. The big difference between programming for a mobile device and a standard PC though may just be the user interface design.  The screen size is one obviously piece of that but there is also the differences in input – small keyboards, styluses, and no mice.

    Recently Hilary Pike presented on the subject of mobile application design and then wrote about it on her blog. She posted her slide deck as well. I learned a lot from the blog post and associated deck.

    I know a number of teachers who have their students create mobile applications after the AP CS exam (coming up on May 6th this year I think) for something different. This deck and blog post may be very useful if you are one of those. Or honestly for anyone thinking about creating their own mobile applications.

    Oh and before I forget, Hilary also posted a bunch of links to sample Mobile applications here.

    Monday, April 21, 2008

    XNA Links for Teachers (and other learners)

    Note that since I wrote this there have been some changes. See this post for more information -

    I’ve been hearing from a lot of high school computer science teachers that they are looking for some fun and educational things to do with their AP CS students once the exam is over. For some of these teachers some XNA looks promising. For those people and more I decided to put this collection of resources together in one place. I’m open to adding more if people leave me comments or send me email. What works for you to get jump started with XNA and game development?
    Official XNA Sites
    Projects – By and For Educators
    Very Silly Games
    Very Silly Games is a "Library of Gameplay silliness" from which you can pull down fully working XNA games you can play instantly on your computer or, once you have joined the XNA Creators Club, on your Xbox 360.
    XNA Game-Themed Assignments
    Kelvin Sung from the University of Washington at Bothell has a project that is building XNA Game-Themed assignments for use in computer science classes.
    The project home page is here.
    The Release Guide with a lot of information and links is here.
    Video Demos
    GuitarMatey is a 3D game for the Xbox that allows you to improvise guitar music with the accompaniment of a backing track. Five pirates dance for you as you play the game. While GuitarMatey lacks a real objective or purpose, it is perfect to help you learn about developing 3D games for free using XNA and our partner tools. 
    Full details and links to the videos may be found here.
    When Cods Collide
    Betsy Aoki has created a simple 2D game in XNA that involves collision detection. It looks like a useful series and it is a fun read. So here are the links:
    · Making a 2D XNA Game - When Cods Collide - Part 1
    · Making a 2D XNA Game - When Cods Collide - Part 2
    · Making a 2D XNA Game - When Cods Collide - The Final Chapter
    Modify an existing game in 10 minutes
    Hilary Pike has created a short quick moving demo/screen cast on modifying an existing 2-dimensional XNA based video game. In just 10 minutes she walks the viewer through some key gaming concepts and then adds Collision Detection and Score Keeping to the game.
    XNA Pong Game
    Dan Waters has created a Pong game as a tutorial for beginners. This might be a piece of code a bright student might enjoy improving on themselves.
    Other Sets of Links From Teachers
    Brian Scarbeau’s XNA Class links -
    Patrick Coxall’s collection of videos -
    [Note: Cross posted from ]

    Wednesday, April 16, 2008

    Digital Dorm - In A Bus?

    Edwin Guarin is driving a bus fitted out as a high tech, lots of games and devices, digital dorm room to campuses around the NorthEast.  He's writing about the trip on his blog.  He's showing of computers, Zunes, Xbox 360 (apparently Rock Band is popular on the tour so far) and giving away gifts and prizes. Its a fun way to get a look at some cool technology.

    The full schedule is here. Stops this week include:

    • Hofstra University
    • NorthEastern University
    • UMASS Boston
    • Bunker Hill Community College

    Next week

    • Bentley College
    • Harvard
    • Boston University

    Still more following that - check the schedule for schools, dates and times as some of the locations are yet to be determined. If he comes to you campus or to a campus near you stop by and tell Edwin I sent you.

    Tuesday, April 08, 2008

    Getting A Job - The Blizzard Edition

    This week Clint posted his interview with John Cash from Blizzard Entertainment over at Channel 8. The "money line" in the interview is something like "you know that math you think you'll never need? Well you're going to need it." John keeps his college physics and calculus textbooks at his desk and uses them regularly.

    John also talks about how when they interview people they look for people who go beyond on their own and actually finish things. Apparently lots of people start developing their own games but few actually finish. They are looking for people who can finish. Imagine that!

    Sunday, April 06, 2008

    Is There A Future For High School Computer Science?

    OK that is a fairly provocative title. But I think it is actually a fair and reasonable question. The decision last week to drop one of the Advanced Placement Computer Science exams (which I discussed here) has brought a whole new level of discussion about computer science education in general and high school computer science education in particular. Now clearly I believe that it is important that these is a future for high school computer science but doing the right thing is not necessarily a part of the educational process.

    So what has the discussion been looking like? If you follow your news in the main stream media or just on blogs you probably haven't heard much of the discussion. So far it appears that the discussion has been taking place on mailing lists. Not exclusively of course. The one news story I have seen so far was this one in the Washington Post.

    Cay Horstmann has a blog post titled Is Computer Science the New Latin? That post shows the enrollment numbers for the last several years in the AP CS exams. Cay also has some suggestions for what people in industry can do to help promote computer science as a field. I'm going to have some more suggestions about that in the coming days. Industry really does have to help if we don't want to see the shortage of qualified people drop still more.

    Dave Warlick has a post that starts off being about the four exams that are being dropped but ends with discussion of the AP CS AB exam and related issues. He makes a couple of good points including "I remain convinced that the problem has much more to do with how we teach computer science than the tests we give at the end." This is a concern that is being expressed by more and more CS education professionals as well.

    Tom Finin has some numbers about the overall drop in computer science enrollment in his post. You'll see those numbers a lot if you dig into the problem. Tom points out a common belief (which I share) that "Eliminating the computer science AP test will discourage high schools from offering computer science courses and their students from taking them." If this day of No Child Left Behind all electives are under serious strain. At many schools the only reason computer science survives is the allure and prestige of that AP designation. Now one AP exam remains but as I pointed out the other day changes are in store. Will all schools be able to keep up? I have my doubts.

    The discussion in the mailing lists has been different in interesting ways between how high school teachers and college/university faculty are reacting to the news.

    The high school people are responding primarily to the loss of the test and what he means to enrollment and to the value of the test. Many people believe that the AB exam, which has been cut, is the one that should remain because it is the more valuable course. Others are discussing the possible changes to the one remaining exam and if or how much like the current AB exam it will become. All good questions/issues. This has very definite short term consequences for high school CS people.

    The higher ed people are using this largely as a discussion of larger issues - dealing with declining enrollment, how do we teach computer science, what should the CS1 & CS2 courses look like, and other important pedagogical issues. Frankly I think these are wonderful discussions to have and I'm very glad they are going on. It doesn't help the high school situation much in the short term though. Still I am learning a lot from it.

    I've been thinking about what I think the AP CS exam should become BTW but I'll wait for another post to lay that out. In the mean time I see losing one of the two APCS exams as a huge blow to the prestige of CS education. I can see that in the long term a single exam/course may be a good thing as long as it is the right curriculum. I also believe that for it to be successful on any level there has to be a clear and strongly recommended prerequisite course. Sure college students can jump right into CS 1 but a) in practice that doesn't work as well as people like the think and b) high school kids are not college kids. They need a head start. I don't believe that many high school students can really handle a year long college course in a high school year. (If nothing else there are not as many study hours per course in high school.)

    In the near term this change is going to effect how administrators view CS's importance relative to other areas. The same is true for students and their parents. Plus of course many students will just take one course when they would otherwise have taken two. I just wish higher education, though their admissions officers, would express some sort of preference for a real computer science course on transcripts for students applying to science, technology, engineering and math programs. That would help more than almost anything else I can think of.

    Wednesday, March 26, 2008

    Students 2 Business - Its About the Jobs

    Students 2 Business (S2B for short) is

    "a Microsoft® Community Initiative designed to connect Microsoft partners and customers with qualified students for entry-level and internship positions.

    The objective of the S2B program is to inspire local businesses to communicate the competency requirements for new talent, to evaluate the skills of students ready for an entry-level job or internship and collaborate with Microsoft and local education institutions to provide the curriculum and training needed to ensure students are prepared to meet the innovation needs of company’s around the globe.

    Students engaged in S2B benefit from unique mentoring, training and certification opportunities. Various offerings are available to students at each stage of S2B – when profiling, in application and after job their connection."

    The US site is here. The world-wide site (there are some 28 countries involved at this point) is here.  The world-wide site will help you connect to the right country site. There are links there for students looking for jobs, industry people looking to hire and university people who want to help their students get jobs. Check it out. You know, this would also be an interesting site to look at if you want to plan ahead and know what companies are looking for down the road.

    Cross posted from Alfred Thompson's High School Computer Science blog

    Friday, March 07, 2008

    Ex-Apple Guy Interviews Steve Ballmer

    I never thought I'd see Guy Kawasaki at a Microsoft event but it happened. Earlier this week Guy Kawasaki interviewed Steve Ballmer at the MIX08 event. It's a very interesting interview and at times very funny. Usually events like this have someone tossing "softball" questions but Guy really doesn't pull any punches.

    I enjoyed the back and forth over the new light Apple laptop. I found it interesting that Guy uses the same cell phone (a Motorola Q) that I do because he depends on the connection with Exchange for email. Windows Mobile is pretty good really. Apparently Kawasaki does some work with Microsoft and he actually has nice things to say about the changes he has seen in the company.

    I haven't finished watching it yet but so far it is one of the most interesting interviews with Ballmer that I have seen.

    [BTW please visit my main CS Education blog at ]

    Thursday, February 21, 2008

    XNA - Games for the Zune

    Well there are always questions about an handheld game device from Microsoft. Well this isn't it. But what the XNA team did announce today is that XNA Game Studio 3.0 will support creating games for the Zune. And yes there will be multi-player games using the Zune's built in networking. Now that should be interesting. The announcement on the XNA blog is here. There is also a FAQ on the Creators Club web forum. Read the FAQ here. One thing of note is that your games will have access to non-DRM music on your Zune as well. That should make for some interesting mash up games.

    But there is more. What about people being able to distribute or even sell their home grown games though Xbox LIVE Marketplace? Yep, that is coming as well. The announcement on the XNA blog is here with an FAQ here. Looks like some sample community games are available now and "will be playable for a very limited time." Get them while they are free people!

    Personally I'm pretty psyched about the Zune games. I got a Zune for Christmas and some casual games to play on it interests me quite a bit. I like the idea of students having to learn how to deal with limited screens and limited memory as well. Nasty of me isn't it?

    Tuesday, February 19, 2008

    DreamSpark - Microsoft Gives Software to Students for Academic Use

    OK so it is already all over the blogosphere that  Bill Gates announced a new program called DreamSpark to give software to students. (The official press release is here BTW) So I'm kind of late to the party already. Channel 8 is going to be a key source for developing news on this project so you may want to keep looking over there.

    In fact to kick it off there is an interview with Bill Gates (in case you were wondering who that guy with Max Zuckerman was) talking about the program and about the future potential of software.

    So what is being offered? Glad you asked!

    Microsoft developer tools.

    Microsoft designer tools. Expression Studio, including:

    Microsoft platform resources.

    • SQL Server 2005 Developer Edition
    • Windows Server, Standard Edition (Yes, Windows Server Edition!!)

    There are two key FAQs.

    A couple of questions have come after that. They are probably in the FAQs but maybe you can't wait or maybe they are not. Yeah, that's why I was waiting to blog so I could answer more questions. No really! OK maybe not  but it works out well that way.

    What about high school?

    It's coming. It has a high priority as the next step. Bill Gates says it will happen and that commitment appears several times in the press release and in other official statements. I'll have more information about this as things get settled and information becomes available.

    How do students learn how to use this stuff once they have it?

    I've got a few resources listed here and I am working on getting more listed. So return often. And if you have some to recommend please leave them in the comments.

    • Beginning Developer Learning Center - a great place to start with videos, tutorials, and projects for learners of all ages.
    • Coding 4 Fun - Lots of fun projects most with step by step instructions and many with videos.
    • MSDN Forums - These are the forums the professionals use but beginners are welcome and there are lots of people willing to help with technical questions. A lot of students and faculty members are already there asking the tough technical questions.
    • XNA Forums - If you want to learn how to develop video games with XNA this is the place to ask questions.
    • Channel 8 and the Channel 8 Student Union - lots of information in the videos there and lots of good discussion in the forums of the Student Union.

    What about faculty? What about classroom/course use?

    Microsoft is retaining their existing programs for getting software into the classroom and for course/faculty use. The MSDN Academic Alliance program (MSDN AA) is great for getting software for teaching labs, including a lot more than DreamSpark offers students, into the hands of faculty. Also there is the IT Academy program. If you are a faculty member who teaches IT/CS or related topics you really want to check those programs out. MSDN AA and IT Academy are both programs that already include high schools in case you were not aware of that.

    Faculty can also get access to software though the Faculty Connection sites.

    StatCounter - Free Web Tracker and Counter
    StatCounter - Free Web Tracker and Counter