Thursday, July 30, 2009

Figuring Out What Will Get Attention

I think a lot of us have trouble knowing what will be interesting to others. I think this is true in the classroom (“What do you mean kids don’t find learning binary interesting? I LOVED IT!”) and it is clearly true in blogging. I’ve been looking over the blog posts from the last month and the statistics around each one. I am surprised by the posts I thought would get a lot of attention and comments but didn’t. Others that I expected to be largely ignored – read and forget – have a bunch of comments. How do you know what is going to resonate and what will not? Honestly I don’t think you can. Not with any real certainty anyway. But I have examples. Anyone what to explain things to me?

I’m going to give you some examples from this month both to show you want I mean and (more selfishly) try to highlight some posts that I think deserve more attention and give you a chance to see what did get attention that maybe you missed.

On the more attention than I expected clearly Teacher Web Sites comes first. This one was one I hoped would be interesting for a few people but turned out differently. Largely this is because one of the companies I mentioned in passing put a link to the post with the suggestion that people “help” me out. I saw an amazing amount of traffic referred from Facebook. More than came from search engines even! That’s rare.

What It Is Like to be A Student? received more traffic than most as well as four comments. Honestly that surprised me because I posted it primarily to link to someone else’s blog! I hope you will read those posts (Lost in syntax part 1, Lost in syntax part 2) as they are more interesting than that post of mine.

I really expected comments on On The Value Of Testing but there are none and not much traffic either. Why is that? Was it too obvious and every says “oh yeah sure” and goes on about their business? No idea.

I really had high hopes for Who’s Afraid of Smart Machines? but perhaps people are just discussing that too much in too many other places. Still I was hoping teachers would weigh in on this as suitable for classroom discussion. And that people  who give opinions as to how they felt about smart machines and what the potential meaning for humanity is. Oh well. I did try.

Two posts inspired by NECC Sponges and Participants and Would You Wear A Ribbon That Labeled You a Trouble Maker? had a lot of readers. Only two comments though. Again I’m not sure why but I’d really hoped for more comments especially on the Sponges and Participants one. I really want to know if other people see conference participants the same way I do or hear some alternative views.

Sometimes I do get it (somewhat) right though. Are We Doing It Right? had five comments. Not a huge number and not quite as many as I would have liked but at least there was conversation and that is what I was aiming for.

SO there you have it – proof that I don’t really know what I am doing or what my audience wants. I’m trying though and I am always open to feedback. So any advice you have for me to make my blog better for you and for computer science teachers/education in general let me know.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

RoboZZle – a social puzzle game

RoboZZle bills itself as “a social puzzle game” but to me is is a fun and interesting way to introduce programming concepts. Yes it is a puzzle. The social aspect is that members of the community can create their own games. There are a series of tutorial puzzles to start things off. One of the things you will find is that the tutorials introduce recursion (without bringing up the term to scare people) very early in the process. I have to say that makes it a particularly interesting teaching tool for me.

Check it out at I think you’ll find it fun. And perhaps it is a game to get young  people interested in programming.

The description of RoboZZle from the Coding 4 Fun blog is:

Robozzle is a Silverlight game that helps teach players the art of programming logic through a series of fun and challenging community-created puzzles.  What's more, the game is "community sourced" meaning not only can you contribute new levels - but actually help expand the game and shape it's future.

There is a community around a part of the server-side RoboZZle code at Codeplex if you are looking for a projet  like this to get involved with.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Interesting Links Twittered July 20 2009


Things are a little conversation focused lately on Twitter. It seems like a lot of the people I follow are teachers on summer break. So while there is a good bit of educational conversation going on there is also a lot of just people chatting. I think that is good though. I feel like I am getting to know people better. That doesn’t mean that useful and educational things didn’t come my way and get passed along though. Here now my picks of the week.

Mr. Higgins has updated his list of math related links on his school webpage. If you teach math or know someone who does you will want to check that out.

Matt MacLaurin (@mmaclaurin) announced the new Kodu blog. Speaking of Kodu:

ACM Women's CIS Newsletter v02.01 - Celebrate, Inform & Support (PDF)

RT @SpringboardBlog: New Blog Post: Technical Book Club: Code Complete - Selection of Major Construction Practices PM Jul 13th from TweetDeck

The CSTA blog had an interesting post - A Computer Science Honor Society: Is it Worth the Work?? What do you think? Join the conversation on their blog.

Are you interested in seeing what Office 2010 looks like?Robert Scoble (@Scobleizer) has posted a bunch of video demos of Office 2010.

BTW one of the things I learned on vacation is that the Mayan calendar runs out in 2012. I think that means that Mayan Civilization may also be gone by then. :-) Seriously though maybe the Y2K problem didn’t start with the computer age. Something to think about.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Kodu Demo – Programming for little kids

The other week while I was at NECC (what a great time meeting with and learning from some wonderful educators) we filmed a video of me demonstrating Kodu. You can see it and read some thoughts from the Microsoft Education team at the Microsoft US Education blog.

Some useful highlights I borrowed from the Microsoft US Education blog are:

If you are with a school or an educator interested in using Kodu in your curriculum, you can sign up here to get involved in the academic beta program on the PC. Space is limited, and it requires an Xbox 360 controller for Windows and a reasonable graphics card. You can read more about Kodu’s potential use in the classroom here, and how kids at a Michigan elementary school took Kodu for an early test drive during the development phase here.

Note that Kodu is now officially available on the Xbox Live Community Games channel for the Xbox 360 and for a very reasonable price!

 Kodu game lab

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