Friday, December 17, 2010

Microsoft bliink…a web design competition for high school students

I’ve talked about Bliink in the past. (See bliink) Over the last couple of years Microsoft has run this web development competition in schools across the county. It’s been limited to individual states, state-wide organizations, or large school districts so far. This year we are going wider – national (US) in scope. My friend Gautam is running the program and blogged about it at his web site - Microsoft bliink…a web design competition for high school students

The goal of the Microsoft bliink contest is to build the student interest in technology and increasing the STEM pursuits in education and careers in the US. high school students with a positive experience with being creative with technology are more likely to pursue STEM studies and careers.  We make this possible by providing high school students with the software tools, training and experiences through the Microsoft bliink contest.

Microsoft bliink contest 2011 will launch January 5th, 2011, with the registration window being open until February 28th, 2011. Website submissions (using Expression Studio software) are due March 1st, 2011 for fabulous prizes of XBox360 consoles, the new Kinect and XBox360 games. Any US high school student between 13 and 19 years of age is eligible to register and submit their websites to the  Microsoft bliink 2011 contest, participating in teams of 2 – 4 students.

So visit Gautam’s blog for the full scoop and if you know students who are ready to show off what they know tell them to keep an eye out for the official January 5th 2011 launch.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Interesting Links Post December 6th 2010

csedweeklogoWell it is Computer Science Education week. Are you doing anything at your school for it this week? I attended three different CSTA chapter meetings in the last couple of weeks (northern New Jersey, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire) and there was a lot of talk about CS Ed week at all three meetings. Check out the CSEdWeek web page to see what is going on around the country. And now a few other interesting links.

The XNA Game Studio team announced Dream.Build.Play for 2011. While students should absolutely be entering the game division of the Imagine Cup Dream Build Play is open to everyone including people who develop software for a living. So you pros out there looking to make a name for yourself in game development this is the one for you.

Are you ready to compete? Dream.Build.Play is a competition where you can create and submit your XNA Game Studio 4.0 game for Xbox 360 to win prizes, including the chance to have your game featured on Xbox LIVE Arcade. Registration will open in late February 2011.

Speaking of the Imagine Cup, Andrew Parsons, recently relocated to New York City from Australian, makes the case Why [students] should make a game for Imagine Cup 2011 

A thought provoking post on the CSTA blog Maybe Course Proliferation Is a Bad Idea? Could we possibly have too many computer science courses? Types of courses that is – not too many courses in too many schools. Check out the post and leave your thoughts over there.

Did you know that Microsoft has been ranked as one of the top corporate citizens. One of the reasons I am proud to work here. A lot of people seem surprised by this which tells me that Microsoft is not the company some people think they are. The article makes for an interesting read.

Are you using Visual Basic and thinking that the C# people are having all the fun with Smart Phone programming? Well, good news, Visual Basic Windows Phone 7 Developer tools is now available!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Pledge to Participate in and be a Supporter of Computer Science Education Week!

Computer Science Education week is December 5-11, 2010 this year. ACM and the chair of CSed Week steering committer are asking people to sign up and pledge to support CSed Week. I understand that a new CSed Week web site “will be rolling out on November 29, and will encourage students, teachers, industry, and university folks to pledge to engage in some activity to promote computer science education.”

Join with teachers, students, parents and others who are participating in CSEdWeek activities and events. Sign the pledge now to support CSEdWeek activates and events.

Pledge here: <> and list what you are doing to participate in Computer Science Education Week.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Wisdom in Lists–Really?

Like a lot of people I have an affection for lists that condense a lot of wisdom into a brief set of statements or items. Some time ago I wrote a series of posts on Programming Proverbs for example. That list (reproduced at the bottom of this post) came from a book that was every influential to me, especially early in my career. Each proverb by it self said a lot but mostly to someone who all ready know something about the topic. The original book had a sort of chapter on each proverb and did a wonderful job of elaboration and explanation. My series of blog posts was a couple of paragraphs on each from my own experience. Why do I bring tis up now? Well I found a couple of other posts of somewhat similar “proverbs” if you will. I thought I would share them with you and perhaps suggest a look at my own series in case you missed it the first time around.

The first is “The Two Things about Computer Programming” a couple of years old but still quite relevant. Plus it is new to me so maybe it is new to you as well. Read the whole post for the explanation of “Two Things” but the Two Things about Computer Science and the Two Things about Software Engineering given are:

Computer Programming:

  1. Every problem can be solved by breaking it up into a series of smaller problems.
  2. The computer will always do exactly what you tell it to.

Software Engineering:

  1. Writing the code is the easy part. Writing it so someone else can understand it later is the important part.
  2. Make it work, then make it elegant, then make it fast.

I’m not sure these are the end all and be all and I have a mind to explore them at some length one of these days. But I thought they were worth sharing in “raw form” to see if I can get some conversation going. Are these right? Are there two more important things? Is it even helpful to have the computer programming and software engineering divide?

The other post is 20/20: Top 20 Programming Lessons I've Learned in 20 Years subtitled “This post could be viewed as hard lessons learned for newly graduated college students, entry-level programmers, or advanced developers who just want a chuckle.” Also not a new post but I just discovered it. There are some 60+ comments which may add value as well. I like this list although, as with many such lists, I’m not sure all of them would be on my top 20. But then each individual has a different experience and a different idea of what key learning's are.

The Programming Proverbs I wrote about with a link to each post is here:

  1. Define the problem completely
  2. Think first, Program later
  3. Use the top-down approach
  4. Beware other approaches
  5. Construct the program in logical units
  6. Use procedures {methods}
  7. Avoid unnecessary GOTO's
  8. Avoid side effects
  9. Get the syntax correct now, not later
  10. Use good mnemonic names
  11. Use intermediate variables properly
  12. Leave loop variables alone
  13. Do not recompute constants within a loop
  14. Avoid implementation-dependent features
  15. Avoid tricks
  16. Build in debugging techniques
  17. Never assume the computer assumes anything
  18. Use comments
  19. Prettyprint - format your code so that it looks nice
  20. Provide good documentation
  21. Hand-check the program before running it
  22. Get the program correct before trying to provide good output
  23. When the program is correct, produce good output
  24. Re-read the manual
  25. Consider another language
  26. Don't be afraid to start over

Monday, October 25, 2010

Welcoming Andrew Parsons to the US Academic Team

The latest person to join the US Academic Developer Evangelist team is Andrew Parsons. Andrew is moving from the other side of the world (Australia) to work with colleges and universities around the New York City area. He’s been doing that sort of thin Down Under for several years and we’re all pretty excited to have him join the US team.

Andrew talks about the move on his blog at - NYC, here I come!

He also talks about his first big New York City event - NYC Imagine Cup Kick off - Inspiring students to change the world for the better - If you are a college/university student in the NYC area I hope you’ll sign up for Andrew’s event, learn about the Imagine Cup, and welcome him to the States. BTW Andrew is and has been one of the “captains” of the Imagine Cup Game competition so knows a ton about XNA and game development. And of course about the Imagine Cup!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Introducing the Microsoft US Academic Bloggers

I'm part of a group of people at Microsoft who work with academics all across the country. A number of them have active blogs and I thought this might be a good time to introduce them to others. For each blogger I have their name which is hot linked to their blog, a picture, and a link or three to recent posts that I think people will be interested in. I hope you will visit some of these blogs, subscribe to any that look interesting and get some real value from them.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Interesting Links 27 September 2010

Last week I wrote a post about the Imagine Cup. (Imagine Cup–Solving the Worlds Problems Through Software) A couple of things I should have mentioned about it though. One is there is a chance for students who enter to win an Xbox 360 console with the new Kinect each week to one random Imagine Cup registrant .Read the full rules at Imagine Cup Rules. The other thing I should have emphasized is that the Round 1 quizzes for the Information Technology (IT) Challenge have started. You can get the full schedule at IT Challenge web site. It’s not to early to work at qualifying for Round 2.

Brandon Watson @BrandonWatson announced that Visual Basic is now available to support Silverlight development for the  WindowsPhone7. Visual Basic Comes to Windows Phone 7 As a big VB fan boy from way back this is pretty exciting to me.

The World Wide Innovative Forum is coming up this week in South Africa. Leading up to it Tony Franklin has been posting some guest posts from the US teachers who are going.

@weemooseus Twittered a link to a post by a student who wrote up his list if the Top 5 AP Computer Science Tips. It’s an interesting list with some good suggestions.

What does your school need? The team at Bing is running a contest to provide money to schools. Check the program out here. Learn more about Bing programs for educators, visit

In other links, Ken Royal @kenroyal had an interesting article on  Top 25 Ed Tech Trends. Well worth the read.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Most Popular Posts From August

It turns out the be complicated to figure out what the most popular blog posts are for a particular month. There are two sets of data I look through. One set, from Feedburner, shows (in theory) the top number of posts read by subscribers to this blog. The second set of numbers, from the hosting service, shows (again in theory) the top posts as read by web browsers. There is a lot of similarity in the two lists but it is not exact. For one thing the web traffic comes in large part from search engines. It looks like a lot of people in August were searching for things related to “What do you do on the first day of class” which led them to a post from September 2007! My posts from July of this year on Visual Programming languages and the new Microsoft Technology Associate certifications also received a lot of web traffic in August. The top 5 based on being on both lists is below though.

  1. Non-Myths About Programming
  2. Computer Science is NOT Boring!
  3. Free Microsoft Office Add-ins for Education
  4. Windows Phone 7 Sample applications
  5. Girls, Games and Software Development

I hope you’ll read through these if you missed them. Many of them have some comments which are often well worth the read. I encourage you to add your opinions to those and any other recent posts. And of course any I post in the future. Comments make it all much better for everyone. Are any of your favorite posts from August not on this list? Or any you think were worthless? I could always make a least popular list but somehow I think I would find that less personally satisfying. Smile

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Interesting Posts 30 August 2010

One of the things I tell people when they ask me about why I came to work for Microsoft is that the company has grown up in many ways over the years. One of those ways is in giving back to the community both in general and education in specific. For example, last week it was announced that Microsoft  Is Helping to Launch National Day of GiveCamp. What is Give Camp?

GiveCamp is a weekend-long event where software developers, designers, and database administrators donate their time to create custom software for non-profit organizations. This custom software could be a new website for the nonprofit organization, a small data-collection application to keep track of members, or a application for the Red Cross that automatically emails a blood donor three months after they’ve donated blood to remind them that they are now eligible to donate again. The only limitation is that the project should be scoped to be able to be completed in a weekend.

(Note you can follow Give Camp on Twitter @GiveCamp)

An education specific effort from Microsoft is called EduConnect. @Microsoft_EDU blogged about EduConnect on a blog post titled  Microsoft giving back to schools via EduConnect. This is a program Microsoft has been building to help employees volunteer in and give aid to their own local schools. It’s been growing by leaps and bounds because a lot of Microsoft employees really want to help make education better were they life – and else where.

    A Computer World article called 5 indispensable IT skills of the future has caused a lot of discussion among both educators and professional developers. Are these the right skills and what is the right way for students to get them to prepare for careers. And what does everyone not an IT professional need to know about IT skills?

    Like Puzzles? Check out this new project from Microsoft’s @FUSELabs team Short version of what it  is – a chance to work on a crossword puzzle with your friends no matter where in the world they are. Very cool. Also a great example of what cloud applications may look like in the future

      NASA Announces High School Competition for Future Engineers: Design Software for Small Satellites on the Space Station. If you or students you know are interested in space based projects check this out. But do it soon as signups close in a couple of weeks. I have to hand it to NASA as they are really invested in educational programs.

      The Microsoft Kodu team ran Kodu Kamp at Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond WA recently. There is a new blog post with lessons and pictures from the events.  By all reports a great time was had by all. besides young students the event included some hands on time for teachers to learn about Kodu and its potential in the classroom.

        My manager, Bob Familiar aka @bobfamiliar on twitter, blogged about Bullet Asylum - Missile Command on steroids for Windows Phone 7. The post includes a video trailer.

        Microsoft Surface meets Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio at U. Mass Lowell. In a nice synergy of Microsoft tools the robotics program at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell uses hand gestures on a Surface device to control the operation of robots. (hat tip Microsoft Robotics Studio blog)

        You can watch the video to see how smoothly it works. Visit the Robotics Lab web site for more information on work in progress.

          Last week I wrote a post for the Educators’ Royal Treatment titled "Do We Need To Teach English In School?" In the article I posit that the arguments that we don’t need to teach computer science in schools to “Digital natives” apply just as well to teaching English to native English language speakers. Comments welcome and encouraged.

          One final reminder, if you are using Twitter I hope you will follow me, Alfred Thompson at @AlfredTwo. I’d love to follow you back so send a tweet my way. Thanks.

          Sunday, August 22, 2010

          Interesting Links Post 23 August 2010

          Happy Monday! Are you back to school yet? A lot of teachers are. If you are back I hope it is going well. If not yet, are you working out to get into “teaching shape?” The Principal’s Page had a post about that last week - Teacher Tired. Well in my attempt to be useful here is my weekly round up of interesting links I have found over the last week or so. I hope you find something helpful and/or interesting. I think this week’s selections are better than average.

          Back to School: Making Sure Students with Disabilities Can See, Hear, and Use their PC Find out about a free guide that helps ensure that all students have equal access to learning with technology. Microsoft’s new Accessibility: A Guide for Educators

          Some interesting things on Scratch this week. Hélène Martin (on Twitter @purplespatula) wrote a post about Scratch BYOB which lets you create higher order functions in a drag and drop environment. Why Build Your Own Blocks? Worth a read. Stacey Armstrong asks and answers Can Scratch be used to teach AP Computer Science topics? Stacey knows quite a bit about the APCS exam so I pay attention to what he says. Scratch and several other tools are highlighted in a post on the ReadWriteWeb called 4 Tools for Teaching Kids to Code. There are some quotes from me about why teaching computer science to K-12 students is important as well.

          Students will be interested in the new Microsoft Facebook page for Technology students -

            Lindsay Lindstrom (@LindsayInPhilly) asks and answers  Why choose computer science on a blog post.

              Garth asks if we’re asking to few tech teachers to do too much? I think we probably  are. Read CS and Teacher Education for more.

                There is an official Small Basic Enthusiasts page on Facebook. Join today! Some interesting looking Small Basic tutorials at  Also Lynn Langit has been recording companion videos for here Small Basic Recipes at the Small Basic wiki.

                  Ready to start programming for Windows Phone 7? You can find the keyboard mappings for the Windows Phone 7 emulator at Keyboard Mapping for Windows Phone Emulator. You can also check out 12 hours of free video training on Windows Phone 7 development. Short on time? Take a look at Windows Phone 7 in 7 Minutes.

                  Microsoft Research Interns range from High School students to PhD candidates - Interns Bring Fresh Perspectives

                  Sunday, August 08, 2010

                  Interesting Links 9 August 2010

                  What a week. My son was married a week ago. I picked him and his bride up from their honeymoon last night. In between I took a trip to Texas for a Microsoft conference and celebrated my birthday while away. At least my bride was with me and I was able to meet up with my brother and sister in law who live in Texas. But a crazy week. I still managed to collect a few good links though. And if you didn’t see it I listed my 10 Most Popular Posts June and July 2010.

                  From Jean-Luc David (@jldavid) and others I found links to Bill Gates - In 5 Years The Best Education Will Come From The Web. I’m skeptical. There are too many people problems to work out. Plus I think that a lot of the best learning comes from people actually being together.

                  The Microsoft Accessibility web site has been rebuilt and reopened.  They want everyone to know that accessible design can be beautiful. This is the first stop you should make if you have differently able students you want to help or if you want to teach students about accessible design.

                  Speaking of differently able people, @iRobotSPARK, lead me to this article called Robot Speaks the Language of Kids. Robots are being built and programmed to work with autistics students. Yet another example of computer science and engineering making a difference in the world.

                  From @MSTechStudent (follow them on Facebook at  If you need assistance in creating amazing games, here’s a XNA Game Studio 4.0 CTP & Education Roadmap.

                  Cy Khormaee recently blogged about high school computer science teacher Pat Yongpradit being selected to participate in the 2010 Microsoft Worldwide Innovative Education Forum in South Africa!

                  Related to that my new manager, Bob Familiar (@bobfamiliar) wrote about the Innovative Education program in the US at a post titled Exceptional Teachers Recognized at the Microsoft 2010 U.S. Innovative Education Forum

                  If you are interested in conferences at all, I made some random conference observations in a recent blog post on another blog.

                  Oh and Tara Walker from the US Academic team has started blogging again. Drop by Tara’s blog and see what she is sharing.

                  Sunday, July 25, 2010

                  CyKho is back

                  CyKho is back! Cy Khormaee has reopened his blog at You can also follow Cy on twitter  @CyKho though we need to get him twittering more.

                  Monday, July 19, 2010

                  Highlights of the Week ending July 17

                  Most of my blogging goes on at other blogs. Last week I posted several at my main high school computer science blog and once at the Educators Royal Treatment. Here are the links.

                  Assessment and Trust (Educators Royal Treatment)

                  [Tavis Smilley] asked what was wrong with a plan that would get rid of the bottom 10% performing teachers in the city. The answer boiled down to the union and its teachers not trusting the principals and other administrators to be fair in their evaluation.

                  High School Computer Science Blog posts

                  Little Orphan Computer Science

                  The never ending debate over where Computer Science fits in the curriculum continues. Mark Guzdial asks why computer science is not in the latest set of STEM standards from the National Academes of Science ( What are we? Chopped liver? CS left out of...

                  Advice For An Imagine Cup Team

                  The following is a guest post by Pat Yongpradit. Pat is the computer science teacher at Springbrook High School in Silver Spring, Maryland . His students competed in this year’s Imagine Cup in the Game division and were one of the top 10 teams in the...

                  Microsoft Research Illuminates Mars in 3-D With WorldWide Telescope

                  Cool stuff for us space nuts. It’s a database project with a difference. Microsoft Research has joined with NASA to create a new 3D way to experience Mars. Press announcement at Microsoft Research Illuminates Night Sky and Mars in 3-D With WorldWide Telescope...

                  Interesting Links 12 July 2010

                  I’m up early this morning to take a flight out to California. I’ll be presenting at the annual CSTA CS & IT Symposium tomorrow. I’m very excited as I hear there is a full house expected. Since I was on the program committee (and highly honored to

                  Friday, July 02, 2010

                  Team USA Heads to Poland to Compete in the Imagine Cup

                  Well the USA may be out of the World Cup but that’s not the only international competition going on these days. The Imagine Cup is a (some would say THE) major student technology competition in the world and the international finals are taking place in Warsaw, Poland. And the US is still in that. And represented by some truly outstanding young people from universities and even one high school.


                  Team USA, ably headed by  Randy Guthrie (including Tom Ziegmann our Student Insider) is off to the Worldwide Finals starting, July 3rd to compete, collaborate and celebrate with students from 70 countries to solve the world’s toughest challenges with software- for all the action check: The 2010 competition started with more than 325,000 high school and university students registering across more than 100 countries and regions. Among this elite group of students, there are 5 outstanding teams from the United States, which ties Taiwan and Brazil with the most teams representing their countries in the finals. Of course a personal favorite of mine is TEAM BEASTWARE who won the Windows Phone 7 “Rockstar” award from the US. You have to love a high school team who can hold their own against university students. If that doesn’t give you some hope about the US education system I don’t know what will!

                  Who are Team USA? Here’s an introduction to the teams who will be representing the United States in this final round:

                  1.TEAM MOBILIFE (Software Design) using Windows Phone: Kayvon Ghaffari, Wilson To, Helena Xu from University of California, Davis; University of California, Los Angeles; University of California, San Diego

                  The Mobilife project introduces innovative application technologies into the market of mobile medicine by pairing the widely-available Windows Mobile platform with computer-assisted intravital microscopy to provide on-field analysis of the human microcirculation to detect developing microangiopathy in children using a cellphone. This non-invasive, in-vivo procedure will provide doctors with information on a patient – enough to pre-diagnose different vascular diseases such as type-1 diabetes mellitus, pediatric hypertension, and sickle cell anemia. Mobilife’s technology offers a scientifically-validated approach that cost-effectively provides accurate microcirculatory information to diagnose vascular diseases in children.  See a video of Team Mobilife’s project on the People’s Choice website.

                  · 2.TEAM VACCINE (Embedded Development): Patricia Day and Shawn McGhee from the University of Arkansas, Little Rock

                  · This project is aimed at helping children around the world. There is a potential to save tens of thousands (or more) children from preventable diseases by providing a mechanism to the World Health Organization, Unicef, Doctors Without Borders, Kenya Partnership, and others to allow for effectively recording/tracking of immunizations in remote regions of least developed and developing countries.

                  3. TEAM ONEVIEW (Touch and Tablet Accessibility): Shaun Kane and Kristen Shinohara from University of Washington

                  OneView is a Tablet PC-based application that enables students with varying abilities to collaboratively create, read, and edit diagrams. OneView provides a synchronized multimodal interface (visual, audio, text) that allows each student to use their preferred interface mode while collaborating with other students with different abilities. OneView enables pairs of students, either blind or sighted, to collaboratively view and edit diagrams. Using a single Tablet PC, a blind student can use an accessible audio interface, while her sighted collaborator uses a visual interface.

                  4.TEAM NOTE-TAKER (Touch and Tablet Accessibility): David Hayden and John Black from Arizona State University

                  Note-Taker is a portable, custom-designed hardware/software assistive device that improves the accessibility of higher education for students who are legally blind or have reduced vision. The Note-Taker Application allows low-vision users to view streaming video of a classroom presentation while, at the same time, taking notes in a split-screen interface with Microsoft OneNote. Much like their sighted peers, low-vision users can rapidly look between their notes and the board. Whereas fully students glance up or down, low-vision students using the Note-Taker need only move their gaze from one half of the display to the other. The Note-Taker Camera is a custom-designed USB camera that can be precisely pointed to any location where a whiteboard or digital projector might be located in a classroom, relative to the student desk. The camera provides 36x optical zoom and streams video to a tablet PC. Users can control camera positioning and zoom through intuitive tapping, dragging, and multitouch pinching gestures applied directly to the streaming video display. The Note-Taker Camera and Application has been used in class for more than 200 hours by students who are legally blind.

                  5. TEAM BEASTWARE (Windows Phone 7 “Rockstar”):  Christian Hood and Eric Lo from the Advanced Technologies Academy high school in Nevada  (also won our high school “Bliink” competition earlier this year)

                  The project is a 2D game that involves the player controlling a machine that destroys other machines by using the accelerometer. The objective of the game is to destroy as many enemies as possible before the health runs out. The player has three different actions they can perform which are shoot, repair, and defense. The shoot action fires bullets in the direction of the machine. The repair action restores a small amount of health instantly. The defense action reduces the amount of damage taken for a short period of time.

                  Friday, June 18, 2010

                  Critical Thinking

                  Friday is not the day to talk about thinking. I think a lot of people in general and students in particular are looking to stop thinking right about now. But critical thinking skills are something I feel is really important so when I learned today that Microsoft has a bunch of resources for teaching critical thinking including a free e-book it seemed worth a blog post of its own. (Note that this is only the latest of a series of Teacher Guides for use in the classroom from Microsoft Education)

                  [Microsoft] developed this critical thinking and web research curriculum with the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE).

                  Lesson plans include prerequisites, rationale, essential concepts, and descriptions of related National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) and are designed for beginner, intermediate, or advanced levels, aimed at middle school and secondary students.


                  Students have more information at their fingertips than ever before, yet the challenge remains for them to find, evaluate, and apply the information they discover in the classroom and beyond.

                  Applying critical thinking skills through web research can help students:

                  • Improve search skills.
                  • Evaluate the information they find.
                  • Incorporate them in their work.

                  Explore the ready-to-use curriculum below, including detailed lesson plans, student worksheets, and class demonstrations on:

                  • Mechanics of searching
                  • Validity and reliability
                  • Plagiarism
                  • Citing web sources
                  • Civil discourse

                  Download the Critical Thinking e-book

                  Monday, June 14, 2010

                  Interesting Links 14 June 2010

                  Is school done for the year where you are? Here in the northeast of the US there is another week or two to go. Teachers are finishing up the year, getting their grades done, graduation events are everywhere and I think many teachers are looking to take some time off before even thinking about next school year. Others though are planning their attendance at ISTE (Microsoft and me at ISTE), getting ready for summer workshops or otherwise thinking about how they will prepare for next year.

                    On the O’Reilly forms is this interesting discussion on teaching programming to kids The usual suspects (Kodu, Alice, Small Basic, Scratch) all come up.

                      Speaking of Small Basic - Small Basic 0.9 is out .Now supporting 15 different natural languages! Wow!

                      Here is a video that tells how to make your own movie with Windows Movie Maker by Joey deVilla and Junior. Kids will get a kick out of it. Maybe some summer project ideas for your own kids?

                      From Alex Courosa (@courosa) This link to a game for color nerds. The site shows the Hex code for a color and several color samples. Your job is to identify the color with its Hex code. Not so easy unless you are a real color nerd. Web developers will want to test themselves though.

                      From Sam Stokes (@SocalSam) a blog post on Silverlight games on Win Phone: Rotate that triangle,

                          Nice video demo of designing ideas with PowerPoint including photo editing and animation. Seriously the animation at the end is worth the trip!

                                Who says today’s youth can’t change the world? Vote for world’s best student project.

                                  The IC2010 Windows Phone 7 Rock star award results are out! Gotta love it when a high school team beats out a bunch of college teams :-)

                                    From @TechFTW: Check out what it’s like to be an intern at Microsoft with the My Life @ Microsoft video series

                                      I love the blog post called Deeper Conversations by Doug Peterson (@dougpete) on how blog comments can lead to useful professional development. The comments are often the best and most useful part of any blog post. I know that people add a lot of value to my posts when they comment. If you have something to say, please say it! The conversation is what it is all about.

                                      Thursday, June 10, 2010

                                      New URL

                                      My main blog, which has most of my posts, now has a new URL because of a migration. Please link to for my high school computer science education blog. Thanks.

                                      Monday, June 07, 2010

                                      Interesting Links 7 June 2010

                                      I tried to take most of last week off. Well I guess I actually did officially take most of the week off but somehow I spent more time than I should have on email and Twitter. Perhaps I have a problem. :-) But I didn’t really blog and I avoided most real work. I even made it to the beach for a while. So I feel somewhat rested. The rest of the month will be very busy with ISTE coming up as well as some local events in New England. I did Tweet and otherwise collect some interesting links to start your week off. So here they are.

                                      Rob over @TeachTec has been reminding people that Microsoft will be having lots of activities at ISTE. Join our Hyatt sessions including. breakfast with a  tour of Office 2010 & Web Apps Microsoft at ISTE for all the details. I really hope to see many of you there!

                                      From the wonderful people at MIT who bring you Scratch  (on Twitter @scratchteamScratch wiki: by and for Scratchers is now out. The Scratch wiki itself is at

                                      From the official Microsoft twitter account a link to a video demonstration of new Windows Live Essentials features that make it easier to organize, connect and share online.

                                      New on the Faculty Resource Center is a new XNA Lab in a Box This is a great getting started lab that was developed to train faculty in Europe. It’s in English BTW. :-)

                                      New on the Dot Net Rocks internet program is an interview with Lynn Langit (@llangit) and Llewellyn Falco on teaching kids programming.

                                      From Microsoft’s Internet Safety team (@Safer_Online) came a link to a great video on how to use Windows parental controls. I wonder how many people even know that Windows has parental controls?

                                      Kathleen Weaver (@kathweaver) follows the @MSFTCrabby Twitter account and retweeted this link to - Crabby's Daily Tip: You can use Office for THAT? — Plan your wedding with Office Now when you think about it that has possibilities for combining teaching students about planning in general, about weddings in particular, and about using software to help with it all. I could have used this when I took “Marriage and the Family” in college. :-)

                                      Monday, May 31, 2010

                                      Interesting Links 31 May 2010

                                      It’s Memorial Day in the US and today we remember and honor the men and women who fought and died for our country. My Dad is a World War II veteran and has been relating some of his stories from that war. A lot went on and in his earlier days he never shared this much.  I’m glad to know it and it really brings the sacrifices the military has made over the generations real to me.

                                      Most people in the US have a holiday today and so do I. I wanted to keep to my usually blogging schedule though. So here now some updates and interesting links.

                                      From the Kodu team via @mmaclaurin and @scoy6 I learn that there is a new build of Kodu out with PC updates.  Information on their blog at PC build 1.0.48 is live! Get it here: Kodu Game Lab - Technical Preview

                                      From Mark Drapeau (AKA @cheeky_geekyShuffleboard: A Windows Phone 7 Sample Game XNA based and a preview of an upcoming Coding 4 Fun article.

                                      danah boyd (@zephoria) had an interesting post titled: Deception + fear + humiliation != education about an ACLU complaint regarding a police officer "safety" lesson) We need to teach students how to be safe on the Internet but we really need to make sure we are honest about it. And it can’t be all about fear and humiliation.

                                      I really liked this post by Garth on his CS Education blog - Programmers need to [be] smart and stupid, at the same time. “I keep telling my kids if you are going to write code you have to design smart and code stupid” An interesting perspective on coding and design and getting the messages through to students.

                                      From @innovativeteach and the UK Education team a new Blog Post - 'Bing - Visual Search, teaching questioning skills

                                      Don’t confuse visual search with image search, visual search is about finding information using images rather than a keyword. imageBing has number of visual data collections, some of which are ideal for creating learning opportunities for pupils, especially in developing questioning and analytical skills.

                                      To use Visual search, go to and click Visual Search on the menu on the left-hand side



                                      My friend and go-worker Randy Guthre (@randyguthrie) wrote a new blog post: - Using Self-Marketing to Maximize Out-of-Class Project Impact on your Resume Out of class projects can be a very powerful in getting job interviews and actual jobs. Students can use social networking and other tools to leverage these projects to market themselves. Randy tells how it can work.

                                      Plural Sight Online is offering their training at half off for educators on their Pluralsight On-Demand! .NET Training Courses. Plural Sight is one of the top training organizations. How good? Well Microsoft frequently hires them to train Microsoft employees. If you are interested visit their web site and contact their marketing people for details.

                                      An interesting story on a blog post by Cameron Evans, the national technology officer and CTO for Microsoft Education in the US, called PowerPoint Inspires a High School Student to Computer Science This is the story of how one application was an inspiration to one person to enter the computer science field. Pretty cool story really.

                                      RT @TeachTec is offering more Tech Tips to close-out the school year. See his post  of the Top 8 tips

                                      From @Safer_Online Who asks “Holding an online safety event? Microsoft offers FREE resources you can download and use.”

                                      BTW I finally made someone's top 20 blog list - The Top 20 Teacher Blogs Apparently this and several dollars can get me a cup of coffee. If I drank coffee that is. :-) Still it always feels good to be noticed and there are some really great blogs on that  list.

                                      Monday, May 17, 2010

                                      Interesting Links 17 May 2010

                                      I have quite an eclectic mix of links this week. Some career information, some Windows Phone programming links, Internet safety, school IT information and more. I hope you’ll read through it all and find something that is useful to you. If you are interested in more frequent update you can follow me at @AlfredTwo on Twitter. Send me an @ reply if you are on Twitter and read my blog so I will be sure to follow you back!

                                      First a couple of IT and ICT links for you. I found this list of Worst practices in ICT use in education from a World Bank blog via the CSTA blog. Both the World Bank and CSTA posts are worth the read. Over at the Educators Royal Treatment, Ken Royal (@kenroyal) blogs a 7-Step District IT Checklist.

                                      Some good news and some bad news about high school computer science. The good is a great program at Georgia Tech High called Operation Reboot: IT Professionals Become Computer Science Teachers. On the down side, Mark Guzdial writes about high school CS teachers under fire It is about how budget cuts and teacher layoffs are setting high school computer science back by pretty much removing it from the curriculum. It seems like HS CS takes one step forward and two steps backwards at a time when we really need some steady movement forward.

                                      Speaking of the need – Two interesting salary reports came to my attention last week. On was Global Knowledge's 2010 IT Skills and Salary Report Download. Interesting that the average salary for respondents was $82,115. The other was a report on the 25 best-paying jobs for women. There was a gender gap in income – something that never stops amazing me as it makes little sense. On the good side the smallest gap wad for computer software engineers. Even nursing had a larger percentage gap between men and women with men making more.

                                      The SaferOnline Team from Microsoft (@Safer_Online) Sent out a couple of useful links:

                                      On the development software side of things, check out What's New in Visual Studio 2010

                                      My friend Sam Stokes (@SocalSam) had a couple of blog posts last week about developing for Windows Phones.

                                      I also found and tried out a the windows phone snowflake demo game from the XNA Creators Club.

                                      From the Teacher Tech blog and @TeachTec: Partners in Learning has a free site to set up communities. Join now and $1 goes to the Boys & Girls Club.

                                      From the UK Innovative teachers program (@innovativeteach) “Want some great ideas of How to use Excel across the curriculum? Try our Innovids” I also blogged about that and other videos in my post last week on Programming and Excel.

                                      BTW happy "Syttende Mai" to my friends and family in Norway. (It’s Norwegian Constitution Day)

                                      Monday, May 10, 2010

                                      Interesting Links 10 May 2010

                                      You have to love the Internet and especially twitter. You can hear about things that you’d never hear about from the main stream media. For example, from Andrew Parsons (@MrAndyPuppy) I learned that there is an official Geek/Nerd Pride Day - May 25: Geek/Nerd day Information and Geek/Nerd Day Facebook Page. Not sure I am a big fan of the list of rights and responsibilities on the Wikipedia page but it is an interesting idea none the less.

                                      Looking at the network logs for links to this blog I found this list of the Top 50 Computer Science Blogs I’m pretty happy to have made this list. There are some good blogs on it but I really think there were some missing. Mark Guzdial’s Computer Science Education blog and Eugene Wallingford’s Knowing and Doing just to name two. There are several other good CS blogs in the blog roll on the side of this page (click to the blog if you are reading via RSS)

                                      Speaking of other good blogs, Hélène Martin reminds us that while loops are more complicated than we sometimes remember  with a post titled While loops gone wild. She talks about some of the things she does to teach indeterminate loops and what works or not at times.

                                      A lot going on around the Internet on women in computer science last week. For example, from Derrick Love (@Dlove03) i spotted a link to a blog post titled Computer Science Lacks Women, Minorities. Dan Lewis on the CSTA Blog writes What's Different About Boys' and Girls' Interest in Computing? And Mark Guzdial writes about Women in CS in Qatar: It's Complicated. That last one is particularly full of surprises. If you are all interested in computer science perceptions in different cultures it is a must read.

                                      Interested in contests? From @ScholasticTeach I learned that you can join the Partners in Learning Network by 6/30 for a chance to win a Dell computer lab for your school. Hey, it’s all free!

                                      A bit about professional development and other events. From Liz Davis (@lizbdavis) I learned that there is a Creative Computing workshop for  Middle & HS teachers at MIT. Looks like it is derived from the CS4HS curriculum plan developed initially at Carnegie Mellon. Should be a good program.

                                      Liz also twittered about the Scratch at MIT Conference in August: and  Scratch Day on May 22nd. Registration is now open at

                                      Speaking of Scratch – Gail Carmichael writes about Scratch and Eighth Graders on her blog. A good blog to follow BTW. Also she has some great links to resources including many that she used with her eight grade students. Worth the visit just for all those links.

                                      From @Safer_Online I learned about some Free printable online safety brochures available for download. Take a look – you may have a use for them.

                                      Last but not least, I have a new post at the Educator’s Royal Treatment today - Four T’s That Spell Trouble for Technology Adoption In which I talk about some of the issues that get in the way of implementing technology programs in schools.

                                      Monday, May 03, 2010

                                      Interesting Links 3 May 2010

                                      Last week was a struggle for me both blogging and otherwise. A lot of stuff going on at work and at home. Plus of course I spent a lot of my blogging energy on the Imagine Cup. I loved being at and blogging about the Imagine Cup though so it was worth it for me. I really hope a lot more top notch high school students give the IC a try next year. Hopefully we can come up with some ways to make that a but lighter weight for HS students though. The Windows Phone Rockstar award contest is still open to new entries BTW.

                                      I have some longer single topic blog posts planned from this week but I do want to list some interesting shorts and links that I have found though. I hope you find some (even one maybe) that you can really use.

                                      It's Teacher Appreciation Week - Thanks so much to all of you classroom teachers out there! In honor of this the TeachTech blog (ideas and resources for your classroom) is featuring guest posts from @TeachaKidd @EmergingEdTech @CoolCatTeacher @web20classroom @LarryFerlazzo

                                      Speaking of teachers - Garth Flint (who comments frequently on my blog) has a new blog of his own called Garth's CS Education blog. One of his early posts is  and Interesting review of a bunch of programming languages and their usefulness in first CS courses. I like his discussion of what makes up a good first programming language as well. So go read his blog and add it to your RSS reader or list of favorites. This is going to be a blog worth following. Trust me!

                                      Next some contest stuff for teachers:

                                      There has been some changes to the Submission form for 2010 Ypulse Totally Wired Teacher Award Sponsored by Dell. You may want to check that out.

                                      If you are on Twitter you can follow @MouseMischief for a chance at winning a Mischief Classroom Kit.

                                      Mouse Mischief integrates into Microsoft PowerPoint 2010 and Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2007. See some videos at the Mouse Mischief blog.

                                      • Reason #1 to use Mouse Mischief in your classroom: “It actively engages students and supports collaborative learning.”
                                      • Reason #2 to use Mouse Mischief in your classroom: “Improves classroom management and overall student participation.”
                                      • Reason #3 to use Mouse Mischief in your classroom: “It’s familiar to use and easy on the classroom budget.”

                                      We take humor very seriously here at Microsoft and think it is important in Education as well. See Microsoft's Guide to Humor which is one part of a “complete set of professional development competencies that we developed with educators for educators. Seriously.”

                                      I’ve been saying that game design programs attract students and the Washington Post reports that it is working at George Mason. Anyone surprised?

                                      From @Microsoft I find this post “Prepare today for jobs of tomorrow” on “The Hill” written by Microsoft’s Fred Humphries. It says that 75% of jobs in US in next decade will require some tech skills, but only 13% US adults have them. I do not think it is safe to assume that today’s students have them either!

                                      Online safety stuff? I see that the Boy Scouts have added two gamer awards for Cub scouts. Hat tip to @MrAndyPuppy for the link.

                                      And from @Safer_Online: Microsoft publishes its latest Security Intelligence Report. Some great insights there!

                                      Fun video by Joey deVilla AKA @accordionguy  Developer Jr. with Joey and Junior take a look at Kodu. Hat tip @shap for the link

                                      Professional Development?

                                      From @KidReporter and@DanKasun: Students see the forest through the tweets - Imagine Cup 2010 One last (for a while) Imagine Cup story

                                      From @CACMmag End of an era? The end of something. Sony will stop making floppy disks by March 2011. Wait? Someone still makes floppy disks?

                                      Wednesday, April 28, 2010

                                      Interesting Links 28 April 2010

                                      As promised here are a bunch more links that I hope you will find interesting and useful.

                                      The CSTA blog had a couple of recent posts of interest:

                                      Lynn Langit (@llangit ) is a developer evangelist at Microsoft who has a passion for education as well. In a recent post she talks about Volunteering as a Comp Sci Teacher – How To It’s an interesting look at how to volunteer to teach and what it is like for a professional developer type to do it. Also check out her Teacher-for-a-Week post that tells the story of her recent experiences at the Girl’s Middle School.

                                      I found a bunch of videos on new things in Office 2010 for teachers:

                                      Looking at Windows 7? Highly recommended. If you are or if you have it check out 67 Windows 7 tips, tricks and secrets  I found things I didn't know here. Some cool stuff!

                                      I’m a big fan of FIRST Robotics. The regular season is over but I found this list of FIRST Robotics post-season events run by local teams. If you haven't been to one you should go and see one.

                                      From @CapstoneEdu is an interesting looking conference event event May 6th in Cambridge, MA.

                                      Capstone Partners and Microsoft are organizing an event to discuss the education landscape from K-12 to Post-Secondary and how technology will change the experience in the future.  We will discuss challenges schools face in competing with online programs, business models that are emerging to improve education (not just test scores), and technologies that disrupt the status quo.  Topics will include:

                                      • student retention
                                      • lecture capture
                                      • cloud computing & info security
                                      • tools & apps: wikis/ phones/tablets
                                      • online proctoring
                                      • open-source textbooks
                                      • learning management systems of the future
                                      • distance learning across borders

                                      Register: They really need more real educators to show up and make sure they don’t go too far afield I think.

                                      The @scratchteam has a  new video with an overview of Scratch 2.0.

                                      Don’t have enough time for social media? You may find this post that answer the question How Do Busy Leaders Find Time for Social Media? interesting. It was written by Michael Hyatt (@MichaelHyatt) who is the CEO of a major publishing company. And related to that Doug Peterson asks about teacher’s online footprints at 404 Educator. What do people find when they search for you

                                      Tuesday, April 27, 2010

                                      Interesting Links 27 April 2010

                                      I twittered up quite a storm last week. Much of it was because of the US Imagine Cup which I was also blogging a lot about. I was also putting updates on the Microsoft Facebook account. The Imagine Cup was flat out busy but much fun and much excitement for me as well as all involved. I did find a bunch of useful links to share though. I apologize for them being so late this week but, well, I was busy.

                                      First a couple of Imagine Cup links to highlight:

                                      Looking for girls in technology? One of the very interesting people I met at the US Imagine Cup was Genevieve L'Esperance  Geek girl and video blogger. Gen is a teenager from Montreal, Quebec. Gen has a bunch of video posts and interviews on her blog GenINC.

                                      Garth Flint has an interesting review of of programming languages and their usefulness in first CS courses. You may also find his discussion about what makes a good first programming language to be interesting as well. Garth’s blog is new but its off to a great start. I recommend subscribing.

                                      A couple of workshops to recommend. There will be a workshop on Alice at Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi in June. And a High School (AP) Computer science teachers workshop at Carnegie Mellon Judith Hromcik is one of the presenters at CMU. I’ve known Judy for years and there are few people who know more about AP CS than she does.

                                      I’ve got still more to write up but they’re going to have to wait for tomorrow.