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.