Archive for September 26, 2009

Operation Reboot: Georgia Tech Looks To Shift Unemployed IT Pros into Teaching Careers — THE Journal

The AP picked up a story about Barbara’s new Operation Reboot project, and it’s popping up in lots of places now: Georgia Tech Looks To Shift Unemployed IT Pros into Teaching Careers — THE Journal.

The particularly brilliant part of Barbara’s plan, which isn’t getting picked up in the stories very well, is that she’s putting the unemployed IT workers into the classroom as soon as possible to team-teach with a business teacher who wants to learn how to be a computing teacher.  Both team teachers want to become computing teachers: One knows IT and wants to learn how to be a teacher, and the other is a teacher who wants to learn IT.  The result isn’t just 30 new high school CS teachers.  It’s 60 well-trained teachers. Very cool.

September 26, 2009 at 5:41 pm 1 comment

What if computer science was required?

I’m at the ACM Education Council meeting in Vancouver this weekend.  One of the topics of conversation is whether the ACM should push to make computer science a required subject in US high schools.  The argument is that computing education will only be taken seriously (e.g., receive funding, get teacher certifications and standard curricula, get treated well by No Child Left Behind) if it was a required subject, like other sciences and mathematics.

I finally did read Lockhart’s Lament that Ian Bogost talked about in his recent blog post.  Lockhart’s essay starts out with a painter and a musician having horrible nightmare’s about their subjects becoming “required” and how that meant draining all life out of the subject until it was an easily taught and easily measured husk of a subject.  Lockhart’s point is that this is exactly what has happened with mathematics.  I found his essay interesting, but ultimately, defeatist and even narcissistic. Lockhart complains about how badly his beloved mathematics is treated. Yet he offers no way out, no solutions for balancing the demands of compulsory education at a national scale and the desire to keep the art and soul of mathematics. His despise for teachers and education schools makes it unlikely that his arguments will have any sway with them in making things better.

Still, I think he raises excellent points to consider for computing education.  I work  on the Commission to design the new AP exam in Computer Science, and it’s hard to define the test scope and range exactly enough to make a standardized test, and yet still encourages students to explore and be creative with computing.  If computer science were made a mandatory subject, it would have to be dissected and classified and standardized even further.  Would a computer science requirement be the death of the “Beauty, Joy, and Awe” (in terms of the popular SIGCSE presentations) of computer science?  Is it a necessary process that defining a subject in NCLB terms means reducing it to a husk of its former self?  How can we teach teachers to meet the standards and still ensure that what’s interesting about computing remains — even if we can’t come up with an observable standard that would demonstrate that “students find computing creative and fun”?

September 26, 2009 at 9:28 am 26 comments

HyperCard for the Web

I am a long time HyperCard fan. My 1993 dissertation was on the design and evaluation of an environment I built in HyperCard to have students learn physics and programming by building simulations (in HyperTalk).  I built a commercial media composition tool MediaText in SuperCard, a HyperCard clone.

If the Apple claims are true, HyperCard still is the most successful end-user programming environment ever.  HyperCard was included with every Macintosh that Apple sold from 1987 to 2000. I’ve heard a claim that 1/3 of all Mac users actually tried programming in HyperCard — literally, tens of thousands of Hypertalk experimenters. If that’s true, then more people have programmed in HyperCard (at least a little bit) than probably any other programming language.

I still play with HyperCard-like programs when they come out (like PythonCard and Revolution), but haven’t really used any of them much.  They seemed stuck in an old model of what applications are about. When I or my students try to use them for something new, they regularly break on us. They don’t have the flexibility of the original HyperCard.

I’m having fun playing with the new version of Revolution, revMedia from RunRev. The interesting thing about this version is that the editor is now free, and the stacks live inside the Web browser.  They’ve built a plug-in for MacOS and Windows (and they promise Linux, too).  It works pretty darn smooth — the stack just shows up inside the browser, period.

Technically, there’s nothing new here. The Squeak plugin put EToys in the browser years ago, and Scratch‘s website is enabled by a really nice Java applet to run Scratch projects.  What’s fun for me is simply seeing HyperCard live inside the browser.  HyperCard has a bunch of really interesting ideas in it that are still not matched by anything else today, so it’s exciting to be able to play with those ideas again in a modern setting.

September 26, 2009 at 9:05 am 9 comments


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