Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

TEALS at MGX (and on YouTube!)

I talk about the TEALS pilot program at the 2:05 mark. This was shown during Microsoft's annual Global Exchange sales / marketing event.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

TEALS is in the classroom!

After a summer of hard work, TEALS is finally in the classroom as of this week. Along with the newly completed Issaquah High School (a cross between MS Research and a Galleria), 4 new MS teachers will be teaching in the brand new labs with our brand new(ish) curriculum we worked on over the summer.
For everyone but me, teacher orientation day itself was new and exciting. I totally forgot how many questions about school and teaching I had just logistics-wise. For me, I forgot how much I missed teaching, even though it was just summer break.

Friday, June 25, 2010

TEALS plows forward (and I have to assign homework to adults)

TEALS is now well into the lesson planning stages. Both the APCS and Web Design classes have a pretty good idea of what the school year will entail. It's funny, made it's a Microsoft thing, but I have to set milestones during the summer so we're all project planned out for "RTM (Release To Market)" when the school year starts. I have the teachers writing up their syllabussesseses and having them try out various projects they will be assigning during the school year.
In other news, I have finished a ThinkWeek paper on the topic, and currently getting it peer reviewed before submitting.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Hmm, almost a song for a for loop

If only Feist can add a little more to the song, it could be about a for loop doing a bit of i++...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Bay Area doesn't care about Redmond

(Robbie Bach and J Allard pulled a Nicholas Cage / John Travolta from Face Off)
On a day that we saw Apple take over MS in market cap, the San Jose Mercury rubbed an extra handful of salt in an article on the MS Entertainment and Devices division shake up.
Microsoft is sometimes Redmond-centric, the Merc just plain too busy to check the MS press kits.

The Cube is back!

(Franken-cube, Apple G4 Cube with newer keyboard and Dell monitor)
I'm back in CA for one of my high school friend's wedding and it turns out one of my parents' Dell desktop from a couple of years ago gave up the ghost. Since I had a Apple G4 Cube around from before I went off to grad school, that's now their desktop. A 10 year computer running upgraded OS 10.4 Tiger is a little poky but doing its job web surfing, playing music and organizing pictures. The Cube is maxed out at 1.5GB RAM and has an upgraded HD, hate to imagine how much it would have been back then. I upgraded all of that later when it was much cheaper.
After all this time it still looks like it can be exhibited at MOMA and do cameos in Ab Fab, About a Boy and Royal Tenenbaums. Ahhh, the year 2000.
I'll let YouTube take us on a trip down memory lane...

What should be in a high school intro CS class?

I have always thought that intro CS should be taught alongside the other three big high school sciences, namely Biology, Chemistry, and Physics.
It does seem like there are more school that are looking into re-vamping their typing / how to use office apps class with something more solid. Some of these school have AP CS, some don't, some makes the typing / app class mandatory with a test out option. They are usually a semester long.
In the current school year, I have been fortunate to be able to teach two of these one semester classes and tried out various teaching strategies and projects (sans typing and app). I think for a semester long introductory class to computer science and technology should have these basic elements:
1. Application usage (Office + Photoshop).
2. How everything works including binary math, digital circuits and logic (building them with kits), computer components, software, and internet basics. Of course this would also include history of how these things came to be.
3. Programming concepts and game design using Scratch / StarLogo or similar intro syntax light visual programming language (any sort of LISP is a big no no).
4. Intro programming using Java introducing ideas of OOP.
I think these ideas can fit into a semester long class, I will try it out next year and see if that's a realistic aim and where on the depth vs breadth chart each of the topics can fall into.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

TEALS set to go

TEALS (Technology Education And Literacy in Schools), TechEd has been taken a long long time ago by a worldwide MS conference.
After a couple of informationals at Microsoft attended by around 60 people, we ultimately received 10 applications for four positions to teach at Issaquah High School.
The Advanced Math class did not get enough enrollment to warrant a class, but both AP CS and Web Design had overwhelming responses from the students. So much so that I realized that we might have to go to a college lab assistant model. That's how we ended up with four open positions. Each subject will have a teacher and a lab assistant.
The resume review process was hard to select who we wanted to interview and I felt pretty terrible for having to turn people away from teaching. This will only drive me more into expanding this program down the road. The interview took place on Monday and the four candidates we felt who were best fit for the positions all accepted.
For the next few weeks, I will be getting together with both teaching teams to start on getting text books selected, course laid out etc... I am very excited to work with these four amazing and enthusiastic people who share my passion in technology education.

One more month of school

My one semester long CS class is getting closer to the finish line. The kids have their tic-tac-toeprograms finished. We have started to watch WarGames in class as a reward for their hard work in the past few weeks. Of course, none of the kids have seen the floppy drives or the 300 bits/s acoustically coupled phone modems in the movie. Naturally, Tic-Tac-Toe plays a big role in the movie.

Funnily enough, this week, another Fox show featured Tic-Tac-Toe. A chicken who plays TTT in a riverboat casino that Cleveland has to clean up after.

Up next is making a half adder and full adder using the Radio Shack kits that we just recently got. That should be pretty fun and close out the semester.

Friday, May 14, 2010

EduConnect All Star

So it turns out this TEALS thing is starting to take off. I'm rather giddy about it actually. Anyway, got selected as Microsoft EduConnect's All Star. I will also be in a video at MGX (internal MS sales and marketing conference) and doing an EduConnect webcast as well. Hopefully TEALS will get a lot more exposure this way and get some more momentum inside the company and surrounding schools.

I will be conducting interviews with Issaquah High School for the positions next Monday. Very excited, can't wait to see the demo lessons.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Ivory Tower vs Microsoft, the revisit and rethink

A while back, by a while back, I mean in 2006. I had a choice to make, to continue in education academia get a PhD or go work for Microsoft on an online collaboration service. 4 Years into it, I am looking at the choice once again.
(The Sign In App on the right was my feature)

At Microsoft, I have been the Program Manager for Microsoft Business Online Services since its inception. We built a group from nothing to a service that's now regularly uses by millions of customers world wide. In my spare time, I have been able to teach CS on the side, take education classes at UW, and most recently start up the TEALS pilot program.
(notice the book talk on the Computer Club House)

In my recent visit to NYC, I think I might have briefly fell in love with the idea of a PhD program and the atmosphere of graduate school again. NYC has this amazing energy and vibe that just does not exist anywhere else. Columbia itself is sort of an oasis in the city. Best of both worlds maybe. I visited Teachers College and it did remind me of what I liked about graduate school.
It's always been a struggle for me between on the ground impact I can make vs bigger picture theory. So very very torn... Then reality hit me, beer in NYC is $8.

Monday, April 26, 2010

TicTacToe makes it to the Simpsons

On last night's Simpson's (season 21, episode 19), they did a parody of children's games films (I think Monopoly and Battleship will actually be made into movies). Appropriate since the project this semester is TicTacToe.
Some favorite lines:
"The one who controls the center controls the board", Dune reference to He who controls the Spice, controls the Universe?
"I love you RomeO", "I love you JulieX". RomeO get crushed by X shaped star ship, JulieX screams "TicTacNoooooo!".
Anyway, that's relevance for ya. Or at least CS projects and pop culture relevance.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010


My Technology education and literacy pilot at MS took a very positive step yesterday. We were on MSW, the Microsoft internal website (see pictures below). The turn out was great, and the room was packed. I think we'll get enough interest to start the pilot next year on the right foot. To be continued...

Friday, April 02, 2010

Evolution of CS class tshirts

Over the past few years of CS teachin', I have had some good class shirts bought / made. The first one is pretty obvious. The kids all wore it during their AP CS test. The scores and TShirts agreed.

Think back to the early 2000's, what can make CS cooler than a Hollister class tshirt? Letting the student know that they should relax during the AP test. This laid back approach to AP test taking also worked out pretty well.

Lastly, this year's CS shirt. The black square thing is a 5 inch floppy. The kids in the class have never seen one. Oh well, at least it's on their shirt. I need one that says coach on it.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

CS classroom dynamics

Since I got to teach 2 separate semesters this year, I noticed that class dynamics between the kids affects their learning quite a bit.
The first semester kids were very open and willing to try things, and really into learning about CS. As a result they learned more. The current class of kids were more the traditional good students. They are smart, and great students, but not as open to collaborating with others as the first semester kids. When they get stuck on a problem, they tend to not ask how their classmates approached the problem, but internalize it and wait until I ask them if they are stuck. They are also a little more scared of getting things wrong instead of just trying it out. I'm not sure if this dynamic was there to start with or something I did differently.
Either way, I need to change it and get a more open and collaborative environment going.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

TEALS is underway

In addition to teaching, I realized that I really need to scale myself out. The STEM in education problem will not and can not be solved by me alone. So with that in mind, I started a pilot program at Microsoft in conjunction with the Issaquah school district to bring 3 MS employees to teach part time at Issaquah High School.
The plan is to find one teacher for each of the following classes:
- Web Design
- Linear Algebra
I have to say, it is amazing how much the administration makes a difference. The IHS administrators are the most awesome and open minded bunch of guys and gals I know. It is their willingness and flexibility that makes the pilot program possible. We will have internal MS recruiting sessions in the coming weeks. In addition, IHS has also announced the program to the school community at large. I am very excited to say the least.
Oh TEALS stands for Technology Education and Literacy in Schools. Anything with Tech or Ed has already been taken up by MS's annual conference called TechEd. I still remember one year it was in Boston when I was in grad school and everyone had a TechEd backpack on the T...

Saturday, March 13, 2010


For the new semester, instead of the Fraction Calculator, the project has been change to a TicTacToe game. While the underlying concepts the students have to apply and implement are very similar, we'll see it does better.
THe transition from Scratch to Java has not been entirely easy. Some students in the class are still having issues with the structure of Java programs. One part is giving it some time, the other is just having them thinking in very clear CS mode. They still thinking in English terms and directly put that down the best they can into Java, instead of filtering it with what methods and techniques they have learned and then putting it down as Java code. Once again, time would correct that, but in a one semester class, there isn't much of that.
I am also toying with the idea of doing a mini-project using the RadioShack hobby kit I used as a Harvard TF to demo binary adders. I had initially considered the easier to use snap on kit, but turns out there just isn't enough real estate on the board to do an adder. So back to the kit with the breadboard...

In a way, I'm using this class to figure out 2 things. One is what a high school level general intro CS class should look like, and what should go into the 1st semester, and what should go into the 2nd. If the adder segment goes will, we will use it again next year.
Oh yeah, UPrep has a 2 week long spring break. I'm not sure how that will affect the project, but we'll see.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

From Scratch to Java

So we have now transitioned from Scratch to Java. Picture == 1000 words...

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A new semester, new tweaks to class

A new semester has already begun. The students have finished the Scratch portion of course. We are starting to going into Java, however, the students range from Freshmen and Juniors. There is a difference in foundation in the understanding of how computers work and how they think logically. I plan to infuse a bit more of how computers work as we learn Java. Should be interesting and hopefully will turn out well. For example, we are starting to look into how Java primitive ints work underneath the hood. We will see how 32bits limit the positive range up to 2^31-1 before it turns negative etc...