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.