There are a lot of very interesting computer science topics that typically have to wait a while before being taught. Or that people have to learn a whole lot of “plumbing” to use. Among these are things like XML, RSS, and using maps (the where things are sort of maps). Popfly is a very cool mashup tool that lets people use those tools without writing code so it makes sense that it can also be used to help teach those concepts/tools in an academic setting. Or just for enthusiasts who are working to learn on their own.
Well now there is help. Actual lessons, developed by an actual teacher (in this case someone who has actually taught this stuff in a freshmen level college course), for use in actual classrooms. And of course for free. From the description at the Popfly wiki:
Mark Frydenberg at the Computer Information Systems Department at Bentley College in Waltham, MA has created a series of nine lessons about creating Popfly mashups. They are not tutorials. They won’t tell you what to do without telling you why you’re doing it. Each lesson illustrates a basic software development concept – such as structured data, logic, and iteration, or describes how to build a software application that relies on XML, RSS, or mapping data.
So if you are a teacher jump right in and get in ahead of your students. I honestly believe that some lessons like this can help build interest in more formal computer science courses. So use them in an applications course or an introduction to technology course or perhaps just point students who you think might be interested in going deeper to them and cut them some slack time.
Oh and while I’m at it, if you have already tried Popfly (or just been thinking about it) you may want to visit the Popfly team blog to read about some of the new things that were added with the July update. Also over at John Montgomery’s blog you can read about and play a new Popfly game called crayon cannon.
[Edit: Mark pointed out that I forgot to say that I knew him. I've actually sat in Mark Frydenberg's classroom while he taught so I've seen the quality of his teaching first hand. He's a really good guy and a good teacher and Bentley is lucky to have him.]