The Microsoft Visual Studio Middle School Power Toy 1.0 was originally created by Microsoft China to help meet the curriculum needs for teaching programming in that country. According to regulations/policies of China’s Ministry of Education (MOE) almost all Chinese high school students need to learn computer programming. Bring that up at the next meeting you attend where the need for programming/computer science is questioned! But I digress. This week the English language version of these tools were made available.
The Power Toy is a set of five tools that add into Visual Studio to help beginners. These tools are a free download. Three of the five work equally well with both Visual Basic and C#. Two of them (the assistant class designer and flow chart creator) only work with C# at least for now. The following descriptions comes from the download page. I plan to have individual posts on each of these tools in the very near future.
- The Visual Sort Designer Control is a supplementary teaching tool developed to help middle school students learn the basic concepts, algorithms, and implementations of popular computer sorting algorithms. It supports bubble and insertion sorting. The control generates initial values automatically and demonstrates intermediate states in the sorting process. It also generates sorting source code for both Visual Basic and C#.
- The Visual Search Designer Control is a teaching tool developed to help middle school students learn the basic concepts, algorithms, and implementations of popular data search algorithms. It supports binary and sequential searches. The control generates initial values automatically and demonstrates intermediate states in the searching process. It also generates source code for both Visual Basic and C#.
- The Visual Declarative Designer is an intuitive variable declaration tool designed for novice programmers. During the coding process the student can declare variables of various types and generate the corresponding source code. Visual Variable Declarative Designer provides a visual approach to variable declaration. Teachers in the Information Technology (IT) field can use this designer to teach students the basic concepts of variable declaration and naming, variable types, access modifiers, and initial values.
- The Assistant Class Designer is a visual class designer intended for novice programmers such as middle school students. During the design process, students can easily add classes, properties, methods and events. The designer also generates source code that can be inserted into a project and modified as needed. By using this class designer and code generator, complicated classes can be easily created and configured. The Assistant Class Designer provides an intuitive approach to designing classes and helps students to understand key object-oriented programming concepts such as classes, encapsulation, inheritance, and polymorphism.
- Visual Programming Flow Chart is a supplementary teaching tool designed to help students understand program control flow. It generates flow charts for functions and saves them in the JPG picture format. This tool is easily activated from the Visual Studio Integrated Development Environment (IDE) by simply right-clicking on a function name and choosing “Generate flow chart…” from the context menu. The resulting flowchart can be customized by changing its colors and other effects. This visual tool provides an intuitive way to explore source code, to examine its control flow, and to identify logic errors.