What are you using?

I blog about a lot of resources here and I’m curious about what sorts of things teachers are finding useful. In some ways I am shooting arrows in the air with no idea where they come down. In other words, what things are people finding useful? What courses and age groups are people using the things I blog about? Is anyone out there? OK I know there are people out there. I get statistics (raw numbers with no detail) that tell me people are reading. And from time to time I get an email or a message from the contact form that tells me someone is using something. But generally I don’t know how much is actually being used.

Yesterday Garth Flint (Loyola Sacred Heart High School, Missoula Catholic Schools in Montana) left a comment on my post about Small Basic curriculum that he will be using those presentations in his intro programming course. In fact he is going to directly use it to put the students to work.As he said in part:

The scheme is to have the kids critique the PowerPoint slides and the curriculum overall.  Of course that means they will have to learn the SB along with writing comments about the curriculum.

That’s a pretty interesting way to use the resources. And I think it will work out well for him. On a personal note though it let me know that someone was following the link, finding something potentially useful and trying it out. It’s the sort of thing that really helps me keep going. So if I could ask a personal favor or you? If you have found something I have blogged about useful and used it in a class or used it to create or make a change to an existing class would you please leave me a little comment here?

Just a few lines about what resource, where/how you used or are using it and if you feel like going public your name and school. Of course if you want to write more that would be great as well.The more information I have the better the job I can do about sharing information and resources that are genuinely useful to teachers. Your comments may just give someone else a good idea as well. Thanks in advance.

Comments (4)

  1. Reynold Redekopp says:

    Thanks for your comment about using VB to teach CS. We have been exploring ways to teach CS without making it just another math course and trying to find ways to keep students in high school CS without sacrificing integrity. It requires a high level approach to ideas and less focus on the details of coding. rredekopp.blogspot.com

  2. Garth says:

    Dang, I was hoping for some great ideas from this post.

  3. AlfredTh says:

    Garth, I was hoping for a lot more in the comments here as well. Very dissapointed. At least I tried!

  4. Garth says:

    Loyola Sacred Heart High School please.  

    By far my best resource is Google.  Being a private school operating on a department budget of $0 we have to dig for the freebies.

    1.  I have used Rob Miles C# book (http://www.robmiles.com/c-yellow-book) with juniors in Programming 2/3 with mixed results.  The kids thought it was boring and I did not think it taught them to solve programming problems.  Tutorial type books do not seem to deal with problem solving, only with learning a language.  I will use it again because it is comprehensive, methodical, the price is right and it does a good job of introducing the language.  

    2.  Our Programming I kids are using Scratch (http://scratch.mit.edu).  These are main-stream kids, not programming geeks.  They are having fun and learning some programming fundamentals along the way.  For me this is the primary purpose of Programming I.  There are a lot of teaching aids on the Scratch site.

    3.  The Programming I will switch to Small Basic (http://smallbasic.com/) in the beginning of November to give them a taste of a line code language.  For SB I haunt the SB Forum (social.msdn.microsoft.com/…/threads) .  The SB site is the best.  Lots of teaching help and the forum is really active.  For a free product this is incredible.

    4.  Depending on the class the Programming I kids sometimes get into the Lego Mindstorms robots.  Lego has a graphic language of their own but it can be a real bugger to work with sometimes so I am not too crazy about it.  The passing of variables with little wires can be a bit difficult sometimes.  I like to use a language called RobotC (http://www.robotc.net/) with the robots.  It is C based, easy to use but not free.  There is a good set of basic tutorials on the web site.  There is also a limited time demo of the language.  The forum (http://www.robotc.net/forums/) is pretty good.

    5.  For Programming II we started a dual-credit program this year with the local College of Technology using Visual Basic.  I am using their text “Programming in Visual Basic 2008” by Bradley and Millspaugh.  Comprehensive but very dull and uninspiring.  Kids really do not get into writing a program that tracks shipping information.  Boring.  There are so many more interesting ways of teaching basic concepts of VB.  Last year I used the smallbasiclibrary.dll from Small Basic so the kids can do turtle graphics with VB.  Turtle graphics are really nice for teaching loops and sub procedures.  Much more entertaining than building a GUI for a shipping firm.  Some clever soul with more time on their hands than I needs to write a VB book for high school students that is interesting and educational.  Something with graphics, games, and/or robotics as the end goal.  The present offerings do not attract or keep kids in the field.  If a book is out there I cannot find it.

    I have the attention span of a two year old so I am always looking for new material for the kids to use and keep me interested in what I am teaching.  I have never had a programming class do the same thing two years in a row unless it really worked well.  Teaching at a private school allows me to do this; I do not have a curriculum committee other than me.  The drawback is that I always have to look for new material, to find the greener grass so to speak.