How we teach teachers to teach programming

The computing education blog poses a long list of research questions in computing education. I was going to quote my favourite, but the whole post is worth reading…


Scraping the Flood (or another reason to code)

The River Thames has spilled into the flood plain (which is what flood plains are for) and the local footpaths now look like this:

Thames flooding between Benson and Wallingford

Being generally inquisitive, and also wondering when I’ll be next able to walk into Wallingford, it would be useful to know whether the river is rising or falling. Is there an easier way that walking down to the river every couple of hours with a depth gauge?

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Express for Web

I’ve been using Aptana Studio for teaching webby development stuff because:

  1. It’s free
  2. It’s a real IDE with auto-complete, syntax highlighting etc.
  3. It supports HTML5, CSS, JavaScript
  4. It has an integrated debugger, which even works once you’ve teased Firefox and Firebug to cooperate

But it’s heavy. So heavy that for my own stuff and for demo’ing to students I’ve stuck with Notepad++

I’ve just spent 15 minutes playing with Visual Studio Express 2012 for Web (having been pointed that way by the news that Expression is dead) and, I think, we’ll be rapidly moving to that for future webby development.

  1. It’s free
  2. It’s a real IDE with auto-complete, syntax highlighting etc.
  3. It supports HTML5, CSS, JavaScript
  4. It has an integrated debugger which just works
  5. It supports a design view
  6. It’s not as heavy (not light, just not as heavy)


It might also be a decent replacement for the editor we use to teach basic web page design especially as the progression from visual editing to markup editing would be within one product.

All I need to do now is hope our managed service provider can cope with it…

Fizz Buzz

@danielstucke asked for little programming tasks around conditionals and loops.

I suggested the Fizz Buzz challenge.

is a group word game frequently encountered as a drinking game. Players take turns to count incrementally, replacing any number divisible by three with the word “fizz”, and any number divisible by five with the word “buzz”.

Before reading on, try it. Go on, write some code that plays Fizz Buzz.

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Free hacker school

Here’s an interesting model. Programmers get to go to school, for a very specific education, for free. The provider, in this case Hacker School, gets paid by taking a recruitment fee from the employer…

Hacker School is free as in beer. This is possible because startups pay us to recruit. If after Hacker School you want a job, we will help you find one. If you don’t want one, or you’d prefer to search on your own, that’s fine too.

It looks like a great way for start-ups to build a pipeline of appropriately skilled talent. From the other side the model also helps ensure that as an educator you’re providing students with exactly the skills and attributes a subset of employers need.

Reading about the model, I was reminded of the talent pipeline Microsoft built, hiring straight from college (university) into big impact product teams like Windows and Office. No better place to learn and hone a skill set.

Small companies and start-ups don’t have the recruitment power and internal strength of companies like Microsoft. So Hacker School’s approach is a nice twist.

I’m not sure how well this translates to secondary schools in the UK. How would you feel if your school budget was based on hiring decisions of local employers? Would you feel any different if it also factored in offers from college and university admissions tutors?