So You Want to be a CS Teacher? Part 2.

October 8, 2015

(Why two parts?  The post was getting a bit long.  I do not read long posts so I figured no one else does either.)

To be a CS teacher you have to realize CS is not like teaching any other subject.  It simply evolves too rapidly for a high school teacher to be an expert.  You spend hours and hours cruising the internet looking for things you understand enough to teach.  You pick a couple of programming languages to learn half way decently.  One for Programming I kids (Small Basic, Scratch or the like) and one for the more advanced kids (Python, Java or something you have time for) and maybe one for fun like Corona or Game Maker.  You search the blogging world for people who teach at the level you do, have comparable assets and have good ideas they like to share.  Why are you spending so much time on the internet looking for ideas?  Because the choice of good high school level text books is real close to zip and you are usually the only CS teach in the school so there are no convenient brains to pick.

You must realize that being the CS teacher means you know everything, and I mean everything there is to know about computers and servers and cell phones and projectors and copiers and Smart boards and, in my case, the #$%&* school bells.  In a big school you may not need all this but in a small school you are it.  You had better be familiar with Chromebooks, Windows in all its versions, Apple stuff (iPads, iPhones, Macs, iTunes accounts, Apple @#$% Configurator), and making simple and not so simple repairs on laptops.  (Hey, that sounds like the IT departments job!  In many schools the CS teacher is by default the IT department.)

To become a CS teacher you have to spend a ridiculous number hours debugging some little program in a language you are learning so the kids will get a chance to see something new.  You also discover that teaching code is the easy part.  CS is not programming.  CS is program design and using a computer to solve problems.  CS is teaching kids to think.  Good luck with that.  Teaching CS also means you have to teach the kids how to troubleshoot computer hardware and software issues.  “That is what school tech support is for.”  (Giggle, chuckle, laughter, louder laughter, roll around on the floor laughing too hard.)

To be a CS teacher you have to realize there are going to be kids that are just smarter at this than you are.  Live with it.  You have to pick their brains.  You make them teach you and the rest of the class.  You figure out what that kid needs to know to go to Carnegie-Mellon (or MIT or CalTech or where ever) and you find somebody to help them because you sure do not have time to do it.  Remember, you teach for a living.  But later when that kid comes by with the job of designing VR software for a company you never heard of and is making more in a month than you make in a year you do get to take all the credit.

A CS teacher has to realize there are no jobs in CS teaching, at least compared to everything else the average high school offers.  Even the bigger schools usually only offer a couple of sections of CS.  So to be a CS teacher you have to teach something else.  No choice.  That lovely and ideal CS plus Education degree is not worth a whole lot as a standalone.  You will have to get a degree in math or science or English or basket weaving if you want to teach CS.

As a CS teacher you have to know you are in competition with every other elective in the school.  CS is almost never a required course.  CS is not easy for the kids.  It involves work and thinking which is not a real winner for an elective.  The average kid is going to take pottery instead.   The number of computer geeks in any school is very low.  Small numbers in an elective means the elective will go away.  Be sure you enjoy that other teaching field.  If you want to continue teaching CS you get imaginative.  You offer a game programming course, usually in a language you know nothing about until you dreamed up the course.  Suddenly you have more kids than computers.  It is all in the marketing.

So my advice if you want to be a CS teacher is to forget it.  Be an English teacher.  The burn out rate is so high on them there are always jobs available.  CS education has very few jobs available, is hard to ever feel “qualified” in, is very difficult to find any kind of pre-service or in-service education in, involves almost as much work as an English teacher (the reason they burn out), and at the moment is very unsecure.

There is the little detail that teaching CS can be more fun than anything else you might teach and may be the most immediately useful subject to a high school graduate but does that really count?

So You Want to be a CS Teacher? Part 1.

October 7, 2015

It is interesting to read various blogs on NYC’s proposal to have every student doing CS in 10 years.  Both Mark Guzdial and Mike Zamanski have comments worth reading on the subject.  As is pointed out the elephant in the room is the lack of CS teachers and CS Ed programs.  Qualified CS teachers, not two week wonders.  So how do you become a CS teacher?  Here is how I did it.

I was being interviewed for my first teaching job.  It was in Winifred MT.  One hundred kids K-12.  Out in the middle of nowhere.  They were interested in hiring married couples.  So my wife and I are getting the guided tour through the school.  The superintendent shows me the room I would be teaching in if I were hired.  Sitting along the wall were three Radio Shack TRS-80’s with the packing material still stacked next to them.  He asks me if I knew how to run “them things”.  Now in college I had had a math methods teacher who was into computers.  We had spent quite a bit of time with Apple IIe software and Apple Logo.  I had also take a FORTRAN course instead of the foreign language.  Since the wife and I needed jobs and me not being afraid of anything I said “Sure!”.  Ta Da!  I am a programming teacher!  Not really a CS teacher but close.  After 5 years of Winifred, TRS-80s and Apple IIes we moved back to the big city of Missoula.

The wife immediately gets hired to teach middle school.  Me, I get hired to tune skis and bicycles.  So I figure I will get my masters.  The VA was willing to pay and I got on as an adjunct instructor in the math department at the university.  (They were having a little problem with math adjuncts that had never taught or did not speak English.)  I got the masters done and was having fun being an adjunct and working on bikes.  I was still not paying tuition so I figured I would dabble in some CS classes and maybe get a minor.  I still wanted to get back into the high school so I figured a minor in CS Ed would be handy.  Imagine my surprise when U of M did not offer such!  So I wandered into the CS department chairman’s office and asked if he would offer one for me.  Imagine my surprise when he immediately agreed.  (Lots of surprises going on here.)  With three new classes (one designed by me) and previous course work I walked away with a CS Ed minor.  One of two given by U of M.

After ten years of adjuncting and bike mechanicing with a six month detour into the world of commercial software I had to get back to real teaching.  While at a friend’s wedding I was chatting with a guy I did not know.  He was the athletic director at Loyola, the local Catholic school.  Loyola HS wanted a math teacher who was interested in getting a CS program going.  There was an extreme shortage of CS “qualified” teachers for the job who were willing to accept private school pay (about one half public school pay).  Poof!  I am a full blown CS teacher.  Fifteen years later I am still trying to justify the full blown part.  I am still mostly in the “poof” stage.

So how do you become a CS teacher?  You do not wait for the local university to come up with a program and you do not do some online course work.  You do not spend a fortune getting a CS degree and an education degree.  (OK, so that is the best option but be real.)  What you do is you find a school that is interested and you find some students and you jump in feet first.  If the local university offers something, grab it.  If there is something online that looks worthwhile, do it.  But for heaven’s sake to not wait for magic to happen.

I was bore watching an update so I figure I would babel.

October 3, 2015

It is 3:00 Saturday and here I sit in front of my computer at school.  Powerschool came out with an update that may take as long as 4 hours.  I hope not.  The weather is crappy outside but it is still good enough to do a mountain bike ride.  Since I have been helping coach girl’s varsity soccer I have not been able to get in my usual 2 weekday rides in.  I am getting out of shape rapidly.  Those weekend rides are important.  I would have gone earlier today but I helped with the JV game.

We wrapped up the traffic light program last week.  As usual there were mixed results.  Two kids walked through it with ease.  One kid struggled but succeeded.  One kid went down in flames.  The flamer absolutely refuses to figure out the logic of the program before trying to type code.  He and I will work through most of the logic on the board then when I suggest he finish the logic on paper on his own he tries to coding the incomplete solution we discussed.  There seems to be a certain level of mental maturity required to program, he has not reached that level yet.  Good kid, not stupid, just not mentally mature.    The first two “get it” quickly, can figure the logic in their head on the fly and pretty much code a solution from their head.  Number three kid needs help but with very little hand holding gets there.  I will have to do more hand holding for number four.  He wants it so bad.

I am teaching sophomore Math II again this year for the first time in 4 years.  It is not going well.  These are the kids that struggle with math.  Good kids but just not mature or really sharp.  I can tell I have been teaching seniors and computer geeks too long.  My ability to handle people, never a real winner, has taken a dive since Iraq.  It is a constant struggle to interact with these kids in a way that suites their needs.  They are 15 years old, I cannot expect them to act mature or to be self-driven.  It does not help that these kids are totally ambivalent to math.  They do deserve to get the best and I will have to figure a way to get myself up to their needs.  It is a challenge and I do fairly well at challenges.  I will sit down with the other Math II teacher next week and get some of her methods.  She is much more structured than I am so maybe I will have to adapt to her methods.

Oracle is grinding away at updates as I type.  I have a friend that works for Oracle in Bozeman.  He is an upper level project manager.  He is counting the days to when he can retire.  He says the place is full of over driven alpha types doing 70 hour weeks.  Not fun.  I am planning to move into his house this summer with a bunch of friends so we can ride the Bozeman trails.  I am sure his wife will be excited by the opportunity to feed and entertain 5 or 6 visitors.  Hopefully he does not mention this plan to her until we show up on the porch.

Oracle is “Executing post-patch SQL”.  Whatever that is.  I love the little progress reports as this update bubbles along.  They have no real meaning to the watcher since it is going to do whatever is has to do and the watcher is not going to mess with it.  One of those over driven alpha types at Oracle should rewrite the progress reports as a poem or short story.  Be a lot more entertaining.

Oracle is done.  1.5 hours.  Not bad.  Now I have to do the Powerschool update.  PS does not usually take that long, it just crashes for stupid reasons that takes their tech support an hour and several levels to figure out.  Working on PS brings a certain anxiety.  If something goes wrong (and it has before) there are no attendance, grading, lunch counting or records.  It is all backed up but rebuilding the server takes a couple of days.  The result is panic in the streets.  I had the PS virtual computer go spastic on me last year.  Took almost a week to recover and repair the server.  There was panic in the streets.  Not good.  Like I said, a certain anxiety.

Next week we start with Python in the programming class.  I like Python.  It does so many things.  Turtles, Lego Mindstorms, animation, and so on.  Very versatile.  I require the kids to do the installation.  Not trivial.  Python 3.5 does not work with the editor we use (PyScripter) and PyScripter is 32 bit.  It takes some troubleshooting to get it working.  I also have an excellent book, “How to Think Like a Computer Scientist: Learning with Python 3” by Wentworth, et al.  If we get bored we can do something new with it.  I will tell the kids to use Python to get the Lego robot to go through a maze.  I do not give them the add-on module, how to program the robot or how to flash the Lego brick.  They are on their own.  Google is great.

Hey!  PowerSchool is up and working.  Only one minor moment of panic but the Retry button worked magic.  Time to head home.  Maybe dinner and a movie with the wife.

A Happy and Sad Day in the Life of a School Techie.

September 25, 2015

I got to school this morning and immediately got a message the elementary school library data server had an issue.  After unburying the server (covered with books on a bottom shelf) I looked at the message on the screen.  “Missing or corrupted file”.  Always a bad one.  The server is running Server 2000 on a 1998 era standard computer.  I am absolutely amazed it lasted this long.  I tried to repair it with Server 2003.  Nope.  I informed the high school librarian (the only one we have) I was not going to do anything with the server other than cart it to the dumpster.  There was no backup.  She was sad.  I have been telling her for 10 year she need to go to a web based card catalog instead of the 14 year old software on 15 year old computers.  She was sad some more.  I told the elementary principal he had no more library data.  He was sad.

One of the elementary teachers could not get Win 10 to install on her laptop.  She had one bar of wireless.  I hard wired it and disabled the wireless.  I will check Monday if it installed.  She seemed happy.

The elementary art teach has a dead hard drive.  Can I recover her files for her?  Maybe.  I will stick the hard drive in a computer as a second drive and hope.  I have been telling the staff for 5 years to save their stuff to the cloud in case their hard drive croaks.  She is sad.  I am sad for her but do not have any sympathy.

While I was working in the elementary building the bells rang.  No problem other than they would not shut off.  The maintenance man shut them off.  For some reason I am the bell fixer guy.  I bolted out of the elementary building and went to the high school.  I was happy.

A computer in the French room was “acting up”.  Whatever that is.  It would not “act up” for me but I deleted some old software just to say I did something to it.  Everyone was happy

I worked on PowerSchool for about an hour trying to get the new immunization to print on the transcripts.  I contacted PowerSchool support.  He said the ones that do print should not.  He will have to do some research to figure out why those do print and then try to figure out how to get the new one to print.  I love it.  I am happy is was not my usual stupidity with PowerSchool.

The Athletic Director calls.  The machine that paints lines on the soccer field was acting up and would not paint any more lines.  (I am NOT the paint line machine fixer guy.  I have the skills but enough is enough.)  I got some cans of paint from Ace Hardware and painted them by hand.  My back hurts and I think I sniffed too many paint fumes.  I am buzzed so I must be happy.

The day is almost over.  I now get to go watch the boys play soccer on my fresh lines and then help coach the girls’ team on my slightly used fresh lines.  It is 80 degrees out and I rode my motorcycle to school.  I am very happy.

After the games I will head home on the motorcycle.  That will again make me happy.  When I get home I have a fresh growler of beer in my fridge.  I will sit, watch some TV, drink a beer, eat some chili and try to decide if I am going mountain biking or motorcycling Saturday.  Whatever I do tomorrow it will have to involve motion because being stationary after the chili the night before would be a bad thing.  I will be real happy.

Microsoft and Education: The end of an era is coming.

September 22, 2015

A couple of big threads of conversations going through the Montana school techies are Chromebooks and Google Apps.  A lot of the schools are looking at or actually in the process of deploying Chromebooks.  A number have already deployed them and are have success with them.  For schools with limited money and tech support (all schools?) they are a no brainer.  The cost can be as low as half of a Windows laptop and they are extremely easy to setup and manage remotely.  Although I am not a fan, most of the software I teach with is not browser based, I do have to start looking at Chromebooks for our aging labs.

I have been re-installing Windows 7 on a number of ate up computers lately.  So of course I start thinking about what is going on in the world computers and applications in education.  (While installing five computers worth of Office, anti-virus, Adobe Reader, etc the mind tends to wander.)  Looking through the small view of the world Montana offers I have to say Microsoft is losing the education war, in a big way.  The simple comparison between Office (or Office 365) vs. Google Apps is an example.  I looked at Office 365 for the school.  Not simple, not free.  Google Apps is simple and free and it integrates with our free Gmail.  Google Drive vs. OneDrive.  Google drive automatically works with those free Google Apps.  Google drive also has unlimited storage for education accounts.  Now on to the tablet wars.  The big three are iPad, Android and Windows Surface.  For education the iPad is just a royal pain.  The handling of accounts for a group of classroom sets is awkward too say the least.  Android tablets are almost up to the level of the iPad for apps, are very easy to manage, and each kid can have their own account (browser login) and they are cheap.  The Surface was never intended for schools and the price will guarantee they stay that way.  Then there is Google Classroom.  For the price (free) it is unbeatable for a classroom management system.  And Exchange?  Why bother?  Gmail does the trick, requires no server and is free.

Perhaps the biggest factor is in-service training.  In little ol’ Missoula Montana we have in-service Google training offered a couple of times a year.  By Google.  Getting a Google trainer is not a major issue.  Every summer Google comes to town.  Google Fests, Chromebook seminars, Google Apps for the Classroom courses, Google for IT people and on and on.  Google for Education is the only shop in town and it is pretty good stuff.  Microsoft is not even in the picture.  We do not even imagine getting a Microsoft education person to give training.  As far as I know there is not even such a person.  Office 365 might be pretty cool, but we would not know from the amount of effort Microsoft has put into educational promotion at the local level.

I like Microsoft.  They make good solid products.  They make a lot of really cool stuff that can fit really well with education.  I even like their operating system.  But so much of what they do is just tossed out there to the education world with the attitude “Here it is, ain’t it cool, do what you what with it but do not bother us about it.”  Small Basic, Project Spark, and the Creative Coding course are just three that come to mind.  They used to make a Microsoft Robotics Studio that looked really promising as a programming language and simulated environment.  It looked great for education.  It never seemed to go anywhere and is now retired.  As far as I know it was never promoted for education.

I predict that in five years Microsoft Windows will be the second most common OS in schools.  Microsoft software will not be the standard.  Maybe some Windows servers will still be hanging in there.  Looking at my servers the only Windows one I need is DHCP/DNS and if I went Chromebooks I could eventually can that one.

I had better start planning to attend more of those Google seminars.

Read “The Martian”

September 14, 2015

I just finished reading “The Martian”, the book the movie that is coming out the 2nd of October is based on.   I am a major SciFi geek.  Have been for 50 some years.  This is one of the best true SciFi books I have ever read.  Not the action (average), not the story (good but I have read better) but the science.  For a math geek (me) or science geek (me again) or an astrophysics geek (I wish) this book is great.  Good science, great humor and a fun story. I will have to give the movie a try.

It is a zoo and the animals are running loose.

September 11, 2015

It has been the usual zoo here.  The first weeks of school are always pretty interesting.  All the things I thought I had fixed over the summer die or do not work.  It is interesting how things will work just fine when I test them but as soon as a teacher or student tries to use it …gurrk.

One of the teachers cannot log in to the grading software.  I tried with my account and still no-go.  The stated error is an internet issue.  Her internet works.  I tested the speed.  She is getting one sixth of what she should be.  That might be the problem.  Then again it might not.  My project for this afternoon is to find the missing five sixths.  It appears to be missing in the whole elementary school building.  Bad switch?  Bad radio connection to my main building?  People claim the building is haunted so maybe it is an angry ghost.  Do not laugh.  It is on my list of things I have solutions for.  Remember this is a Catholic school.  I have access to holy water and it is not illegal to use it.

This is one of the many little issues in the last two weeks that budge into my daily nap time.

Today I had to install Adobe InDesign on a laptop.  I managed to buy a license from a vendor without a lot of complication.  Adobe can’t just email a key to install in a download.  Oh no.  You have to create an account with them, do the download and the key, which is in the account you created and which the vendor has to have access to, is then automatically applied.  Took me a while to figure that out.  (Hey, I never said I was smart, I am just persistent.)

The traffic light class is coming along.  We are building the initial program in Small Basic.  All the kids are familiar with SB so we can concentrate on the problem and not the language.  Once we have the problem broken down and working in SB we will switch to Python, the language of the course.  The traffic light is not as trivial as I initially thought it was going to be.  The timing is going to be the focus of the problem.  The red, yellow and green lights will all have different durations which is not a big issue but the crosswalk timer has to run separately from the light timer.  May have to have two timers running at once.  As I am concluding my usual brilliant lecture (doodles on the board of pictures of traffic lights and the time coordination) on this problem one of my students says quietly “I have the lights working.”  Smart kids are a pain.  Especially since I have not had time to work on the problem myself.

Somewhere in here I need to find time to look at the new Microsoft Creative Coding through Games and Apps.  An initial perusal has tweaked my interest.  The course might be something to use in the Programming I class instead of Scratch.  It uses TouchDevelop which I am just not real familiar with yet so I need to dedicate some time to playing with it.  I am not really into canned courses like this but they are extremely useful to get ideas from and as sort of a guide when trying something new with kids.  It is also kind of interesting to see what supposed CS teaching experts think is the way to go.  Sometimes those supposed experts are much better that I am, but sometimes it is evident they have never taught normal high school kids.

Well I am off to try to find out why the elementary school’s internet speed is dragging.  I will save the holy water approach when all the obvious solutions have failed.

So you think you want to be a computer science teacher? Part 2.

August 23, 2015

Yesterday I spent four hours trying to get my computer clocks to sync with the domain controller.  I had a new dc built (the old one was Server 2003) and it would not sync with  After an hour of Googling and tinkering the time sync started working.  Still not sure why.  Then tried to get the old dc to sync with the primary.  Another hour.  Again it works but I do not know what I did to start it.  Another hour to get my desk computer to sync with the dc.  I tried to manually sync one of my non-domain computers with  No go.  I bring the laptop home and POOF, it syncs.  I think I have something funky going on with my firewall.  I have had two pros look at it and they see nothing wrong.  It could be the Charter modem doing something strange.  I will plug into it directly next week and see what happens.

Having the right time seems trivial.  It is not.  All sorts of things want the time to be the same through the network or nasty little warnings pop up.  The dcs have to be time syncing or they do not want to sync data.

Alfred Thompson had a post “So you think you want to be a computer science teacher?”  In a small school you do not just teach computer science.  You teach CS (and likely something else), you are maybe the IT department and you are possibly the person that knows all about everything related to computers.  Yup, everything.

You write the CS curriculum.  Think you are going to walk in the door and teach APCS out of the APCS cookbook to computer geeks that love computers and CS?  Think again.  Those APCS kids had to come from somewhere and there is no nifty freshman CS1 or CS2 or CS whatever cookbook for teachers.  Also not a large choice for textbooks.  If you wanted textbooks you should have become a math teacher.   You also have to decide what the heck CS even is.  It is not just teaching programming.  That would wayyy to easy.  What the rest is and how far you should go in high school is to be determined.  The present consensus is warm and fuzzy.  You spend a lot of time in Google looking for ideas and knowledgeable advice.  You take to blogging in the hope you make some good contacts that give you good ideas.  You get on a first name basis with people in the local university CS department in the hope you can get help from them creating a good direction for your courses and your students.  The Education department?  They showed you how to use a Smartboard didn’t they?  Isn’t that CS?

You are also the defacto computer expert (and if you are not careful the cell phone, school phones, copy machine, cable TV, VCR machine, school bells and anything else that uses electricity expert).  I do not care what your degree and transcripts say you did in college.  You are the IT person.  “Computer expert” means firewalls, servers, switches, wireless, anti-virus, content filters, grading software (hours of fun there) and anything else that might have to do with a computer.  You advise the administration on things that can be very expensive and critical for the future of the school.  (No pressure there!)  Oh, you are also the software expert.  You will be on a first name basis with a Quickbooks support guy named Fred with an Indian accent.  The IT training program consists of an intimate relationship with Google.

Oh, and forget about that 8 to 3:30 day.  Teaching CS take about 3 times as much prep time as any other subject (except maybe English but then English teachers are gluttons for punishment).  Remember you are designing almost all your own assignments.  And do not forget you are the IT department.  Things go haywire with computers during the day for no logical reason.  They get fixed after school or on the weekend.  And if the internet goes down just forget about anything in your life until it gets back up.  In the middle of class?  Tough, you are out the door.

There is no doubt about it, being a Computer Science teacher is fun.  You are never bored, you are always learning something new, there is always something you should be doing, you are usually the department head (usually there is just you in the department) so you can go almost any direction with your curriculum, there is always some new gadget to play with, there are great people out there that are interested in what you are doing and want to help you with what you are doing and, best of all, it is always changing.  Why would a teacher not want to teach CS?  OK, so there is a bit of an issue with job availability.  There is also a bit of a problem getting certified or getting an education in teaching CS.  And there is definitely no education program for school IT.  Details.

Flipped Programming

August 9, 2015

Here is the first programming assignment of the year for my Programming II/III kids.  We are going to walk to the nearest traffic signal and discuss what it would take to write a program to simulate a traffic light functioning: 3 different color lights, crosswalk button, two directions, countdown timer on the crosswalk and whatever I and the kids see.  This idea sort of came to me last week in Oregon after a day of mountain biking.  One of the people I was with sort of just triggered it.  Initially I thought the exercise a bit trivial; a timer, a counter and a sensor.  I started thinking what I would write this in.  Then it hit me, the exercise should not be the traffic program, the exercise should be what to do it with in the way of a language or a hardware.  Initially I was thinking of using the Arduino; little LEDs and a button and actually make an operational signal, but then it hit me again, this can be done with all sorts of things.  Digital simulation with lights on a monitor and a keyboard press.  Inputs could be signal duration depending on speed limit of the streets at the signal and traffic volume.  Another solution could be with Lego Mindstorms and the old railroad semaphore type signals.  The problem has now changed from having a solution (a language the kids are supposed to learn) with me trying to dream up a problem to use it with, to here is a problem, now how should we solve it?  Want real lights?  What do we have that will give us real lights?  Want just a graphical simulation?  What do we need in a language to get an interesting graphic?

I am trying to get my programming classes to evolve from strictly a programming class with a selected language to more of a computer science class with a set of problems that need solutions that computers can help with.  I am finding this is not easy.  A Programming I class simply does not have a clue as to what tools are available to work with or how difficult some tools are to use.  At the moment Programming 1 is “Here is Scratch, here is what we are going to do with it.”  I want to reverse that.  I want “Here is what we want to do, now let’s find something to do it with.” The list of possible somethings at this level limits the possibilities.  I think I need to focus more on the pseudo-code approach at this level.  I just need a way to make it interesting.  Simple games like Lights Out are very good for pseudo-coding and just plain thinking about.  A very simple game to play and yet requires some excellent problem solving.

Over the years my usual strategy to get kids interested in programming, and as an off shoot CS, was through games and game writing languages.  Overall I still think this is a good strategy for some kids.  The problem solving I am after is there but I still want to broaden their thinking, especially in the upper level kids.  I still have to keep the class interesting to attract kids, it is still an elective that can die if it gets a reputation of being boring or excessively difficult.  With the upper level kids I have a bit more flexibility, they are already invested and hooked.

Now I need to start looking at exercise ideas for kids to consider and build on.  I have a few that I have used previously but they are a bit geeky; one involves searching Shakespeare’s Sonnets for the nth Sonnet or how many times the word xxx is used (uber-geeky but cross curricular), another involves computing the nth term of various Taylor expansions (real geeky but again cross curricular).  I need to get ideas that are not quite so geeky.


Mountain biking this week

August 5, 2015

I am in Oregon this week mountain biking.  Three friends and I are doing the McKenzie River Trail and some of the other area trails.  The McKenzie river trail is a bucket list trail for mountain bikers.  We did it today.  The first 5 miles is this flowy, smooth high speed thing.  Absolute heaven.  The middle 10 miles had moments of heaven and moments of hell.  The McKenzie river area is volcanic.  For long stretches the trail is lots and lots of very nasty sharp volcanic rock.  Extremely technical riding.  If you fall you bleed a lot.  Lots of hike-a-bike for those of us not into bleeding.  The last 15 miles is back into heaven.  We did 30 miles today in about 6 hours.  Wasted is the word.  The last 15 miles was so fun I simply did not want to stop.  I should have stopped more.  Explains the wasted.  I am so tired from trying to keep up with the 20 something speed demon that is with us I am falling asleep typing this.  I really need to learn to act my age.  Nah.  No fun in that.  Ibuprofen is cheap and has only a few bad side effects.  I only have to survive 2 more days of riding and one of my friends can drive home while I am passed out in the back seat.

When I get back it is back to the techie world again.  Tuesday I have a consultant building a new domain controller for the school.  The old one is Server 2003 and is starting to have issues.  The new one will be Server 2012 and getting the two to share may be fun to watch.  I also have to figure out what I am going to do with my programing classes and figure out what Math II is all about.  I taught Math II several years ago but cannot remember exactly what is in the course.  Math II should be easy to plan.  We have a curriculum.  Programming is another issue completely.  We have no curriculum.  I wing it depending on who is in the class.  A couple of the kids took my Python course as sophomores.  They are going to retake it for college credit.  (Sophomore are not eligible for college credit in dual credit courses.)  So I need to rewrite the course so they are not doing the same stuff we already did.  This wil require that I think and plan.  No fun.  The fact that they are already ahead of the game will let me do some off the wall stuff (Project Spark anyone?) so I think we can have some directed fun.  Teaching programming just allows so many directions.  It is really hard to do something that is not worthwhile for the kids going on to college with it.  Make them think and solve.  That is all I have to do.

Time to pass out.  Old men need their sleep.


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