I have been teaching with various versions of Microsoft Visual Basic off and on for about 10 years now. My training is all on-the-job; get a book and stay a couple of days ahead of the kids. After a number of years of teaching VB I can write up a high school level VB program fairly well. I can teach the kids how to design and write a decent high school level program so they can understand what they did and not just copy my code. But every now and then it is clearly demonstrated I really do not know how to operate VB very well. I had my students write a VB final. Since my classes are small I typically just look over their shoulder when I grade their programs. This year their final was due on Friday and grades were due the next Tuesday with Monday a holiday. No problem I say. I will have the kids save their project folders in a shared folder on the network and grade the things over the long weekend. Imagine my surprise when I could not get things to run without getting a build error warning, I could not open code or view forms. There is something about the way VB saves projects that requires it be opened on the drive it was saved on or there is something with the way VB saves over a network that is a bit funky. If the kids had been saving their projects on their network drive I have all sorts of fun issues trying to get their project to run if I copy the folder to my computer and open it. If the project was saved on a local drive I can just copy in to my computer and everything seems to work. I need to take some time and narrow this issue down.
This is when it would be nice to have a “How to teach with Visual Studio” text. Not how to program, but how to teach with it. It is those little issues with school networks, how VS saves, and the best way to manage assignments so I can grade the things without having to jump through hoops that make VS a challenge. I would love it if Microsoft would put on a clinic titled “An idiots guide on how to manage VS for teachers”. All the VB books I have teach VB as if everything is going to behave in the correct, expected manner. I want the book that tells you what to do when things are not going so right.
One of the interesting challenges to teaching CS or VB is the lack of experienced colleagues to sit down with and discuss issues with. If I want to discuss math curriculum or how to teach a math topic I have two experienced colleagues in the building. Blogs and chat rooms are somewhat lacking, you never know who you are talking to and it is sometimes difficult to describe the problem or generate it consistently. I can usually figure things out if I get the time but time is something most classroom teachers do not have a lot of floating around.
Speaking of time I now have to go figure out how to run a Mac. My advanced class is going to try to write an iPod touch app with something called Corona from Anscamobile.com. Should be interesting.