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February 2011

Programming for Windows Phone 7 for teachers and students

I currently have 2 apps in the Windows Phone Marketplace.  If you do a search on the Windows Phone Marketplace on kathweaver, you'll find them.  Both are very simple -- one plays a sound when you tap your finger on the screen, the other is a very simple accumulator.  I have even updated the accumulator so have been through the process twice.  Shockingly,  there have been 28 downloads of that app. 

First, you can find most of the resources you need by going to the App Hub at  http://create.msdn.com/en-US/

You can find some more at Dreamspark.  https://www.dreamspark.com/

I'll start with Dreamspark.  You can sign up as a teacher on Dreamspark, and get codes for your students.  This gives them access to Visual Studio and lots of other good software, including everything you need for the Window Phone.  So of course, you want to test the experience for your students.  Create a code for yourself, and sign up as a student.  This will give you a developers code (and it will also give THEM a developers code), so you can put apps in the Marketplace.  That's how I did mine.  By the way, it only costs $99 to get a “real” developers code, which I plan to do soon.

There is a really good program called My School App, that takes very little changes to customize for your own school.   I was able to set it up in about 30 minutes with lousy art work.  It's at http://myschoolapp.codeplex.com/ and has very good directions.  It also is well documented and comes in a C# version and a VB version.  It shows how to write apps that display web pages, use locations, and Bing Maps.  It's very cool and has already been submitted through the market place so does things right.  I am leaving it alone right now as I want one of my students to do it.

Windows Phone does things in two ways:  You can either program applications in Silverlight or you can program in XNA.  Both are pretty easy to pick up and both are free.  VB limits you to Silverlight.  C# which looks just like Java, allows you to do both. 

There are lots of tutorials, do a search on WP7 Dev and you'll find stuff.

Why does Microsoft make this and XNA (Xbox programming) free?  So people will buy hardware.

Ask questions!


Another goes to the dark side?

I love it.  Just about every year, one of my Computer Science students comes to me rather sheepishly and admits they have changed their major.  I had one that is in his sophomore year that just came to me and told me that he switched from Chemical Engineering to CS.

Not that there is anything wrong with Chemical Engineering, but he groked CS so well.

Makes me happy.

And I question the dark side part – as it really is a good way to make a living, but not sure how to describe it otherwise….


Why we need teacher unions

Principals fire teachers on whims.   Been there.  Unfortunately it is no longer on the internet, but one of my former principals detailed how she got rid of teachers she didn’t like.  She did exactly those things to me. 

Here’s the problem, I am certified to teach computer science and it’s my favorite subject.  There is usually one per school, and at the moment, I do not believe there are any openings.  I would have to wait another school year to find a job, if there is one then.

Teachers just can’t jump from job to job.

I’m lucky, I’m also certified in math and can do a really good job as a math teacher in a traditional classroom, and I like teaching Geometry and Algebra I best, so I could probably find an opening.  The only teacher who can probably find an opening right off are math and science teachers.  The rest of the curriculum is going to have to wait a school year like me.

We have a union in Dallas and I’m a member.  They have been very helpful to me.  I am a diabetic, and I go to them periodically to find out what I need to tell the TAKS testing monitors about my insulin pump, testing and eating.

I had a really difficult situation with an special education parent and the principal, and I spoke with the union lawyer on a frequent basis.  It never came down to that, but they keep lawyers in house ready to advise people.  It was very helpful in this situation for moral support if nothing else.

We don’t have collective bargaining, and I am against any teacher walking out of the classroom to strike.  I certainly wouldn’t do it.

However, I do like the fact that there is someone I can go to if I have a building or district issue and that there is someone looking after my interests.


Pensions and Pay for established trachers



My district values experienced teachers and until recently had longevity pay. I got it for two years.

Once you have established pay, benefits and pension you have to honor that. Reducing those, especially pension is WRONG. That is part of compensation. I made hiring choices, day to day budgeting choices based on that.

There is also a promise implied in giving me a contract. Finding a teaching job is difficult. Especially middle of the year teaching jobs. As long as I honor my contract and do my duties you don't have the right to fire me.

As I tell my kids, the only way I can be fired is if I have sex with you or beat you, and I am not having sex with any of you.

My husband's company has turned to a good model of compensation, which is, instead of giving raises and having to give that raise from then on, the give periodic bonuses depending on when they are making money. Win, win all around.

I go back to my previous post. It is fine to cut pay and other compensa

Sent from my Windows Phone


Teacher pay



First, I will give that we are probably paying new teachers too much because we are having no trouble hiring.

I also know that because of NCLB and because of attendance changes, that we are scrapping the bottom of the barrel when it comes moving personnel. 

In other words, I am not pleasantly impressed with the new people in my building.

I have a completely different impression of our veteran teachers. Both as a group and individually we have our students interest at heart and do our best. 

The above is why I am so much against Teach for America. Your average new teacher needs a three year period before they are a good teacher. We usually find the pedophiles in the first year (yep my school has had a few come through and they are found and asked to leave fast).

The people who cannot tolerate dealing with teenagers are usually out voluntarily pretty fast. 

I really do think we need to start by reducing new teacher salaries. And guess what, when I started teaching they had reduced new teacher salaries and I have been "paying" for that every since. But that was my choice.

Sent from my Windows Phone


Why cutting education won't work



I am in Dallas Texas and we have been experiencing budgets cuts for a while. We have just started recovering from our last.

I teach computer science and was a professional programmer. I have been teaching for 18 years and am about to get my first second generation student.

I have one class with a textbook and we get a new one every seven years. That means I am teaching Visual Basic.NET 2003 and Visual Basic 2010 is the current language. Not a huge deal but bothersome.

My computers are 2 years old. Again, not a big deal as my students treat them well and they are better then what the business labs just got.

I have 28 computers and I have taught as many as 28 students at once. When I do the computer lab has very little space for walking around. I can't teach more than 28 students as not only am I limited by computers but physical space. I have found that classroom management is influenced by the amount of physical space students have. I taught with 2 1/2 foot space per student for years and just went to 3 foot per student and the energy level went way down.

I know that pair programming is all the rage but with my layout that would give us 1 1/2 foot per student. Can you imagine being that close to a neighbor?

I have taught with in a traditional classroom with 40 students and frankly no one in the room had a quality experience. I was swamped with grading and couldn't get work back in a timely matter. There was no walking space for me to observe students. 

Frankly I have been in most of our classrooms at one time or another and more than 25 students just does not fit.

Then lets took about the amount of time per student. We have approximately 50 minute class periods. With 24 students, each student gets about two minutes of teacher time per day. Up to 30 and now we are at 1 1/2 minutes. And we haven't discussed that it takes more time to take attendance and sign truancy or homework sheets. 

We are spending money as efficiently as possible and cuts are not going to help.

It is important to invest money in our students. If they do not receive a quality education they won't have a future.

Sent from my Windows Phone


Finally leaving Windows XP

That’s been a real issue for me this year, because I’ve been wanting to do some XNA and some Windows Phone stuff, and the IDE and SDK’s require Windows 7.

Our tech has put Windows 7 in every lab that is not on the obsolete list except mine, and he came to do mine Friday.  It didn’t take much talking.

I’ve got all the software installed by Adobe CS 4, and I’ve run it on Windows 7 without a problem.  That will be the first thing I do when I get in on Monday. 

There should be only two differences between my machine and the kids machine – that’s Lanschool and Deep Freeze.  Shouldn’t be hard at all to get me moved, as I rarely save anything anywhere but on my documents.

Best thing, Gridworld works without a hitch on Windows 7 and we’ve had to do some major tweaking to get it to run on our machine with Windows 7.

Best giggle:  Even though our machines are two years old, they are still better than any of the machines recently installed in the business department.  Better processors, better hard drives, etc.


TCEA 2011 review

So I have blogged about the individual sessions I went to.

Now impressions ...

First every one in Texas involved in education is scared. Between the missing money - seriously when the incumbents were running in November we had plenty of money, and changes in programs - teachers are running scared.

Vendors gave out lots of paper but never little else. I got a nice tape measured, a t-shirt, two pens and another small item after two hours in the exhibit hall. Didn't even bother to go back.

As always teacher led sessions were good. With the exception of one, vendor led sessions were obnoxious but often you couldn't tell until you were in the room.

Shuttle was great. Hotel was fine once they got the HVAC right in my room. The Austin convention center and downtown area are just obnoxious.

Will I maintain my TCEA membership? I will decide after some local events. Will I join the SIG, don't know yet.

Best thing of all was TATN on Tuesday and meeting @unklar and seeing @alfredtwo again.


CTE vs. Tech Apps and Computer Science

To begin with, I am a bit of a snob when it comes to certification.  I have a regular certification, earned as a post-graduate at Texas Woman’s University.  I had to file a a deficiency plan with the local university, take the required graduate classes and tests – since my college degree was in Mississippi, I had to take Texas politics, etc.  I also had to take tests in pedagogy, mathematics and computer science.  By the way I finished with an almost 4.0 (my sponsoring teacher for Computer Science student teaching did not like me and gave me a “C” which my Mathematics sponsoring teacher and the university sponsoring teacher didn’t agree with, that knocked my student teaching grade to a “B”).

I also passed all the tests on the first try – more on that later.

You have to understand that these are three entirely different certifications.  The last time I looked at getting a CTE certificate, I couldn’t just take a test, I had to have office experience, which technically I didn’t have, since I didn’t work as a secretary or a receptionist, I was one of the bosses, and a system’s analyst at that.

When I got the Tech Apps certificate, you couldn’t take a test at all.  It hadn’t been developed.  Instead you had to take a course in each of Tech Apps certification areas.  They were all pedagogy courses, meaning you learned how to do the software AND learned how to teach it at the same time.  Again, took them as post graduate courses, this time getting a 4.0 out of 4.0.

Now, you can “just” take a test, but I know people who have worked in the Tech Apps field and the Computer Science field who haven’t passed the test after multiple tries. 

The biggest problem between the two, is that there is a funding disparity.  Though some of the things I learned this week means that some of the funding hasn’t been obtained legitimately – it’s supposed to be based on the number of students who go through several years of CTE courses, and another Dallas teacher and I compared notes, and we know that there are not as many students going through CTE as they’re getting funding for.

Every CTE teacher I know gets about $3000 to spend on a discretionary basis.  We get about $2.00 per student, I got about $200 this year, which doesn’t even cover the ink for my printers.  I’ve seen CTE buy things like large full standing copiers.

Until recently they got computers more often than we did, but that has changed recently.  They also only count about 1/3 or 1/2 of a regular CTE, so principals really like them for their budget.

Tech App teachers and Computer Science teachers have always had to work hard to recruit students to keep our classrooms full.  That is new this year for the CTE teacher.

As a result, the tech app teacher and the computer science teacher perceive that we are working very hard to keep what we have, and that the CTE hasn’t had to work hard at all and it is just handed to them.  From looking at the TEKS themselves, you can tell that our courses are aimed at a higher rigor (especially CS).  

It always bugs me when I see someone trying to do what I do, that do not have the proper background and training.  I feel that it cheats the students.  I really worked hard to get where I am.  I worked hard to get scholarships and funding for my Bachelor’s Degree, my Master’s, and my certifications.  I feel it takes away from me when it is handed to someone else.

Apparently Perkins has been changing lately and that is going to be very interesting.