“Technology allows us to teach students where they are.” – Alfred Thompson, USA

Alfred Thompson considers himself a “computer science education activist,” helping young people make the world a better place through software. 

A high school computer science teacher, Thompson got into teaching almost by accident. “I worked in the computer industry for a number of years before being laid off from my job,” he says. “A principal I knew asked me to be a last-minute replacement for an elementary school computer teacher who quit just before school started.”

Thompson figured he’d teach while he decided what to do next. “And then a second principal asked me to fill in and, suddenly, I had two part-time teaching jobs in elementary schools,” he adds.  “After a year, I moved to a high school to teach real computer science. Once there, I found that I really enjoyed myself and I felt like I was making a difference.”

Thompson is a member of the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) Board, and frequently posts to his Computer Science Teacher blog. He has been a professional software developer, a textbook author, a developer evangelist, a school technology coordinator, a school board member and more.

But his most important title? Teacher.

Enjoy today’s Daily Edventure with Alfred Thompson.

What was a defining moment in your career when you felt proudest to be an educator?

One day one of my recent graduates called to tell me a story. He had a roommate who was staying up very late working on a project in a language my student had not been taught. Finally, my student got up and told his friend exactly how to make his project work. The language was unknown but the concepts my student had learned let him help in new languages. This was when I knew that my focusing on concepts and helping students learn how to learn new programming languages was paying off for my students.

Why do you feel passionate about innovation and technology in the classroom?

Technology has the potential to really change the way we teach. Our students today are multi-media learners. They don’t want to only read or listen to people talk. They want interactive learning that uses multiple devices. They live in a virtual world of connections via phones, apps and images. Technology allows us to teach students where they are. I’m using tools like Office Mix to make more interactive lessons that students can access when and where they want.

We use assignments that are distributed online to virtually have school when school is closed for snow or other reasons. Students use online resources, like Office Mix, Sway, or other websites, to learn and then submit their work online from home (or wherever). This means that we lose less time and do more without always needing students to physically be in the building.

Whether it’s a day-to-day challenge or larger problem, what’s the biggest obstacle you or your country or region has had to overcome, or will have to overcome, to ensure a quality education for students?
I think the biggest problem is teachers needing more and better training to use new technology. We have many options but there are two parts to using them. One is generally how to use the tool, and the other is how to use it to change how we teach.

The temptation is to use new technology to do the same things slightly differently. PowerPoint can be the same as using transparencies if not used in really different ways. Teachers, including me, need help understanding how to make big changes in how we teach using new tools. We need ideas and demonstrations.

In terms of education innovation, what are you most excited about for the future? What is your biggest hope for today’s students?

I’m starting to get very excited about augmented reality for teaching. I’m hoping to see tools that let students visualize and manipulate information in new, more interactive ways. I’m not sure how it is going to work, but that is half of the excitement.

My big hope for today’s students is that we can help them learn to be creators of technology rather than just users of technology. Teaching computer science as I do, I want to see students use that technology and others to really make the world a better place.

About Alfred Thompson
Computer Science Teacher

Bishop Guertin High School

Nashua, New Hampshire, USA

  • Blog URL: http://blog.acthompson.net
  • Birthplace: East Hampton, New York
  • Educational background: BA, Taylor University; MS CS, Rivier University
  • Website I check every day: Bing for the news updates.
  • Favorite childhood memory: Visiting the Baseball Hall of Fame with my Dad.
  • Favorite book: The Count of Monte Cristo
  • Favorite Microsoft product, tool, technology: Visual Studio using C# and Visual Basic
  • What is the best advice you have ever received? Act like you belong and everyone will assume you belong.
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