Online Harvard lectures: Understanding Computers and the Internet

David J. Malan, Instructor

Harvard Extension School

This course is all about understanding: understanding what’s going on inside your computer when you flip on the switch, why tech support has you constantly rebooting your computer, how everything you do on the Internet can be watched by others, and how your computer can become infected with a worm just by turning it on. In this course we demystify computers and the Internet, along with their jargon, so that students understand not only what they can do with each but also how it all works and why. Students leave this course armed with a new vocabulary and equipped for further exploration of computers and the Internet. Topics include hardware, software, the Internet, multimedia, security, website development, programming, and dotcoms. Through optional hands-on sections and workshops, local students have opportunities to dissect as well as upgrade a computer with additional hardware, search the Internet more effectively, build a wireless network, create digital images, eradicate spyware, and design webpages. Problem sets offer online students similar opportunities. This course is designed both for those with little, if any, computer experience and for those who use a computer every day.

AmoebaWorld for introductory programming

AmoebaWorld is used in Introductory Programming to provide practice writing Python expressions and to introduce object-oriented programming. Here is the first homework that uses AmeobaWorld. Students write Python expressions that evaluate parametric equations. The Amoeba traces the resulting curves.

Think Python

Think Python is a concise introduction to software design using the Python programming language. Intended for people with no programming experience, this book starts with the most basic concepts and gradually adds new material. Some of the ideas students find most challenging, like recursion and object-oriented programming, are divided into a sequence of smaller steps and introduced over the course of several chapters.

Sugar on a Stick – OS for collaborative learning

Sugar on a Stick is a Fedora-based operating system featuring the award-winning Sugar Learning Platform and designed to fit on an ordinary USB thumbdrive (“stick”).

The award-winning Sugar Learning Platform promotes collaborative learning through Sugar Activities that encourage critical thinking, the heart of a quality education. Designed from the ground up especially for children, Sugar offers an alternative to traditional “office-desktop” software.

Microsoft Shifts Robotics Strategy, Makes Robotics Studio Available Free

Microsoft has announced that its Robotics Developer Studio (RDS), a big package of programming and simulation tools, is now available to anyone for free.

The robotics group is also making the source code of selected program samples and other modules available online, hoping to improve collaboration among users. In particular, Microsoft wants to entice the growing community of hobbyists, do-it-yourselfers, and weekend robot builders.

RDS is a comprehensive set of development tools, samples, and tutorials. It includes a visual programming interface, a popular 3-D simulator, and also Microsoft’s CCR and DSS runtime toolkit.

But despite its broad range of tools, RDS works best with the specific robot platforms it supports, including iRobot’s Create, LEGO Mindstorms, CoroWare, Parallax, and others.

Iowa State Researcher Uses Wii Remotes to Teach Lessons in Computer Engineering

Iowa State University News Service (05/05/10) Krapfl, Mike 

Iowa State University (ISU) students are writing software that uses a Wii remote to collect data about the spinning pedals of a bicycle and convert that into useful information about cadence and the rider’s movement and efficiency. The assignment is designed to teach students how to collect, process, and use data, says ISU computer engineering professor Tom Daniels, who was recently honored by the Technology Association of Iowa for Best Innovation in Teaching. “The familiarity of the gaming device coupled with the mystery of how the Wii remote functions captures the imagination, as well as engages, the freshman students,” says ISU systems analyst Larry Brennan. Using a Wii remote as a teaching tool is part of a new teaching method for two introductory, problem-solving classes, Daniels says. The idea was to find new ways to boost student interest and retention in computer engineering. Daniels wrote new software, called Wii Wrap, which enables the Wii remote to send data from its sensors to a computer instead of a game console.