In praise of a career


This week, longtime friend Alfred Thompson released this blog post.

A Brief Career Memoir

Alfred is planning to hang up his teaching mouse this year and I was prompted to reflect back on his career – at least the parts that connected with me. It was an interesting read and caused me to think of the number of times that our paths have crossed. He was even good enough to take the time to be interviewed for this blog. While it seemed like yesterday, I guess it’s coming up on seven years now.

Alfred, in his post, identifies four distinct career choices. I’m guessing that we met during his evangelist years. I have some “Alfred” memories that I’d like to share from my years of knowing this gentleman.

A memorable presentation – this goes back a few years when one of the hottest thing in Computer Science education was developing applications for the various platforms. At a CSTA Conference, we decided to put together a fast paced presentation and had an iOS, Android, and Windows mobile section and they each showed how to develop an app in 15 minutes. The app was a “tip calculator” and of course, Alfred was the Windows developer. As proctor, I got to introduce and also be close enough to snap this picture. And, this may be one of the pictures where he’s not wearing his signature hat.

Exchanging stuff – it’s customary at international hockey games to exchange gifts and Alfred and I have done this for a while. From him, I got a collection of the resources that he distributed in K-12 Computer Science. But, the neatest thing happened when micro:bits came on the scene. He had advertised that he was using them in his class. When I asked him what he was doing with them, he asked “do you want one?”. It arrived a couple of days later and is still the one I play around with when I’m coding. At one time, Alfred mentioned that he was a fan of ketchup potato chips from his visits to Canada. As such, if I know our paths will cross, I’ll throw some in my luggage for him. I’ve learned that a bag doesn’t travel well so switched to Pringles. Sadly, they don’t x-ray well at the airport and I’ve had some interesting conversations with security agents. But they do eventually get through and into his hands.

Curriculum discussions – Getting Computer Science teachers together inevitably leads to a discussion about what to teach. Unlike other subject areas, Computer Science is a moving target. I’m happy to talk about the Ontario Computer Studies Curriculum and he’s equally as happy to talk about the Advanced Placement courses that he teaches. Both of us like to use interesting problems for computer solution in the classroom. That’s not as easy as it sounds so it’s great when people share these sort of concepts.

Partners in Learning – Alfred introduced me to this Microsoft program. It’s an evolving resource on the Microsoft website and certainly worth visiting annually during the event. A few years ago, Alfred invited me to the PIL event in Washington. I was given a “Media” pass and the only hook was that I had to write a blog post or two. As you can imagine, that was right up my alley. The cool thing was that, since he’s so well connected, I got introduced to so many different people. And, I got to the sit in the front row for keynotes.

Fodder for writing – The Partners in Learning event isn’t the only place that our paths have crossed. I didn’t realize how often but just did a search for “Alfred Thompson” in this blog. Wow, 29 pages of results! What’s strange about Computer Science teachers and their use of technology, there aren’t that many consistent bloggers. But, Alfred is one and constantly inspires. He also appears to be a fan of my “Whatever happened to …” series and has given some ideas for posts. And, there’s payback – I’m referenced on his blog too.

Technology and social media – There’s no doubt that if Alfred had a paper cut, it would bleed blue. He makes no bones about it and it only makes sense with the connections that he’s made over the years. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when he took that course using Ubuntu… A favourite moment was watching him demonstrate how to log into a computer with facial recognition. It eventually worked but maybe the sweat from all the pressure kind of delayed the process.

That hat

Enough said

Family – if you follow Alfred on social media, it doesn’t take long before the conversation turns to his family. He talks with great pride about this father, wife, son, and now grandson. Spending more time with family will be the next big thing for him. I just hope that he keeps blogging!

It was interesting to see him pare a career with so many twists and turns into a single post. In some ways, some of the experiences that he shares mirror what I went through so I found it so engaging. I wish him all the best for the future.

OTR Links 01/04/2020


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.