As the rolling schedule of school year openings and closings continues it looks like school is just about done everywhere in the US this week. Today is the last day with students at the school my wife teaches at. It seems like most of the local schools finished this week already. Of course in parts of the country schools have been finished for weeks. There will be the same sort of rolling start in the fall. Or actually the late summer as some schools start in early to middle August.  Still that is some time away and most teachers really need some time to clear their heads once school finishes for the year. But as a recent blog post over at the CSTA blog (Traditions of New Year) reminds us this is a good time for looking back AND forward.

The summer is a great time to reflect on what worked well, what worked poorly and for computer science educators “what new technology should I be teaching next year?” Sure it is easy to teach the same old technology and tools. One can rationalize that quite easily with the reassuring statement “it’s the concepts that matter and we can teach that with the same technology.” There is truth in that statement as well. You can teach a lot of the same concepts with Qbasic as you can with Visual Basic and Visual Studio. You can teach concepts while ignoring phones and Xbox games. You can still do a lot with systems running Windows XP even though support has expired. But you also have to ask yourself if you’re doing the students any favors or just making your own life easier?

More than ever students are looking forward for relevance to themselves and to career development. They are using new technology and they want to use it better and more completely. Sometime this year your students who get new computers will find them running Windows 8. This is two big steps beyond Windows XP. Windows Vista is past and while Windows 7 will be on a lot of computers for some time to come Windows 8 is going to be different. Will you be ready for it? There is a Windows 8 Consumer Preview available. It’s free! Summer is a great time to try this new operating system out and see how it works. You can also get the Visual Studio Express Beta for Windows 8  and start learning who to develop the new Metro style apps for Windows 8. You can be leading edge by the fall and ready to fly wit Windows 8 once it is released. Assuming you can get your IT department to install it.

BTW I try to tag things I post about Windows 8 with the windows8 tag. You can use that to search for more resources on my blog. Trust me when I tell you there is a lot more of that sort of thing coming!

Which reminds me – if you are part of a school IT department this summer is a great time for you to also install a copy of Windows 8 Consumer Preview and start testing your school applications software against it. Wouldn’t your superintendent be a lot more impressed by you telling them what works and what doesn’t yet work than you telling them “I have no idea what Windows 8 mean to us?”)

Students are demanding more Phone development options in school. Today students have a hand portable device that they are using and what to create their own apps for. Are you ready to help them learn how? Have you looked at the free Windows Phone Development Resources that are available? Have you visited the Microsoft Faculty Connection to see all the free curriculum resources that are there? Oh and some cool Kinect resources as well.  Summer is a great time (OK after you’ve napped for a week Smile) to download some of these and teach yourself what you know your students will be excited to learn. Take a look at the list of Latest Curriculum Resources at the Faculty Connection that I posted recently. Great stuff there!

Lastly think about the Imagine Cup for your students. Yes that means Big Projects! But big projects are change the world or at least change a student’s life projects. While a lot of schools have students enter the various game design competitions give some thought to a Software Design Challenge team and take some something really big. Will there be a Windows 8 specific challenge? Honestly I don’t know but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were. Wouldn’t it be great for a high school team to do well or even win if there is?

Summer is a great time to recharge your batteries if you are a teacher. It’s also a great time for professional development. Will I see you next month at the CSTA CS & IT Conference? Self study is a great way to learn as well. Don’t let your brain atrophy. There is a lot of new technology out there and the resources to learn/teach it. Go for it!