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Talk Like a Pirate Day

Arrr! I hope everyone had a swashbuckling day this past September 19. As you no doubt knew, September 19 is International Talk Like a Pirate Day - an unofficial holiday in which people from around the world are encouraged to have fun and talk like pirates, saying things like "Arrrr" and "Ahoy, matey" whenever possible. The holiday is the brainchild of John Baur and Mark Summers, who started celebrating it among their friends in 1995. Since then, it has been popularized by Dave Barry in his columns and it now draws hordes of visitors to the Talk Like a Pirate Web site (http://www.talklikeapirate.com), and has even spawned books and a clothing line.

As a teacher, I am always looking for examples and applications that bring a sense of fun to my classroom. Over the years, Talk Like a Pirate (TLAP) Day has been a favorite of mine and my students. One year, I brought eye-patches for my entire class. Have you ever tried to give a 1-hour lecture with an eye patch on? Let me tell you, it's not easy. Plus, it is a challenge to keep your focus when a room full of students are all staring back at you with eye patches.

The great thing about an inspiring idea, is that it can be adapted to different courses. I have used it in CS0 courses, where I have given students a Web-based pirate translator and asked them to play with it and make additions to its vocabulary. I have used it in CS1/CS2 courses in which students wrote translators from scratch, including some fairly complex text processing and GUI-design. I have even used it in a more advanced Web Programming course, where students implemented server-side translators that could select from different languages for translation (such as English to Pirate, or Pirate to Spanish). Some of these are described in the presentation I gave at the Nifty Assignments panel at SIGCSE 2004:

http://nifty/stanford.edu/2004/TalkLikeAPirate

Or check out my latest translator version at:

http://dave-reed.com/TalkLikeAPirate.

Granted, talking like a pirate may not be your thing. But keep on the lookout for inspirations like this that allow you to bring some fun (or should I call it "flair") to your teaching. As teachers, we need to convey a sense of creativity and excitement about computing, and sometimes being a little silly helps.

And mark September 19 on your calendar for next year so that you are prepared to talk like a pirate, ya scurvy dog!

Cap'n Dave Reed
CSTA Board of Directors

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