So, tomorrow, October 19, is my birthday. The big 5 4. Okay, maybe it's not a traditionally big one. It doesn't end in a zero or a five but I think it rates.
Why? Because it's one shy of 55.
That's the magic age when I can retire collect my pension should I choose to do so. It's what you get when start young and put in over 30 years of service.
So I'm teaching my Ethics and CS class for the first time. I originally designed the course but didn't teach it the first time around. That honor went to my friend, Master Teacher Topher Mykolyk. He of course did an amazing job - impossible to follow. Fortunately, this is a different cohort so they don't know how great Topher was for the course :-).
Even though I have the syllabus and Topher's notes from last time around, first time through is very week to week but I think I'm starting to get my legs under me.
One of the comments on my last video talked about the new project management support Emacs includes in it's latest version - project.el. I remembered reading about it when it rolled around but then forgot and never checked it out.
Up until recently when working in projects I used Projectile, a great package by Bozhidar Batsov, also known as Bug. I only used it when doing development work - that's when I find myself jumping around within a group of related files.
Grading sucks. Even for a well crafted assignment it takes time and rarely does it give you the same insights into your students as you can get from just observing them and working with them, at least when the environment supports you doing so. This leads lots of teachers to go to auto graders. I can't bring myself going along with that. While assignments are imperfect and tedious to grade, they do provide some insight to your students and that's an important part about being a teacher.
The other day I saw Allen Holub lamenting on how students don't learn the command line.
All my students this semester have gone through at least a year of programming classes, and some of them do not know how to do even basic stuff on the command-line. This strikes me as a huge flaw in the curriculum. Maybe the first CS class should be How Devs Use Computers 101.
Like most CS educators I'm a regular reader of Alfred Thompson's blog. Alfred's latest post is spot on but there was a line in it and a particular Twitter response that reminded me that we so often forget a big reason why people learn to code.
Alfred mentions, as did that Tweet about coding to solve problems. What problem are you trying to solve. This is the mainstream push - programming helps you solve problems.
I've been teaching in person for about a month now so I thought I'd give a quick update on how it's going. I've written before about my feelings on how Hunter started the semester (TL;DR - I was very displeased) but that's not the point of this post. As of today, I believe every student has been required to be stabbed at least once and on October 11, all students must be fully vaccinated to be on campus.
Following up on my last post.
Soon after I read that tweet, I read Julia's post on hash tables. This got me thinking more about what is and isn't taught in school. Hash tables were always taught in CS programs but back in the day you might not have used them much after your data structures or algorithms classes. Nowadays you're much more likely to use them as they're built in to so many platforms.
I saw this tweet by Julia Evans the other day.
if you've been working in computing for > 15 years -- are there fundamentals that you learned "on the job" 15 years ago that you think most people aren't learning on the job today?
(I'm thinking about how for example nobody has ever paid me to write C code)
— 🔎Julia Evans🔍 (@b0rk) September 9, 2021 I've never met Julia but have been following her on Twitter and reading her blog for some time now.
Back to calling an audible.
Around seven years ago I was visiting with some former students at Google in Mountain View. One of them from way back in the late 90s, Pawel, out of the blue said there was one lesson I taught that was particularly memorable. Not memorable in the "that was fun" way like maybe my Halloween adventures but memorable in that he felt he got a lot more out of it than a normal lesson.