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C'est la Z

Teaching techniques - industry to classroom and classroom to industry

There are things we do in school and there are things we do in industry and they're not always the same. In school we might use a learning language or an IDE which gives additional support and at times even take away language features while at work you might you might make heavy use of continuous integration tools.

On the other hand, sometimes we use the same things. Java is used in schools and in industry, StackOverflow consulted in both and many schools use professional IDEs like Eclipse.

While the things I mentioned above, whether the same or different are on the tooling side, there are also things on the technique side that are used both in school and in industry.

The most well publicized concept is probably Pair Programming - the idea of having two programmers develop using a shared computer. There's more to it than that and tons of variations but that's the crux of the idea. Proponents claim it increases programmer efficiency and lowers error rates but others would rather not follow the practice. Some feel that it's great in certain environments like when onboarding a new team member.

We hear CS Teachers talk about pairing in their classes all the time - "It's an industry technique" but to me the interesting thing is that I think many teachers, particularly more senior ones came up with pair programming independent of it as an industry technique. It came out of not having enough computers. This invariably leads to kids pairing up. Now, you'll say "but pair programming isn't just two kids sharing a computer." I agree but when good teachers do group work it isn't just kids left to their own devices working in a group. Over time, teachers who "discover" pair programming come up with ways to make it effective in their classrooms.

The other interesting thing is that pair programming serves different purposes at work vs in schoo. At work it's supposed to increase programming efficiency and help them develop better code more quickly. In the classroom, besides addressing the lack of computers, it's used as a tool to provide feedback to students, have them support each other, and create a cooperative supportive environment.

Another technique CS teachers use is subgoal labeling. The gist here is that you write down or label smaller goals within your program. It's an idea I used for years but only relatively recently learned its name.

The interesting thing here is that I used this idea as a professional programming well before I ever taught and I don't recall it ever being used in any of my classes.

The idea just made sense. I'd write a function and pepper it with comments indicating the parts s or subgoals I'd need to write code for to complete the function. I don't know if subgoal labelling is or ever was a prevelent technique in professional programming but the related idea of writing function stubs is. The idea here is that as you develop your program write out an empty placeholder function, a stub, when you realize you need it and fill it in later. This is something of a subgoal but at the function level.

So, here we have two practices. One that is certainly used in both the classroom and in industry and one that likely is. The practices seem to be examples of convergent evolution. Developed independently but with similar albeit somewhat different benefits.

There have to me more practices like this. If you know any, please share.

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