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I found this interesting article that talks about the different ways that teachers use computers. One of the things it mentions is that most teachers think that the right ratio is one computer per student. Apparently if you get a group of students sharing a computer they start to talk about other things. I must admit that I've seen that myself. But I wonder if 1:1 is really best for teaching computer science, specifically programming.
One of the ideas behind "extreme programming" is pairs programming where two programmers work on the same computer at the same time. I think there are times when having each student work on their own computer is great. At the same time, pairs programming is one of those things I experimented with briefly as a teacher but would like to do more with. Have any of you used paired programming in your assignments? How did it go?
I found this article in the International Herald Tribue today. I wrote recently about the need to tell people that computer science is interesting. The focus of this article is on the different fields that interact with modern computer science and the varied programs that universities have that make CS more interesting and more valuable. I especially liked this quote.
"If you have only technical knowledge, you are vulnerable," said Thomas Malone, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan School of Management. "But if you can combine business or scientific knowledge with technical savvy, there are a lot of opportunities. And it's a lot harder to move that kind of work offshore."
Computer Science is more fun and interesting, to say nothing of potentually world changing, than a lot of students understand. We need to get that message out. You may want to show this IHT article to some students. I know I plan to.
I am in Maryland today and tomorrow. Tomorrow I will be presenting a one day workshop on teaching Visual Basic .NET. I really do like VB .NET as a first programming language. I have written that often before. But what I am really excited about today is being in front of a classroom full of students again.
Now anyone who has taught teachers will tell you that it is not like teaching a regular class of ordinary students. Now some will say it’s harder and I would not argue against that. Some will say that teachers are horrible students but that I would disagree with. Teachers ask questions. They do not assume things not in evidence. And they do not hesitate to tell you that you are going too fast or too slow or that you are just not explaining things well. They are professionals at what they do and they expect professionalism from people who would teach them. To me that makes them great students. Teaching teachers is not a walk in the park. It is a hike up the mountain. But like the hike the work has its rewards.
I expect to learn a lot tomorrow. Hopefully the teachers in the class will learn a lot as well. After all that is why they are there for the day. But I would be a poor teacher indeed if I did not plan to learn from my students. I hope to get a better understanding of how to teach some of the concepts I teach. I hope to get some good project ideas. And I hope to improve myself as a teacher. And that is something I think every teacher should work towards whether they are teaching children or other teachers or anyone else.