Computer Science Teacher
Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

June, 2007

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Programmer Personality Test


     I found this Programmer Personality test the other day. It is based of the Myers-Briggs Personality Test but obviously recrafted for programmers. Now I have mixed feelings about Myers-Briggs (my son  the psychology major dismisses it completely) but a lot of people put stock in it. This test, while it claims to be serious, has too few questions in my opinion to be reliable enough for serious evaluations. And of course I am unaware of any real research behind it. On the other hand it was quick and easy to take and I found the results interesting. My results are below. My comments on the results are below that. 

    Your programmer personality type is:


    You're a Planner.
    You may be slow, but you'll usually find the best solution. If something's worth doing, it's worth doing right.

    You like coding at a High level.
    The world is made up of objects and components, you should create your programs in the same way.

    You work best in a Solo situation.
    The best way to program is by yourself. There's no communication problems, you know every part of the code allowing you to write the best programs possible.

    You are a liBeral programmer.
    Programming is a complex task and you should use white space and comments as freely as possible to help simplify the task. We're not writing on paper anymore so we can take up as much room as we need.

    My comments on the results.

    Planner is completely right. If you read this blog regularly you'll know that I am an advocate of old-fashioned planning and through design before coding. That may make me a dinosaur but it worked for me my whole career.

    High level is true today but wasn't always true. There was a time when bit fiddling was a great joy for me. Setting flags, traversing lists (using pointer arithmetic) and low level coding were fun and interesting. As I've gotten older I really like to reuse code. I have been there, done that, and have no need to prove to anyone that I can "do it from scratch." Give me the blocks and I'll build you your tower!

    Solo situation? Yes, I guess so. But honestly I work fine on large multi-person projects. This happens because of the planning phase. As long as all the inputs and outputs are well defined there is no problem with people coding in something like isolation as long as everyone follows the specification. I like working on a piece of code that is small enough to keep in my head at one time. Until the program isn't broken down into manageable pieces so that individuals can work on them the planning isn't finished to me. That being said I have never given pairs programming a try on a real project. It is an idea I think I might like.

    No one who has read my posts on the value of commenting (like this one which started a lot of discussion in the comments - comments on comments?) will be surprised by me fitting into this definition of "liberal programmer." I like my code documented and "pretty." White space is your friend!

    What do you think about this test? Does it get you right?


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  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Microsoft Web Experience events in LA & Denver


    Looks like there are still open seats for these training events in Los Angeles and Denver. These sessions look like they might be interesting to people in charge of district websites, tech support people, teachers and or course professional web developers. Time is short to sign up though. The one in LA is Friday!

    Microsoft is hosting free Microsoft Web Experience events at the Los Angeles Microsoft office on June 8th and the Denver Microsoft office on June 15th. They will be presenting information on building the next generation user experience on the web. They are providing breakfast and lunch, hosting a reception with beer and wine, and attendees are automatically registered in a drawing for an XBox 360 and a Zune that will be given away at each event. For more information, visit

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  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    We are not here to entertain, but to teach.


    Lately there has been a lot of discussion in the world of computer science education about mays to make computer science more interesting, relevant and yes even more fun for students. A lot of discussion on the AP CS mailing list around the article I talked about in "The Prime Number Syndrome" post seems to be resistant of the idea of using things other than math.

    One teacher came right out and said "we are not here to entertain, but to teach." That is a statement I have heard from teachers, in one form or another, more often than I can count. Often times it feels like people say it to justify boring students out of their minds. Not always of course. And just as often those same teachers do use entertaining techniques, projects and tools in their class. It is just that they resist new methods or techniques that are different or that appear to be somehow too entertaining. One almost wonders if some teachers feel "it was hard (or boring) for me to learn it should be hard (or boring) for my students."

    I've always found that I learn the most from teachers who love what they teach. I would also have to say that most of the teachers who love their subject and love teaching it are almost by definition entertaining. They communicate their enthusiasm in a way that is, as a side product, entertaining. These are the teachers who have the best (most interesting, most amusing, most relevant) stories to use as examples. These are the teachers who bounce around the room getting kids excited. And most of all these are the teachers who get creative and find ways to make the subject interesting to their students.

    A lot of those resisting things like robotics and digital media are also math teachers. These teachers obviously have a strong, and other justified, belief in the importance of math and math education. Some may view computer science as little more than a new way to teach math. Maybe not - but it sometimes seems that way. Math and computer science do work well together. Maria and Gary Litvin have a book in the works that combines the two called Mathematics for the Digital Age and Programming in Python that looks interesting.  If anyone can pull off a book like that without turning kids off and without watering done the math Maria and Gary are those people. But I wonder if that is the best introduction to programming for everyone. A first programming course that was too mathematical would have lost me for sure. Once I was hooked on computer science my interest in math increased. While for some it may work the other way I suspect I am representative of a lot of students.

    Not everyone learns the same way. For some CS will lead to more math. For others math will lead to CS. For a few lucky people (lucky because a lot of teachers seem to think everyone should be this way) math and CS move together from the start. Those are the kids who are having a blast getting the computer to calculate Prime Numbers while their peers don't discover the motivation to learn trigonometry until they need if for their game program.

    Is making the material interesting the same as entertainment? If not I am not sure what the difference is. Of course the priority is teaching. Even if not every student finds the material or the teacher interesting the student still has to learn. At the same time,  the more interested students are the more they learn. Is a teaching technique that presents the material in a stale and boring fashion somehow better, more pure that a technique that entertains as it teaches the same material? Please tell me no. Isn't the picking between entertaining and teaching a false dichotomy to some extent? Shouldn't a teacher who loves teaching their subject at least be animated and interesting? And dare I say it - entertaining?

    My opinion is that a teacher should be judged on their results. Do their students enjoy learning more? Do more students continue on to advanced classes? Do more sign up for a class and stick with it? Do the students learn as much or more with the more "entertaining" class/course format? If the answer is "yes" then where is the bad in students being a bit "entertained?"

    [Note: Adapted and expanded from a post I wrote at the Education blog.]

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