Teaching About Error Messages

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

Teaching About Error Messages

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Here is a cartoon from Office Offline  that reminds me of the sort of messages students used to write.

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OK maybe they were not that bad. But it was amazing the sort of things students though were acceptable messages. Messages that talked down to people, called them names, used generally impolite language, and just plain weird stuff. I think this is because, in part at least, they thought no one would ever read the messages but them and me (while grading.) Perhaps they would show it to friends and they wanted to have some fun. This is the sort of thing I often commented on in reviews of programs though. Why? Because I wanted to instill good habits and good practice.

Teachers can not reasonably demand full professional quality work (though it is a nice goal) but I think that teachers have to take assignments seriously and insist that students do as well. This is especially true for programs that have to interact with users. Many computer programs are just too hard and too unfriendly for people to use. Getting students thinking about fixing that problem early is the least we can do.

BTW look through the archives of Office Offline some time. If you can’t find a cartoon to hang on your wall or door I’d be surprised.

  • Here Here. Even when I harp on this I still get items that are just not acceptable. I always try to give them a couple of bad examples.. True ones btw so they get some kind of feel for limits. They laugh at them and it helps.. But I can still get a lot of downward talking messages when the user does something wrong. And yes we start out with positive informative ones with examples from the get go.

  • Thanks for the kind words, Alfred. You make some great points. I think I could do a whole series of comics about bad error messages. Hmmm...maybe I will.

    Thanks!

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