Missed Opportunity

Problems are Opportunities
Credit: DonnaGrayson

I’m spending a lot more time teaching other people to code than I am actually coding at the moment.

Whilst I like teaching, this is not at all in line with how I want to be spending my time.

I TA a mandatory computer course in the management school, and I have a friend taking another mandatory programming course for Engineers. The course I TA teaches VB, and the Engineering course teaches C.

These students aren’t stupid, the students learning VB only have to ask you whether you use VB (of course not, does any self-respecting programmer?) and they know they aren’t learning anything that can’t be done using the built in functions in Excel. The students learning C notice that their TA’s (and the prof) keep accidentally giving them Java code. According to O’Reilly, Java has been overtaking C++ as a teaching language for over a decade. Why are these courses so behind?

I think this is a missed opportunity. Students taking Computer Science have signed up for a degree of torment-by-compiler. These students have not. Instead of a course that they hate why not take the opportunity to create a course that excites them about the potential of programming? Instead of alienating them about the whole concept you motivate them with the reasons and real world examples for why programming is a useful skill to have?

For instance: mashup creation, simple scripting, what an API is (and how to make calls to it), web apps.

Yes, it requires more creativity in course creation. Yes, it may require the people teaching these courses and the TAs to learn more skills. Maybe before it didn’t make a big difference to send a bunch of students into different fields with a hatred for programming. In the new reality though, an understanding of programming and why it is useful would potentially give them a big head start.

What do you think?

4 thoughts on “Missed Opportunity

  1. Until recently, I thought the Java SDK documentation was an API.
    Re-reading everything sometime after I finished my courses helped clear a bunch of stuff up.

    In my college courses, everything was business-oriented. I think I would have liked to learn a base of graphics and physics programming in addition to the tiered systems, object-oriented design, and .NET forms we spent all our time on.

  2. Until recently, I thought the Java SDK documentation was an API.
    Re-reading everything sometime after I finished my courses helped clear a bunch of stuff up.

    In my college courses, everything was business-oriented. I think I would have liked to learn a base of graphics and physics programming in addition to the tiered systems, object-oriented design, and .NET forms we spent all our time on.

  3. It’s so difficult to cover everything that’s important. At Edinburgh we had so much choice in our courses, it was amazing. For my grad degree I lucked out and ended up based in the business school (even though I’m a CS student) so I feel like I’m getting a balance with reality. But there’s still so much more stuff that I wish I knew, or had time to experiment with.

  4. It’s so difficult to cover everything that’s important. At Edinburgh we had so much choice in our courses, it was amazing. For my grad degree I lucked out and ended up based in the business school (even though I’m a CS student) so I feel like I’m getting a balance with reality. But there’s still so much more stuff that I wish I knew, or had time to experiment with.

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