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December 3, 2021 at 07:46PM

Teach ’em GIT

I don’t agree that it’s a “major problem for computer science” – by a long shot. But still it is odd that often Computer Science students are not exposed to ‘modern’ source control management systems or version management systems, or maybe even “any” SCM at all.

Version Control and Higher Education — What I Learned Building… — Medium:

We are not doing students any favors by ignoring software like Git at the university level. It’s a major problem for computer science, information technology and design students to not—at the very least—be exposed to some form of version control or source code management during their tenure at school.

 

Ivory Tower or Trade school?

One of the tensions that I have seen in teaching software engineering is whether something should be viewed as legitimate research or part of the craft of computer engineering.

It’s a slippery slope that I myself didn’t have a good articulation for.

I came across this in a newsgroup which I think is a pretty good description. The writer is referring to Researching Information Systems and Computing:

“According to the author, the major differences are that in the typical software industry is that the less that is learnt or the less that needs to be discovered the more successful the project is deemed to be. If all is going according to plan then using existing knowledge, avoiding backtracking and changing of design or avoiding having to redo analysis would be seen as a part success. Having to change your design, backtracking and redoing analysis are perceived as a negative risk which needs to be mitigated. These risks could overrun the project constraints such as time, budget etc. Therefore industrial practitioners often leave out risky or uncertain parts of a project.

A researcher on the other hand focuses on these risky and uncertain items because tackling these risks and uncertainties successfully would lead to new knowledge being created. Hence you can claim to be doing research rather than ‘normal’ design and creation through the risk taking of your software product or process. You can further claim justification for your design by using theoretical underpinnings such as mathematical formulas and or formal methods from the field. You should also be able to say how the knowledge aquired from your design can be applied generally to other situations.

[EDUCATION] Is the innovators’ dilemma coming to higher ed?

An interesting fact:

“In the last years of the nineteenth century, Charles Dow created an index of 12 leading industrial companies. Almost none of them exist today….[…]… Four years after Dow invented his average, a group of 14 leading research institutions created the Association of American Universities. All of them exist today.” (fromThe Higher Education Monopoly is Crumbling As We Speak)

The article goes on to talk about where Higher Ed’s staying power has come from: 

“I think that rule is going to change, and soon. Many factors explain the endurance of higher education institutions—the ascent of the knowledge economy, their crucial role in upper-middle class acculturation, our peculiar national enthusiasm for college sports—but the single greatest asset held by traditional colleges and universities is their exclusive franchise for the production and sale of higher education credentials.  (fromThe Higher Education Monopoly is Crumbling As We Speak)

The question arises: how long will those credentials continue to be worth so much money? Every day we read in the paper about a new educational entrepreneur (yours truly included) who wants to offer valuable and relevant educational opportunities outside the University walls, to bring it to a wider and underserved cohort, and for a more realistic cost.

I love teaching at Brandeis University and hope to continue doing it for a long while to come. At the same time I believe there is a major unmet demand from Computer Science students and career changers for a super intense introduction to what I like to call Applied Computer Science, with a strong focus on doing and building products. I feel that what we are trying to achieve is a clear part of the trends covered in The Higher Education Monopoly is Crumbling As We Speak)

[EDUCATION] Booting up experienced technical talent who have dated skills

As you may know, I’ve been working on launching Bootup Academy, which will offer applied computer science or engineering programs to college students who want to supplement their studies with an intensive 10 week summer program. That’s why you may have seen more posts here labeled [EDUCATION].

We’re now adding an additional focus, Booting Up experienced technical folks who have never put together a web or mobile application, have not worked in an agile environment, and so may not have the right check boxes on their resume.

We think they may be interested in rapidly bring themselves up to speed, develop skills, knowledge, contacts, and importantly, a portfolio of designs and code, and actual working products. We think that with that they will be invigorated and more easily make the move into a new startup or innovative company. And they will stay in Boston!

In the New York Times today is an article: “A Sea of Job-Seekers, but Some Companies Aren’t Getting Any Bites”:

“Case in point: Gabriel Shaoolian, chief executive of Blue Fountain Media, a Web design and marketing company with 85 employees in New York, said he had 10 openings right now because his company could not find enough highly qualified people with technical backgrounds. “If you’re a professional developer, Web designer or online marketing specialist, you can pick the company you work for,” Mr. Shaoolian said. “There is a shortage where demand severely outstrips supply.” (from The New York Times)

[EDUCATION] Strategic Plans – are they worth the paper they are written on?

I came across a very provocative article about why and how universities seem to often get buried in a time consuming and torturous process of strategic planning.

My experience in the private sector is that it is very easy to get sucked into a process that takes on a life of its own and sucks a massive amount of time out of the organization for very questionable outcomes.

Caveat: I don’t claim that I have a broad view on this, as my experience is quite limited but I’ll just say that for my money “Strategic Plans” are the management equivalent of “Big Design Up Front”, both of which I try to limit as much as possible.

Remember I am neither against planning nor design. I am against spending massive resources on the creation of massive documents which are out of date as soon they are written down, and are never ever looked at again.

Here’s the conclusion from the article:

“This interchangeability of visions for the future underscores the fact that the precise content of most colleges’ strategic plans is pretty much irrelevant. Plans are usually forgotten soon after they are promulgated.

My university has presented two systemwide strategic plans and one arts-and-sciences strategic plan in the past 15 years. No one can remember much about any of those plans, but another one is in the works.

The plan is not a blueprint for the future. It is, instead, a management tool for the present. The ubiquity of planning at America’s colleges and universities is another reflection and reinforcement of the continuing growth of administrative power.” (from The Strategic Plan: Neither Strategy Nor Plan…”