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…”

[education] Creative Monopoly

An interesting article by David Brooks in the New York Times commenting on the views of the always controversial Peter Thiel.

[Why is he controversial? Because he has a grant program for students who are so passionate about their startup idea that they are willing to drop out of college to get the grant. Which is ironic because in the article, Brooks is citing what Thiel is teaching in his Stanford COURSE!]

The article is about Thiel’s views on what and how students get taught in college:

“First, students have to jump through ever-more demanding, preassigned academic hoops. Instead of developing a passion for one subject, they’€™re rewarded for becoming professional students, getting great grades across all subjects, regardless of their intrinsic interests.

Instead of wandering across strange domains, they have to prudentially apportion their time, making productive use of each hour.” (from The Creative Monopoly)

Why would that be bad? Read on:

“… We live in a culture that nurtures competitive skills. And they are necessary: discipline, rigor and reliability. But it’s probably a good idea to try to supplement them with the skills of the creative monopolist: alertness, independence and the ability to reclaim forgotten traditions.” (from The Creative Monopoly)

Waiting for Superman

I recently saw the movie “Waiting for Superman” – yes I am late to the party. But in case you have not seen it let me recommend it to you as a highly revealing and disappointing view into the way the American school system runs, stuck in a system that feels so wrong in so many ways. Watch it. And visit the Waiting For Superman Web Site.

Here is the IMdb info for Waiting for Superman. Here is the Netflix link for the DVD.

Insightful article about education

An insightful article about higher education in the USA: The Disadvantages of an Elite Education. Here are some interesting quotes. It’s a long article and all of it was quite interesting.

“Students at places like Cleveland State also don’t get A-’s just for doing the work. There’s been a lot of handwringing lately over grade inflation, and it is a scandal, but the most scandalous thing about it is how uneven it’s been.

Forty years ago, the average GPA at both public and private universities was about 2.6, still close to the traditional B-/C+ curve. Since then, it’s gone up everywhere, but not by anything like the same amount.

The average gpa at public universities is now about 3.0, a B; at private universities it’s about 3.3, just short of a B+. And at most Ivy League schools, it’s closer to 3.4. But there are always students who don’t do the work, or who are taking a class far outside their field (for fun or to fulfill a requirement), or who aren’t up to standard to begin with (athletes, legacies).

At a school like Yale, students who come to class and work hard expect nothing less than an A-. And most of the time, they get it.” (from The Disadvantages of an Elite Education)

also:

“The political implications don’t stop there. An elite education not only ushers you into the upper classes; it trains you for the life you will lead once you get there. I didn’t understand this until I began comparing my experience, and even more, my students’ experience, with the experience of a friend of mine who went to Cleveland State.

There are due dates and attendance requirements at places like Yale, but no one takes them very seriously. Extensions are available for the asking; threats to deduct credit for missed classes are rarely, if ever, carried out. In other words, students at places like Yale get an endless string of second chances.

Not so at places like Cleveland State. My friend once got a D in a class in which she’d been running an A because she was coming off a waitressing shift and had to hand in her term paper an hour late.” (from The Disadvantages of an Elite Education)

Worth reading the whole thing: The Disadvantages of an Elite Education

commonplace, ordinary, usual, common

I just came across an excellent speech given by William Deresiewics (I didn’t know who he was either) to the plebe class at the United States Military Academy at West Point. The title of the speech is Solitude and Leadership.

I had a hard time finding a representative quote from the article that would suck you in to reading it. This is a quote from the speech, where he is quoting the famous novel “Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad:

He was commonplace in complexion, in features, in manners, and in voice. He was of middle size and of ordinary build. His eyes, of the usual blue, were perhaps remarkably cold. . . . Otherwise there was only an indefinable, faint expression of his lips, something stealthy—a smile—not a smile—I remember it, but I can’t explain. . . . He was a common trader, from his youth up employed in these parts—nothing more. He was obeyed, yet he inspired neither love nor fear, nor even respect. He inspired uneasiness. That was it!

Uneasiness. Not a definite mistrust—just uneasiness—nothing more. You have no idea how effective such a . . . a . . . faculty can be. He had no genius for organizing, for initiative, or for order even. . . . He had no learning, and no intelligence. His position had come to him—why? . . . He originated nothing, he could keep the routine going—that’s all. But he was great. He was great by this little thing that it was impossible to tell what could control such a man. He never gave that secret away. Perhaps there was nothing within him. Such a suspicion made one pause.

Read the whole speech, I thought it was an excellent New Years message.

I also came across this other speech by the same author, also looks quite interesting: The Disadvantages of an Elite Education by William Deresiewicz.