Jul. 14th, 2005 10:24 pm
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When life gets going fast, the livejournal updating gets sparse...

When last I updated, I mentioned my birthday. I neglected to mention that my dad was in town for it. Not only that, but he was in town for the Seattle to Portland bike ride, which I did last weekend with [livejournal.com profile] nedthealpaca, [livejournal.com profile] tralfazz, and [livejournal.com profile] canarasekal, while [livejournal.com profile] dboothe drove sagwagon of hugeness for support. We rode from Seattle to Centralia on Saturday (~100 miles) and then from Centralia to Portland on Sunday (~100) miles for a grand total of 206 miles at an average speed (when we were moving) of 15.5 MPH.

Then, on Sunday, my dad returned the hugemobile (candy apple red Dodge Durango) to the rental agency and got on a plane for home, and Dan and I headed back to Eugene.

On the way up we slept on Thursday night at the salut haus, and hung out with [livejournal.com profile] ideath, [livejournal.com profile] conformpdx, [livejournal.com profile] esmesquall, [livejournal.com profile] ouro, Miana, Joel, Beth, and Linus (as well as the people who were going on the trip). Then, on Friday we crashed in the big blue house in Seattle and saw Chiara, her mom, [livejournal.com profile] mbrubeck, and [livejournal.com profile] clairebaxter. Then we rode, and you know the rest...

After that adventure, class resumed on Monday (tired legs made getting to class on time difficult), my little brother headed out and south to Berkeley on Wednesday and class ended today.

The class went really well overall, but I don't think I will be doing any 4 week intensives any more. It's just too much - I was really pushing everybody to their limit at times in the class, and their performance in other classes apparently suffered as a result. It's difficult to see any other way of doing things however, because when you squeeze an 11 week term into 4 weeks, then that one class is like taking 2.75 classes. But people think the workload will be more like 1.5 classes and so build their schedules (in)appropriately.

However, the whole class responded really well to the increased pressure. Lots of high quality gibberish programs, everybody's wiki worked and some were genuinely amazing, and I was blown away by the quality and success rate of the final projects. It made me feel like we don't push our undergrads hard enough - give them opportunity to excel and they generally will. But perhaps that's just some of the old Mudd experience rearing its head.

I tried some new teaching techniques this term - I treated the subject as easy and just gave quick overviews on syntax and stuff and then threw the first assignment at them. Students later claimed that what I had done was okay because it was easy, but I'm unconvinced. I think treating things as difficult makes people have trouble. Python makes a few aspects of computer science really neat to talk about, and it also promotes a development style that is fun. In particular, the way the guts of python are available at runtime makes it very easy and natural to talk about the idea of layers of complexity and understanding, and how it's important to understand things at the appropriate level. Multiple students reported the phenomenon where they enjoyed what they were doing so much that they got a little carried away on this or that project, which was really exciting to see. That excitement lead pretty naturally into a discussion of prototyping and the idea of explorig the problem domain by doing instead of thinking. After every assignment I passed back anonymized copies of everyone's code to everyone in the class after every assignment. It was really interesting to see the myriad different ways people would solve the same problem, particularly when I totally thought I had telegraphed the easy solution.

The python class remains my baby and remains hella fun to teach. I have to finish grading stuff this weekend, and then, about a week after I turn in the grades, I'll see if the students enjoyed the class too.


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October 2009

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