How Do We Best Teach Programming to Beginners?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I teach. I tend to take a “learn by doing” approach in my online courses where there are very clear, step-by-step instructions completed via video. However, this format gets pretty tough to execute in other contexts. For example, I teach an online graduate course for the University of Scranton, which is primarily text-based. This course’s goal is to get students with a healthcare background proficient in programming; the assumption is they are at least somewhat technical. After getting feedback, especially this semester, I’m realizing the approach my co-author and I took in creating the course was wrong. This got me thinking: how do we best teach programming to people who have never seen it?

College is not the Best Time of your Life

We are at the end of April, which means a few things. Soon I’ll be able to smoke cigars on the roof of my building. The sun will be out regularly. People will be graduating from high school and college. When I was in school I heard, “Enjoy college. It’s the best time of your life.” When I was graduating, I heard that we needed to savor every moment of our senior year because, “College is the best time of our lives.” And now ever year since I started teaching college, I’ve heard the same things from students. I’m here to tell you something very important: College is not the best time of your life.

Links Round Up for 02/27/11

Also, I’ve created a Delicious account for Manifest Development. I’ll post tech/web dev/business related links there. Check it out. They also get automatically posted to @manifestdev on Twitter.

Links Round Up for 02/13/11

Links Round Up for 11/7/10

  • Introducing Chalk (by 37signals): Awesome example of the power of HTML5 (and of circumventing the App Store approval process)
  • Study of Facebook Users Connects Narcissism  & Low Self Esteem: Since 500 Million people are on Facebook, you can pretty much do a study using Facebook that proves anything. Coming next week: My study using Facebook proves that you believe everything you read on the Internet.
  • The 4G Forgery: I saw someone a couple of weeks ago advertising “4G Internet…for your computer!” It’s a shame that companies are flat out lying to their customers.
  • Throwback Thursday: Tiger’s Talkboy: I definitely had one of these. I definitely miss being a kid.
  • Ironic Deaths: None of these are ironic. Their article about the “Wine Rack,” a bra that holds wine, is. See wine racks hold wine, and rack is a way to refer to boobs. That’s ironic.
  • Real Examples of Irony: Oh hey. Bad Life Decisions tells us some real examples of irony. Hint: 10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife isn’t one of them.
  • The Class I’d Like to Teach: This is actually pretty interesting. In many classes we are forced into a page requirement and get very good and stretching 3 pages in 6 or 8 or 10. Here he’s asking us to do the exact opposite, and make us keep only what’s important.
  • Reset Your [iPhone/iPad/iPod] Alarm for Daylight Savings Time: If you haven’t done this already I suggest you do, lest you be late to work on Monday.

I officially started the Christmas Season (I celebrate Christmas, and will refer to the season as such) by adding my Deals Twitter List to Tweetdeck. You can check it out here. I also started and subsequently beat Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II this week. It’s as fun as it is short (very). The Challenges help extend game play a little, and I’m usually up for ruthless destruction on easier levels now that I beat the game. If you’re looking for a quick play, I’d recommend it.

15 Video Games that Will Stick with You

Got this from a Facebook Meme, then felt it would be a good blog post.

The rules: Don’t take too long to think about it. Fifteen video games you’ve played that will always stick with you. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes.”

Here we go!

Links Round Up for 09/26/10

  • Facebook is not worth $33 Billion: So there was this time in the late 1990s when Venture Capitalists invested billions into websites without any strong models to make money. Good thing nothing bad came from that. (also, what ever happened to valuing a company based on the money it makes?)
  • Think You Know Baseball? No, You Don’t: This is a shining example about why statistics can be used to prove whatever you want. This guy doesn’t actually tell us anything of substance. “A metric called Win Probability Added (WPA) goes plate appearance by plate appearance to see just how much a player helped or hurt his team’s chance of winning. Value is added for big plays at crucial moments.” That is a completely made up, BS stat, probably because the guy doesn’t like Derek Jeter. You know what matters? Wins and Losses.
  • Degrees that Hiring Managers Want: Toping the list is heath care/nursing. IT is also on there.
  • What it Means when You say ‘Literally’: Wrote about this a while ago. This drives me insane….not literally.
  • With no Jobs, Grads ‘Gamble’ on Education: This is pretty interesting. I think it was grad school that made be the developer I am. I was also able to get an assistantship, which meant school from free.
  • Wait. What Does Your Startup Do?: I get way to many pitches for websites like this. “It’s like a Facebook for orphans.” 37signals said that there is a social network that doesn’t exist today, there is probably a reason. Think about that, because it’s true.

In other news, Facebook was down for the good part of a day and Twitter was hacked. Crazy!

And for music…The Gaslight Anthem. I recommend it all, but if you’re only choosing one, The ’59 Sound is the best.