How we think about coding and computing literacy

I’ve been meaning to write about Annette Vee’s Coding Literacy: How Computer Programming is Changing Writing for a while now. The book looks at the current interest in “coding literacy” from the perspective of literacy studies. I picked up the book because I was interested in this outside perspective, and two quotes in the introduction immediately told me I was going to enjoy this book: Programming as defined by computer science of software engineering is bound to echo the values of those contexts. But the concept of coding literacy suggests programming is a literacy practice with many applications beyond a profession … Continue reading How we think about coding and computing literacy

To-do list from SIGCSE 2019

The timing of SIGCSE (the technical symposium for ACM’s special interest group on computer science education) as midway through the Spring semester is a nice lead-in for course revisions that might happen over the summer for the next year, but the trick is to actually remember those intended revisions. There’s also so much one can take away from SIGCSE that I’ve committed to, each time I attend, identifying three manageable things I can do to follow up from the conference in the coming year. Top of the list is a revision to my OO programming course inspired by Prather et … Continue reading To-do list from SIGCSE 2019

Just silliness

I always enjoy the updates to Math with Bad Drawings that reflect on the process of teaching math. The recent entry The Serious Truth About Silly Mistakes rang particularly true for me, especially when I think about teaching programming. Orlin writes about how students do sometimes make careless mistakes – what I might think of as “typos” or “silliness” as he calls it – but that students (or, in his case, their parents) can struggle to distinguish an actual careless slip and an instance of “silliness” that reveals a lack of underlying understanding. He suggests the following for why mathematics … Continue reading Just silliness

Missing the phone part of my phone

This week I got to spend a bit over three days without a phone due to unrecoverable failure of my old phone and a delay in getting a replacement. When I discovered I wouldn’t have a phone for that stretch a time, my immediate reaction was semi-panic – what would I do without my phone! I was sort of surprised that, in reality, it was way less of a hassle than I expected. I attribute this to a few things: I have so many devices that there were only a small number of apps on my phone whose functionality wasn’t … Continue reading Missing the phone part of my phone

Reflections on Debugging Tips

I’ve had a copy of The Pragmatic Programmer (Hunt and Thomas) on my shelf for years but I’m finally reading through it in anticipation of teaching three programming-heavy courses this Fall. I just got to the section on Debugging and there are many tips in here that are helpful for reflecting on the mindset that novice programmers have as they start writing code and encountering bugs. A few of the tips are classics: “Don’t panic” and “Don’t say it’s impossible” – I think of student queries about whether the compiler might be broken as off-shoots of the later of these … Continue reading Reflections on Debugging Tips

The Other Reasons Small Classes Matter

A couple of weeks ago Inside Higher Ed briefly higlighted a BioScience paper, Do Small Classes in Higher Education Reduce Performance Gaps in STEM? The answer seems to be “perhaps for women”. It’s an interesting result but despite my interest in the topic what it really got me thinking about was how this is one more in a long string of “are small classes better” articles that talk about the question only from the perspective of whether students acquire particular knowledge or skills better. Obviously, this is important. But small class sizes permit a classroom experience where the outcomes for … Continue reading The Other Reasons Small Classes Matter

Readability of rainbow schemes

The core argument in this discussion of color schemes in maps of Hurricane Harvey rainfall makes sense to me – darkness and light have intuitive intensity meanings to us and it is a problem when a visualization violates those meanings and expects a key to do the work of remapping our understanding. But the suggestion to rework the map with an entirely different visualization technique based on a gradient of color (perhaps with a slight hue shift as well) rather than a rainbow scheme seems to miss what I, at least, find to be functional about the rainbow scheme. I’m accustomed enough to how the rainbow … Continue reading Readability of rainbow schemes

Defining a Liberal Arts Major

Over the past few months I’ve been spending more time than usual in discussions about the value and mission of liberal arts education, coming at it from a few different directions. This seems to align with an increased number of articles in various sources (mainstream and higher-ed focused) about the value of the liberal arts. There are a lot of pieces to the challenging problem of explaining liberal arts education. One piece I keep coming back to, though, is my frustration with the phrase “liberal arts majors”, generally intended to mean arts and humanities majors. If it were up to me, we would insist on being clear … Continue reading Defining a Liberal Arts Major

Finding a use for Twitter

As part of the obligatory year-end reflections, I have noticed that despite consistent good intentions, I haven’t been posting here regularly this fall. As always, I hope to remedy that as I don’t imagine ever entirely abandoning Screenshot. However, in my absence from this space, I have been somewhat more active in another corner of the internet. After some false starts and a general sense of apathy about the service, I have found a use for Twitter that seems to be working for me, mostly as a replacement for Delicious which I found became cumbersome at some point a few years ago … Continue reading Finding a use for Twitter

Next, they rise up and kill us all….

My most recent weblog post was on teaching ethics to self-driving cars, flippantly titled At least they’re not using GTA as a data source. Except…. Self-Driving Cars Can Learn a Lot by Playing Grand Theft Auto Let’s console ourselves that “there’s little chance of a computer learning bad behavior by playing violent computer games” and instead admire the clever efficiency of allowing them to get practice navigating the complexities of realistic roads. And, in this case, it does seem that they are just extracting photo-realistic screenshots rather than having to produce authentic training data, which is a cool trick. But the fact that the … Continue reading Next, they rise up and kill us all….