Teaching software engineering

Mario Carreon writes:

Gosh though, one of the things i lack as a teacher is how software
is developed in the “real world.” It would be great if i could give
a glimpse of what happens outside in my classes.

As much as students and professionals complain that teachers don’t
have enough industry experience, the reality is that most people with
industry experience don’t teach, and many teachers find themselves
forced to teach pretty much anything the school needs them to do.

I taught software engineering before. We had no choice because the regular
teacher was on sabbatical. I had to co-teach it with another, more
experienced teacher. I handled C++ and design patterns, and he handled
the management side.

I was _way_ out of my depth. It was a disservice to my students
because I didn’t have the war stories that an experienced teacher
would have, but at the same time it was better than not offering the
course at all. That was the semester I learned to make these
compromises. That was also the semester I learned to make the most of
my friends’ stories about their lives outside the ivory tower.

It was the same in my decision support systems course. I’ve never
built one, but by happy coincidence a new friend of mine had been the
database administrator for a large bank that used data mining and
expert systems with terabytes of data. I told his stories to my class,
and I hope that gave them a little appreciation for the real-life
applications for these things.

That’s the only thing we teachers can do, I guess. It would be nice if
we could work in the industry for a decade or two in order to gain
experience, but even if we did that, we’d never get enough experience
to teach all the things our schools ask us to do. We have to learn how
to borrow bits and pieces of other people’s lives, to collect insights
from other people and to bring those insights into the classrooms. We
are how people in the industry can teach hundreds and hundreds of
people throughout the years.

So fellow teachers: reach out to the people in the industry. We need
their stories. We need their experiences.

And for those of you in the industry: adopt teachers. Tell them your
stories. Share your experiences. Tell them about the mistakes you’ve
made, because they can help other people learn how to avoid repeating
those mistakes.

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