Category Archives: learning

Odd things

On our way back from Infoweapons (and on the prowl for non-fried places to eat), Paolo and I spotted a brightly-lit cafe with Japanese characters sprayed on its windows. We stood there for a moment, deciphering the inscription: 喫茶と軽食. Tea house and snacks. Coffee and snacks. Something like that.

Then we saw the bookshelves overflowing with manga.

Whoa.

We went in and stared at the manga collection for a moment. I amused myself by trying to translate the sign posted above the bookshelf. The English caption mentioned Japanese people who want to converse with Cebuanos. Being neither Japanese nor Cebuano, I wondered if they'd let me come and practice Japanese anyway. A look at the clientele—old Japanese businessmen, pretty Filipinas—and at the high prices posted, and Paolo and I looked at each other and laughed. It might be like one of those snack bars I saw in Shinjuku...

Hmm. Maybe we can have a cup of hot chocolate / coffee and read as much as we want. Maybe Wednesday. Hehehe...

私は妹に新しいコンピューターを使わせてやった。 I let my sister use my new computer.

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On teaching programming

why do I have to write all this syntactic sugar to just do the canonical "Hello, world"?

I firmly believe that the canonical "Hello, world" program is one of the worst ways to introduce Java, or even programming in general.

I like BlueJ. It's a nice, clean, object-oriented environment that immediately visualizes the difference between objects and classes and allows students to interact with objects before they even see Java code. I like the way BlueJ lets you interact with complex systems, learning about control structures and logic along the way.

A popular Python tutorial starts with using Python as a calculator instead of just getting it to print strings. Isn't that a great way for people to see how immediately useful a programming language can be?

I wouldn't start an Emacs Lisp tutorial with (print "Hello, world!"). I would start it by taking a look at an existing function and modifying it.

Languages should not all be taught the same way. Just because we might have learned with "Hello, world" doesn't mean that "Hello, world" is the best way to learn how to program. I think there are better ways to teach computer science, and I want to spend a fairly significant chunk of my life looking for them.

You can, too. Just remember that you can improve on the way things have always been done.

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彼女は娘のためにパソコンを買ってやった。 She got her daughter a personal computer.

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Creating Passionate Users: Ten Tips for New Trainers/Teachers

Kathy Sierra does it again! In Ten Tips for New Trainers/Teachers on her blog about Creating Passionate Users, Kathy lists 11 things every teacher should know and 10 tips every teacher should follow.

There's a reason why she's one of my idols. Fangirl, fangirl, fangirl...

Even if you're not officially teaching or training someone, you're going to find it useful. READ IT! NOW!

そのコンピューターはかなり時代遅れだったので役に立たなかった。 The computer was so outdated that it was good for nothing.

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Learning designers

In College Matters... Sometimes, Kathy Sierra writes:

Maybe there should be third-party "learning designers" who you pay to plan and choose the best options and put together a perfectly tailored custom program from a variety of learning vendors (instead of throwing all your learning eggs into one school basket) that still includes some general education, but in the way that makes the most sense for that particular student, and uses both online, distance, and *some* face-to-face learning.

Hmm. Now there's a fun idea. I like tailoring things to fit people's individual needs, and I'm crazy about teaching...

祖母が生きているうちに、電話もコンピューターも一般的なものとなった。 In my grandmother's lifetime, both telephones and computers have become commonplace.

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Divergence

Knowing how I wanted to practice my Japanese, Mark Chignell told me about a couple of Japanese-related events this weekend. (Isn't it nice to have a research supervisor who keeps track of your extracurricular interests?)

The first event was a language exchange session held last Saturday, at which I ran into no other than Baryon Posadas. Come to think of it, I shouldn't have been that surprised. Of course he'd be at a Japanese-language event.

Everyone was heading off to Starbucks to chat over coffee. I wanted to ask how he had been, but I needed to go to Clarkson Station to meet Tita Sol. We tried to work out some other time to meet, but he had promised to help someone move and he needed to find an apartment, and a lot of other things. Technically, I think I'm supposed to e-mail him if I want to meet him for coffee (or hot chocolate), but now that I think about it, I don't have much to chat with him about. Except perhaps for general settling-in questions, like where's a good place to open a bank account or get a credit card, and I already sorta know the answers to those questions.

Anyway, I went to the barbecue today because it meant a free lunch. I didn't get to practice my Japanese, though, as I didn't feel up to making small talk in a foreign language—not when there was a perfectly good conversation to have with Mark about research plans and what I should do while he's off in Japan. (Yes, we were talking about work. On a Sunday! During a long weekend!)

During a lull in the conversation, we wandered around in search for non-MSG chips. Baryon was there at the table with the unflavored chips, so I briefly introduced them to each other. Mark got drawn into a conversation with a bunch of Japanese girls, so I was left on my own. I asked them if I could sit there. I sat there for maybe a minutes, idly munching on chips. Got bored, found it difficult to break into a clique, eventually thought of a question to ask Mark and left the table without a word.

Anyway, the entire thing prompted a reflection on divergence. I'd borrowed a number of books from him before (speculative fiction, mainly), and that was our common interest. Now my reading tastes have changed (non-fiction and children's lit) and our worlds are really very different now.

Mark's a pretty good judge of character, and he picked up on the differences too. <laugh> In fact, he thought Baryon was strange. I shrugged and said, "He's from humanities." (Nothing against the humanities, of course. Hi Marcelle!)

I think that energy makes a big difference to me. Mark's a positive, high-energy kind of person, which is one of the reasons why I get along with him very well. Baryon and a number of other people I know don't show that kind of energy often. They're more reserved and detached.

If you take a look at the people I love hanging out with (Hiya, Just Geeks League! ;) ), they've all got positive energy. One of the things I like about chatting with Dominique is the way his smile comes through so well in his voice, and you know his face shows it too! Even Sean's deep and serious voice hides playfulness and wit. (You should watch his Hulk impression... It's hilarious!) Even though they have problems like everyone else, their upbeat personalities make the tough times easier to weather.

I don't know if Baryon's like that, and I somewhat remember that he laughs and joke about some things. Although it would be nice to pick his brains about stuff I need to know as an international student in Toronto, I think it would be a fair bit of work to get to the point where conversation's comfortable. I'll probably focus on developing new contacts instead, at least for now.

もうすぐみんなが自分のコンピュータを持つだろう。 Everyone will have his own computer before long.

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