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The Power of the Human Spirit

| career, education, life, passion, teaching

Irine Yu pointed me to the speech delivered by Intel Excellence in Teaching awardee Dr. Josette Biyo:

When your job becomes your mission, your primary concern is giving your best in everything you do. Knowing that you have contributed
significantly towards the creation of a product which can make a difference in your company and the larger community is reward in itself.

We can make a difference no matter who or what or where we are. If we know _why_, then the _how_ follows. =)

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Outreach: CompSAt I.T. Literacy Training for Public School Teachers

| education, philippines

In Manila and want to help out?

Check out Mark Punzalan’s post:

CompSAt RnD has an I.T. outreach project entitled “I.T. Literacy
Training for Public School Teachers” (what a mouthful!). This is a
project with DISCS and ACED (Ateneo Center for Educational
Development). Through this project, we aim to provide grade school
and high school public school teachers with I.T. literacy training to
help them teach their students about computers. You may not be aware
of it, but a lot of public school teachers have little experience with
computers, and the average Ateneo student probably knows a LOT more
than they do.

We NEED volunteers for the training sessions. Training sessions will
be held every Saturday from 8-12 in the morning at F-227, starting
this Saturday, Dec. 10. DISCS will provide the curriculum for
instruction (simple stuff like using Word, Excel, the Internet, etc.)
and possibly refreshments.

We only need two volunteers every Saturday. We’re sorely lacking in
volunteers. If you want to help out, please contact me via email or
mobile phone (see my contact details below). We will be having a
meeting this Wednesday at 4:30 PM, venue TBA (probably at Faura). You
can drop by even if you don’t notify me, but it’d be better if you let
me know beforehand. Feel free to ask your friends to help out. More
volunteers are very much welcome! :-)

Thanks, and have a nice day!

Mark C. Punzalan
Vice President for Research and Development
The Computer Society in the Ateneo
punzki@compsat.org

E-Mail from Mark Punzalan

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Reflections on the lab

Posted: - Modified: | education, teaching

([[[[2005.11.23#2]]]] [[[[teaching#5]]]] [[[[TeachingReflections#23]]]])

I discussed the grading scheme for the Decision Support Systems class
today. One of the good things about being a teaching assistant is that
you get to see work by lots of students, turning up a lot of good
ideas in the process. <grin> I showed off a project that got
perfect marks from me because it was well-thought-out and creative.
All students worked on a Microsoft Excel decision support system for
investments. (Yes, I spent a small chunk of my life showing how to
make Microsoft Excel do strange things.) I particularly liked that
project because the group made an effort to adapt the interface to the
personality of the user, and they also coded a simulation that
randomized the ups and downs of each investment according to its
volatility. That was cool. =) Nice graphs, nice user interface.

As for project 2: I’m a little concerned about the spread of the
class. Some of the students have finished their project already. They
either leave the class after my explanations or continue working on
their other projects. Others are just now asking me about little
details I thought I pointed out a number of times in the past few
weeks. Hmmm. I wonder if this has anything to do with attendance or
seating arrangements, or the fact that I taught a slightly different
mix of things in a slightly different way each time I went over the
basics (thrice!). The students who experimented a bit on their own
seemed to do very well, but then students like that almost always do.

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Learning designers

| education, passion

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…

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Creating Passionate Users: Ten Tips for New Trainers/Teachers

| education, passion

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!

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On teaching programming

| education

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.

E-Mail to True Computer Science Mailing List

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On computer science education

| education

In response to Neil Santos’ rant about computer science education:

What a pity it is that you’ve never had a good teacher. A good teacher can help you grow immensely. I’ve had great teachers, and they really changed my life. Let me share with you some things I’ve learned from them and why I’m crazy about computer science.

When you meet a lot of brilliant people, you’ll quickly realize that technical skills do not guarantee people skills and vice versa. One of the best ways to meet brilliant people is through open source. Look at Richard Stallman: undoubtedly a genius, but his personality rubs a lot of people the wrong way. (He’s really cool, though.) On the other hand, there are people who combine both technical know-how with passion and great communication skills; these are the teachers who can change your life.

I owe so much to the teachers I’ve learned from inside and outside the classroom. The best teachers I’ve had taught me that I’m not limited to the classroom. They helped me gain the confidence to try things on my own. They showed me things I didn’t know about and might not have discovered on my own. They questioned my assumptions and challenged me to do better. I remember when I was in first year college and I was slacking off in subjects like English; it was my computer science
teacher who told me that I should pay attention to details!

My teachers really helped me deal with my insecurities about our curriculum. I always kept my eye on schools abroad, and because I was already working on open source in college, I could see how people my age were doing really fantastic things like maintaining the Linux kernel or writing their own operating systems. My teachers helped me take advanced classes and get into extracurricular projects and
competitions. When I started working on things on my own, they gave me encouragement and great recommendations.

I’ve heard many, many stories about teachers who aren’t as good as the ones I had, though. Most teachers don’t seem to care about their students or their subjects. I want to help change that.

Computer science changes every day. The accelerating pace may make you think that it’s impossible to keep up. The truth is, as things get faster and faster, a strong foundation becomes more and more important.

That’s what I’d like to think I teach. I do not teach how to program in Java or C++ or Perl. I teach people how to _think_, how to break a problem down into solvable parts, how to learn more and more and more. My job is not to pour information into passive students, but rather I am here to show them the basics and then challenge them, make them hungry for more, guide them through questions and hints. I don’t know everything, but I love sharing whatever I know, and I love learning new things from students and the world.

I messed up a lot as a beginning teacher, too. There were days when the explanations I prepared the night before didn’t work and everyone was just confused. There were days when I’d just get so frustrated with my inability to express something or to convince people that copying isn’t going to teach them as much as actually sticking it out and solving the problem. But still, there were days when I’d see students get that Aha! moment, and that made things worthwhile.

I enjoy computer science so much that I cannot think of _not_ teaching it. I want to get other people hooked. I want people to fall in love with learning and problem-solving. I want people to discover that they too are capable of mental wizardry; that they too can make the computer dance to their tune. I want to be a fantastic teacher. In order to do that, I’m working on not only getting the theoretical and practical background to share with my students, but also learning how to teach and teach well.

Let me tell you that computer science education doesn’t have to be like what you’re suffering. I know it can be good, and I want to make it even better.

What does this mean for you, now, while you’re taking up your degree at Adamson University?

Well, if you can’t do anything about your teachers right now, you have many ways of coping. Open source gives you an opportunity to test your knowledge and make a difference world-wide. Even as a student, you can work on really cool things! Come hang out with us, too. We can challenge you. We can help you stay enthusiastic and passionate about computers. When are you usually free?

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