Computer Science Prof Zack Kurmas writes about the challenge of teaching introductory programming:
I believe that expecting a student to learn to program well enough to study Computer Science in a single 15-week course is almost as absurd as expecting a student with no instrumental musical experience to be ready to join the university orchestra after 15 weeks. There are, of course, musical prodigies that can handle this challenge. Likewise, there are many “natural born programmers” who learn how to program with very little apparent effort.
Kurmas makes some very good points: that almost every other college programme has some basis of preparation in a standard high school curriculum, hence creating a much steeper learning curve for CS; that CS education could be better modelled after a foreign language learning framework; and finally, that he might just not be very well-suited to teaching intro CS, as a “natural-born” programmer.
This post was linked from Steve Losh’s response, which is also a good read for CS students and educators. Losh provides an interesting analogy about the difficulty of learning programming and dancing:
The first plateau of programming is the syntax and the first plateau of dancing is footwork. The bad part about this is that dancing when you only know footwork or programming when you only know syntax isn’t much fun. You can’t do all of the most interesting things that make these skills so rewarding.
Forbes (really, Forbes?!) interviews Zach Weiner, creator of SMBC Comics. I’ve always wondered how he manages to be so consistently funny, so I found this interview very interesting. Weiner’s take on ideas vs. execution:
I picked up one of my old Far Side books to flip through and noticed something interesting. Far Side had solid execution (sometimes extremely good), but it was much more about the ideas. If he had a good idea, he’d present it without a lot of fuss over presentation. It got into my head that maybe I was doing this all wrong – instead of focusing on having really good ideas, I was focusing on order of events and word choice.
Some nice insights about the nature of comedy in there, too.
Apparently, the White House didn’t release pictures of Osama’s death partly because of what they were afraid the Internet would do to them. Can’t blame them — take a look at the hilarious situation room photos in this article. Cognitive surplus, indeed.
Re Chris Dixon’s post on there being two kinds of people in the world, those who’ve started a company and those who haven’t:
I am no longer arrogant enough to claim that somehow entrepreneurship is a superior choice, to suggest that those who don’t choose it are somehow missing out (whether because they are not capable of handling it or because they haven’t had the opportunity).
(Insert “two kinds of people in the world” joke here.)