Zuzel Vera Pacheco is studying how developers visualize SQL queries for her Master’s thesis project. She ran her last subject a few days ago, and yesterday did the draw for the gift card she was using as an incentive. There’s still a lot to be done—coding and analyzing all that data is going to take a month or more—but I’m really pleased that she is making such rapid progress.
SIGPLAN Education Board has produced a report “Why undergraduates should learn the principles of programming languages” which was presented at the ACM Education Council meeting. It makes four claims for why students should study programming languages:
- Students learn widely-applicable design and implementation techniques.
- Many students will need to create new domain specific languages or virtual machines, so it’s useful for them to study what’s known about languages.
- By learning programming languages, students learn new computational models and speed learning of new languages. ”The best preparation for quickly learning and effectively using new languages is understanding the fundamentals underlying all programming languages and to have some prior experience with a variety of computational models.”
- Students learn how to choose the right programming language for a task.
The problem is that we have empirical support for none of these claims. People are amazingly bad at transferring knowledge. People tend to learn about a specific situation and not recognize when the same idea applies in a new situation—or worse, they transfer negatively, mistaking the similarity and using older knowledge in an incorrect way.
From Marian Petre’s recent paper “Mental imagery and software visualization in high-performance software development teams“:
…even in debugging and comprehension, the experts relied more on their own systematic practices than on visualizations—and their use of available visualizations related to how directly the visualizations supported their practices. Tools which simply re-presented available information, which failed to provide forms of abstraction or selection, or which embodied assumptions at odds with the experts’ practices were discarded.
Take-up was extremely low in the context of design and generation. The exception was for general tools such as MATLAB, which allowed software developers to realize their own visualizations—in effect for visualization-builders rather than visualizations per se…(Please note that ‘Not invented here’ was never offered as a reason not to use a tool.)
Want to win a $100 Best Buy gift card? Are you an undergraduate computer science student who knows Python? If so, I need you!
Subjects are needed to take part in a study concerning peer evaluation and grading. Participants will be asked to complete small, fun programming exercises, and peer grade other submissions. Time needed for the study is approximately 1.5hrs and takes place in person in the Bahen Center at the University of Toronto.
Subjects should be undergraduate computer science students with programming experience in Python.
Participants will be entered into a draw for a $100 Best Buy gift card.
For more information please contact:
Please help him out if you can—I think we’ll all learn some cool stuff from his study.
Zuzel Vera Pacheco, one of my current graduate students, got ethics approval today for her research study. From her blog post:
Want to win a $100 Best Buy gift card? Do you have basic knowledge about database queries? If so, I need you!
Subjects are needed to take part in a study concerning the visualization of database queries. Participants will be asked to draw diagrams that represent the execution of database queries or to determine what queries are represented by a set of diagrams. This study will help design a tool intended to help expert and novice programmers to design and debug such queries. The time needed for the study will range from 30 minutes to an hour, and can take place in the Bahen Centre at the University of Toronto or elsewhere in the Greater Toronto Area.
A basic understanding of relational databases and database queries is required. The examples will contain queries in SQL and other programming languages like Ruby or Python. The participants should be fluent/conversant in English.
Participants who complete the study will be entered into a random draw for a $100 Best Buy gift card. The odds of winning this prize are 1 in 30.
For more information please contact:
Zuzel Vera Pacheco
If you can help, please give her a shout—we could all learn something cool.
Congratulations to Jason Montojo and Jon Pipitone, who have just completed their Master’s degrees in Computer Science at the University of Toronto. Jon was one of my very first CSC49X students in September 2002, and Jason was in the second batch in January 2003. I’m proud to have worked with them, and wish them all the best.
And in other school news, Alecia Fowler is still looking for people to participate in her web-based study of how people understand maps. If you have a few minutes, and would like to help her help the visually disadvantaged, please send her an email at email@example.com.
(And in other school news, I handed in my final set of marks two days ago. Yee hah!)
Summer School on Mining Software Repositories
June 9-12, 2010.
Queen’s University, Kingston, ON, Canada.
Sponsored by MITACS.
The Mining Software Repositories (MSR) field analyzes the rich data available in software repositories to uncover interesting and actionable information about software systems and projects. It has gained popularity since 2004 with the first instance of the MSR workshop (now conference) and continues to be one of the fastest growing fields in the area of software engineering.
This summer school will provide students with opportunities to learn the background needed to excel in this emerging and important field. For researchers, the summer school offers a platform to discuss and collaborate on the future of the MSR field. The summer school is also an opportunity for industry to learn how to adopt MSR ideas in practice. The speakers are leading experts on MSR from academia and industry.
- Tim Menzies, West Virginia University, USA
- Audris Mockus, Avaya Labs Research, USA
- Tao Xie, North Carolina State University, USA
- Ahmed Hassan, Queen’s University, Canada
- Daniel German, University of Victoria, Canada
- Thomas Zimmermann, Microsoft Research, USA
For topics and a schedule visit the school’s web-page at http://msrcanada.org/school/.
Back in the 1990s, I did a bit of volunteer work with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, and one of the things I learned was that computers often make life even harder for people whose lives are already hard enough. Remember when classified ads went online? It was several years before screen readers like JAWS caught up, which meant that for several years, finding a job or an apartment was even harder for the visually impaired than it had been. And just when things had settled down, AJAX appeared and broke screen readers again.
Another recent(ish) development that has made life harder for the visually impaired is the increased use of maps on the web. One of my grad students, Alecia Fowler, is trying to address that problem by finding out how best to describe maps to people who can’t see them. If you’re willing to give her 30 minutes of your time, please head over to http://www.cs.utoronto.ca/~aleciaf/maps/ and give her little “game” a try.