- Tim Weiner’s Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA is a darning indictment of an “intelligence” agency that has an unparalleled half-century record of failure: “darning” rather than “damning” because the author’s obvious anger makes the book sound one-sided.
- The Year’s Best Science Fiction (25th and 26th editions): gems of all shapes and colors.
- Freeman & Pryce: Growing Object-Oriented Software, Guided by Tests. The heart of the book, a multi-chapter worked example, is the most accessible description of how to break applications along their seams to make them testable since Feathers’ Working Effectively With Legacy Code.
- Louis Bayard’s The Black Tower is what Dumas would write if he were alive today (and not being paid by the word).
Adding to this meme, here are some PyCon 2010 talks I’m particularly looking forward to:
- “Creating RESTful Web services with restish” by Grig Gheorghiu.
- “Python Testing Patterns”, by Aaron Maxwell.
- “To relate or not to relate, that is the question”, by Mark Ramm.
- “Turtles All The Way Down: Demystifying Deferreds, Decorators, and Declarations”, by Glyph Lefkowitz.
- “VisTrails: A Python-Based Scientific Workflow and Provenance System”, by Juliana Friere.
- “On the Subject of Source Code”, by Ian Bicking. (I have strong opinions
Best Colleges Online (about which I know nothing) has posted a list of 100 great science talks that you can watch for free on the web. By my count, only 7 have a computing component, and of those, only 2 are actually about computer science per se. As I’ve said before and elsewhere, we desperately need a Sagan or Attenborough.
The last two times I’ve taught a regular classroom course on software engineering, I’ve had students make up the lecture notes and assignments. Instead of creating PowerPoint slides and posting them on the web, I’ve lectured with chalk and a blackboard. In each lecture, a group of 3-4 students have been responsible for turning what I say into a wiki page, which then counts toward the 5% “writing requirement” of their course grade. I’ve done the same thing with assignment: after the whole class spends classroom time discussing what should and shouldn’t be in scope, a team of students writes it up and posts it for comment and clarification.
I’ve been pleased with the results, but unfortunately managed to misplace my links to the papers that gave me the idea of trying this. I’m therefore grateful to Brock MacDonald, of the Academic Writing Centre at Woodsworth College, for sending the following:
The most thorough empirical studies of student note-taking were published in a series of papers in the 80s and early 90s by K. A. Kiewra, alone and with various collaborators. They found that students who made and studied their own lecture notes achieved consistently better test results than students who studied from notes they were given. An interesting wrinkle is that students were found to do best of all when they were given a lecture topic outline or matrix of some kind to fill in with their own detailed notes—in other words, student note-taking that’s framed or guided by limited input from the instructor leads to better results than either a) students making notes completely on their own (though this gives the 2nd best results) or b) students being given the lecture notes and not making notes of their own at all (which gives the poorest results).
Empirical evidence for the value of students writing their own assignment specs is harder to come by, because it’s less amenable to direct testing (like most aspects of teaching writing)–the support is more qualitative than quantitative, hence more open to question. The idea most often comes up as part of discussions of critical-thinking- and active-learning-oriented writing pedagogy, e.g., in Peter Elbow (his book Writing Without Teachers and many articles) and John Bean (his book Engaging Ideas); both Elbow and Bean refer to quite a bit of supporting research, though as I said it’s mainly qualitative. The value of students developing the skill of formulating good questions in general (i.e. not only in the context of devising assignments) is also supported in some of the literature on learning objectives and outcomes, e.g., in several articles by Mike Carter, some of which present case studies that show the benefits of building this skill into entire course and program curricula.
CodeRun Studio is a browser-based IDE that currently handles PHP and ASP.NET. Frankly, I don’t get it: the only advantage I can see to doing development on a remote server via a browser is the ability to switch rapidly between platforms for testing purposes, but the same virtualization technology that makes that affordable also lets me switch between VMs locally. Several developers I work with already switch between Mac OS X, Windows, and Ubuntu Linux on their laptops as easily as I used to switch between virtual desktops, and if the GridCentric people have their way, doing so will become even easier. I had the same reaction to Bespin, so please: what am I missing?
The Humanitarian Free Open Source Software initiative is holding its next symposium on March 10 in Milwaukee to coincide with SIGCSE 2010. If I can find a way to get there that doesn’t violate my “no fly” pledge, I’d really like to attend; if you’re going to be in the area, you should check it out too.