Teaching basic lab skills
for research computing

New Kinds of Content

Mark Guzdial, whose blog on CS education is always interesting, recently posted about using worksheets to help people learn to write programs. As he says, research going back 30 years shows that reading and writing skills develop independently; there's also a ton of research showing that partially-worked examples are a very effective (possibly the most effective) way to teach people new skills.

Which immediately suggests two questions:

  1. Should we provide worksheet-style examples on this site?
  2. If so, would you be willing to help us create them?

It would be very easy to say "yes" to the first question: after all, who doesn't want more content? But looking at our site's statistics, it seems that most people are surfers (like Xanthe) rather than divers, and people surfing for solutions to specific problems probably wouldn't work through the examples. Also, given my travel schedule for the next four months, there won't be any point saying "yes" to #1 unless a few people say "yes" to #2. We can't promise to make you rich, but you'd certainly be popular :-)

We'd also like your help creating another kind of content. I used to teach with slides; these days, like many other people, I just plug in my laptop and program live. It's not just because it's more response—people also tell me that they learn a lot "by accident" from watching how I program. In that spirit, I'd like to record a bunch of programmers thinking aloud as they solve small problems on their own machines, using their favorite tools [1]. Emacs on Linux, XCode on Mac, the MATLAB IDE on Windows—each has its own quirks and joys, and we can all learn something from each of them. Again, the two keys questions are, "Should we?" and "Will you help?" Please drop us a line if you'd like to.

[1] Or aggregate screencasts like this that other people have already done, and whose licenses are CC-compatible. If you have favorites, please add links in the comments.

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