Mistakes to Action

I follow The Daily Post as inspiration/ideas for blogging.  There was one idea that I hung on to because I’m sure that I could have used it as the basis for a post.  This bit of inspiration was called “My Favorite Mistake“.

As I write this, I’m getting ready for the CSTA Conference.  Two great days with Computer Science educators and this mistake memory brought back a memory of my own.

It wasn’t really a mistake; it just should have been!

Here’s my story.  It was years ago.  I sat next to a good friend who was a wizard working with Microsoft Access and publishing it to the web.  He had a database of resources and had written a front end webpage that allowed anyone who visited his website to query the database and get the results.  I was looking over his shoulder and got the gist of it.

His front end was an Active Server Page and I’d never written one seriously.  I had composed a simple one in Dreamweaver just to prove that I could.  He was writing his in Notepad and his rationale was that it was only writing that way that you truly knew how ASP worked.  It made sense to me.

Eventually, we went our separate ways and my learning started to fade. 

At the time, I was heavily into collecting WebQuests and tying their use to the Ontario Curriculum.  It started simply with just a table with a descriptor, grade and expectation, and a link to the WebQuest.  As the collection grew, so did the length of this silly webpage.  Then it dawned on me. 

There’s a better way to do this – put the information into a database and write the code to query it.  After all, I’d seen it in action already.

Creating the database was easy.  I fired up Notepad and started to write the front end that would query it.  It was at this point that I regretted not paying more attention earlier and/or taking notes.  Or, I should take a course in ASP.  Or, at least do a tutorial.

That would require more work than what I wanted at the time.  So, I just kept at it.

I was –> <– this close to having it work just the way I wanted it.  But, for the life of me, I couldn’t get it done.  If you’re a programmer, you know that there comes a time when you get punchy.  I was at that point.  I tried one change that looked goofy, and I expected the worst.  This would be my mistake.  Maybe I could learn something?

Well, you know the point of this post.  I’ll be darned if the doors didn’t open, light shone through, and my WebQuest Locator worked.  Perfectly!  (Not pretty, but that would come later)  I posted everything and asked a few friends to try to break it.  They couldn’t but liked the way that they could get what they wanted.  I was outrageously happy.  I’ll call that my Favourite Mistake!

I did give in and bought a couple of books to work through and try to understand just what I’d done.

How about you programmers out there?  Any mistakes that worked that you’d care to share?

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One Reply to “Mistakes to Action”

  1. I’ve only been teaching for five years now, but I still remember the mistake I made the first day of my first class. The course was called the Economics of Aging, and I wanted to get discussion going right away, so I went around the room asking everyone how their grandparents decided when to retire. I was trying to make a point that they should use their own lives or the lives of people they are close to to get intuition for how important life decisions are made. None of my students had any idea, and only two knew what kind of jobs their grandparents had when they worked. I learned the hard way that it’s tough for most college students to have intuition about older people.

    At the end of November things took a turn for the better. We had a class on how families decide who will provide care to an elderly member of the family when they need it. Suddenly *everyone* had something to contribute. It turns out elder care is a common topic of discussion over Thanksgiving when families get together, and this was our class’s best discussion of the semester!

    Like

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