A little knowledge

One of my favourite places for inspiration is Quora.  It’s a great place to post questions and let the community answer.

I subscribe to a digest to get some of the best questions and answers and commentary and it’s just perfect for killing time waiting for an appointment or letting the dog run loose in the forest.  Sometimes, the answers are based on fact but there’s always a good collection of opinion on just about anything that’s posted and that’s OK too.  If nothing else, it makes me think.

Recently, this question was posed:

Oh boy.  I know lots of Microsoft fans that would go nuts just on the premise!

I know some people that will use anything but Microsoft products that would love to jump in.

And who doesn’t like a good flame war?  It can bring out the worst in anybody!  I’ve just got to read this.  The dog will enjoy his extended time exploring.

At the risk of using up all my online minutes, I clicked through to read how the community would weigh in on this.  I expected to see the “real programmers” – you know, the command line experts all over this.

In fact, there were a couple who did.

For the most part, the community was the voice of reason and were jumping all over the original premise.

It wasn’t a spitting match about programming language wars.  People were agreeing with the teacher.  People were quickly identifying just what a Computer Studies class is all about – teaching logic and problem solving.  People were making the connection to the real world where many places use the Microsoft development tools.  People were correctly making the connections to having an open mind and to learn about as many alternatives as possible.

Much as we like to think that students learning to code at home can be a good idea, this was a case where a little knowledge can go a long way along the wrong road.

It begs the question – what are we teaching in Computer Studies in school?  A particular hands on skill or the skills of problem solving.  Is this a case where a problem is given and the students immediately begin to write code or do they actually sit down and formulate an algorithm before ever going near a computer?  Is the result well written, documented and portable or is it just a collection of statements that get the job done?  If you’ve ever taught Computer Studies, you’ll immediately recognize the type of student – some are thorough in their work; others are speed demons.

We know that, in any class, there are students will varying skills.  You’re always looking for opportunities to challenge and push students.  How would you do that here?  A first thought would be to have the student write the code in both languages but you have to be careful that you’re challenging and not just increasing workload for no particular purpose.

I also have to wonder about the original author.  My first thought was that it was a teenager who hasn’t yet realized that he/she doesn’t know everything.  But then, it could just as well be a Python fan or Macintosh enthusiast just stirring the pot.  Quite frankly, I was more impressed with the answers from the community than the original question.  Best answer – “change schools”. 

I do have a renewed appreciation for Computer Studies though.  In what other subject would you have students question the choice of tools? 

You can read the original post and the responses here.

2 thoughts on “A little knowledge

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