I Love Teachers

I might have said this before, but it is worth repeating – I love teachers.

My grandpa was my first teacher. He was a school teacher. I watched him invent new methods to make people learn to read better, write better and do Math better. I think great teachers work to improve the world – one student at a time.

I think teaching is one of the noblest professions in the world. Teachers have a huge impact. I used to accompany my grandpa to the vegetable market. He was frequently stopped and saluted by one of his students. They would walk up to him and say “Sir, do you remember me? I was in your class of …” and talk about their current jobs or studies. It felt good to be walking with a person known to so many people in a small community.

I met many great teachers, during my school days. Our school was not one of the best, or well known. It was in a poor section in North Madras (now Madras is called Chennai). But some of the teachers we had were amazing people. I developed an interest in subjects like Math and Science because we had great teachers for those subjects. I used to marvel at their knowledge and dedication.

Great teachers have a few attributes in common. I mentioned this in another post on Attributes of a Great Teacher. 

Sometimes I wonder why I did not become a professional teacher. One reason may be that I got interested in computers early after I finished my studies. Programming tends to be a very intoxicating career choice. I am making up for it, now,  by trying to teach whenever I get an opportunity.

I can’t think of a better way to start a new year than thanking all the great teachers out there, working against all the odds to make this world a bit better.

 

LinkLog: I Like To Write Code

Here’s the thing. I like to write code.

I like to write code that most people take for granted. I like to write code to solve hard problems. I like to write simple programs. I like to solve the programming assignments that I set before my students. I like to discover problems to solve and then solve them with code. Sometimes, I like to make up problems just so I can write code to solve them.

I wish every teacher who teaches programming thought this way. I know several successful teams where the team lead shared this passion to code. I used to do this in my first two companies. Then somewhere along the line, I decided to stop coding. I still regret getting out of touch with serious programming.  Now that I am doing more teaching, I  need to get back to writing code. It is one of the most invigorating experiences, I can think of.

Teaching

I had a chance to address a group of software developers recently. I had about ten minutes to describe one of our recent research labs – the broad goals and a road map. It was fun. More fun was the question, I was asked, in the end.

What would you have done if there are no computers or internet?

I really struggled for an answer. I started my career by working in a team that built a mini-computer. My role itself was pretty small – a diagnostics engineer,testing hardware by writing software. That was more than 35 years ago, just when mini-computers were getting popular.

I guess I would have become a school teacher. I love teaching and I always thought it was one of noblest professions in the world.

Study: Impact of Improving Cognitive Skills

A Study Finds Sharp Math, Science Skills Help Expand Economy.

Increased years of education boost economic growth — but only if students’ cognitive skills, as measured by math and science tests, are improved as a result, a new study says.

The study, released in this spring’s issue of Education Next, an education-policy journal, concluded that if the U.S. performed on par with the world’s leaders in science and math, it would add about two-thirds of a percentage point to the gross domestic product, or the total value of goods and services produced in a nation, every year.

People think of Math as a subject to learn. But we may be missing the point. To me it looks more like a basic skill for people to learn. Here is Jagjit Singh on Great Ideas of Modern Mathematics, a book first published in 1959.

It is true that physical sciences, such as physics and astronomy, did use a good deal of mathematics, but even in these sciences one could get along and often make useful contributions without it.

Nowadays, even descriptive sciences, e.g. biology, zoology, genetics, psychology, neurology, medicine, economics, philogy, etc., have begun to employ elaborate mathematical techniques.

Math can be made easy to learn by great teachers. On a more personal note,  I had wonderful teachers from elementary school till the end of my undergraduate (engineering) course. The early teachers were such an inspiration. They were mostly responsible for my interest in Math and later in Sciences and Engineering.

LinkLog: Software

This blog is such a wonderful source of information. Here are just a few of the posts:

How a beautiful idea becomes a Frankenstein system is a must read for every software developer. Here is a small fragment of a much more comprehensive diagram in this post.

how-a-beautiful-software-becomes-frankenstein.jpg

I always thought that we built tools to take boring repetitive parts of the work and automate it. How Tools Frame Programmer’s Mindset makes you reflect a lot more about the tools. What qualities should effective programmer tools have? The author identifies three:

  • Usability – enhance flow of programmer’s ideas or at least don’t impede and interrupt this flow.
  • Representation – enable easy for understanding and modification representation of the structure, ideas and domain concepts in the code.
  • Agile development friendly

From Beginners to master programmers – First Language and More is a problem that faces every training organization. When I started working on Learning Point, this was one of my constant worries. I have seen several threads of discussions on the choice of first language for programming.

This blog post is a good starting point. Hopefully I will have more to contribute after my current experiment with 5 interns for the next six months.

  1. Train clear logical thinking.
  2. Understand modern software concepts and environments.
  3. Learn to effectively implement customer needs.

LinkLog: Future of Learning

This is from a blog about Stephen Downes seminar in Malaysia on how to use Web 2.0 tools for learning.  It has great links to lots of useful resources for both learners and teachers too.

I especially liked the part about Future Learning Directions

  • Learning as Creation
  • Social Learning
  • Personal Learning Environments
  • Immersive Learning
  • Living Arts

I regularly read Stephen Downes blog and get his newsletter and I learn a lot about learning.