May 30, 2007

On Computer Science

A couple of recent interesting items that probably don't merit their own posts:

  • Eugene Wallingford at Knowing and Doing on some favourite books and teaching as storytelling:
    For teachers, I think that the key to the effective story is context: placing the point to be learned into a web of ideas that the student understands. A good story helps the student see why the idea matters and why the student should change how she thinks or behaves. In effect, the teacher plays the role of a motivational speaker, but not the cheerleading, rah-rah sort. Students know when they are being manipulated. They appreciate authenticity even in their stories.

    He mentions a couple of Gerald M. Weinberg's books as among his favourites and many of his books are also among my favourites. And apparently, Weinberg blogs here on writing and here on consulting, which I didn't know about.

  • Mike Hendrickson has started doing the State of the Computer Book Market quarterly surveys at O'Reilly Radar, taking over from Tim O'Reilly. His first effort is very detailed and very good, in four parts overview, technologies, publishers and programming languages. I'm not going to attempt to summarize the whole thing because if you're interested in the computer book market, you should probably read the whole thing, but I thought this little bit from the first part was worth quoting:
    n the first quarter of 2006, new interest in web development associated with Web 2.0 and strong performance of books on digital media applications like Photoshop helped to drive the market. In the first quarter of 2007, we hoped that the Microsoft Vista and Office 2007 releases would cause a similar sharp increase in our trend lines. That has not materialized, and in fact, you could say that Microsoft's new releases have not lived up to expectations yet, at least for book sales. I did say "yet" because there are signs that Vista is starting to pick up steam. But the fact is that without a significant bump from Vista and related Office products, the 2007 market has not performed at the 2006 level. I find it very interesting that the web and digital media had more of a market effect in 2006 than a huge, highly anticipated release of a new version of the world's most used consumer operating system and its office productivity suite has in 2007. It's one more sign of the waning of Microsoft's once fearsome market power.

    I particularly appreciated the major/mid-major/min-minor/minor/irrelevant breakdown of programming languages in part 4, as that kind of analysis is very helpful in collection development, especially for identifying the languages that are on the way down as well as the ones becoming more popular.

  • From Journal on Educational Resources in Computing (JERIC) v7i2, A 2007 model curriculum for a liberal arts degree in computer science by Brad Richards looks very interesting. You can see an online version of it here (there are several versions of it; I'm not sure if they are all the final or various drafts). The document itself mentions the author as the Liberal Arts Computer Science Consortium.

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