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Lamport and how Education works: The Coming Software Apocalypse

ComputingEd - Mon, 10/30/2017 - 07:00

Several people sent this article to me. It’s so one-sided and contrary to empirical evidence that I found it hard to finish. The belief that we can fix all of software through the use of software proofs and verification is contrary to software social processes, as shown by DeMillo, Lipton, and Perlis in 1979. Belief that Toyota sudden acceleration was due to a software bug ignores the empirical evidence about other causes for the phenomenon (as Gladwell described in his podcast last year).

It’s the paragraph quoted below that led to people sending me the article. Leslie Lamport suggests that if we just taught people TLA+, we would lead to better software.

Education never works as a mechanism to change professional practice.  (Or at least, I’ve been trying to find an example of successfully changing a community through education, and I haven’t found one yet.) Students who want to become software developers want to do what software developers do — that’s Lave and Wenger’s model of situated learning, where students join a Community of Practice through Legitimate Peripheral Participation (which I describe in this blog post). If you tell students to learn TLA+, you would most likely get a response like, “Why are we learning THIS? We want to real thing, not some academic toy!”

If you want to change a community of practice, you have to get the leaders in the community of practice to change. Students follow them. It doesn’t work the other way around.

But TLA+ occupies just a small, far corner of the mainstream, if it can be said to take up any space there at all. Even to a seasoned engineer like Newcombe, the language read at first as bizarre and esoteric—a zoo of symbols. For Lamport, this is a failure of education. Though programming was born in mathematics, it has since largely been divorced from it. Most programmers aren’t very fluent in the kind of math—logic and set theory, mostly—that you need to work with TLA+. “Very few programmers—and including very few teachers of programming—understand the very basic concepts and how they’re applied in practice. And they seem to think that all they need is code,” Lamport says. “The idea that there’s some higher level than the code in which you need to be able to think precisely, and that mathematics actually allows you to think precisely about it, is just completely foreign. Because they never learned it.”

Source: The Coming Software Apocalypse – The Atlantic

Tagged: LPP, situated learning, undergraduate

Batlab studies echolocation to learn how animals "see" with sound

News From NSF - Mon, 10/30/2017 - 00:00

Bat echolocation reveals more on how mammals use sensory information to thrive
Full story at https://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/science_nation/batbrains.jsp?WT.mc_id=USNSF_51

This is an NSF News item.

Is (Scaled) Online Learning an Engine for Diversity? Not according to the data

ComputingEd - Fri, 10/27/2017 - 07:00

There are lots of women and minority students in online CS. Numbers are high. Proportions are low.  Reach (what percentage of women and minority get access to online CS) is low.  Diversity in terms of economic success is low (as discussed in this blog post and in this one too), so scaled online learning is unlikely to be an engine to bridge economic divides.  There are a large number of (rich) female and minority students in the OMS CS populations (higher numbers but lower proportion than in our face-to-face MS CS program), but if they remain a small proportion of the whole and the reach is low, then not much is changing. The graduate pool and the Tech industry over all does not become more diverse.

If Georgia Tech is indeed able leverage scaled online learning to graduate underrepresented minorities at much higher rates than comparable residential programs, then it seems that all of us in higher ed should be taking notice. I remain skeptical that an online degree program that is not built around intensive interaction, mentoring, and coaching between faculty and students can be successful.  Going to scale in order to drive down the costs seems to require a transactional, rather than relational, approach to teaching and learning.

Source: Is (Scaled) Online Learning an Engine for Diversity? | Technology and Learning

Tagged: BPC, OMSCS, public policy

ACM Inroads

ACM TOCE and InRoads - Thu, 10/26/2017 - 20:00
Categories: Education

Editors' message

ACM TOCE and InRoads - Thu, 10/26/2017 - 20:00
Mark Bailey, Laurie Smith King

Categories: Education

Cyber security education: why don't we do anything about it?

ACM TOCE and InRoads - Thu, 10/26/2017 - 20:00
Daniel E. Krutz, Thomas Richards

Categories: Education

News from the SIGs

ACM TOCE and InRoads - Thu, 10/26/2017 - 20:00
Ellen Walker, Amber Settle

In this issue of News from the SIGs, we present an overview from our SIGCSE reporter and SIGCSE Chair, Amber Settle, of all of the conferences that SIGCSE will offer in 2018.
Categories: Education

Scholastic excellence in 2017: an exercise in superlatives

ACM TOCE and InRoads - Thu, 10/26/2017 - 20:00
Jeffrey L. Popyack

Categories: Education


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