Turd Polishing

February 24th, 2009, 9:38 pm PST by Greg

I spent the weekend trying to get together a paper for WCCCE 2009 (Western Canadian Conference on Computing Education). WCCCE is a fairly small, local conference. I always like going: the people who go pretty much all know each other, and it’s a good chance to talk to people from other schools.

What I wanted to do was look at the Subversion version control repositories from the last few semesters of CMPT 470. I figured I could make a good story out of it somewhere: there’s a lot of data in there. I assumed there would be some correlation between the way the repository was used and students’ marks or peer evaluation or something.

There wasn’t. Bupkis.

Anyway… I could have tried to sell a paper along the lines of “hey, look how unquantifiable this marking thing we do is”, but that’s pretty unsatisfying. I thought I was going to have to give up on the whole thing, or at least wait until next year and take some time to analyze things in a less frenzied way.

But, just before I sent the email calling the whole thing off, a thought occurred and I proposed a workshop instead:

Using Subversion in Your Class

In this interactive workshop, we will explore the use of the Subversion version control system in a class, particularly one that involves group work. Topics will include the basic usage of Subversion, creation of shared repositories given various technical restrictions, resources for students, and discussion of how instructors can enhance their teaching using a version control system. Participants with laptops will be invited to explore a shared repository as part of the workshop.

That’s a lot better than some dodgy paper: it’s something the people at the conference might actually want to hear about.

The lesson: Everything has a good idea in it somewhere. Unfortunately, you might spend your weekend fruitlessly doing statistics before you find it.

The Downside of Study Leave

February 12th, 2009, 12:02 pm PST by Greg

I’m starting to really see the mixed-blessing of having a study leave (or “sabbatical” if you like). As I mentioned before, the purpose of the leave is essentially to do stuff that you didn’t have a chance to while teaching.

Here’s the problem: I can always find time to do most of the stuff I really want to do. What’s left are tasks that I had been putting off because I didn’t really want to face them.

Case in point: This month is pretty much dedicated to CMPT 165 distance ed revisions.

The old 165 distance has gotten a little crufty, and needs some attention. I had already done the work on the course content and Study Guide. Now just have to do the assignments, exams and final admin stuff. What parts of teaching do I hate most? Yup. Those.

And the kicker is that I know that no matter what I do, half of the students taking 165 are going to hate it and me anyway. They want an easy no-work credit and are still going to find that if they don’t know any tech anything, it’s going to be a University course worth of work (but realistically, no more than that).


I’m a Sick Baby

February 6th, 2009, 12:20 pm PST by Greg

Okay, let’s start with the facts: I have a cold. Now, a cold isn’t that big a deal. It’s not like I have a touch of the hanta virus or something.

But, I hate it. It’s never going to be bad enough that I can properly complain about it, or even take time away from work with a clear conscience. I’m just going to be vaguely annoyed for the next week.

I wish I could take the whole cold and pack it into 24 miserable hours rather than have it drag on.