Saturday, 27 October 2012

Students writing something other than essays

We have all written a ton of essays in our school. But how many of us have ever written an essay outside of school. We all write and we write a lot so is the essay out of date? Essays are the preferred medium because they focus on writing skills and argument skills at the same time. But what if you want to do something more practical?

It seems like the word practical and school don't mix. I agree that essays are important but should not be focused on for more than 50% of their writing. Here are some other things students can write:

  • Instructional lessons
  • Short stories
  • Anything creative writing
  • Journalism
The first one is actually the best one. I always feel that students should teach people 2 or 3 grade levels below. You learn by teaching and it would be a great way for the student teachers to learn more about teaching. But it seems like most schools would rather have a teacher with 6 years of education and hundreds hours of volunteer work.

There are plenty of other and more exciting mediums to write about other than essays. Perhaps students would write more if they were more interested in the topics they were writing about. 

Monday, 22 October 2012

Windows 8 is pretty good. But I suspect people will dislike it because it is different

People can't really get used to change. If something is better for whatever reason but people aren't used to it, people will hate it.

Windows 8 is actually really awesome. Despite what bad reviews you read it is good. Microsoft has actually made something very competitive and it shows. The only problem is that it is different. There is no start button and it functions more like a tablet than a computer. There was a bit of a learning curve to using it but for the most part Windows 8 is awesome.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Practice and performance and tech

My last article was about how liberal art degrees have something really valuable for tech degrees. Software production could be more like music performance: practice and perform.

One of the best summer jobs I had in college was landscaping. In a summer I put up an entire suburban park. I learned how to scale big projects that cost a lot of money. Most of the time we spent preparing and most of the visual work was done in a few days. I feel that tech production can be done the same way.

Employees would practice their skills doing drills and exercises and when they get together in a team they would perform. This makes a lot of sense because the employees would be working smarter and not harder.

France used to have a 35 hour work week and 35 hours of performance is enough. Why push the extra grueling hours of little productivity? I always find that Friday afternoons are a wash anyway.

So if are an artist or a programmer, practice your craft and get ready to perform it. Performance is timed, exiting, and fast.

Don't bog down your production with apathy. Make it exciting, it's a performance after all.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

What tech degrees can learn from liberal art degrees

Liberal art degrees were much more respected in the past. Unfortunately, most of the professors in liberal art degrees continue to teach their courses like it's the 20th century. However, the theme and execution of the degree has tremendous value and if certain elements of the degree were ported over to tech degrees, tech degrees would be better.

First of all, there are education businesses that basically help people acclimatize  to the business world in tech. These companies exist because university tech degrees don't do this. This is fine by me because I make a lot of money doing this. 

Second, if you can believe this, most tech degrees do not:
  • Put the course notes online
  • Have students make B to C products 
  • Have students work as an internship as apart of their degree.
Yep, a comp sci degree is a theoretical course. There are alternatives but people place 4 year university degrees above 2 year college degrees. So if you want to make stuff you are stuck in a theoretical course. Anybody who has ever released a product will tell you that releasing is the most important part. 

Unless you want to go into academia, which is probably 20%, this model of theory and assignments is outdated. You might as well have your students take a horse carriage to class. Seriously, if you cannot view the entire degree's lectures at the time of enrollment, assignments and notes the institution is already behind. Basically universities don't help 80% of the people going through them.

If I were to make one suggestion to institutions that offer tech degrees it would be to have the final year of a 4 year program be nothing but building and releasing B to C software. In addition having a masters program where you don't sit around for lectures you just build, release software and try to profit from it. 

So where do liberal arts degree shine where tech degrees fail. They practice and they release. Music degrees are probably the best example of this. Most people think of a music degree as a "pish posh that's useless degree" but there are a few elements that make a music degree awesome. 

The first major difference is in order to be a good composer or player you have to practice and write a lot. And when I mean a lot I mean a lot! You are constantly playing and practicing and working with other people. Most people don't know this but the top musicians at their schools stay there for 12 hours a day immersed in music. So usually, the player plays an instrument and has 1 on 1 studio time with a teacher, they play in an ensemble such as an orchestra and they usually play in smaller chamber groups. Not only do they get credit for each of these activities they are required to. Of course they perform several times a semester (which I think of as releasing). On top of that orchestras and larger ensembles record and release CDs.

On top of this often times professionals need extra help and where do they go? The local college. So music students get real world experience before they exit the degree. 

Of course music is no longer profitable and not as culturally significant as it was in the past. So it is very easy for people who do not know what they are talking about to easily dismiss a music degree as a worthwhile source of academic inspiration.

Could you imagine if comp sci and computer engineering degrees:
  • Made it mandatory for you to release software
  • Made it mandatory for you to work by yourself, with small groups and larger groups
  • Emphasized and gave you credit for doing this
On top of releasing software in this fashion you can add all of these projects to your resume. From experience, I like hiring practical, efficient people who release items versus people who get A's. There is a saying that A students work for C students and as I get older I find out how true that saying can be. 

Of course none of these change will happen. Even if you are cheering behind the computer screen agreeing with everything that Im saying, nothing will change. The 19th century academic institution won't change even though reality and the public demand it. I was recently looking at a comp sci masters program but it is the same old format when I went to university. Right now I can release products and make money versus go learn some more theory. The only problem is at this time portfolio doesn't trump education. Especially from a legal standpoint. 

Students are stuck paying a huge amount of money for their degree with no experience to show for it. Experience is the new college degree so why don't we include that in college?

Lastly if you are a student it is well within your right to demand
  • That the entire degree be online for you to watch
  • Have most of the assignments and test be online
  • Have the opportunity to gain real world commercial experience through your program
  • Have a rich portfolio of software and experience before you leave.
If your professors deny this, they are wrong. Most of them will probably agree but cannot do anything about it. 

Right now there is a huge gap in the market of what people want in education versus what is offered. Im happy here making money. But it would be better for everybody if higher education just evolved.