EppsNet Archive: Problem Solving

Teaching Computer Science: It’s Not Easy to Teach a Subject in Which You Have No Training

A recent issue of Science has an article on the pipeline for computer science teachers . . . The first sentence says, “It’s not easy to teach a subject in which you have no training.” That could be the whole article, really. That’s about all you need to know about the current state of computer science instruction: It’s not easy to teach a subject in which you have no training. Cameron Wilson, chief operating officer and president of the Code.org Advocacy Coalition, is quoted as saying, “It’s really hard to convince a computer science professional to give up a job that pays up to three times more to pursue teaching. And I don’t think we should.” Wilson’s opinion that computer science classes should not be taught by someone who actually knows something about computer science is probably influenced by the fact that Code.org is one of the leading providers of… Read more →

What Does a Programmer Do?

I was asked to give a talk last week to a high school computer science class on “What Does a Programmer Do?” (I’m indebted to Jim McCarthy for the “lords and ladies of logic” section.)   Programming is problem solving. At the highest level, the problem that programmers solve is that people want to be able to do things with computers that they can’t do. And by computers, I don’t mean just the kind of computers you have on the desks here, I mean phones, watches, cars . . . more and more different kinds of devices are running software. So one good thing about being a programmer is that pretty much every field of endeavor now uses software and data. You can work at a tech company like Microsoft or Google or Twitter or Facebook, but you can also work in healthcare, finance, education, sports . . . you… Read more →

The ‘Why’ Technique

The usual purpose of ‘why’ is to elicit information. One wants to be comforted with some explanation which one can accept and be satisfied with. The lateral use of why is quite opposite. The intention is to create discomfort with any explanation. By refusing to be comforted with an explanation one tries to look at things in a different way and so increases the possibility of restructuring a pattern. — Edward de Bono, Lateral Thinking Read more →

Challenge Assumptions

General agreement about an assumption is no guarantee that it is correct. It is historical continuity that maintains most assumptions – not a repeated assessment of their validity. — Edward de Bono, Lateral Thinking Read more →

How to Be a Genius

You have to keep a dozen of your favorite problems constantly present in your mind, although by and large they will lay in a dormant state. Every time you hear or read a new trick or a new result, test it against each of your twelve problems to see whether it helps. Every once in a while there will be a hit, and people will say, “How did he do it? He must be a genius!” — Richard Feynman Read more →

One Problem After Another After Another

I could see life being a long sequence of one problem after another after another. After quite a while of thinking I decided, “No, I should be in the mass production of a variable product. I should be concerned with all of next year’s problems, not just the one in front of my face.” By changing the question I still got the same kind of results or better, but I changed things and did important work. I attacked the major problem — How do I conquer machines and do all of next year’s problems when I don’t know what they are going to be? How do I prepare for it? How do I do this one so I’ll be on top of it? By changing a problem slightly you can often do great work rather than merely good work. Instead of attacking isolated problems, I made the resolution that I… Read more →

Why People Don’t Succeed

In summary, I claim that some of the reasons why so many people who have greatness within their grasp don’t succeed are: they don’t work on important problems, they don’t become emotionally involved, they don’t try and change what is difficult to some other situation which is easily done but is still important, and they keep giving themselves alibis why they don’t. They keep saying that it is a matter of luck. — Richard Hamming Read more →

Thought for the Day

Sometimes it is worth trying to find a way to solve problems that doesn’t involve more structure, more meetings, more roles, more documents, more setup. — Daryl Kulak Read more →

Drop an Assumption

Link: http://creativethink.com/8dv Read more →

Twitter: 2009-12-18

RT @capricecrane: "Twitter" was the most used word of 2009. Numbers two and three were "I'm" and "broke." # RT @Aimee_B_Loved: Sometimes I drive between lanes and pretend my car is Pacman gobbling up the dashed lines. # RT @FakeAPStylebook: Use "can of whup-ass" only, as whup-ass is not sold in jars, squeeze tubes or resealable bags. # RT @RogervonOech: Never state a problem to yourself in the same terms as it was brought to you. [More at:] http://j.mp/cthirsh # RT @HarvardBiz: Government Health Care: Like the Postal Service? http://bit.ly/4IzozI # RT @capricecrane: I don't know how your car got dented. Maybe it's God saying you shouldn't have cut me off for that parking space. Or me. # RT @diablocody: Eating a gingerbread house for breakfast. A new low. # RT @capricecrane: According to Billboard: "Nickelback: 'Band of the decade.'" That's all. Enjoy the apocalypse. # RT @TheOnion: "Why do… Read more →

Urgent vs. Important

From the Lean Enterprise Institute: Are we all clear on what is really important for our organization in order to solve customer problems and succeed in the long term? (Or, stated another way, can we get past the merely urgent?) Are we agreed on what big problems we need to solve as a team? Are we sure what obstacles are in our way and their root causes? Have we — or will we now — assign responsibility for determining the best countermeasures and removing the obstacles? Critically important, do we have a way of surfacing and resolving all of the cross-function, cross-department conflicts that stand in the way of resolving all major problems in any multi-functional organization including ours? Read more →