EppsNet Archive: Questions

Theological Question

1 Feb 2018 /

I hear people say that bad things happen to kids in schools because God isn’t allowed in schools. Why do bad things happen to kids in churches?


Teaching Computer Science: Asking for Help

9 Jan 2018 /

I’m volunteering a couple mornings a week at a local high school, helping out with computer science classes.

Cell phone

This morning, in AP Computer Science Principles, the teacher went through an explanation of the hexadecimal number system, then gave an in-class assignment for students to convert their cell phone number to hexadecimal. Not in two parts, 3 digits and 4 digits, but as a 7-digit number.

It seemed pretty obvious from the interaction and the body language and the looks on their faces that a lot of students didn’t get it, but in a class of 25 students, only one student asked for help. Until the teacher finished with that student and asked “Does anyone else need help?” and eight more students immediately raised their hand.

I asked the teacher, “Can I address the class for a minute?”

 

“First off, doing a 7-digit hex conversion is not easy. I know professional programmers who can’t do it. So I’d expect someone trying to do it for the first time to need some help.

“In fact, if you know any professional programmers, ask them to do a hex conversion on their phone number. Let me know what happens. I guarantee you won’t have to ask too many people before you stump someone.

Snap programming

“None of the material in this class is easy. Snap programming? You might look at it and think ‘There’s a cat and a fish and a duck . . . I’m not understanding it but it looks like a program for 5-year-olds. It’s embarrassing as a high school student to have to ask for help with it. Maybe I’m not very smart.’

“No, Snap is a university-level curriculum from Berkeley. Academically rigorous. I worked through the assignments myself and I found them pretty challenging. I’d expect many of you to find them challenging as well. So you should be asking for help.

“If you need help, waiting for someone to ask if you need help is not going to be a winning strategy. In school, in life or in anything. Because if no one asks, then you need help and you don’t get it.

“There’s probably a natural reluctance to ask questions because what if I’m the only person who doesn’t know the answer? Then I ask a question and look foolish.

“It’s going to be unusual in any class that you’re the only person who doesn’t understand something. If you find that happens to you a lot, you may have a problem. But normally it’s going to be pretty unusual.

“I can tell you in this class, there’s definitely more than one person who finds the material pretty challenging. As I said, I find it pretty challenging myself. It’s not so challenging that I need help with it, but it’s definitely challenging enough that I’d expect most people who are not programmers to need help with it.

Hexadecimal

“I’m also hearing some people today saying to themselves or to the person next to them, ‘Why do we need to know this?'” That’s actually a very good question. Binary of course is the fundamental language of computers, but why would you need to know hexadecimal? Anyone?”

No hands go up.

“OK, we’ll talk about that in a minute. If it’s not clear to you, in this class or any class, why you’re being asked to learn something, put your hand up and insist on understanding the relevance.

“One final anecdote:

“I worked with an AP class a couple of years ago at another school. About this same timeframe, late first semester, I was in class on a Monday and before the class started, one of the students asked me, ‘How was your weekend?’

“I said, ‘It was okay. How was yours?’

“‘It was great! I played like 47 straight hours of [some video game I can’t remember the name of].’

“And he was one of the worst students in the class, maybe the worst.

“I know he and his parents had met with the principal and the teacher to figure out why he was doing so poorly in computer science. It had to be the school’s fault, right?

“So I’m trying to wrap my mind around this. You played 47 hours of video games, you have no idea what’s going on in this class, and it’s the teacher’s fault?!

“No, it’s your fault. You put nothing into it so you get nothing out of it, you don’t ask for help, and that’s why you’re failing.

“Moral of the story: Don’t be that guy.

Thus spoke The Programmer.


Do I understand your question, man? Is it hopeless and forlorn?

Posted by on 3 Nov 2017

A Couple of Questions About Commerce

14 Jul 2017 /

Receipt with batteries

  1. Why are store receipts so damn big? I bought a couple of 3V batteries at Office Depot and got a receipt as long as my arm. (The receipt is shown upside down to discourage you from stealing my identity.)
  2. Why do chip readers have to honk at you when your transaction is approved? I get that they’re reminding me to remove my card but why not remind me via a pleasant jingle?
Tags:

How Do I Know If I’m Gay?

31 Jul 2016 /

Here’s what I learned on the internet today:

Gay refers to any male-identified person who is physically or emotionally attracted to other male-identified people.

Lesbian refers to any female-identified person who is physically or emotionally attracted to other female-identified people.

So if I’m a male-identified person and the female-identified person I’m having sex with decides right in the middle of it to identify as male, am I gay?


Teaching Computer Science: Ask More Questions

20 Apr 2015 /
Primary School in "open air"...

English: Primary School in “open air”, in Bucharest, around 1842. Wood engraving, 11x22cm

You need to ask more questions. I think there’s a general fear about asking questions. There’s a risk of looking foolish in front of the whole group when it turns out that everyone else already knows the answer.

It’s actually very unusual for someone to ask a question to which everyone else knows the answer. If you find it happens to you a lot, you probably want to get that checked out, but normally it’s very unusual.

Another scenario: Somebody, maybe a teacher, says something and you think “That doesn’t make sense. I wonder if it makes sense to everyone else. Rather than risk looking foolish in front of the whole group, I’ll wait and see if someone else asks a question.”

So you wait for someone to ask a question and no one asks a question. Why? Because they’re all waiting for someone to ask a question.

Many people, including teachers, are not good at organizing their thoughts and articulating them with precision and that’s why you can’t understand what they’re saying. Don’t assume that it’s a problem with you. You need to move people to a position of clarity by asking questions.

Also, people love the person who’s willing to ask questions because it relieves them of the need to ask questions.

Education, like everything else, you get out of it what you put into it. Don’t sit in a class with unanswered questions in your head and let everything wash over you like a tidal wave.

My own kid, even in a good school district, I don’t feel like he got a good education because of good teachers, I feel like he got a good education in spite of bad teachers. He got a good education because he put a lot into it and he got a lot out of it. And his classmates who got a good education did so because they put a lot into it and they got a lot out of it.

All of which is a long way of saying “ask more questions.”

Any questions?


Teaching Computer Science: Pro Tips for Finishing a Project

5 Mar 2015 /

Woman teaching geometry, from Euclid's Elements.

  1. For many (most?) students doing an object-oriented development project for the first time, this assignment is too difficult to do without a lot of guidance. Therefore: ask for help early and often.
  2. If you wait till the night before a checkpoint, you won’t have enough time to finish and we won’t have enough time to help you effectively. Therefore: ask for help early and often.
  3. I’m seeing students struggling to write code that we’ve already given you. That’s not a good use of your time. Know what we’ve given you and use it.
  4. This is what your program needs to do: [Feature list goes here].
  5. Pick a feature and try to implement it (or part of it). If you can’t do it, come to class tomorrow and ask a question.
  6. Repeat Step 5 until done.

Carleton College: 10 Foundational Quantitative Reasoning Questions

Posted by on 10 Jan 2014

How to Save a Lot of Time in Interviews

19 Nov 2013 /

There used to be a book titled The Top 2800 Interview Questions…And Answers. I have this fantasy: You walk into an employer’s office, shake hands, and say, “I know you have a lot of questions for me. So let’s save us both a lot of time.” You slide that baby across the desk toward the manager… “So here they are, along with all the answers. Now can we cut the crap and talk about the job and how I’ll do it for you, okay?”


More Words and Phrases I’m Sick Unto Death Of

11 Nov 2013 /

How big was it?

English: at the 2009 NLCS.

Sports media goofball

The go-to question for lazy sports media goofballs everywhere. How big was that game? How big was that performance? How big was that play?

In case you hadn’t noticed, the word “big” doesn’t make sense in this context. How big was it? It was bigger than a breadbox. It was bigger than my dick.

“Let me ask you about the most important play of the game. How important was it?” That’s just stupid. But it’s acceptable if you phrase it like this: “How big was the interception by Kozlowski?” Use of the word “big” is the agreed-upon protocol for asking stupid questions repeatedly.

“Tell us something we already know about something we just saw” is okay if phrased as “How big was that performance tonight by Smithers?” Or “How big was this win?”

If all you can do is ask stupid questions, at least phrase them in a way that makes sense. “Tell me about the interception by Kozlowski.” Or “What’s your opinion of Kingman’s performance?”

Better yet, do your job and ask questions with insight and context, e.g., “It looked like you changed up the coverage on the Kozlowski interception. Can you talk about that?”


Six Drucker Questions that Simplify a Complex Age

10 Nov 2013 /
Peter Drucker dies at 95

Peter Drucker

Via Harvard Business Review.

My personal favorite is “What would happen if this were not done at all?”


3 Questions That Get All Women Excited

12 Aug 2013 /

I get a lot of spam lately with that topic: 3 Questions That Get All Women Excited.

Does anyone know what the questions are? Asking for a friend . . .


To-Do List

26 May 2013 /
  1. Strive for clarity and distinctness.
  2. Ask “What do you mean, and how do you know?”

thinkpurpose: 3 questions about purpose for Monday mornings

Posted by on 27 May 2012

Which is More Valuable: Collaboration or Competence?

29 Jan 2012 /
Pablo Picasso, Three Musicians (1921), Museum ...

Pablo Picasso, Three Musicians (1921), Museum of Modern Art

The title of this post makes a good interview question. Usually, the candidate will say something to the effect of “they’re both valuable” to avoid the possibility of slipping up and choosing the one that the interviewer believes is less valuable.

Let’s say we need to get a picture painted. We could say, “Picasso — you’re our best guy in this area. We’d like you to paint the picture for us.”

Or we could say, “Picasso — work with the steering committee to get that picture painted.”

You could make a case for either approach, but you can’t do both. So which is more valuable?

Personally, I think collaboration is overrated. It leads to the knowledge of experts and novices being given equal weight.

There’s a reason why pilots don’t invite passengers into the cockpit to get their opinions on how to fly the plane . . .

Thus spoke The Programmer.


Let Me Save You Some Time

1 Sep 2011 /

Are you sick and tired of . . . ?

Fill in anything and my answer will probably be yes.


Open-ended question: How do we live a life we can’t hold on to?

Posted by on 30 Jul 2011

What I’d Really Like, Dad, is to Borrow the Car Keys

22 Aug 2010 /

My son walks into my room and says, “Dad, where are your car keys?”

Car keys

“Where are you going?” I ask.

“Gym,” he says, and starts to walk out of the room again.

“Wait a minute. Where are you going?”

“To the gym.”

“I got that, but you asked me a question and you’re walking out of the room before I answered it.”

“I thought you could give me the answer as I was walking away.”

“Well, I can’t because the keys are in my pocket.”

“Oh,” he says.

“See, that’s what threw me off,” I say, “is I’ve got the keys right here and you’re walking in the other direction.”

“I don’t have time to stand around,” he says.

“You don’t? Well, I don’t have time to figure out other people’s mystifying behavior.”


A Project Management Question

14 Dec 2009 /

Which is better:

A. Telling a project stakeholder that his good idea is never going to happen?

B. Letting him think it is going to happen when it isn’t?


Twitter: 2009-12-07

7 Dec 2009 /

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