Ron Jeffries on Respect

If you don’t respect others, you’re not doing it right. I try always
to let my great respect show through for people who try hard to do
the right thing. And sure enough, they do try, in almost every case.
The others, who are perhaps trying in some way I don’t understand…
I Respect them too… and wish them success elsewhere.

— Ron Jeffries on eXtreme Programming (XP)

Dependent Sample Assessment Plots Using granova and R

Dependent Sample Assessment Plots (DSAP) constitute a way of visualizing data in the context of two dependent sample analyses. One (of at least four ways1) to think about this would be to think of pre-intervention and post-intervention response data scores, when studying the effects of intervention.

Suppose you’re an educator and you administer an assessment to students at the beginning of a unit asking about their level of confidence or understanding of a topic. You then teach a lesson that spans some period of time. At the end you collect responses to the same questions again. You now have a dependent sample: two responses that related to the same individual for some number of individuals.

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  1. See Pruzek and Helmreich’s paper in the Journal of Statistics Education Volume 17, Number 1 (2009), Enhancing Dependent Sample Analyses Using Graphics

Dear Apple: beauty lies in parity

I love Apple’s design aesthetic. I see it in the simplicity of their physical and software UIs, although usually not in the baroque nature of their business processes. What frustrates me is the lack of parity among the Apple-born technologies. I don’t just want a good experience on one device, I want it on, between, and among all my Apple devices!

Case in point, a few years ago I submitted a note to Apple suggesting that they had missed the boat by not having the iPhone earphone controller/mic work on their notebook line, too. That is, I wanted to be able to iChat using the iPhone earbuds as my earphones and microphone. Sure enough, the latest MacBook Pro models have that feature. I’m not saying it was me! I’m sure many people had a similar idea, and told Apple about it, and I’m thankful for it. What I am asking is, why didn’t Apple notice it? Are their development efforts so siloed or their release cycles so offset from one another that it’s not possible?

Another, current, case in point: the push for ebooks. I have my iPad (thank you, Steve!) and I loaded iBooks on it. I like it. I like the upgrade even more. And there are more features I expect will come soon. However, it’s frustrating to not have iBooks parity between the iPad (/iPhone/iPod touch) and iTunes on my MacBook.

  • on the iPad, I can’t easily manage my collection (gather new books, other than from the iBookstore, (and that’s yet another frustration!), although it’s slowly getting better with the “open in…” capability.
  • on my MacBook, in iTunes, I can’t read the ebooks I’ve collected.

Or the jumble that passes for document management in iWorks for the iPad, or for the Notes app on the original iPhone, or… or…

If Apple truly wants devices like the iPad to be devices for everyone, then the user experience on different Apple devices really needs to be in parity from day-zero.

Don’t make me think twice.

Thinking Through A Basic Pong Game in Processing

The Problem: Create a basic 1970s style Pong game for one player using the Processing programming language. The paddle will be on the right and the ball will bounce off of the three other sides. If the ball passes the paddle while the ball is traveling to the right, game play ends. The paddle will be controlled by the keyboard’s UP and DOWN arrow keys.

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My Classroom Rules

Recently, several students commented that I seemed to have a lot of classroom rules. This is an old refrain in my life, and, in a sense, it’s true. However, the rules I have are all just special cases of my basic three rules, which I share on my About Me page.

  1. If you are going to break the rules, don’t be obnoxious about it.
    • If you can’t be engaged, don’t distract others. It’s unfair to both you and them.
  2. Don’t disappoint me.
    • Don’t promise to focus, but fail to do so. Instead, acknowledge whatever is distracting you and address it.
  3. Be aware.
    • Know what questions your classmates are asking.
    • Recognize which questions are related to tweaking the solution and which are related to a different problem context.

Wil's Classroom Rules
A full sized version of my rules diagram

I think my biggest failing in the classroom is that I’m uneven in the application of the rules, which is perceived as me being arbitrary. Inconsistency and randomness seem very similar to the outside observer.

I sometimes let feature creep take over the problem statement, which can lead to unintentional complexity or student confusion as the problem changes. I need to spend more time up front specifying the problem completely with students so that it’s clear to them and me what the invariants are.

I also find it difficult to ask a student actually to leave the classroom. I’m forever optimistic that the unfocused student will find moments of clarity and engage with the course material. Often, they do, but unfortunately, while I’m waiting for that to happen, the class as a whole is affected and, generally, material isn’t covered as concisely, clearly, or completely as might have been the case otherwise, thereby disadvantaging the other students who could have gone further, faster. Such is the nature of a set of random people with diverse metacognitive skills and needs. Still, I’m certain that I could serve better both ends of the spectrum.