Archive for April, 2012

Are we teaching the right stuff in Computer Science?

April 3, 2012

I read all these articles talking about lots of CS people will be needed by year X and only a few will be available by year X.  But what branch of CS will those people be experts in?  Most articles talk about the number of programmers.  But is that really what will be needed?  I look out from my little Montana world and I do not see a need for only programmers, I see a need for systems specialists; people who can manage a network, can do more than spell DHCP and IP, who understand virtualization, who know what a router does, who know the ins and outs of a wireless network.  There will definitely be a need for programmers but it seems that the high school CS curriculum pundits are totally focused on programming.  Programming and Computer Science seem to have become interchangeable and synonymous.  I suspect this is a bad idea.  I have had the idea presented to me that the tech side of computers; hardware, networking, system management, etc. is a tech school subject not really suitable for a true Computer Science department.  I suspect this is a really bad idea.  The skills required to troubleshoot a system are easily at the level of writing a program.  For a while I taught a networking and hardware course here.  All my graduates seemed to find instant jobs as help desk people at the universities they went to.   All my programmers were just programmers and did not really have the hardware skills needed to do anything other than plug the computer in to the wall.  Are we really teaching enough “Computer Science” in school?  Perhaps we need to spread the focus and start teaching “here is how to set it up and fix it” type subjects.  Talk about a shortage of teachers!  EEK!

I love Mondays like this.

April 2, 2012

What a lovely Monday.  I did not come in this weekend to check my network as I usually do so of course everything was ate up this morning.  Let’s see… first thing the network file server was not happy and wanted to do a disk check.  On a weekend, no problem but it takes about an hour (really big drive) to grind through this process while teachers needed tests they saved on the drive.  So about half-way through figuring out this issue the elementary principal emails me his iPad is not able to connect to his computer so he cannot do his planned teacher observations.  Can I come over immediately?  It takes me 30 minutes to figure out my DHCP server was not handing out IP addresses to wireless devices.  I have not had time to solve that yet.  Then the Parrish office calls to inform me their internet was down.  I find a sub to watch my class and an hour later, after checking all the obvious things, I figure out their router is sick.  How does a router get sick?  Beats me but it works for a while then decides not to talk to the world any more.  While it is working the network speed is about one tenth what it should be.  A new (OK, slightly used) router and they are back in business.  I get back to my last class of the day 15 minutes after the bell has rung.  No problem, three very smart senior boys who know to just hang out until I show up.  I get them started on the assignment of the day and one of their computers starts giving an OpenGL version error.  Now this computer has been working just fine for 6 months, there are two others just like it working just fine right next to it so what the heck?  It is a Mac and we are using XP in a virtual environment to program in Corona.  How many things could possibly be causing the problem?  Many, very many.  In a day where I normally have 3 contact hours with students I had about 30 minutes.  This may be a two Guinness night.

Tomorrow I can start on my DHCP issue, the MAC-XP-Corona-OpenGL issue and teach the classes I had planned to prep for today.  I am sometimes bored, but that is only because I am deliberately ignoring all the things I need to do.  If I get a phone call tomorrow for help I think I will just say I cannot leave my kids and then cackle insanely.