First semester of teaching Java

This is our finals week.  As such I gave my Java class a final.  I borrowed a test from the instructor from the University of Montana who has been helping me with the class.  He happens to be a friend.  Since I really dislike the concept of a single test defining a class the final was a group final.  Since my knowledge of Java is about two days more than my students I was part of the group.  This is a group of students I can do this with.  After we had discussed the test in class I invited my friend over to discuss our answers to the test.  He helps regularly with the class, after all, he knows Java.  The class had narrowed down the problems we were sure we knew the answers to and the ones we did not have a clue about.  We wanted to know how we did.  A couple of problems we thought we understand we did not have a clue about but overall not bad.  We now have a better idea on what we need to target.

When I originally thought of offering this course I knew my knowledge of Java was going to affect the direction of the course.  I understand learning a new language is usually a syntax thing, not a major issue for me after this many years of learning languages.  After teaching Java for the semester I was sort of correct and sort of not.  The problem has been understanding the Object Oriented Programming concept.  We can write Java code, it just is not pretty and does not really use the OOP strengths.  Learning to program in a new language while trying to teach it is not impossible, it just takes lots of time.  Reading, coding, trial and error debugging and understanding the why of a program/language design can really slow things down.

I am debating not offering the course again until I have actually taken a course in Java this century.  The last time I took a Java course was last century.  (I turned the assignments in through an acoustical modem.  Cutting edge shared drive storage method.  I remember the system was called Gandalf.  Programmers and network dudes were going through a Lord of the Rings phase.) The OOP paradigm just does not come through when trying to get it strictly through a book.  The “why do it this way” is missing.  When my friend comes over and explain things it is kind of a “now it makes sense” moment.  The trouble is there is no Java course taught at a time where I could take it.  That pesky daytime job thing.

I will keep tinkering with Java, after all it is one of the top 5 in languages used.  I have found a Java for Kids book that might be fun to work through.  Sure cannot hurt.

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2 Responses to “First semester of teaching Java”

  1. urkom Says:

    If you already know another programming language (as you do), the book Head First Java is pure gold. Manages to be funny, and gets you to “get it” about OOP very early on. Give it a go!

  2. gflint Says:

    I will go to the book store today. Thank you.

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