Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The First Couple of Weeks

The class has started off, with neither a bang nor a fizzle, but with satisfactory activities and solid interest.  Because my students did not sign up to serve as subjects of public discussion, and because the only view that I can relate is that of the instructor, I will forgo describing the class proceedings.

Suffice it to say that I am balancing the technical and the abstract, usually in each class session, by (1) examining and practicing algorithm tracing and representation, with simple sorting, searching, and encoding; and (2) discussing philosophy in general, and posing questions about individual and comparative features of algorithms.  We have read the entry, "Philosophy of Computer Science," in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and we have read Moshe Vardi's letter, mentioned previously, in the Communications of the ACM.  And I am assigning and collecting a steady stream of written work. 
I have taught, in a cursory way, more of the technical matter than I thought would be necessary at the start, such as semantic functions and compositionality, monotonicity, the entity-relationship model, with set theory coming up.  But no student is in danger of mastering those subjects in this class. 

We are also, in this course, testing a new Learning Management System, which brings our high-minded inquiries down to earth for dealing with the intricacies of web interfaces.  And we are discovering that some of the classrooms no longer provide the equipment that I expected.  I'm pleased to say that these mundane details of teaching are offset by the interesting questions and speculations already at play in the class.