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  • Michael Krakovskiy 9:26 pm on May 15, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: beautician, , , , , , , Learning, , math teacher, , Michael Bloomberg, , , Richard Trethewey, , , teacher, technology pioneer, This Old House,   

    On Learning to Code. Or Not. 

    Alert! Jeff Atwood wrote an excellent post about the “learn to code” movement.

    He starts with a tirade full of incredulity about Mayor Bloomberg’s New Years resolution to learn to code with Codeacademy.

    “Fortunately, the odds of this technological flight of fancy happening – even in jest – are zero, and for good reason: the mayor of New York City will hopefully spend his time doing the job taxpayers paid him to do instead.”

    Let’s put aside the princely sum of $1 that His Honor collects from the job. Let’s even put aside that Mayor Bloomberg is doing exactly what he’s supposed to be doing – promoting New York’s bustling tech industry. More to put aside: our Mayor happens to be a technology pioneer with a ridiculous IQ.

    This all comes down to a very difficult question: should people learn nerdy things when they have little use for them, just for the sake of learning.

    I remember a Livejournal discussion that was hashed over and over in the Russian-speaking community. A math teacher was stumped by a question from his student: why was she supposed to learn about trigonometry when she wanted to become a beautician. The teacher did not come up with a good answer, but the livejournalers did dig up some awesome reasons. One well meaning pro-education-for-the-sake-of-education zelot said something to this effect: well, if you work with nail polish, tangents and cotangents figure prominently in formulas that deal with reflectiveness of thin films. That will lead to a greater understanding of how and why nail polish looks the way it does.

    On the surface it may seem that Mayor Bloomberg has about as much need to know how to code as much as a beautician needs to know about sines and cosines.

    There’s more: executives who learned a little bit about writing code at some point tend to say the following phrase “oh, I don’t know much about writing code, just enough to be dangerous”. They say it with this look on their faces:

    Jeff takes this further with the plumbing analogy: since almost everyone has a toilet, should everyone take a course at toiletacademy.com and spend several weeks learning plumbing?

    Normally I’m against education for the sake of education. I once argued for a whole hour with a co-worker who felt that _any_ education is worth _any_ amount of money. I did not know at the time that he held degrees in Psychology of Human Sexuality, Biology, Sociology and Communications. He must have been on to something: he made an amazing career while mine took a nosedive soon after that discussion.

    Here’s where Jeff is wrong (I know, this is shocking, Jeff being all wrong and such): it is better to push people to learn incongruous things then to tell them that this is a bad idea. Steve Jobs learned calligraphy in college and it turned out to be super useful. He might not have become a master calligrapher, but man, did that piece of esoteric knowledge change the world.

    When I was in college I badly wanted to take a scientific glass blowing class, but did not. I deeply regret that.

    Are there people who learned plumbing from This Old House annoying contractors? Yes. Are self-install refrigerator ice maker lines causing millions in water damage? Yes. Is the world better off because Richard Trethewey taught it some plumbing? Absolutely.

    If anything, attempting to learn to code will make people more compassionate towards coders. I do believe that people who are not already drawn to programming are not likely to become programmers, more than that, they are not likely to sit through a whole RoR bootcamp or worse. Learn to code movement is not likely to lure in bad programmers, but it might give people some understanding of what coders go through and maybe be more hesitant to have loud yelling-on-the-phone sessions near their cubes. Mayor Bloomberg, who enforces open workspace policies everywhere he works, might understand why programmers need offices. Jeff, let His Honor code a bit.

     
  • Michael Krakovskiy 3:39 am on October 10, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: anthropologist, Article, Beverly Hills High School, , , , , , Edmund 'Pat' Brown, , journalism teacher, Kenneth L. Peters, , Lead paragraph, Lede, Margaret Mead, Observation, , , Robert Maynard Hutchins, Sacramento, , teacher,   

    Burying the Lead 

    Every time I reread my blog posts, the same thought comes to my mind – “man, I buried the lead again”.

    I learned about leads from “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die” by Chip and Dan Heath. It is a short book, but one that influenced me deeply. Every blogger out there should read it.

    Burying a lead“, in the jargon of journalists means boring the reader before getting to the juicy part. A “lead” or “lede” is the first sentence of the story.

    In the book, there’s an anecdote about a journalism teacher giving his students an assignment:

    ” … They would write the lead of a newspaper story. The teacher reeled off the facts: “Kenneth L. Peters, the principal of Beverly Hills High School, announced today that the entire school faculty will travel to Sacramento next Thursday for a colloquium in new teaching methods. Amnong the speakers will be anthropologist Margaret Mead, college president Dr. Robert Maynard Hutchins, and California governor Edmund ‘Pat’ Brown. ”

    Apparently, most students produced a lead that lumped all these facts into a single sentence. The teacher read all the submissions and then announced:

    “The lead to the story is ‘There will be no school next Thursday’ ”

    I am having a huge problem with writing in “inverted pyramid” style. The juicy parts of my posts are usually at the bottom.

    Think about it, most blog readers, especially the ones that matter suffer from add, and often do not get to the bottom of the article. This means they won’t link to it, won’t digg it.

    I am trying to improve, but writing is a difficult art to master. I just wish I took more writing classes.

     
  • Michael Krakovskiy 4:51 pm on July 26, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Apple I, Apple i Smartphone, , , , , , industry giant, iWoz, Personal computer, , teacher,   

    iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It 

    The mastermind behind Apple sheds his low profile and steps forward to tell his story for the first time.

    Before cell phones that fit in the palm of your hand and slim laptops that fit snugly into briefcases, computers were like strange, alien vending machines. They had cryptic switches, punch cards and pages of encoded output. But in 1975, a young engineering wizard named Steve Wozniak had an idea: What if you combined computer circuitry with a regular typewriter keyboard and a video screen? The result was the first true personal computer, the Apple I, a widely affordable machine that anyone could understand and figure out how to use.

    Wozniak’s life—before and after Apple—is a “home-brew” mix of brilliant discovery and adventure, as an engineer, a concert promoter, a fifth-grade teacher, a philanthropist, and an irrepressible prankster. From the invention of the first personal computer to the rise of Apple as an industry giant, iWoz presents a no-holds-barred, rollicking, firsthand account of the humanist inventor who ignited the computer revolution. 16 pages of illustrations.

     
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