Programming Languages (CSC-302 98S)

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Responses to surveys

These are my responses to the questions or comments you asked on the introductory survey. You may also want to look at similar responses for the other classes that I'm teaching this term: CS152 and CS103.

Why Grinnell?

I enjoy teaching and wanted a school that valued teaching. At the same time, I wanted to be able to do some research, and wanted a school that understood the interacting between teaching and research. Since some of my research involves computers in education, I wanted a school that considered that to be valid research (surprisingly, a number of schools don't). I also got along well with the faculty I met during my interview, and thought Henry and John would be great colleagues in computer science. What else? I liked the idea of a multiparadigm introductory curriculum. I've told many of you before, but the students who interviewed me were the best interviewers of all the places I went.

What are your five favorite albums?

It varies from day to day and week to week. The ones that tend to stay up near the top are:

How did you like your first semester here?

I generally enjoyed it, but I did find it stressful. I wasn't happy with my grading problems, and found it difficult to balance all of the things I had to (or wanted to) do.

Were there any surprises about the school, students, or faculty?

I will answer this as honestly as I can (and probably more honestly than I should). I was somewhat surprised about some computing issues, particlarly that we didn't have PPP dialup, that our main computer runs VMS, that two rows of computers in the computing classroom can't run Java, and that our computing policy is incredibly restrictive. In one class, I was pleasantly surpised at how well students took to my perspective on class participation. In another, I was glad to see some students react well to it, but was also dismayed to find that a conflict in perspectives developed between me and some students. I was also somewhat surprised to see that some of you seemed to have difficulty analyzing algorithms and that you hadn't covered graph algorithms in CS152. Oh, I was certainly surprised that our president resigned.

What is your favorite programming language?

It depends on the particular task I'm working on and my current mood. For a long time, I tended to use Scheme and Haskell for my "quick computations". When I need quick tools, I tend to use Perl, not because it's a good language, but because it's nice for quickly hacking together tools. I'm doing a lot of Java programming these days. Haskell embodies much of what I find interesting about programming language design, but I'll admit that I don't use it for large projects.

What is your impression of Grinnell, now that you've been here for a semester?

My impression is positive, in spite of the few problems I mentioned above. I've enjoyed working with my students, like my colleagues, and find the town friendly. In spite of the current "administrative" problems, I think that faculty and students get much more of a say here than they do at most schools, and I like that we get to be so involved.

I'm concerned that we won't spend enough time programming in all these languages.

I find it important to balance learning through programming and learning through writing and analysis. If we spend all of our time on programming, you'll learn more about particular languages and less on general issues (or perspectives). At the same time, we will need to ground these issues in particular languages. If you want to do more programming, you are certainly free to do so (and can probably even get some "extra credit" if you show me your work).

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Disclaimer Often, these pages were created "on the fly" with little, if any, proofreading. Any or all of the information on the pages may be incorrect. Please contact me if you notice errors.

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