Fundamentals of Computer Science I (CSC-151.02 2000F)

Responses to Questions and Comments from Introductory Survey

You may also want to look at my responses from CSC152 99F semester, my responses from CSC152 2000S semester, and my responses from CSC152 this semester.


Where are you from?

I was born in Newton, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston. At age one, we went to the Netherlands and lived there two years. I remember almost nothing from that time. I lived in Newton until I went to college in Chicago (at the University of Chicago). i spent about eleven years in Chicago.

Who do you think will play in and win the Super Bowl this year?

While I enjoy football, I haven't paid enough attention during offseason and preseason to make any predictions.

What's the funniest movie or TV program you've ever seen?

Hmmm ... probably a tie between (1) Monty Python and the Holy Grail; (2) Harold and Maude; (3) Bedazzled, (4) Playtime, and (5) almost anything by Chaplin. Of course, my opinions are probably colored by when I first saw those movies.

What are your hobbies and interests?

Well, you should look at my ``top five time sinks'' on my copy of the introductory survey. That is, my family is my biggest interest. I also collect music. I was a film buff in college and grad school, but time for that has faded with kids and job and everything. I also read (but not enough classic literature).

What is your favorite foreign cuisine?

I like Thai food a lot, but that may be because Hyde Park (where I spent college and grad school) seemed to have more Thai restaurants than almost anything else. I also like Chinese, Indian, Middle Eastern, and many others.

If you had to paint your house, which of these colors would you paint it? Blue, Yellow, Red, or Green?

Well, we painted our house blue (tealish), grey, and white. So blue it is.

Has teaching at Grinnell changed your views on life, personality, etc.?

No, not really.

How much money do you make?

Enough to live comfortably. Not as much as some of our students make. I'm somewhere in the middle of the assistant professor range at Grinnell (and that range is published publically somewhere).

If you'd really like to know my exact salary, wander by my office and ask.

Do you like science fiction?



What do you think of Linux as compared to Windows?

Since I've traditionally avoided Windows, it's hard for me to compare. Linux is much more reliable (a typical Linux box crashes less than once a month; a typical Windows box crashes daily). The GUI we have installed in the MathLAN takes a little while to get used to, but I'm finding it usable.

However, I'll admit that I'm generally a "command line" person.

Have you ever though of enrolling in a class here at Grinnell? If so, what?

Well, I've thought a lot about sitting in on classes at Grinnell, but (so far) I haven't had the time. I'd like to sit in on Mark Schneider's workshop physics, because it seems to be a model of the workshop style. I'd like to sit in on the upper-level probstats course because I don't know enough statistics. I'd like to sit in on the introductory education course. The new History 195 sounds like a very interesting course. I want to sit in on some of the classes that my students mention in the "best course" section (including those mentioned earlier) so that I can see how those folks teach. Many tutorials also sound like they'd be a lot of fun.

Will I ever find the time? Who knows. Maybe it's time to become an undergraduate again. Of course, William (son) just started Kindergarten, and it looks like that would be fun, too.

How did you end up in Computer Science?

I've always liked problem solving and I've always had some mathematical talent. Computer science seemed to have a little more "hands on" feel than real math, so that's where I ended up. I still enjoy both the problem solving and the sense of creation inherent in CS.

What types of education-related stuff do you do?

The general theme of much of my research is ``hypertext in education'', which I differentiate from the more general ``computers in education''. My main focus is making the Web more interactive -- creating facilities that permit students and faculty to annotate and modify ``arbitrary'' pages.

I'm also becoming more and more convinced that the Web will bring little advantage for students who learn in Grinnell-like classrooms. (From talking to colleagues at other institutions, it's clear that our seminar-style classes are far from the norm for undergraduate classes.)

However, I do think that the Web can give us insight into how our students interact with materials. For example, if I give you a problem along with some background readings and related sample problems, where do you start when trying to solve the problem? Do successful students have different patterns of usage than less successful students?

Will you build me a computer?


What do you think of the computer science department at Grinnell?

I value my colleagues in mathematics and computer science. The two other computer scientists, John Stone and Henry Walker, are great to work with. They think hard and well about teaching CS, and they really enjoy what they do. Most of our students are good, and all of them seem to be nice people. I wish we had more faculty. I wish we had more lab space (including both specialized teaching labs and specialized research labs). Until this year, I thought our computing equipment was too outdated. I wish other folks on campus understood that even though we're one department, mathematics and computer science are separate disciplines.

How would you describe the direction of development of comptuer technology?

I wouldn't. Greater minds than mine have tried, and regularly failed.

Do you ever get bored with what you do?

Stressed, yes. Bored, no. I always have so many things that I'm committed to doing (or interested in doing) that if I get bored with one thing, I have something else to move on to. For example, if I didn't feel like doing this right now, I could work on your lab for tomorrow, send a needed email to one of my professional lists, or write a small program to help with some aspect of my teaching.

The Course

What happens if I don't get along with my partner?

This is Grinnell. People almost always get along. However, if you don't get along with your partner, I'm happy to let you switch. You don't have assigned partners, and for the first week or two, I encourage you to work with a variety of people.

What are your goals for this course?

That you folks learn a lot. That you find the course interesting. That you go on to take more CS courses. That you don't find it intimidating.

What do you want to see in a student in this class?

Read the "On teaching and learning document" in course web.


Where can I get a good meal?

My favorite place to eat in Grinnell is Cafe Phoenix. They certainly have the most consistently good and interesting food in town. When I want more basic american cooking, I like Kelcey's and will admit a fondness for West Side Diner.


Thursday, 24 August 2000

Sunday, 27 August 2000

Monday, 28 August 2000

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