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Too much to write

I’ve recently mentioned that I have a reasonably large backlog of potential topics. And I do. What scares me is that the backlog keeps growing. And growing. And growing. When I’m musing, or doing other work, I tend to record other topics that I expect to muse about in the near future. I restarted musing less than a month ago. In that period, I have not only written about nearly thirty new topics that had not been on my backlog [1], I’ve added about forty new topics to my to muse about list [2].

What are they? A number have to do with teaching: A note on what it’s like to update a course schedule, a comment on grading rubrics [3], a more general exploration of grading student projects [4,5], an explanation of my use of eboards, a summary of the learning outcomes from CSC 151, two more notes on assessment, the promised teaching CS is like teaching writing, further notes on my use of take-home examinations, some comments on recently designed assignments, a comment on the pause for breath days inspired by some discussion on Facebook, a rant about reconfigurable classrooms, and a few others. A few more teaching musings also focus on particular classes. I plan to describe experience re-doing the Codecademy Ruby tutorial in preparation for writing an assignment based on it [6]. I also plan to reflect on where I stand in the series of musings on my Don’t embarrass me course. And then there’s the recently-promised Why teaching CS is like teaching writing.

Some are inspired by the musing process itself, including this musing, a note on cleaning up my musings, some comments on Github and writing [7], a reflection on the the social media aspects of these musings [8], and, if I read my notes correctly, some comments on how I choose which topic to muse about next.

Mixed in there are a few topics I want to rant about. The Codecademy piece is likely to be a bit of a rant. I’m frustrated with our reconfigurable classroom, so I may rant about that [9]. I’ve planned one whose title may tantalize you: Usurping faculty responsibilities [10,12]. If I recall correctly, I also promised to comment on room and board at Grinnell. I’ve been writing recommendation letters recently; doing so has inspired at least two topics, one on cover letters and one on the idiotic ranking systems that some schools use [14]. And I had some frustrating technical experiences with my professional organization. So those of you who like to see my more curmudgeonly side are likely to find some things that please you [15].

But I’ve also planned some positive musings, such as a commentary on my joy at being able to take classes and what I’ve gained from that and my fondness for a sculpture I inherited during my graduate student days.

With the exception of the musing on teaching CS as teaching writing, I think almost all of those topics are relatively straightforward [16]. I also have a few ones that will require more thought and reflection, including one on issues of how the primary learning model in CS can be challenging to people who lack confidence. That one will require me to do some more background research.

There are, of course, other topics on the list. I just don’t want to give everything away. Stay tuned and you should see some interesting topics in the next few weeks, including some that I have not yet planned.


Postscript: One of the frustrations I find about the growth of the list is that topics get separated from their inspiration. It took me two months to respond to a Chronicle article. It will take a few weeks to respond to another Chronicle article and to a discussion about annotations. I’d like to be able to respond to each thing in a timely fashion. But one of the reasons I try to limit myself to one musing per days is that if I didn’t, I’d probably find myself filling all of my days with musings. That practice would probably lead to burnout [17] and a way-too-large backlog of normal work. So some things must be delayed. Some get delayed long enough that I never write about them. So be it.


[1] Okay, not all of those topics were new. For example, my rant about misunderstandings of science has been on my to-do list for a while. My desire to write that one was one of the reasons I took a break; I knew it would take a lot of work to track down references and I didn’t have time to do so. But most of them were new.

[2] When I started to sketch out this musing about two weeks ago, there were twenty. The number goes up and up.

[3] As part of the series that includes coarse-grained grading.

[4] Also in that series.

[5] And I guess that one was on the back-burner from before the break.

[6] If all goes well, I’ll write that tomorrow.

[7] Because I use Github for my musings, I’m now tempted to type git commit when I finish writing anything.

[8] Because I don’t use Facebook or Twitter much, I rarely see all of the responses I get to these musings.

[9] I’ve already noted that topic in an early paragraph. It seems worth repeating in this other context.

[10] I wonder how much trouble that one will get me in [11].

[11] Hopefully not too much.

[12] For those of you who have been hearing some of my on-campus frustrations, it will not be about Curriculum Committee.

[14] It’s not just that I don’t know what to do when my average student is excellent; it’s what I do about the even more confusing aspects.

[15] I started that paragraph with a few topics I plan to rant about. It seems like it will be more than a few.

[16] Maybe that’s not so correct. There are a lot of musings about teaching and, as I look back on the topics, many of them will take or generate a lot of reflection.

[17] Burnout for both me and my readers.


Version 1.0 released 2018-01-25.

Version 1.0.1 of 2018-02-28.