Storage Informer
Storage Informer

What are students worth?

by on Jun.20, 2009, under Storage

What are students worth?

Don&apost get me wrong, I won&apost solicit you to traffic in students, though I do insidiously and relentlessly labor to permanently hook students on concepts and ideas.

The interview with Charlie Peck prompted this blog. For he is the one infecting me with new ways of helping students. At Earlham, students are involved in all aspects of their education. Charlie brought students to Shodor and SC sponsored workshops; students to help as assistant instructors, and to participate with development of the many projects we have fashioned for ourselves.

A curious thing happened. Many of the students of Paul, Charlie and Dave have become my students, some of them for life, even though not one has set foot in my classroom.

We discovered another layer to add to our teaching: an apprenticeship model. What we cover in a classroom, even the experiential parts of our courses, are inextricably linked to the summative task of working for grades. With an apprenticeship model, students choose to become involved; there are no grades, just open-ended tasks to complete well so we can deploy their results. Many "students" have stayed with us years after graduating.

Another curious thing happened. Students who might have been judged mediocre based solely on their grades, demonstrated extraordinary competence and expertise.

I can only relate the anecdotal to you, since there is no evaluative process in place to sift and sort what is taking place.

I teach in a two-year community college, hearing that students don&apost become interesting till their junior year, or that meaningful preparation cannot happen in community colleges.

I took three students to the SC-08 student programming competition, where teams were graded on how well they could solve the 12 assigned problems. The six students of the CMU team came in first, but we were told our three students were a close second.

Charlie and I led a parallel programming workshop in Turkey last January, where we took three student assistants, Teddy from my college. Teddy learned OpenMP, which I did not teach him in class, since I don&apost yet offer a community college course in parallel programming. Teddy rose to the call and was as integral to the success of the workshop as any of us.

Kay was one of Paul&aposs students from the University of Northern Iowa. I soon asked her to come as one of my two student assistants to a workshop we ran at UCSD. Last week, I was leading a workshop at Kean University, where Kay was a full-fledged instructor. Incidentally, she is also the creator of debianclusters.org, a site heavily used be folk seeking to create computational clusters. I am very blessed to have Kay as both a friend and colleague.

What is a student worth? They are without price, because they are integral to the honing of our teaching skills and our abilities to foster the same student&aposs growth. The key is extending your time to include out of class dialogue while working on common goals.

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