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Helping people that are "totally lost"

Kaydell Leavitt
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 18, 2006
Posts: 689

Sometimes, we get easy questions like what is wrong with the following code?

import.javax.swing.*;

A newbie could stare at this for hours before finally asking for help, here, at the JavaRanch.com. Immediately, they would get the answer that there is a dot that is out of place.

import javax.swing.*;

Giving help such as this does not break the "Do your own homework" rule and it helps the student.

There was another question that I helped someone with that was. Why won't my code compile?!

public static void main(String[] arguments);

This is another one that can stump a new student, who thinks that you terminate each line with a semicolon. An online forum, such as the JavaRanch.com is a great place for the student to quickly get their typo corrected to be the following which will compile.

public static void main(String[] arguments) {

However, there are some students who are totally and completely lost that need more help than you can give on the JavaRanch.com forums. I've tried to help some of these students who are totally lost and sometimes, it amounts to me doing their homework and them not learning very much, or given them hints and clues and trying to head them in the right direction, but they still don't get it.

We can all give them hints and try to send them into the right direction because we don't want to just right the code for them. It would be easy for us to do, but the students don't learn much this way. Sometimes, the student get more confused with several people answering the question, some answers being more right than others and some users using simple language and others using language that is correct but that the student doesn't understand.

What I propose is that for students who are totally lost, that we have a new forum called "Java Mentoring". Experienced Java programmers could be matched with students who are totally lost and need a lot of help, students who are clueless, even after you try to give them some clues.

I suggest that students apply for a mentor and that the JavaRanch matches a student to a mentor for interactive, one-one-one mentoring.

Email is more interactive than forums.

Text chat is more interactive than email.

Audio or audio-video chat is more interactive than text chat.

We could even us screen sharing to help if students and mentors can see each other's screens. Sometimes, new learners don't have the vocabulary or don't use words correctly. Our "lingua franca" would be the Java code and it would help if you could see their actual screen.

As a mentor, I want to quit doing peoples' homework and have a 'hands-off' approach that requires my students to have the advantage of learning with the 'hands-on' approach.

I want to talk them through doing their own homework. I may even do the exercise at the same time, but not just send them my solution (until they have their own solution), but, by doing the homework myself and keeping my solution to myself, I can talk the student through doing their own homework and make it be a true learning experience for them.

So, to the Trailmaster, the Sheriffs, and the Bartenders, I'm asking the question: "Can we create a new forum to match students are totally lost, with a capable mentor that won't do their homework, but with interactively guide them through doing their own homework?

Kaydell
[ March 09, 2008: Message edited by: Kaydell Leavitt ]
Marilyn de Queiroz
Sheriff

Joined: Jul 22, 2000
Posts: 9052
    
  12
It sounds somewhat similar to the Cattle Drive forum ... yet different.


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Kaydell Leavitt
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 18, 2006
Posts: 689

Yes, perhaps, like the Cattle Drive forum, but for people that are taking Java in high school, or in technical school or in university, or studying from a book -- on their own.

People get lost, but with a guide and one-on-one mentoring people who would otherwise fail, can succeed.

Kaydell
Joe Ess
Bartender

Joined: Oct 29, 2001
Posts: 8971
    
    9

Originally posted by Kaydell Leavitt:

However, there are some students who are totally and completely lost that need more help than you can give on the JavaRanch.com forums. I've tried to help some of these students who are totally lost and sometimes, it amounts to me doing their homework and them not learning very much. . .


When a conversation reaches that point, I tell the individual that they should seek help from their teacher/instructor/professor (if they are not in a structured class, the Cattle Drive is an option). The teacher is better positioned to give them the correct amount of direction as opposed to just giving answers away, since they know what's been covered in class and what the object of the lesson is.
What's more is the teacher needs the feedback so they can correctly judge the pace of the class.


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Ben Souther
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 11, 2004
Posts: 13410

It's true that email and chat software is more interactive than email and the forums are not the best tool in all cases but we are first but the saloon is first, and foremost, a forum. A forum may have some disadvantages as you've mentioned but it also has some advantages that are lost in other media.

The public nature of the discussions here mean that everyone benefits from questions asked. These forums are searchable so a great number of the people who receive help here are never seen. You lose that in a chatroom or email conversation. Additionally, there are more eyes on the question AND the answers given. If a wrong or outdated answer is given in one of the forums, it usually doesn't take long before someone more experienced chimes in with a more correct answer. In cases like this, the person asking the question, the person who gave the initial (but wrong) answer is helped, and anyone searching the forums will be able to read the whole conversation and benefit from it.

Most of us don't have the time to take on personal proteges.
If this is something you're interested in doing, you might consider posting to the Jobs Wanted or our Blatant Advertising forum.

As Marilyn mentioned our Cattle Ranch comes very close to this and, in my opinion is a better solution.
If you get a minute, you might want to look it over.


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Ben Souther
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 11, 2004
Posts: 13410

Also, there have been times when I've seen that a forum is not the best platform for a certain person's problem. When this happens, I usually suggest that they step back from whatever project it is that's giving them trouble and take some time to work through a book or web tutorial, then come back when and if they are stuck on something more specific.
[ March 10, 2008: Message edited by: Ben Souther ]
Kaydell Leavitt
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 18, 2006
Posts: 689

Most of us don't have the time to take on personal proteges.
If this is something you're interested in doing, you might consider posting to the Jobs Wanted or our Blatant Advertising forum.


This is not Blatant Advertising or a Job Wanted. I'm retired and I want to help out students for free because it keeps me busy and I think that I can help students who get stumped.

This is a great forum. But I still think that there is a place to be more interactive, which I can do on my own. I just thought that other people might be willing to work one-on-one too, and that the JavaRanch.com could be the placed to "Get Connected".

When a conversation reaches that point, I tell the individual that they should seek help from their teacher/instructor/professor


My best student has selected to do his semester project to implement his desktop app in Swing. His instructor says that she doesn't know anything about Swing.

My worst student is stressing out because this is her last semester and if she fails Java, she won't graduate.

I think that we have to keep in mind that instructors have a high number of students and that the instructors *can't* give the students that need one-one-one attention, the attention that they need.

When I was a student, there was University Tutorial Services because some people need that one-on-one attention.

Kaydell
[ March 10, 2008: Message edited by: Kaydell Leavitt ]
paul wheaton
Trailboss

Joined: Dec 14, 1998
Posts: 20693
    ∞

1) For these cases, I usually go with the route that Ben suggested.

2) I think that if you experience somebody thrashing and you really want something a bit more interactive, give them your personal contact info and say "let's chat".


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Kaydell Leavitt
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 18, 2006
Posts: 689

OK.
[ March 12, 2008: Message edited by: Kaydell Leavitt ]
 
It is sorta covered in the JavaRanch Style Guide.
 
subject: Helping people that are "totally lost"