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Trouble with student expectations

Frank Carver
Sheriff

Joined: Jan 07, 1999
Posts: 6920
Does anyone else here have a tension between what the students think a course is about, what they want to get out of it, and what the course material actually covers? If so, do you have any cunning suggestions for how to resolve the tension?
Currently, I teach two modules of an AVCE (Advanced Vocational Certificate of Education) course. The sales pitch from the college is that the AVCE offers a "vocational" (buzzword for more practical, more applicable to industry etc.) alternative to other qualifications offered by high schools. The students are mostly 16-19, and mostly there because they didn't like "academic" subjects (English, Math(s) etc.) at school, but don't want to go out and get a job right now.
The problem occurs because, despite the "vocational" label, the course units are actually supposed to be quite theoretical. One module I teach is "advanced database design using Microsoft Access", for example. The syllabus includes SQL, normalization, Entity-Relationship modelling and so on.
The students however, almost uniformly, appear to just want a course which tells them which buttons to press on MS Access. So even when I cover other aspects - and however "interesting" I try and make it - they just don't seem to care enough to take it in.
I'm open to suggestions from anyone for ways to get round this self-imposed disinterest. Unfortunately I have no control over the syllabus (it's set by an external examining body), or which students I get in the classroom. I am free (within limitations of cost and environment) to present the material in any way I see fit.
Ideas?


Read about me at frankcarver.me ~ Raspberry Alpha Omega ~ Frank's Punchbarrel Blog
Ernest Friedman-Hill
author and iconoclast
Marshal

Joined: Jul 08, 2003
Posts: 24187
    
  34

This reminds me of what I went through a U.C. Berkeley Extensions very first Java instructor. I first taught for them in the spring of '96. The text was the first edition of Gosling and Arnold. I taught it like you'd teach an academic "Comp 101". There was no GUI stuff at all.
The students ate it up. I had something like 65 students the first term, and 100 or so the second term. Everybody there was an "early adopter," someone who was interested in technology for technology's sake. Boy it was fun. They were all dying to learn, and for every you said, they wanted to know why. I was invited to fly down to San Diego and do the course there, too, as an "intensive" and that also went really well.
U.C Extension hired a bunch more instructors, and there were some more specialized courses; I kept teaching the intro. Over the next few terms the students started to change. The early adopters had all adopted Java by now, and I started to see mostly folks whose boss told them they had to go get training. These students were very different. They didn't want to know "why". They wanted to know, primarily, how to throw up a dialog box to query a database. They didn't want to know any theory at all, and they didn't want to go learn APIs on their own. It was significantly less fun for me.
I'm sorry, but I don't have any really good answers. In my case, I kept to my guns until I finally stopped teaching. Another choice would be to change the material to meet the students expectations more closely. A third alternative, the hardest one, is to keep trying to find ways to make the hard stuff fun. I did try hard to use humor; especially for younger students, this might be your best bet. Code examples with silly or even embarrassing topics, silly names, silly scenarios, but presented in my best professional deadpan, generally at least kept people listening, most of the time. I also used props to illustrate stories, and found whatever excuse I could to throw, drop, or break something. Memorable events, even unrelated to the material, actually help people learn in that they serve as memory-markers -- they remember what you were talking about when "X" happened.


[Jess in Action][AskingGoodQuestions]
HS Thomas
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 15, 2002
Posts: 3404
Hi Frank,

The students are mostly 16-19, and mostly there because they didn't like "academic" subjects (English, Math(s) etc.) at school, but don't want to go out and get a job right now.


I'm open to suggestions from anyone for ways to get round this self-imposed disinterest

Assuming that there is a demand for the course i.e. more students than can be accomodated on the course, have them sit a selection test that would separate out the good students from the bad. That way you'd at least know that you are working with the best students you could get. :roll:
(You'd feel happier, at least.) Being able to use MS Access could be a selection point. I am sure Mum or Dad must have a computer at home or the college runs MS Access courses.
Then lessons could be structured so that excercises are built on and culminate in mini-projects at the end of the month.
These mini-projects could then be re-visited to be used on a tri- to six- monthly mega-project, perhaps vocation-orienteered ones. About learning which MS Access buttons to click that could be addressed in a couple of sessions at the start of the course.
I found out the hard way that students usually like a bit of structure from the start. If they know what's expected of them they are usually quite accomodating.
Perhaps your students don't believe there are jobs out there after the course. These are bad, bad times.
regards
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Originally posted by Frank Carver:
Does anyone else here have a tension between what the students think a course is about, what they want to get out of it, and what the course material actually covers? If so, do you have any cunning suggestions for how to resolve the tension?
...
I'm open to suggestions from anyone for ways to get round this self-imposed disinterest. Unfortunately I have no control over the syllabus (it's set by an external examining body), or which students I get in the classroom. I am free (within limitations of cost and environment) to present the material in any way I see fit.

Um, I'm assuming there are additional constraints. I know you've had enough consulting background to understand the concept of expectation setting, but I'm not clear why that isn't appropriate here? Worried that you'll scare off too many students?
Originally posted by Frank Carver:

Currently, I teach two modules of an AVCE (Advanced Vocational Certificate of Education) course. The sales pitch from the college is that the AVCE offers a "vocational" (buzzword for more practical, more applicable to industry etc.) alternative to other qualifications offered by high schools. The students are mostly 16-19, and mostly there because they didn't like "academic" subjects (English, Math(s) etc.) at school, but don't want to go out and get a job right now.
The problem occurs because, despite the "vocational" label, the course units are actually supposed to be quite theoretical. One module I teach is "advanced database design using Microsoft Access", for example. The syllabus includes SQL, normalization, Entity-Relationship modelling and so on.
The students however, almost uniformly, appear to just want a course which tells them which buttons to press on MS Access. So even when I cover other aspects - and however "interesting" I try and make it - they just don't seem to care enough to take it in.

In college, many students are there because they want to get a college education (although in some places, they go just because it's expected of someone in their socio-economic status). So even if they don't particular like having to take some particular class, they want to learn in general.
Vocational students fall into one of two categories, diametrically opposite. One group knows what it wants and specific vocational training is the right course (e.g. culinary school). The other has no idea what it wants, but feels that a HS degree (or lack of one) isn't enough. The latter are simply jumping through hoops expecting that at the end of the day, they'll wind up with a better job. It sounds like you're teaching this latter group. (Correct me if I'm wrong in my assumptions.)
The only way to teach anything is to first make the student understand why the material is important. As implied above, this is implicit for many college classes. In your class, I think you need to be very overt about it at the start of each lesson, providing motivation for the material.
If it's theoretical, you need to take a "wax on, wax off" approach. Teach them they theory, and then devise a test or problem where only the theory will help them, not some reference book. I'm thinking of ETS type problems like, "Define a@b = a^b + a^(b-1) + ... a^1 + a^0. If a is odd, under what conditions will a@b be odd?" Here you can't simply look up some formula, or find a similar problem with different numbers, but instead need to understand fundamental numerical properties. Obviously you'd need to do this at a much higher level.
Maybe you can also include war stories. Even better is to have a couple guest speakers who can talk about how they use material in your lesson, in their work.
In any case, I would actually devote significant time to understand what they students want by asking them, directly. If it's small you can do it one on one. If it's large, create a survey (I can help if you'd like). Find out what they think they'll learn, what types of jobs they want to get, and how they think this material is relevant. That will allow you to know where they are. You can't move something unless you first know where it is, because only then can you find it, and subsequently know which path is the easiest by which to move it.
--Mark
Bert Bates
author
Sheriff

Joined: Oct 14, 2002
Posts: 8879
    
    5
Hmmm...
This is something I picked up from Kathy, (who, by the way, misses you all, and won't come up for air until the EJB book is done ).
When we're teaching or writing we always have, in the back of our minds, these three questions:
Why?
Who cares?
So what?
The idea is that there WILL be an exchange that goes:
Teacher: So X is true.
Student: Why?
Teacher: Well, because, blah, blah
Student: Who cares?
Teacher: You care because, blah2, blah2
Student: So what?
Teacher: It's important to you because, blah3, blah3...
We ALL get bombarded with too much data, students included. It's reasonable and expected that people will start to filter out most of what they hear. So if you REALLY want to teach, you've got to get past the mindset that if you 'cover the material', the students SHOULD be motivated, and you've done your job.
You've got to make it compelling, and meaningful, and interesting, and unusual, and MEMORABLE. That's really your job. Richard Wurman talks about the four levels of information:
data
information
knowledge
wisdom
Spewing a bunch of data to a room full of students doesn't really count as 'teaching', the word for that activity is 'briefing'. Helping them to turn the data into useful information, and turn that information into a little knowledge... now THAT'S teaching!
A corollary to this idea is the 80/20 rule. We often hear teachers say that they're stuck because ALL the material has to be covered. Well that can be tricky, but personally I'd rather that my students REALLY GET the KEY stuff than that they are kinda squishy on all of it.
(Everyone on the SCJP forum knows I'm from the 'focus police'. I'm forever trying to keep the topics focused on the exam :roll: )
So back to the 80/20: 80% of the Java (or whatever) code you'll ever write, you'll write using the KEY 20% of the language. (That's my theory and I'm sticking to it!) So even if you are forced to COVER the material, imho you should focus most of your energy on the really key aspects of your topic. You know, those fundamental concepts that unlock everything else. If you're forced to, you can breeze over the seldom used trivial, and in the end, when your students really GET the basics, everyone will be happy.
(Will somebody please take away this guy's soapbox ??? )
oh, never mind
-Bert


Spot false dilemmas now, ask me how!
(If you're not on the edge, you're taking up too much room.)
boyet silverio
Ranch Hand

Joined: Aug 28, 2002
Posts: 173
Hello, A teacher caring for his students is great.
I am not a teacher but this thread seem interesting.
Just a suggestion, why not try starting the first day of class say in your Advanced Database Design by discussing to them (disinterested students)
- scenario or actual "disasters" resulting from bad database design costing the client millions of money
- that these "disasters" could have them fired from their jobs ("and fired for real good")
- and that they could be in trouble later if they state later in their resume that the took "Advance Database Design", if they don't understand the "why" which led to this "disasters (so they better listen up) because it is almost a surety that these disasters are going to happen to them (Many of them would be smiling/smirking but I think by this time their ears will stand erect or their pulse will spike a little).
- they could be charged for "perjury" about stating (in writing in their resumes) that they know Advanced Database Design when they get to testify when the suing, courting and charging arise from these "disasters". And under cross examination, their lack of understanding is exposed
.
- (and if some of them are still smiling or smirking) tell them that since the tech market is low, there may be many programmers out of jobs, good ones who are better than them (disinterested), who are readily available as "expert witnesses". And that it is possible that some of these good programmers may have gone to law school to seek bloody red pastures. Pastures now inhabited by many of those who have pretended to know Advance Database Desing (or state another course name) and who displaced the good programmers from their jobs. And that these could be the ones cross-examining them later. (Although in another time, there's Gary Reback somewhere who had done programming in college to support his law school fees... and was active in the early Microsoft trials)
- and also the weird anti mocrosoft programmers who will like being expert witnesses for food, for kicks or relish .
I guess this is a negative approach. But I think you've tried a lot of "positives". That of starting the class with stating how "beautiful" database design is, or how "useful"... or how "profitable"... I guess it is not bad to add "negatives" to your load of openers in the context of caring for your students.
Yeah. some kind of "caring".
[ September 08, 2003: Message edited by: boyet silverio ]
Frank Carver
Sheriff

Joined: Jan 07, 1999
Posts: 6920
Wow. Thanks for all the interest, folks. I can't really follow up on all the comments, but here's a few anyway.
Ernest wrote: A third alternative, the hardest one, is to keep trying to find ways to make the hard stuff fun. I did try hard to use humor; especially for younger students, this might be your best bet. Code examples with silly or even embarrassing topics, silly names, silly scenarios, but presented in my best professional deadpan, generally at least kept people listening, most of the time. I also used props to illustrate stories, and found whatever excuse I could to throw, drop, or break something. Memorable events, even unrelated to the material, actually help people learn in that they serve as memory-markers -- they remember what you were talking about when "X" happened.
Excellent suggestions. I'm pretty good at dropping and breaking things, so that should be no trouble.
HS Thomas wrote: Assuming that there is a demand for the course i.e. more students than can be accomodated on the course, have them sit a selection test that would separate out the good students from the bad. That way you'd at least know that you are working with the best students you could get.
I guess this is one of the problems. The college has a "the more students the better" attitude, so there are never too many students. Mostly this derives from the way education for this age-range is funded. The college receives a certain amount from the government for each student that signs up on a course, a bit more for each student who completes the course without dropping out, and a bit more for each student who passes the assessment. There are also side-effects like greater overall student numbers giving the college more claim on central budgets for resources and equipment.
The bottom line is more students => more income for the college.

The tension in expectations often arises because the course (and the college services for this age range as a whole) is mainly marketed to the parents. In general, the parents like to see courses with the more detailled and (at the end of the day) saleable content. The students often attend because it is the "path of least resistance". Many of them see college as an alternative to work rather than a preparation for it.
Learning which MS Access buttons to click that could be addressed in a couple of sessions at the start of the course.
In general, this is the approach we (as a team of teachers) take, but it's very hard work compared with the commercial training I've done where even the "snoozers-and-boozers" know in their hearts that training and qualifications make a difference in the workplace.
Mark Herschberg wrote: Um, I'm assuming there are additional constraints. I know you've had enough consulting background to understand the concept of expectation setting, but I'm not clear why that isn't appropriate here? Worried that you'll scare off too many students?
The main issue (for me at least) is that the modules I teach are part of a course which is taught by a team of at least six teachers and administered centrally by the college. By the time I get to see the students they have usually had their basic expectations set by someone else. Last year, I didn't get to see them until they already been on the course for six months, but at least this year I get them within the first few weeks. It doesn't help that the modules I teach are also probably the most academically challenging.
For some, the damage has already been done
The latter are simply jumping through hoops expecting that at the end of the day, they'll wind up with a better job. It sounds like you're teaching this latter group. (Correct me if I'm wrong in my assumptions.)
Pretty close. Although as I say above, there are a fair proportion of students who don't like to think about the idea of work at all, and see college as a refuge from that sort of thing.
In your class, I think you need to be very overt about it at the start of each lesson, providing motivation for the material.
I agree. I guess I don't personally find a lot of motivation for things like E-R diagrams, though. I've done plenty of database work over the years and never really needed to use them. And at the level of detail we can fit into an assignment for a six-month, four-hour-a-week, module, forcing students to draw E-R diagrams is about as useful as forcing programming students to draw flowcharts.
Teach them they theory, and then devise a test or problem where only the theory will help them, not some reference book.
This is good, although I haven't had a lot of luck getting the students to bother with tests which don't count explicitly toward the final grade. And the scope of the grading assignment is set by the awarding body. Are there tricks I'm missing for getting students to take non-summative tests seriously?
In any case, I would actually devote significant time to understand what they students want by asking them, directly
This is exactly how I'm planning to start this year. I just hope the spread of answers is not too broad.
Find out what they think they'll learn, what types of jobs they want to get
I got to look at some of the results of this sort of "course induction" form for some of the students I'll be teaching. One of them sticks in my mind. When asked "what would be your ideal job?", he wrote "there isn't one". A following question was "what do you plan to do after this course?". The same student wrote "sign up for another course and get loads of qualifications". I'll leave it for you all to judge whether he will succeed at this.
Bert Bates wrote: Spewing a bunch of data to a room full of students doesn't really count as 'teaching', the word for that activity is 'briefing'. Helping them to turn the data into useful information, and turn that information into a little knowledge... now THAT'S teaching!
I agree with this. I could probably dump the entire course material on them in two lessons if I wanted to. Luckily I have been given a lot more time than that to try and reach into their individual learning styles and tweak whatever it is that gets them interested.
If capering bufoonery is what it takes, I'm up for it. After all, by being a teacher I automatically forfeit any claim of being "cool"
boyet silverio wrote: tell them that since the tech market is low, there may be many programmers out of jobs, good ones who are better than them
Unfortunately the great majority of these students are not considering any kind of "computer" career. A typical answer to the "what would be your ideal job?" question is something like "I like cars, so I would like to work in an auto dealership. They have computers there, don't they?".
Thanks again, people. I'll report back from the trenches when I know a bit more about this year's hopefuls.
HS Thomas
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 15, 2002
Posts: 3404
Just curious, Frank.
But how did someone of your stature end up teaching these guys ?
They sound just like the lot that I upped stakes and left after completing teaching the course as a stand-in.
Those who were interested in further learning ( were also doing Open University courses) did say that they would sign up for a course if I taught it. So, I couldn't have been a bad teacher.
If anything , I'd criticise the teaching "system" at the place, not the students.
regards
Frank Carver
Sheriff

Joined: Jan 07, 1999
Posts: 6920
how did someone of your stature end up teaching these guys ?
I'm not sure I have any particular "stature"
The reality of it is that I want to get a recognized teaching qualification. I have several times approached both business clients and industry training companies asking if they would like me to teach any of the subjects I feel I am knowledgeable about. In all cases the reply went along the lines of "I'm sure you know the subject, but how do we know you can teach?"
In order to get a teaching qualification, you need to log a lot of teaching hours. In order to get work teaching, you need a qualification.
D'Oh! :roll:
The only way I have found out of this deadlock was to take a part-time job teaching this sort of material at this sort of institution. They pay me a regular (if not vey large) salary and both provide and pay for my teacher training course and the qualification at the end of it.
When I roll off the end of the course I should have a useful qualification and hundreds of hours of tough teaching on my resum´┐Ż. My aim is to learn as much as I can from the process, and try and become the best teacher I can. Picking the brains of the luminaries who hang out at the Java Ranch is just one part of my grand plan ...
HS Thomas
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 15, 2002
Posts: 3404
Oh, no! I missed an opportunity then!
One of many.
Well, I'll teach the "Living Dead" if I have to now.
The "system" just wasn't what I thought education was all about.

regards
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Originally posted by HS Thomas:

But how did someone of your stature end up teaching these guys ?

Next you'll be telling me Kathy Sierra is teaching a bunch of high school kids.
You know, some of us actually really like teaching, even to the point that we'd teach not necessarily the most committed students. I myself, teach engineering sophomores in a special program at MIT, and have taught ballroom dancing at MIT, BU, and NEU. (In my youth, I also used to teach chess to elementry school kids.)
In contrast to Frank's issue, a recruiter recently told me that she wanted to submit my resume to a company, but it looked too "academic" to them, what with the book and all the teaching I've done, so she wanted me to re-write it to de-emphasize that work. *sigh*
--Mark
HS Thomas
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 15, 2002
Posts: 3404
In contrast to Frank's issue, a recruiter recently told me that she wanted to submit my resume to a company, but it looked too "academic" to them, what with the book and all the teaching I've done, so she wanted me to re-write it to de-emphasize that work. *sigh*

Which you did de-emphasize ?
Ballroom dancing and chess are pretty idealistic pursuits. I can't see high-school drop-outs registering on these courses just to have somewhere to get to and be counted in the "system".
Sorry, Mark , not quite *on par*.
I think you'd be very surprised (to put it mildly) if you had some of these vocational students to teach. Non-commited MIT sophomores are probably triple A ^ 3 students compared to some. Personally, I'd like to aim for teaching a better than mediocre university class (not top, I know my limitations). I like to feel needed but not to the extent of having to push 60 students every step of the way.
Kathy Sierra teaches the whole wide world! And there's only a handful that can do that!
regards
[ September 10, 2003: Message edited by: HS Thomas ]
HS Thomas
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 15, 2002
Posts: 3404
Food for thought :-
Actually , last night, I was thinking about the company telling Frank that they weren't sure he could teach.
I just wondered whether if he had offered to *mentor* he would have had better luck. Companies may be afraid of the word *teach* (perhaps bad experiences in the past , both individual and as a group.)
And mentor is a different ball game. A mentor is invariably part of the project but not enough to be considered part of the furniture. I worked in a place where a consultant acted as a mentor so I've seen it in action.A very effective one, too. Disappeared off to New York afterwards.
I think *mentoring* would be more acceptable to companies than *teaching*.
regards
[ September 10, 2003: Message edited by: HS Thomas ]
Frank Carver
Sheriff

Joined: Jan 07, 1999
Posts: 6920
I've tried that too. I've done unofficial mentoring many times.
I guess I could have had more luck earning from it if I were a permanent employee of a company - several big organizations I have worked for had internal mentoring schemes. As an outside contractor, I have often faced the assumption that I don't know enough about the company itself to be worth hiring as a mentor.
All of these answers could just be a polite way of telling me that my self-marketing skills are not up to scratch, though. Sigh...
Kathy Sierra
Cowgirl and Author
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 10, 2002
Posts: 1572
Originally posted by HS Thomas:

Kathy Sierra teaches the whole wide world!

Yeah, but I suck at teaching my daughter *anything*.
And my apologies for not thanking all of you for your responses on my 'high school' thing. Sadly, my daughter just got frustrated the next day and dropped out. : (
I still want to pursue that, using some of the suggestions you gave me about subbing, etc.
Anyway, here's a little story about the power of audio... when I was asked to move to SunEd headquarters in Colorado (I was in California), my daughter and I drove the 3,000 miles or so (with Clover the dog, of course). I had just returned from a JavaOne, with a pile of audiotapes. By the time I arrived at Sun, I was to be teaching Javabeans (the non-EJB kind) and Jini, so I figured I'd spend my time driving over the Rockies listening to Java tapes. On the third day, something came up on a tape that I didn't understand, so I stopped the tape and set out loud, "Wait -- how can that work like that?" And my daughter started to answer. And then, she was horrified that she knew the answer. She'd been getting Java input for three solid days, while simultaneously reading fashion and rock music magazines.
By the time we stopped for a break in Vail Colorado (almost to our destination, Boulder), she said if she even heard the *word* Java again she would scream. (which pretty much eliminated my stopping for an espresso anywhere)
So before we got back in the car, she stopped into a store for a copy of "Seventeen" magazine. We get back in the car, out on the highway again, and about two miles down the road... when she screams.
She had turned a page in the magazine (mind you, this is a teenage girl's fashion magazine) and found a full-page article on the Java Ring!! It seems there was a high school in Florida that was issuing the Java-enabled ring to all students, who used it for authentication into their lockers and the library. The whole article was about how there were other *cool* (yes, COOL) ways to "wear your Java" including the Java-enabled dog tags (which I remember seeing at JavaOne) and even a wrist band.
It was like a horror movie for her. So you can see why, after three years of hating the WORD Java, I was so excited to see her sign up for a class. Oh well.
==================
Sorry for the off-topic post here; I have no actual working brain cells left until the book is done. See you soon!
cheers,
Kathy
Andres Gonzalez
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 27, 2001
Posts: 1561
hmm.. I couldn't stop thinking about the java ring.
here you go
[ September 10, 2003: Message edited by: Andres Gonzalez ]

I'm not going to be a Rock Star. I'm going to be a LEGEND! --Freddie Mercury
HS Thomas
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 15, 2002
Posts: 3404
All of these answers could just be a polite way of telling me that my self-marketing skills are not up to scratch, though. Sigh...

No, just being nosy.
Well, I'm afraid the only thing left is *management consultancy*.
(You are probably teaching at the right place for that ).
regards
HS Thomas
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 15, 2002
Posts: 3404
Sadly, my daughter just got frustrated the next day and dropped out. : (

It will take a *big* teacher to have Kathy Sierra's daughter in their Java class. Expectations of both teacher and of daughter would have been very high. Since it seems neither teacher nor daughter were terribly keen on the subject perhaps this is a happy ending. You could have her taught Java privately by someone you know. One weekend a month.
Not only am I nosy, I am also presumptious. . Forgive.
regards
[ September 11, 2003: Message edited by: HS Thomas ]
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Originally posted by HS Thomas:

Which you did de-emphasize ?
Ballroom dancing and chess are pretty idealistic pursuits. I can't see high-school drop-outs registering on these courses just to have somewhere to get to and be counted in the "system".

Teaching chess isn't even on the resume. Teaching ballroom dancing is a few words listed under volunteer work. I removed the class I teach yearly at MIT, and downplayed the author part. I also greatly reduced the passages about my teaching and training roles at other companies. It worked, the guy called me to talk with me on the phone.
BTW, you want difficult? Try teaching chess to elementry school kids for 1-2 hours. They apparently don't like sitting still that long. :-p
--Mark
Frank Carver
Sheriff

Joined: Jan 07, 1999
Posts: 6920
BTW, you want difficult? Try teaching chess to elementry school kids for 1-2 hours. They apparently don't like sitting still that long. :-p
Interesting. I don't know what age range your "elementary school kids" are, but my 6-year-old has recently developed a fascination with chess. She pesters me day and night to play with her, and would just set up the pieces again immediately each game finishes if we didn't have other things to do in the day. Just from watching, her younger sister (recently 4) now knows where all the pieces start, their names, and their moves.
I might ask you for teaching tips sometime ...
Bert Bates
author
Sheriff

Joined: Oct 14, 2002
Posts: 8879
    
    5
Chess ?
I've heard of that... Isn't that the game where the pieces move and computers can play it really well?
I guess chess is ok if all you want to do is get a crick in your neck from an over developed left brain.
Now on the other hand if you want a game that's too tough for computers, and that can develop both the left AND right sides of your brain, well then my friend, Go is the game for you.
I know, I know, in this xenophobic culture of ours you've probably never heard of it. It turns out it's the oldest surviving board game in the world, and the most popular board game in the world.
In a nutshell, chess is to Go what boxing is to kung fu.
Plus, it's really easy to learn, takes about 5 minutes!
[ September 11, 2003: Message edited by: Bert Bates ]
Johannes de Jong
tumbleweed
Bartender

Joined: Jan 27, 2001
Posts: 5089
Now on the other hand if you want a game that's too tough for computers,
and for most humans.
Plus, it's really easy to learn, takes about 5 minutes
and a thousand years to learn to play really well.
Yep you guessed it my attempt to learn Go is failing.
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Elementry school was about 8-12 (I guess that's middle school, too).
I started playing around 4 or 5, and used to play for hours on end with my father. But it's different doing it with your kid, than trying to keep 20 kids focused on playing the game and not throwing pieces at each other.
I used to play a little Go, but it's so hard finding others who play it (I suppose nowadays its easy to find people online.... hmm, I can't been to the ICS in a while...). How do you figure that Go is right brained?
--Mark
Jeroen Wenting
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 12, 2000
Posts: 5093
Originally posted by Johannes de Jong:
Plus, it's really easy to learn, takes about 5 minutes
and a thousand years to learn to play really well.
Yep you guessed it my attempt to learn Go is failing.

At least your attempt got started. Mine faltered due to a severe lack of people to play with me (at first, last, and every count that number was 0 +/- 0).


42
Bert Bates
author
Sheriff

Joined: Oct 14, 2002
Posts: 8879
    
    5
There are lots of Go servers on the net... igs and nngs are my favorites. Once you've got the rules down, any number of people (including me), on these servers, will be happy to give lessons, and there are lots of beginners on these servers.
In terms of right brained, a lawyer friend of mine, who was also a Go fiend, once did some probono work and got an EEG session in exchange. As he thought about local situations the EEG registered strong left brain activity, as he thought about overall strategy and whole-board situations he registered strong right brain activity. There's lots of other anecdotal evidence, but I guess in a nutshell, a huge percentage of the time, determining a good move is based on thinking in ways that would traditionally be labeled as 'right brained'.
Jeroen Wenting
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 12, 2000
Posts: 5093
My interest in Go peaked during the late 1980s, 10 years before I got internet access
Johannes de Jong
tumbleweed
Bartender

Joined: Jan 27, 2001
Posts: 5089
will be happy to give lessons, and there are lots of beginners on these servers.
Maybe time we started a JavaRanch GO ladder
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://aspose.com/file-tools
 
subject: Trouble with student expectations