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What demographics do you teach?

Kathy Sierra
Cowgirl and Author
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 10, 2002
Posts: 1572
I'm curious as to what age (etc.) your students typically are? Anyone care to state a few facts about the demographics of your students, and the environment?
In other words, things like;
* High school, 16 year olds, mostly male
* College, non-CS majors, usually freshman or sophomore, 60/40 male/female
* College, majors, juniors, mostly male
* Corporate IT, in-house, young engineers
* Corporate IT, various clients in public class offerings, retraining older engineers (like, former COBOL folks)
etc.
Who knows if we can't spot some trends of our own here, and I'm also curious because Bert and I have been doing research into the differences between the under 40 brain and the over 40 brain. Or really, more like pre-MTV/video game and post-MTV/video game (and I think Sesame Street is in even in there too).
As media cuts on television and film have continued to shorten (i.e. the length of time in which a scene is held steady), a younger brain is wired differently than an older brain. Younger folks have a much stronger visual sensibility, because they have become far more tuned to imagery, whereas the older brain is far more tuned to words. One of the things we learned in the research we did before Head First, was that younger people view text as something that supports the images, whereas older people view pictures as something that's simply there to support the text. It's a complete reversal.
So while in the training world, there has always been a lot of talk about different learning styles, there are some fundamental differences in brain wiring/structure that are age and culture based rather than simply being a learning style preference.
Then there's the whole gender thing, and attitudes as well.
I just read a cute thing that talks about the differences in generations this way: Imagine you are leaving town, and you'd like the neighbor to watch your dog.
If the neighbor is a BABY BOOMER, you explain the situation as follows:
"Hey, I'm going out of town to visit my Aunt Sue; she's having hip surgery. Can you watch Fido for me next week?"
If the neighber is a GENERATION-X, you should say:
"Hey, I'm going out of town next week, can you watch Fido? I'll owe you."
[notice, no explanation of why you're leaving. They really don't care. And the "I owe you" matters.]
If the neighbor is younger than GENERATION X, you should say (which totally describes my daughter):
"Hey, I'm going out of town next week. If I were to pay you $20, would you watch Fido?"

Does this impact the way we teach, depending on who we have in the class? I certainly think so. But then what the heck do you do when you have a wide range in your classroom? Often in corporate IT training, we see everyone in the same classroom, right? The freshly-graduated (but hasn't done anything) CS grad, the 20-something post dot-commer who is used to working 20-hour days, and the seasoned vet who is on his 12th language, and really doesn't want to be forced to learn Yet Another Language (and who is likely living in procedural land).
OK, just a few random musings... but I'd love to hear some thoughts. I know folks here are teaching in all different environments.
cheers,
kathy
Frank Carver
Sheriff

Joined: Jan 07, 1999
Posts: 6920
I think I've mentioned some stuff about my college students in other threads, but here goes:
  • all left school but almost all never had a "proper job" (17-19 yrs)
  • about 5% older than 19
  • 85-90% male
  • 90% locally raised, 5% rest of England, 5% elsewhere


  • In the UK you don't "graduate" from high school. You may leave any time after age 16. you just get whatever qualifications you complete.
    Most people either leave school after their "GCSE" exams (taken at or around age 16) or after their "A Level" exams (taken at or around age 18) Typically my students have got a small number of GCSE certs but not much else. Attending the course I teach is an alternative to staying at school to take "A levels".
    On the side, I also do a little bit of corporate training where the students are mostly males in the 30's 40's.
    I also teach tabletop shared-imagination games and board games at stores, clubs and conventions to a huge demographic range. The bulk is probably teens and 20's, about 70/30 male/female, but I often get children as young as 7 or 8, and adults as old as 40's and 50's.
    Finally I teach childrens classes at our local church. The youngest I regularly teach is currently 4, the oldest is about 14


    Read about me at frankcarver.me ~ Raspberry Alpha Omega ~ Frank's Punchbarrel Blog
    Thomas Paul
    mister krabs
    Ranch Hand

    Joined: May 05, 2000
    Posts: 13974
    It's mostly continuing ed students.
    The interesting thing is the changes in the class over time. Started with C++ programmers, then moved to mainframe programmers. Now I'm seeing mainframe programmers and C programmers who never made the transistion to C++.


    Associate Instructor - Hofstra University
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    Frank Carver
    Sheriff

    Joined: Jan 07, 1999
    Posts: 6920
    It's mostly continuing ed students.
    Can you give bit more detail on what this means? It's not really a term I'm familiar with. Does this imply a particular age-range or skill/qualification level ?
    Mark Herschberg
    Sheriff

    Joined: Dec 04, 2000
    Posts: 6037
    I don't teach Java, but we have had discussions about this in the UPOP program. Overall today's students (by students, I mean those at top schools, I can't speak to general trends) seem whinier, they want more but don't want to work for it. Granted, it may just be me getting older, but this is not my opinion, someone else suggested it and many others agreed.
    Another trend is that IQs are rising. One explaination is that children are better at multitasking. Todays kids are downloading music, IM-ing, and chatting on the phone all at the same time as a daily occurance.
    That's an interesting point about text vs. images.
    --Mark
    Thomas Paul
    mister krabs
    Ranch Hand

    Joined: May 05, 2000
    Posts: 13974
    Originally posted by Frank Carver:
    It's mostly continuing ed students.
    Can you give bit more detail on what this means? It's not really a term I'm familiar with.
    These are adult students. The age range is mid 20's to 50's.
    Kathy Sierra
    Cowgirl and Author
    Ranch Hand

    Joined: Oct 10, 2002
    Posts: 1572
    Originally posted by Thomas Paul:
    It's mostly continuing ed students.
    The interesting thing is the changes in the class over time. Started with C++ programmers, then moved to mainframe programmers. Now I'm seeing mainframe programmers and C programmers who never made the transistion to C++.

    Yes, this is interesting too. And it seems to track with what Sun is saying -- the whole reason for Project Rave. We're now supposedly moving into needing to train the (hate to use the cliche) NOT so low-hanging fruit. In other words, we now are going to be teaching those who are less ready to make the quick C++ --> Java transition. This includes the folks you're talking about, with older procedural backgrounds, as well as a whole new crop of those who've maybe been *web* programmers with mostly a scripting language background.
    We'll see...
    Johannes de Jong
    tumbleweed
    Bartender

    Joined: Jan 27, 2001
    Posts: 5089
    This includes the folks you're talking about, with older procedural backgrounds,
    Funny, I was a a "do" last night for 6 employees that had 25 years service. Spoke to quite a few "procedural" programmers that had OO & Java training. 70+ % gave up. They just found it too hard. They were all 40+. I really must attempt to find a name in the training team so I can push HFJ.
    [ September 19, 2003: Message edited by: Johannes de Jong ]
    HS Thomas
    Ranch Hand

    Joined: May 15, 2002
    Posts: 3404
    Well, my six month stint was in the year 2000.
    The class consisted mostly of young 20 year olds with a couple of A-levels trying to get on the job-market and some .com hopefuls.
    Their ideas were extremely challenging and some pretty far-fetched. Who knows some may have made it.
    There was an engineer who was trying to get an idea to read cheques on-line and a long-term unemployed engineer (some obscure field) who signed on the course to get his dole-money.
    A few single mothers trying to balance work, child-rearing and a social life. Nothing like a class to combine all three.
    Oh! And a couple of Open University students who said that they'd sign up for a course if I taught it. I wish I had a whole class of them.
    That was the time I was also commuting 90 miles to work at a floating .dot com which they did very successfully . My main contribution to the latter was to prop up the even more poorly paid programmers of a major Consultancy by painting a rosy future describing life on the outside of a 5* hotel room and a dingy office overlooking a weather-hammered sea. I don't know, some of them may want my head on a plate, now!
    Hope this helps!
    regards
    [ September 23, 2003: Message edited by: HS Thomas ]
    HS Thomas
    Ranch Hand

    Joined: May 15, 2002
    Posts: 3404
    Well, well! Just found out that one of the programmers is now working at the hallowed reasearch centre that is Hersley.[from which sprung some of the world's best ideas] He did follow my advice, then, which was stick close to the Big Guys even if they pay you crap all! I am pleased as Punch.
    regards
     
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