What did you learn about coding today?

What did you learn about coding today? Be specific and expansive. Consider how technology influences what people write online and what the limitations may be in terms of what they are willing to reveal and what they may hide. What is there about public and private discourses that we need to bridge as academics that makes online and technology-infused learning activities and informal learning different from traditional classroom learning?


An ongoing concern that I have about CDMA is the sometimes subjective nature of the action. In reading the interview transcript, I’m not certain that the teacher was always responding precisely to the question of the interviewer asked.


In my own limited experience with these things I found that sometimes the interviewee would sometimes ask clarifying questions about the question I posed. Other interviewees didn’t ask clarifying questions and I’m never certain that they interpreted the way I had intended for the way that other interviewees had interpreted.


It brings to mind the parable of the blind men and an elephant.


A group of blind men heard that a strange animal, called an elephant, had been brought to the town, but none of them were aware of its shape and form. Out of curiosity, they said: “We must inspect and know it by touch, of which we are capable”. So, they sought it out, and when they found it they groped about it. In the case of the first person, whose hand landed on the trunk, said “This being is like a thick snake”. For another one whose hand reached its ear, it seemed like a kind of fan. As for another person, whose hand was upon its leg, said, the elephant is a pillar like a tree-trunk. The blind man who placed his hand upon its side said, “elephant is a wall”. Another who felt its tail, described it as a rope. The last felt its tusk, stating the elephant is that which is hard, smooth and like a spear.


Each blind man is correct, of course, just as each of the interviewees in my situation responded to the question they thought I was asking. I am turn interpreted their responses in the way I chose, complete with my intellectual limitations and inherent biases. I understand that techniques such as triangulation may help mitigate this concern by I don’t believe even triangulation would eliminate it completely.


This brings to mind another story from my Corporate America experience. A manager was impressed by the developer’s solution to a technical problem. The manager told the employee “you did a helluva job!”  The employee, not being a native speaker of English, knew that “hell” was a bad place and interpreted this as a criticism bordering on insult. And it was difficult to convince him otherwise.

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Raising Happy Kids

A (borrowed) paragraph on raising happy kids:

“In our desperate quest to create happy kids, we may be assuming the wrong moral burden. It’s strikes me as a better goal, and dare I say a more virtuous one, to focus on making productive kids and moral kids and to simply hope that happiness will come to them by virtue of the good that they do and they’re accomplishments and the love that they feel from us. ”
— Jennifer Senior


My kids are getting ready to go to college.  They’re mostly happy about it but I’m sure there are aspects they worry about and I think that’s healthy.  Especially healthy to treat some of these college courses (Chemistry and Calculus come to mind) with a great deal of respect.  This is not high school and they’ll be in a new world.  And I think they’re ready (mostly).

  • But are they happy?
  • Should they be?
  • Should I be?
  • Is that the goal?
  • Jennifer Senior suggests not and I’m inclined to agree with her.

In her TED talk, she says:

“Kids became, in the words of one brilliant, if totally ruthless sociologist, economically worthless but emotionally priceless.”

“Rather than them working for us, we began to work for them because within only a matter of decades, it became clear – if we wanted our kids to succeed, school is not enough. Extracurricular activities are a kid’s new work. That’s work for us, too, because we’re the ones driving them to soccer practice. Massive piles of homework are a kids new work. But that’s also work for us because we have to check it. About three years ago, a Texas woman told something to me that totally broke my heart. She said, almost casually, homework is the new dinner.”

As I near the end of life… of homework and carpools and the like, I have a chance to look back and wonder, “was it worth it?”

For the most part, I think yes.  Sure, we made some mistakes… what parents don’t.  We started some things too early and stayed in some things too long (in one notable case, we did BOTH… starting a year or two early and staying a year or two or three too long; there’s only so much you can position as “life lessons,” before even the kids know it’s bull).

I’m glad we sent them to a school that didn’t have homework, through the sixth grade. I’m glad they’ve always shown themselves to be good, kindhearted, genuine, honest, real people.  The first few years they were just blobs of goo but the last few years, since they’ve been real people, I found that I really like them.  We often choose to spend time with them instead of other people (and much to our surprise and delight, they choose the same with us).  We go to concerts, talk walks, laugh together, and I think we’re happy when we do those things.

And I’m already sad contemplating the end of those days, but I’m excited about the coming new days.

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It’s GO day!

Daughter #2 graduated yesterday.  Three grandparents in the house.  60+ people coming to Violin Recital at 6:30pm tonight and first PhD course has first virtual meeting starting at 6:00pm.  This is gonna be fun.hair on fire

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One week to go

Week from today I will be a full time student again for the first time since 1989. Boy, a lot has changed since then!

From the subject matter I’ll be studying to the tools I’ll be using, hardly anything is as it was at Purdue in 1989. I’ll have to remember that has my daughters start Purdue this fall.

As for myself though, I’ve done what I can to prepare and now just need to go with an open mind and be ready to take what the program has to offer.

Fasten your seatbelts!

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One character

Over the course of the last two days I spent about 2 hours total debugging a problem on a virtual machine running on one of my computers. Describing the problem was fairly straightforward: the scheduled task wouldn’t run.

I read and reread the instructions. I looked at another virtual machine where the same scheduled task was running without a problem. I cursed a little and slept on it, hoping the solution would hit me overnight.

It didn’t.

I looked at forum pages and scoured knowledgebase articles all to no avail.

Then I took the rubber duck approach: I read the instructions, out loud, word for word. Slowly.

The Rubber Duck method of debugging

It goes like this:rubber-duck_0

1) Beg, borrow, steal, buy, fabricate or otherwise obtain a rubber duck (bathtub variety)

2) Place rubber duck on desk and inform it you are just going to go over some code with it, if that’s all right. Also works with printer problems and other application problems too (such as Outlook Rules, for example).

3) Explain to the duck what your code is supposed to do, and then go into detail and explain things line by line, or step-by-step. Very important that you do this in excruciating detail.

4) At some point you will tell the duck what you are doing next and then realize that that is not in fact what you are actually doing. The duck will sit there serenely, happy in the knowledge that it has helped you on your way.

Works every time. Actually, if you don’t have a rubber duck you could ask a friend to sit in, but you’ll be sure to embarrass yourself.

Here’s the magic text:

For the process to access the correct database, add more information to the end of the text in the Run field:
The [database number] is the number found on the AFN_INI registry key (e.g. enter 1 for INI_1)

  • To be prompted each time the task is scheduled to run, enter a space after the last quotation mark and enter:
    /p[database number] /n[serial number] 
  • For the task to run without prompting you, enter a space after the last quotation mark and enter:
    /p[database number] /n[serial number] /s.
    For example:
    “C:\Program Files\BadProgram\Integration.exe” /p1 /nWGLASA11115 /s.

Can you guess what my problem was?

hint:  For the task to run without prompting you, enter a space after the last quotation mark and enter …. database number…. serial number.

Here’s the input screen to help you along.  This was the screen that, as it turns out, was the root of the problem.






And, just for the sake of completeness, here’s the same screen after the problem was fixed.

Clear as day, right?






See that space before the /p1?

  • For the task to run without prompting you, enter a space after the last quotation mark and enter:
    /p[database number] /n[serial number] /s.
    For example:
    “C:\Program Files\BadProgram\Integration.exe” /p1 /nWGLASA11115 /s.

My fault.  I missed the importance of the “enter a space but I have to wonder if the process should be so fragile that the absence of a space should cause a fatal error with no hint as to the root cause or the corrective action needed.  And to further complicate things, the example text looks like this:

“C:\Program Files\BadProgram\Integration.exe” /p1 /nWGLASA11115 /s.

And sure enough, there’s the required space.  But there’s also a period at the end of the example and that will break the process.

  • The nothing that’s there (the space) is required.
  • The something that’s there (the period at the end) is not permitted.

Perhaps the documentation can be enhanced to indicate that the input box needs to begin with a space, since that is counter-intuitive.  Or there be a bit of error-checking code looking for the space.  Or the example text could indicate that there’s a space indeed there.

Or, better, I should just invoke the rubber duck 10 minutes into the issue, not 2 hours.

How do you solve problems like this?



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Acceptance Day, or “My wife will have three kids in college.”

I can probably count on one hand the number of truly pivotal days in my life…. the day I met my wife, first day on the first real job, the births of my children, first (and thusfar, only,) day getting laid off, and today…. the day I was accepted to the PhD program at the University of North Texas (Learning Technologies).

Getting another degree was not in my plan. I finished my master’s degree at the Krannert Graduate School of Management at Purdue University on December 17, 1989. When I start class at UNT, on June 8, 2015 (one day after my younger daughter graduates from high school)  it will have been 9,305 days since I was a full-time student.  YIKES!

Boy, how the world has changed.  Instead of sitting for hours in a classroom, this program is 100% online.  Instead of collaborating over caffeine in the basement of a red brick building, I imagine we’ll be collaborating over caffeine while huddled around our laptops.

Beyond that, I’m not really sure what the next four to six years will bring.  But I’m excited.


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One size fits some

Online learning, in its various incarnations, are, like tools in a craftsman’s toolbox, simply tools. If your only tool is a hammer then all problems look like nails, so it’s incumbent upon ed tech evangelists to recognize that whatever might be the ideal learning environment for one student might be totally  wrong for another individual.

MIT BLOSSOMS (Blended Learning Open Source Science Or Math Studies) is one example of blended learning that seeks to use readily available tools (as low tech as a VCR and a TV) to introduce topics in an engaging manner that is teacher-centric, not student-centric.



Ed tech proponents who think that technology can “disrupt” or “transform” education on its own would do well to take a lesson from the creators of BLOSSOM, who call their program’s blend of computers and people a “teaching duet.” Their enthusiasm for the possibilities of technology is matched by an awareness of the limits of human nature.


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