Archive for January 1, 2010

Introducing distributed over centralized version control system

Daniel Rocco of University of West Georgia has made his tutorial, “Introduction to Version Control with Mercurial” available at drocco / introduction / wiki / Home — via an email post to the SIGCSE members mailing list.  His email announcement makes some interesting claims about how students think about distributed systems:

One of the surprising choices we made was to eschew traditional centralized version control (e.g. CVS or Subversion) in favor of a distributed version control system, Mercurial.  Somewhat counterintuitively, distributed version control is actually easier to introduce to students despite its seemingly more complicated decentralized model; in particular, establishing new repositories and projects is trivial in Mercurial.  Students can do real work with only a handful of easy, lightning fast commands.

Daniel’s claim is really interesting.  It would be great to test.  It reminds me of the Lewandowski et al.’s Commonsense Computing result that students can think about parallel, distributed systems without code correctly.  I wonder how broadly this result works, that the distributed/parallel versions of things are actually easier for students than the centralized ones?

January 1, 2010 at 12:52 pm 3 comments

ACM tops list of “meanies” for lack of accessibility

Accessible Computing Mockery (ACM) happily behind the times

via Reading, Ranting, and Computing: 2009 Heroes and Meanies « As Your World Changes.

I linked to the As Your World Changes blog previously, for the eye-opening post on accessibility concerns in CS education.  I found that post particularly useful recently when I was asked to comment on a project that aimed to teach video game design to blind students (among others), using tools like Alice, Scratch, and Kodu.  I knew to ask, “How are blind students going to use a visual programming language?”  It’s an obvious question in hindsight, but I hadn’t made the connection before that post.

Susan Gerhart’s blog ends 2009 with a list of “Heroes and Meanies” in accessibility.  I was surprised to see the ACM heading the list of meanies.  While the ACM’s role in CS education is mentioned, the main complaint is about the inaccessibility of the ACM’s digital library (certainly one of the most valuable benefits of society membership).  That’s a sad commentary, that the most advanced computing professional organization isn’t making their web sites accessible.

The list of meanies goes on with several others that I hadn’t thought about previously. CAPTCHA is philosophically problematic.  The point of CAPTCHA is to prove ‘humanness,’ which it implicitly defines as accurate vision or hearing.  That’s quite an insult to disabled users.

I don’t have any great insights into solving accessibility problems.  I’m still learning about the issues from places like Susan’s blog.  I do think that significant thought-leading organizations like ACM ought to be leading the way by, at least, implementing the existing technologies for improving accessibility.

January 1, 2010 at 12:40 pm 1 comment

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