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Getting To Know the Freshman Students

Classes started at the University of South Carolina this morning, and I taught my first class at 9:30. Last year I taught our first-term (CS1) course because I felt it was (long past) time for me to get to know the freshman students, to try to understand why they were here in our classes, and perhaps to understand why there weren't more of them here in our classes. This year I promoted myself to teaching the second term course, and I spent a fair part of the summer getting ready to teach this, my 12th new course since 2001. It was a little scary last year teaching freshmen, knowing that they hadn't been born the last item I had taught freshmen. This year I see a lot of familiar faces from last year. Since I am teaching the only main section of our CS2 course, I know that these students are either happy to see me or else just gritting their teeth and hoping to get beyond me for next

Teaching these first two courses has given me a chance to see first hand what we do in the intro courses and to think about whether we are doing it right. I have long had some misgivings about the object oriented ideology; not that I am not willing to teach objects, but that I think students at this level need to see first and foremost that computer programs can be used to do useful things. Since students are naturally going to be making mistakes, the metaphysics of *why* we use objects will probably come to them after they make some necessary educational mistakes.

On Monday I will speak to our incoming class in our "freshman seminar" course. We created a one-credit course to try to get students introduced to the larger world of computing to which they will be exposed after they master some of the technical basics. If I thought I could get away with it, I would teach this using science fiction; by the time these students get to be my age in about 2050, they will be living in a very different world. It can't hurt for them to anticipate now what is to come by then, and the opening half-dozen pages of Charles Stross's *Accelerando* are only just barely fiction.

Duncan A. Buell
CSTA Board Member

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