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Knowing That Order Matters

The start of a new year puts me once again in front of a second semester class, using as text the pdf of my book that is about to appear (shameless advertising). And once again I am trying to teach students more about organization and structure than about programming per se.

At least half the battle in writing correct programs is just making sure not to make mistakes in the routine stuff. Yes, there's a lot of detail involved in writing correct programs. On the other hand, a lot of that detail is just knowing that it is just detail.

I have students who can't get Javadoc to generate the documentation, but who don't seem to understand that it's not just having the documentation in the program, it's having the documentation in the program in the right place in the program. Knowing that order matters is important. (As one of my university professors once said, "Life is not commutative. Try exchanging the order of having the traffic accident and buying car insurance, and you will understand that.")

It's all about information. What information does the Eclipse tool have and what does it need to have? What information does the Java compiler have, and what does it need to have? What information does the program have, and what does it need to have?

Duncan Buell
CSTA University Faculty Rep.

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