[OT] Education Theory (was Re: Database Design Theory?)

Ross Werner ross at agilestudios.com
Wed Nov 9 15:51:20 MST 2005

On Wed, 9 Nov 2005, Shane Hathaway wrote:
> How did you gain that interest?  I saw my uncle playing with electronics, so 
> I got interested in electronics.  I saw my dad playing with a computer, so I 
> learned that too.  And so on.  Shouldn't students have a similar opportunity 
> to witness the practical value of something, helping them gain interest, 
> before learning the theory behind it?

Certainly! I just think it takes longer than most schools have, 
unfortunately. (Uh oh, I feel a long rant coming on about a gigantic 
education reform needed ... must ... repress ...)

> I've had a few excellent instructors who did indeed show why the subject was 
> interesting.  I long for more of those precious few.

I sat here writing (more or less) how I disagreed, but then I remembered a 
particular CS class--Artificial Intelligence, where we made bzflag tanks 
move around. That class was *waaay* more interesting than it would have 
been if we had simply studied the theory. Why? Because we applied what we 
learned to something interesting. I don't remember hardly anything about 
minimax, because we didn't program that into our tank, but I remember 
Kalman filters and and potential fields because they're what made our 
tanks blast the heck out of the enemy tanks :)

Of course, this is simply an example of learning the theory alongside 
practical application of it, not learning practical applications *before* 
learning the theory. What do you think of that sort of teaching 
methodology, learning them alongside each other?

In the database world this would probably be like someone posted, having a 
real-world database problem that you solve from start to finish, learning 
each theoretical tool you need.

Does this lessen the amount of theory a person is able to learn and 
retain, or does it increase it? (I fear getting flamed by people who would 
say this sort of approach turns Universities into trade schools ...)

 	~ Ross

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