As a college instructor, there is one thing that I rarely have ever talked about and that is how I have improved my skills. Every day in class I am constantly being asked to help solve student programming problems and demonstrate and explain my solutions. There has rarely been a time when I couldn’t come up with a solution.
The other skill that I have developed is solving problems “over the air”. What this entails is being able to solve a student’s problems without even seeing their code. I ask a series of questions and by the time we get to the second or third question the student has resolved their own problem.
I highly recommend that you give teaching of any kind a try. It will not only help your students but yourself.
Today marks the beginning of my fourth year as a college instructor at Clark College. I’m amazed at how quickly the time flies by. Here are a few things that I have learned about teaching at a community college that I thought I would share with you:
- Seeing students graduate from your program and getting jobs is awesome.
- Office hours are a thing of the past. Virtual office hours are seven days a week.
- 10-30% of your students truly want to learn and the others simply go through the “motions” of school.
- Teach to the “middle” of the class.
- Teaching people who range in age from 13 to 75 is extremely rewarding and challenging; especially when they are all in the same class.
- Excuses are a constant.
- Classroom management is not as easy as people think it is.
- Developing the right mix of assignments, testing, labs and other assessments takes time to develop and constantly needs tweeking.
- I love what I am doing.
- I’m always learning new things.
I highly encourage anyone who is thinking about teaching at a college or university to do it. Your first couple of semesters will be rough but, once you realize the impact you make on students lives, you will embrace and love doing it.
I’m always available if you want to talk about becoming a college instructor or want to learn more about the web development program at Clark College.
This is why I teach at Clark College
I just received this message from a graduate of the Clark College Web Development program:
Hey Bruce! Just wanted to say hi and give you an update. I’ve been at my front end developer job for almost three months and I received an awesome 90 day review from my employer (they had nothing bad to say about me and everything is going well). So this career has been pretty awesome for me so far. You really made a difference in my life when you mentored me because I wouldn’t have gotten this far without your guidance.
I am very blessed.
Where you can find me for the next few months
Here’s my teaching schedule for the Winter Quarter at Clark College:
- Monday/Wednesday: CTEC 121 – Intro to Programming and Problem Solving at Clark College/Washington State University (2-4:20pm/Room 104)
- Tuesday/Thursday: CTEC 122 – HTML Fundamentals (12-1:50pm/Room SHL 124) and CTEC 127 – PHP with SQL (3:30-5:50pm/Room SHL 124)
My office is SHL 127 located in Scarpelli Hall.
Two Years as a College Professor
My friends Ed and Volker call this my “encore career” and I couldn’t be happier and in a better place than where I am now.
What People Are Saying
Back in the 1980s when I went to college, the only way you could learn about a professor was by word of mouth. Todays students use a site called “RateMyProfessor.com”. After each quarter, I cautiously take a peek at this site to see what ratings my students gave me and I was humbled to see these:
“The legends say he never sleeps…” You can’t hide in Bruce’s class: he gets to know you, and what you need to succeed. I have never met a more attentive teacher, he is almost always available to help any student. Never have I felt such a sense of community , or had so much fun in a classroom. The world needs more teachers like Bruce Elgort.
Bruce is my favorite teacher at Clark. He is funny, and he makes sure to pay attention to each student. He teaches a handful of classes, so choose him when you can! Always jokes around, but is really good at what he does and will drop everything to help you. even at 3 am on Twitter. Even on final projects. Beware: Will make you feel like family.
Bruce is literally my favorite teacher at Clark. He is great at demystifying difficult subjects, and keeping the tone of the class playful. He, is always available to help students with troubleshooting projects. I would recommend anyone in the CTEC program or on the fence about joining, to take one of Bruce’s classes.
Bruce always inspires you to push the limits of what you can do in his class. He is encouraging, helpful, and understanding. He knows the abilities of all his students, pushes the advanced ones and patiently works with the beginners. I feel he is on of those rare people who makes the lives of everyone around him better for being in it.
Bruce is a great teacher. He is more concerned about his students learning than just trying to trip them up on test. He is available practically 24/7. I e-mailed once at 2:00am and had a reply in 5 minutes. I wish he taught more of my classes.
Bruce is by far the best instructors I have had. Yes the classes he teaches are challenging due to subject matter but he does what ever he can to help. This quarter he was at a family event in Denver and when I needed his help rather than wait until he returned he just sent text back and forth with me for an hour to help me and answer my questions.
Don’t Distract New Programmers with OOP
Thomas Gumz sent me a link to a blog entry entitled “Don’t Distract New Programmers with OOP“. Having just wrapped up one year of teaching “Intro to Programming and Problem Solving” to students at Clark College, I could not agree more. One of the core outcomes of my class is centered around functional decomposition – how to break down a problem into smaller, simpler parts.
When I get asked “What’s a good first programming language to teach my [son / daughter / other-person-with-no-programming-experience]?” my answer has been the same for the last 5+ years: Python.
I get this same question almost on a daily basis from so many people. Admittedly, before I started teaching the class I questioned the use of Python for new programmers. Well, guess what? It’s the perfect language and I have the results to prove it.
Did we cover object oriented programming in the class – yes, but not to the level that most would expect. We did just enough for students to wrap their heads around the concept. In fact, one student tried to use OOP for their final project and had a heck of a time. In fact this student was pushing for more OOP content and after the class concluded they admitted that OOP was much harder then they expected it to be.
The shift from procedural to OO brings with it a shift from thinking about problems and solutions to thinking about architecture. That’s easy to see just by comparing a procedural Python program with an object-oriented one. The latter is almost always longer, full of extra interface and indentation and annotations. The temptation is to start moving trivial bits of code into classes and adding all these little methods and anticipating methods that aren’t needed yet but might be someday.
Be sure and read the blog entry as I think that you will agree with avoiding OOP in an introductory programming class. If you are interested in learning more about pursuing a programming career drop me an email as I would love to help.
You can read what others are saying about this article on Yacker News.
Part 1: What has Bruce been up to?
The last year has been a total absolute blur. Between teaching at Clark Collge, working on projects at Elguji, volunteer work and more has consumed every available minute of my time. I have also been quiet on a few fronts on purpose. Let me first start with Elguji.
Elguji has been very fortunate to have a loyal (and still growing) Notes and Domino customer base. While sales of our flagship IdeaJam for Domino have slowed down a bit, we are still serving dozens of customers around the globe. In fact, we are hard at work (and have been for some time) on IdeaJam 2.0. IdeaJam 2.0 is not simply an upgrade to IdeaJam 1.9.2 but, a complete re-write of the core application made to be “mobile first”. Yes, it will still be a great web application that will blow your mind and we are very excited at the progress we have made. For now just know that we have done our best to include the feedback we have received from our customers. Stay tuned for more on IdeaJam 2.0.
Where Elguji has really transformed and rolled with the times is with our “event-based” IdeaJam cloud platform. We are now providing customers around the globe with what we call “event-based” jams. These jams can be provisioned in 60 seconds or less. Jams run anywhere from 1 day to 3 months. It’s whatever the customer needs. Some of you may have seen that we are running jams for IBM Rational, IBM Websphere and IBM developerWorks. In fact, we just completed a project directed by IBM CEO Ginni Rometty. Our customer work also includes colleges and universities, branches of the US Government and many other global institutions. We couldn’t have done with without the professionals at The London Developer Co-Op.
You might ask “who is driving all of this business to Elguji?”. Let me tell you that there are two primary product evangelists for Elguji 1) IBM and 2) Existing customers. IBM is constantly referring customers to us, primarily for our event-based jams. One of the worlds largest financial institutions who will go unnamed has also sent us plenty of new customers. We are very fortunate to have such great relationships with IBM and our customers.
Elguji is also cooking up a brand new product that frankly, I’m super psyched about. It’s 1,000 times bigger than IdeaJam and I am lucky to be working with some of the brightest people in the world on it.
In October I departed the world of OpenNTF and not longer after that the community which I was part of for over a dozen years gave me the most wonderful send-off I have ever seen. Dozens of blog posts, tweets and more – all with the #thanksbruce hash tag. I wanted to thank everybody sooner but as usual, life got in the way. Thank you to all my friends and colleagues for their heartfelt love on Wednesday, November 2, 2013. I owe much of my success in this world to many of you.
I am now wrapping up the development of a new website for OpenNTF with Niklas Heidloff, Per Henrik Lausten and Martin Rolph (Oval Systems). A new website was long overdue for OpenNTF and I felt compelled to see the project through it’s fruition. It will be a few more weeks before you see the new site. We are now in the user acceptance testing phase.
Once the website launches, I will remain an Honorary Board Member and continue to help support the efforts of the open source community. I do however wish that the IBM Connections team would embrace OpenNTF more than they have. It’s important for the overall IBM Collaboration Solutions app dev community more than ever. </getting off my soap box>
Part 2 coming on Monday.
A change of seasons
Starting on January 7th, 2013 and going through June, 2013 I will be an instructor in the Computer Technology program at Vancouver’s Clark College. The four classes are:
Winter 2013 Quarter
- Introduction to Programming and Problem Solving (CTEC 121)
- HTML Essentials (CTEC 122 – two classes)
- Introduction to PHP (CTEC 127)
Spring 2013 Quarter
- Introduction to Programming and Problem Solving (CTEC 121)
- HTML Essentials (CTEC 122 – two classes)
- Advanced PHP (CTEC 127)
Teaching is something that I have always been interested in doing career-wise and, this opportunity provides me with an opportunity to give it a try. Over the last couple of weeks I have been guest lecturing and so far so good. The students are amazing and it’s a huge departure from the “enterprise” world that I came from. They offer a totally different perspective that I am welcoming with open arms.
At Elguji we are hard at work on IdeaJam 2.0 which is going to be a groundbreaking release. We have learned a lot about running a micro-ISV both in the on-premises world and the world of cloud computing. There are some amazing things you will be seeing from Elguji in 2013. We recently launched V1.3 of our popular IQJam product.
I will be at Connect 2013 with Gayle and will be delivering three sessions:
- Apps, Apps, and More Apps: Meet the Very Best Open Source Apps from OpenNTF (with Niklas Heidloff)
- Meet the Java Application Server You Already Own – Domino (with Serdar Basegmez)
- How We Built CollaborationToday.info in a Matter of Weeks (with Per Henrik Lausten)
2013 is shaping up to be another amazing year and I would like to thank Gayle, my family and friends for their support.