Headaches and computer science…

I don’t know what it is.  Maybe it’s that I’m not a graduate student, and I’ve outgrown my younger days of being a senior in my undergraduate program.  Maybe it’s that I didn’t notice it during my senior year.  Maybe it’s the difference between computer engineering and computer science.  Or maybe it’s this batch of  CS majors.  Whatever it is, the last couple 400 level CS classes that I’ve taken have shown the same trend:

  1. A classroom that’s too small because there are
  2. too many people in the class (and small room) which leads to
  3. too many dumb questions and comments.

This problem explodes when you get to 400 level courses.  The reasons?  The professors teaching higher level courses are busy doing research and teaching 600 level courses, so there’s usually only one of each 400 level course offered per year.  This leads to a large class size that usually fills up.  And in a 400 level course, so you’ve got a few different breeds of students that annoy me to pieces:

  • The real-world worker.  He’s the guy in class who has been working outside of campus.  He can often be identified by some freebie T-shirt that he got from some campus recruiter.  But he’s most easily recognized by his distinctive call.  He can’t help but commented each lecture about something that he does for work.  Usually he relates it to the subject matter in some roundabout way, but if he can’t do that, he’ll just comment anyway.  We’re all really proud of him finding a nice job before he graduated, but we’d really like to get through a lecture.
  • The guy who just doesn’t get it.  Sometimes you get a fellow student who just doesn’t get the material, so they end up asking a lot of questions about the most basic of principles, keeping the teacher from getting to the new and interesting part of his lecture.  Sometimes this guy tries to correct the professor who has been teaching for 20 years–because 3.5 years of a general education and CS courses has taught you everything.  Probably not.  If you’re asking for clarification every 10 minutes on the first day, you’re definitely not in-the-know on the subject.
  • The lonely talker.  I’ve had a lot of classes with some student who is constantly making comments that don’t relate or add to the discussion.  Sadly, it’s often been the same student (or random shuffling of the same 3-5).  I can’t shake them.  Oh, and they’re all CS students.  These guys like to sit either at the front of the class, or right behind me (they’re drawn to me or something).  I think they don’t get much attention except what they get in class, so they strive for it.  When you try to make a “Yum!” joke about browser cookies, you’re just plain trying too hard.
  • And more…

I’m in a 400 level class this semester (if you haven’t guessed), and in that jam-packed class of 50 students, we’ve probably got 7-10 of these annoying-type people.  (I need to preface the next sentence by saying that the class is on user interfaces.)  They really showed themselves when a few of them commented about Kinect (that controller-less controller on the Xbox 360): “I’ve never played the Kinect but I have a Wii and…”  First of all, if you haven’t played a game with the Kinect, you can’t really comment about using it.  But most importantly, the Wii is not the same as Kinect.  Not even close.  The Wii doesn’t even count as a gaming system in my book.  Nintendo hasn’t made a game console since the N64.  Everything else has been a flop or a gimmick.  So please don’t compare a system that clumsily measures you clumsily swinging a “controller” to the Kinect which is able to produce a complete body skeleton of the user in real-time.  Not the same.

Of course, today, during my class, I had a pretty bad headache.  Maybe next class won’t seem so bad.

Headache or not, I still can’t understand the people who take notes on their iPads.  Every time I see someone doing it, I think, “Wow, you know, a sheet of paper would be so much easier.”  Some guy in my class today was using an app that only let him write on about a third of the screen.  He could scroll to anywhere on his imaginary sheet of paper (which he did constantly because you have to write in huge letters meaning he got about 3 words before he’d have to scroll, even when using a touch-pen), but he couldn’t use the entire screen as a writing surface.  You know what’s amazing about a paper notebook and a pen?  I can write anywhere on the sheet just by moving my arm, I can get a new blank sheet just by flicking the page, I can write as small as I want and the paper still registers my writing, and I can even just flip around my writing utensil and erase what I’ve written if I use one of those fancy pencil things.  My personal opinion?  These people taking notes on their iPads are trying to justify their $500+ purchase by trying to do everything on them.  Just because “there’s an app for that” doesn’t mean that you should use it.  You don’t see me typing up this 900+ word blog post on my Android smartphone just because I have the WordPress app.  That’d be retarded.

(I just tried to find a picture of these note-taking app that I saw someone using–I’ve seen multiple bad examples in my classes–and I found a bunch of images of note-taking apps that actually look usable.  I’m sure there must be better note-taking apps out there, so why do I see CS students using apps that look so non-user-friendly?  Especially in a user interface class!?!)

Headaches aside, I really like my classes  so far this semester.  I’m going to be super busy, but it’s going to be fun.

Currently listening to: “OMG” by Usher

One thought on “Headaches and computer science…

  1. The good note taking apps for the iPad all cost money. Heaven forbid they should have to spend a few dollars on an app when they already spent $500 for the device.

    I’ve used the iPad to take notes in class before, but it’s really unsatisfying. I normally use some app that lets me type them and sync them to Evernote/Dropbox/Google Docs, but it’s so much easier to do that on my laptop. Or with a pen and paper. The iPad’s a nice toy, but it’s hard to use it for content creation like that.

    Also, I love your summary of CS students. Very accurate. The “lonely talkers” have always baffled me, but I like your explanation.

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