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Getting the practice we need

Every culture gets the magic it deserves.
-Dudley Young, Origins of the Sacred: The Ecstasies of Love And War

... but not every culture gets the practice it deserves.

How much practice is enough?

Sometimes I watch or help my own students struggle with new concepts (e.g., artificial neural networks and error backpropagation in my AI foundations course), and I think, "well, this is just the first 3-4 repetitions of the 17 or so recommended by educational theorists".1


As an anecdote: a friend of mine is very diligent about revising notes. She's often transcribing or updating them from textbooks. IMO this is a good way for a lot of us to get the practice. Mind you, as an undergraduate, I did not do this - and it's not because I don't need practice, but because I am an infamously prolific note-taker. Anyone who's ever heard "the way Bill takes notes" and has seen me at a conference, writing feverishly (and more recently hunting and pecking on my iPAQ or typing on one of my ThinkPads), knows what the phrase means.

Another anecdote: Some of my CS friends and (more rarely) students like to retake courses to gain a better understanding. Some audit the first time. I always wished I had the time to take courses twice. I felt that I didn't quite grasp automata theory when I took it (600.191) from Mike Goodrich at Hopkins in the fall of 1990. By the time I took it (CS375) from Lenny Pitt at Illinois in the fall of 1993, though, I found I could ace it.



Edit, 03:15 CDT Mon 09 Apr 2004 - As a coda of sorts, I'm sitting here thinking about practice and a friend who is being encouraged to finish a degree in CS ASAP. It's led me back to how the IT field2 is a bit schizophrenic. We want hardworking, capable, and focused software engineers and other programmers; yet we do things that "rush the factory-made engineers" out the door.


you4 yao4 ma3 er2 hao3
you4 yao4 ma3 er2 bu1 chi1 chao3
3
("To want a horse of quality,
but to wish that it will not need to eat grass")

The above is a Chinese stratagema that is roughly equivalent to to have one's cake and eat it too, and the implied futility of the mindset described is perhaps endemic of the job market in IT (especially of late).

Bjarne Stroustrup once remarked that Denmark has the right idea about scientists and engineers - to wit, that it typically takes five years and not four to make one. K-Staters and other students who have been very, er, Danish, and then some, can take some comfort in this.

1 "17?!", you might well say. Well, it's an application of the Power Law of Practice, much vaunted in many CS/AI areas, especially those inolving learning. Whether you believe the number 17, the point of diminishing returns is definitely pretty high out by most established theories.
2 I use field insofar as this amalgam of applied CS, computer engineering, decision sciences, MIS, etc. can be called one field.
3 Thanks to Haipeng Guo for the Pinyin spelling correction.

--
Banazîr

Comments

( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
zengeneral
Apr. 9th, 2004 04:01 am (UTC)
practice
How much practice is enough?
till you know... at least, you should know...
For instance, I am done practicing when I go "oh, that's easy" in my head (or as P.... knows, out loud)

"rush the factory-made engineers"
A good semi-related read:
Claiming back the meaning of computer science
A plea for better programming education in computer science curricula, by Jaap Suter
or via http://snipurl.com/5lr1
banazir
Apr. 9th, 2004 07:16 am (UTC)
Until it's enough
... that's rather tautological (and individually-dependent), nesupasu?

For instance, I am done practicing when I go "oh, that's easy" in my head (or as P.... knows, out loud)
P? Try eeeeeeverybody. ;-)
(At least you're not Kid Who Must Be Silenced... actually I'm fortunate not to have had any of those this year - or for the last several, in fact. I have had Kid Who Must Be Whipped Out of Apathy a few times, though. He seems to reincarnate quickly.)

Thanks for the refs.

--
Banazir
zengeneral
Apr. 9th, 2004 10:15 am (UTC)
Re^2: Until it's enough, true, debate, power of voice
P? Try eeeeeeverybody. ;-)
Well, yes... true...

I have a new doctrine (believe it or not, I used to be shy and quiet)... Now, I never shut up... because I believe that if one is quiet, then there can be no debate. Without debate, truth doesn't surface... And without truth, there is no meaning. The power of voice is truely awesome, and this reminds me of an exceptional movie about HMO practices; it is truely amazing*
DAMAGED CARE - one of the few movies to "move" me (in a positive manner)...

*Already considered biased and potential propaganda, and I really do not care... I am going to call out the shit, injustice, ignorance, and other bad things in this human construct called society...
banazir
Apr. 10th, 2004 12:51 pm (UTC)
Re: Re^2: Until it's enough, true, debate, power of voice
I have a new doctrine (believe it or not, I used to be shy and quiet)... Now, I never shut up... because I believe that if one is quiet, then there can be no debate.
Well... if you know me, you know I tolerate (and do my best to encourage) free thinking and free speech among my students. As the saying goes, however: "with great power comes great responsibility". I'm not talking green ribbons, here; I just mean that people should be respectful, thoughtful, and cognizant of when their words can hurt or offend others.

[Damaged Care]
Thanks for the recommendation.

Already considered biased and potential propaganda, and I really do not care... I am going to call out the shit, injustice, ignorance, and other bad things in this human construct called society...
That's all well and good, but as I said, just take care not to lose sight of the individual, of loyalty, of friendship, and (most important) of yourself.

--
Banazir
zengeneral
Apr. 11th, 2004 12:39 am (UTC)
Re^4: True, True
I just mean that people should be respectful, thoughtful, and cognizant of when their words can hurt or offend others.
True, and this is where am still trying to find a balance... I have "issues" with offending people since I think it is healthy.

"lose sight of the individual, of loyalty, of friendship, and (most important) of yourself."
I might have lost myself already, and this inspired me to write:
Angst of Me
...
banazir
Apr. 12th, 2004 12:06 am (UTC)
this above all: to thine own self be true
True, and this is where am still trying to find a balance...
I have "issues" with offending people since I think it is healthy.

It's something to at least be mindful of as you mature, J.
My grandfather instilled a sense of humility in me when I was about 8 or 10, and not a moment too soon, for I spent the next 4-6 years getting waaaay too big for my britches. It was his lessons about hubris (pride before a fall) and humility being the special obligation of the capable that kept me grounded and down to earth.

To this day, I eschew pride and prideful people, and with good reason: we all need a point of departure, where we can look with respect and not envy upon the more gifted, and with sympathy and not contempt upon the less gifted.

There, but for the grace of [your favorite deity/deities here] go I is an apt sentiment.

I might have lost myself already, and this inspired me to write:
[Angst of Me]

I feel ya. But this above all: to thine own self be true still applies, I think.

Hrm, should I try to catch 40 winks afore lecture or fly Tufte 3 out of the barn?

--
Banazir
(decisions, decisions)
zengeneral
Apr. 12th, 2004 02:46 am (UTC)
Re: this above all: to thine own self be true
To this day, I eschew pride and prideful people, and with good reason: we all need a point of departure, where we can look with respect and not envy upon the more gifted, and with sympathy and not contempt upon the less gifted.

I still believe pride is a good thing; the problem with prideful people is that typically act without reason; as in, they don't take the advice of others. If you could provide good counter-examples, then I welcome them.
I.E.
Pride: "look at me, I am great" -> Questioned: "Why?" ->
If Good Pride -> "because of (...)" -> { True -> "accepted" | False -> "oh, my bad, let me work on it" }
If Bad Pride -> "because of (...)" -> { True -> "told you so" | False -> "no, you are wrong" }
If Really Bad Pride -> no response

to thine own self be true
Tempt not a desperate man!
banazir
Apr. 13th, 2004 02:05 am (UTC)
Re: this above all: to thine own self be true
I still believe pride is a good thing

It depends. I believe that you can't take pride as a package deal. It is possible to be rightfully self-confident, even overexuberant (as opposed to merely overconfident), without condescension, arrogance, or other assorted malice.

the problem with prideful people is that typically act without reason; as in, they don't take the advice of others.


Just so.

If you could provide good counter-examples, then I welcome them.
I.E.
Pride: "look at me, I am great" -> Questioned: "Why?" ->
If Good Pride -> "because of (...)" -> { True -> "accepted" | False -> "oh, my bad, let me work on it" }
If Bad Pride -> "because of (...)" -> { True -> "told you so" | False -> "no, you are wrong" }
If Really Bad Pride -> no response


Who is giving the answers in the innermost "guarded command"?
You seem to be switching perspectives.

"Good pride", as you call it, is not hubris (or the so-called sin of pride) at all. It is simply rightfully-earned self assurance.

"Bad pride" seems to be classically arrogant.
"Really bad pride" happens more often than you or I would like to think.

--
Banazir
zengeneral
Apr. 14th, 2004 03:32 am (UTC)
Re: maybe I just need a new word
I believe that you can't take pride as a package deal.
I don't see pride as a package, and that might be where the miscommunication lies.

This is my view on pride: "simply rightfully-earned self assurance" and "self-respect"... In my mind, that is how I define pride, so in my definition, I am prideful... In your definition, probably not...

(oh no, must keep the geekiness in... must not say ... )
i.e. If it was the case that Pride was a DLL, then we both have different versions.
wiliqueen
Apr. 9th, 2004 05:46 am (UTC)
Pointy thoughts, greatly appreciated.

("To want a horse of quality,
but to wish that it will not need to eat grass")


And the lack of grass doesn't stop at graduation, either. Everyone wants brilliant, tireless employees at bargain-basement pay and benefits. I think the scariest thing about the current job market is that it allows them to get it to a large extent, enough that many employers feel entitled to it.

Which is going to make the workplace a mighty uncomfortable place for a while, when the pendulum finally swings back and they can't get it any more. Two-year-olds have nothing on some executives when it comes to tantrums over not getting their way...
banazir
Apr. 9th, 2004 07:21 am (UTC)
Pointy thoughts
Pointy thoughts
Oops, sowwy!
*sheathes thoughts deftly*
(gotta go lecture, can't cut the students, now)

greatly appreciated.
Thank you for taking the time to reply!

And the lack of grass doesn't stop at graduation, either.
Downsize, outsource; fire and hire.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
The thing about living in an ivory tower is that you get a vantage point on Ye Olde Real WorldTM if you bother to look out the window.

You also get the urge to snipesnark at it, but that's another story.

Which is going to make the workplace a mighty uncomfortable place for a while, when the pendulum finally swings back and they can't get it any more. Two-year-olds have nothing on some executives when it comes to tantrums over not getting their way...
Tell me about it.
The pointy-haired do make it into the tower on occasion, contrary to popular belief.
(Chects hair for points) Ahh, safe. And yes, I check every day.

--
Banazir
wiliqueen
Apr. 13th, 2004 06:47 pm (UTC)
Re: Pointy thoughts
(Chects hair for points) Ahh, safe. And yes, I check every day.

Wise of you. It's an insidious ailment...
banazir
Apr. 13th, 2004 09:16 pm (UTC)
Re: Pointy thoughts
Wise of you. It's an insidious ailment...
Remember that evil Company guy in Aliens?
The face-hugger gets him in the end and he begs Ripley for help. She shows him mercy in the form of a grenade.
(I forget whether this was in the movie; it was definitely in the book.)

Yeah, that's what I want you all to do tofor me if the pointy hair-hugger ever gets me.

--
Banazir
gondhir
Apr. 22nd, 2004 11:53 am (UTC)
Did I catch a niner in there?
<Tommy Boy>
Tommy: Did you hear I graduated?
Richard: Yeah and just a shade under a decade. All right.
Tommy: A lot of people go to college for seven years.
Richard: Yeah, they're called doctors.
</Tommy Boy>
banazir
Apr. 22nd, 2004 12:32 pm (UTC)
Re: Did I catch a niner in there?
Umm...
Huh?

(reads Chris Farley movie blurb)
Huh?

I see the film, Dwarf, and I see you deem youself mighty among the moviegoers of old. But a TEUNC's film avails knot to win the brain of a Jedi hobbit, not though I had wotched it myelf...

--
Banazir
gondhir
Apr. 22nd, 2004 02:07 pm (UTC)
Re: Did I catch a niner in there?
Watch it!
banazir
Apr. 22nd, 2004 02:54 pm (UTC)
Pulling an Isildur
Watch it!

Watch me pull an Isildur on this one!
<ISILDUR>No.</ISILDUR>

--
Banazir
gondhir
Apr. 22nd, 2004 03:22 pm (UTC)
Re: Pulling an Isildur

*pout*
banazir
Apr. 22nd, 2004 03:28 pm (UTC)
Re: Pulling an Isildur
So you're saying his foster father's pouting is what turned Estel into a pansy elf boy?

--
Banazir
gondhir
Apr. 22nd, 2004 03:39 pm (UTC)
Re: Pulling an Isildur
Exactly. Think about it. Aragorn whines about how he has "the same blood", "the same weakness". But it was the other way around. Isildur was strong! He stood up to Elrond the bully, who was trying to tell him what to do! And what did Elrond do when he got told off? That's right. He pouted. And proceeded to tear down the psyche of every heir of Isildur for the next several thousand years. No WONDER their kingdom failed and they never took up the crown of Gondor!
banazir
Apr. 22nd, 2004 06:41 pm (UTC)
Re: Pulling an Isildur
Exactly. Think about it. Aragorn whines about how he has "the same blood", "the same weakness".
Geez, I think you're wright...!

But it was the other way around. Isildur was strong! He stood up to Elrond the bully, who was trying to tell him what to do! And what did Elrond do when he got told off? That's right. He pouted. And proceeded to tear down the psyche of every heir of Isildur for the next several thousand years. No WONDER their kingdom failed and they never took up the crown of Gondor!
Trask, what a bastard!
Such conditioning...
Darana Cairnfell should take lessons from that rat fink!
Oooooooh, maaan

--
Banazir
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )

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