Tuesday, April 28, 2009

CS3216 Blog Queen

I am pleased to announce that Wei Man's blog - Mannie's CS3216 Quest! has been voted the Best Blog for CS3216 for 2008/2009 by her peers. That makes Wei Man the Blog Queen this year. Congratulations to Wei Man!

In close contention was Chong Hui Hui, who also deserves special mention.

I tried a few new things this semester and this blogging thing was one of them.

Truthfully, not every student took to the blogs. While most students started strong, school work and pressures from other classes gradually took their toil and the number of blog posts dropped gradually.

In the end, only a small number of students were able to persist and blog consistently for the whole semester. But I'm not bothered. We should only do things we believe in. :-P

And I think that students should have the courage not to do what they don't think they want to do (even though their grades might be "penalized" if they don't do it). So do, so it's good. What's true however is that those who put effort in their blogs will be rewarded (let's think positive and avoid thinking about it in terms of those who don't being penalized). :-P

Overall, my verdict on the blogs is that it was the right thing. It might not have worked for everyone, but it worked for some - and that's good enough for me.

It's not easy to write a blog 'cos it requires thinking. And thinking is hard. :-)

But it goes beyond thinking. To write their blog entries, the students not just have to think. More often than not, they need to form an opinion and that's important to me. The act of stating one's opinion in public also requires courage.

My view is that students learn best when they reflect on what they have learnt and in this regard, blogging helps to "foist" this on the students.

Above and beyond learning, blogging also facilitates the exchange of views. With Google Reader for example, it is quite easy to keep track of what everyone in the class has written. This mutual sharing of views important because as many students have reflected in their last posts, a lot of the learning in CS3216 comes from peer learning.

One unique aspect of CS3216 is that it is somewhat like the story of the Blind Men and the Elephant. Each student's experience of the class may vary depending on his/her background and interests. Hui Hui's post about Software Engineering for example is particularly interesting. Programmers would never think about software engineering from the angle she described.

In addition to Wei Man's and Hui Hui's blogs, we actually received quite a number of other nominations, which is really cool because it demonstrates that we have a large number of interesting blogs. The process of shortlisting down to two for the final vote was tough! At this point, I shall leave it as an exercise for the reader to check out the other blogs in the class found on the right sidebar to identify the other worthy nominations. :-P

To conclude, I would like to congratulate Wei Man again for her excellent blog. I believe that her blogs captures the spirit of CS3216 very well. Like all things, while CS3216 has some good parts, it also has some nasty parts. Wei Man is not constrained by political correctness and states her beliefs with conviction. I hereby shamelessly quote the Blog Queen:
I slept/worked 3 overnights in COM 1 and 1 overnight in the PGP study room along with the rest of my team. The COM 1 sofas on the first floor are my best friends now.
I remember Janus happily waving a ang bao at me and asking if I wanted to eat the heh bee hiam he brought. *Speechless*

I'm thinking we must all be crazy
Turns out life has surprises in store for me. >_<
I even had to quit my part time job for this module!!!!



So much for module on improving social networking ..its entirely destroying my social life.

Fast forward to the end:
I'll write a little more than that. Just to commemorate my survival in this sick module.
Taking this module is like being in a state of extreme stress all the time and where you also have to think out of the box to survive.
Its been a very hard module to get through, because of the speed of the assignments and the constant reshuffling of project mates.
That's something good about the class - by having proactive people in the class, it affects and changes the way other people think and work. You learn alot from people around you.
I learnt that I had a social life too, when the module started interfering with it.
Still, no matter how evil and horrendous the whole module has been, I agree with Prof Ben's methods. If you want to make someone learn, you put them through hell and high water. But you always watch out for them to help them out if they are really drowning to death.
It is hell, no doubt about it. But its what you learn from hell that you remember the most.

I guess what I'll remember most is that I have learnt to believe in my ability to make a difference to this world.
But things are different now. This module has taught me that there are people out there that can help me achieve what I want to achieve. The whole class is like a microcosm of the world - there are all kinds of talented people in it, I just have to go out there, find them, and persuade them that what I want to do is useful and meaningful to the world.
Now I believe in being ready when opportunity knocks on my door, and its time to start preparing. I might not succeed in what I want to do, but I have a back up plan, and I'm not worried if I fail.
its been an eventful and interesting semester.
I believe that Wei Man's blog will also provide future students with a better idea of what CS3216 is about before they decide whether to take the course. :-)

It turns out that the students from the AY2007/2008 batch also had a blog.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Last Lap

These last couple of weeks have been extremely hectic.

Two weeks ago, my ex-classmate, Chiangkai, gave the class an overview of issues of security and privacy. Perhaps it wasn't too detailed - but it was never meant to be. People make a whole career out of security. It would not be reasonable for the class to actually "learn" security in a two-hour lecture.

The intention of the lesson was mainly to highlight issues of security so that the students know that it is something that has to be taken into consideration whenever they create web applications.

With the Final Project presentations we had this past week, we are rapidly coming to the end of the semester and the class.

Overall, I am generally satisfied with the progress of most of the project groups. On the whole, the average quality of the apps this year is probably better than those last year.

Next Wednesday will be the day of reckoning because that's when all the groups will be asked to present to rest of the school what they have done this past semester. It is also a test of how well they can sell and convince the folks who will be coming that they have actually made a difference with what they have done.

It's been a good semester. I look forward to be pleasantly surprised on Wednesday.

To conclude, I would like to make the following point: notwithstanding all the complaints about the class taking up too much time, it has never been my intention for the students to kill themselves by creating huge apps. Not that I want to shirk responsiblity from the fact that many of the apps are HUGE, the truth is I have been asking many, if not all the groups to scale down and to focus on a small number of key features.

Some of the groups will not finish their app by the end of the semester. They will deliver like the first half of their proposed features. That's actually fine with me. As long as they did a reasonable amount of work and did good work, they will get a good grade.

What I really hope to see for such groups is that they will see their project to the end. That to me is a very important attribute: the tenacity to finish and to finish strong.

Frankly, I'm quite tired after one semester. CS3216 really isn't the easiest class to teach. I'm really fortunate to have a brilliant teaching staff and I'd like to end off by thanking my Tutors Su Yuen, Kent, Chris and Yuen Hoe and my poor over-abused TA Kok Wee.