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Head First Preschool

Posted by daniel on September 2, 2003 at 8:27 AM PDT

Last week I received quite a bit of feedback from those who plan to successfully apply the lessons from my eldest daughter's second grade experience to their work. Today my youngest daughter returns to preschool and there are valuable lessons to be learned from her Montessori setting.

First, and foremost, two and a half hours seems sufficient for accomplishing anything important. This includes time for a snack. All meetings are confined to a single, brief, group session at the beginning of the day.

Second, snack is a focal point of the day. It seems important to take turns bringing in and serving a healthy snack to others. Snack guidelines can be provided for those at a loss.

Third, having a stimulating environment with a variety of resources ensures successful completion of work. Each person seems to set their own goals and chooses which work they will concentrate on within certain guidelines. The students are treated with respect and must have a role in their own education.

I appreciate the thought my daughter's school has put into pedagogy. For example, her school does not believe in making the children share. This is based on the inconsistent messages we give to young people about sharing. When another child wants something our child has we often encourage them to be fair and share with the other child. On the other hand, when another child has something our child wants we often encourage our child to be patient and wait until the other child has finished.

I have the same appreciation for Kathy Sierra and Bert Bates' Head First series. They have put a lot of thought into pedagogy and have used their investigations into learning theory to produce books and articles with accessible explanations of complex concepts. When I first saw Head First Java and it's cartoon bubbles and graphically intense format I expected a dumbed down version of the subject matter. Instead, the book contains an intelligent and in depth introduction to programming in Java in a way that sticks with you.

In the Also today section we link to their latest article How to Talk About Jini, J2EE, and Web Services at a Cocktail Party.

They begin with high level summaries like this:

Jini and J2EE are both Java technologies. With J2EE, it's like the spec is saying, 'Oh, don't you worry your little developer head about all these big, hard, things. The vendor will take care of all those messy things so you can pay attention to your own domain-specific needs (like, how to sell more lingerie).' But with Jini, it's like the spec is saying, 'You are so out there on your own with this. Don't expect anybody to come to your rescue with a bunch of big infrastructure. This is lean and mean, baby, but you can do the most amazing and elegant things. And check out JavaSpaces while you're here.'

But soon they dig deeper:

The basic Jini architecture uses RMI, although in Jini you can also send the client the whole service itself, rather than having the service be a 100 percent Remote object on the server. When the client asks for a reference to a service, it might get a stub to a Remote object (if the service is implemented as a Remote object), or it might get the whole darn service shipped over, on which it can make plain old local calls. In fact, with Jini, the client might even get a hybrid or " smart-proxy " (drop that phrase at the bar for extra credit) -- that is, a non -Remote Java object that contains a stub to a Remote object (like, in an instance variable). That way, the client makes local calls directly to the service, but the service itself might turn around and make Remote calls to something else. A smart-proxy can help performance on both the client and service by having some of the work done on the client.

The next thing you know, they're drawing diagrams and providing annotated code samples. I've had the pleasure of talking to Kathy and Bert about Jini and Web Services over a glass of wine. I'm just overwhelmed at how they manage to communicate in print as fluidly as they do in person.

Also featured today, Bruce Tognazzini has been thinking about how to improve the perception of human interface professionals. In his latest Ask Tog newsletter, he suggests that a first step is to rebrand professionals in this arena as Interaction Architects. In explaining his choice of this name and rejection of others, Tog starts to more carefully define his profession.

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