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Teachable Moments

Posted by daniel on January 28, 2004 at 9:21 AM PST

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Yesterday Kimmy the wonderwife and I went to a parent-teacher meeting for our eldest daughter. Her second grade reading teacher was explaining that students should no longer be content to just read books for literal content any more. That isn't exactly the phrase he used, but it highlights the two different uses of the word content. Out loud the two words are pronounced with emphasis on different syllables.

He gave an example of a written assignment where he asked the students to correctly use content in a sentence. The seven year old children were supposed to determine from the text that he meant the version of the word that means "substance of" and not the version that means "satisfied with". In his story, one child wrote a wonderful sentence for the wrong version. This, for him, was a teachable moment . Although I'm not a fan of this educational catch-phrase, I do like the sentiment. He was able to congratulate the student for writing a good sentence, discuss the different versions of the word, and ask the class if anyone had written a sentence for the other version.

I returned from this meeting to find that I too had had a teachable moment. In yesterday's post I wrote that I had particularly been taken by the sentence "Any implementation today is better than a perfect implementation today." Elisabeth Hendrickson of Quality Tree Software wrote that the quote had momentarily stumped her and suggested (kindly) that the second "today" had been a typo and that I had meant to type "Any implementation today is better than a perfect implementation tomorrow."

Thank you Elisabeth. Of course, you are correct. In this setting it is especially funny because the quote referred to getting software going and then go back to make it right. Here I had gotten the blog out and later with her help had gotten it right.

Not all "teachable moments" start with mistakes. Some start with excitement over a new discovery or observation. The sight of a strikingly full moon and stars on a beautiful clear night or the wonderful smell of rising bread can lead to such moments. I love being a dad and getting to re-explore fossils, nature, and other topics I haven't explicitly thought about for thirty years.

Erik Hatcher was IMing earlier about Rudolf Steiner's thoughts on the importance in a child's life of the changes that happen around age 7 when their adult teeth start coming in. We sometimes forget that these events that are natural to us are huge in a child's life. They are losing a part of themselves that they've had as long as they can remember. The new tooth that replaces it seems somehow more theirs.

Consider how often a friend or colleague share an anecdote, recommend a book or article to read that interests you.
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David Flanagan corrects some code from a two year old article in Failure to override . His code intends to override a method in LinkedHashMap but doesn't because the signatures don't quite match. In addition to fixing the error, he also presents a J2SE 1.5 solution using "The new Java metadata/annotation language feature defined by JSR-175 [which] specifes an @Overrides annotation that solves exactly this problem. If I had been writing the article about Java 1.5, and had annotated my method with @Overrides, then the compiler would have issued an error when it noticed that my method did not, in fact, override anything."

In his blog entry Achieving the 3rd Dimension of Java Freedom with Extreme Decoupling Lance Young writes "Extreme Programming was developed from the concept that if a practice is good (such as testing) then doing it all the time (Test Driven Development) is better. My focus is on decoupling, which tells us that we should separate out pieces of code that should change independently. Packages and visibility are ways that Java enforces decoupling. If we agree that decoupling in our code is good then decoupling our code from the technology that we wrap it in for delivery is better. Let?s call it Extreme Decoupling."


In today's Weblogs , Jayson Falkner provides a simple timing test to determine How long does it take to compress a response using a GZIP filter? N. Alex Rupp is excited that after doing a bunch of constructor calls he understands dependency injection. He shares his excitement in I finally get IoC-3. Satya Komatineni provides An idea to bridge typed and type-less worlds . He writes that "A type gives a certain authenticity and a certain gurantee and a certain solidity to the programming practice, not to mention the metadata aspects of it while using IDEs. By the same token it binds you to that contract and could prove to be inflexible at times."


In Projects and Communities An email from Lloyd asks about coding conventions in How do I become an expert Java developer . The responses so far include links to resources, other languages to learn, and advice beyond the code. Add your advice in this talkback to Jayson Falkner's blog entry.

The Kanabos +project is an Object Model based Java Desktop Application Framework that aims "To build all Data Object Models out of common building blocks that can be processed generically by 'off the shelf' Desktop and Server Components."


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