TITLE: Joining the Present AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: December 22, 2005 12:18 PM DESC: ----- BODY: Yesterday I received e-mail from the chair of a CS education conference. For some reason, this snippet caught my eye:
We encourage you to visit the conference website

on a regular basis for the latest information about [the conference]."
My first thought was, "You need an RSS feed!" I am not very good about remembering to check a web site on a regular basis, at least in part because there are so many web sites in which I am interested. The result: I tend to miss out on the latest information. But with a subscription feed, my newsreader reminds me to check the sites that have new content. And this e-mail was for a conference in computer science education. A conference of techies, right? Why haven't they joined the 21st century? My second thought was, "Physician, heal thyself!" I do the same thing to my students. Here is a snippet from the home page for my fall course:
Welcome to your portal into the world of 810:154 Programming Languages and Paradigms. These pages will complement what you find in class. You will want to check the "What's New" section often -- even when I don't mention changes in class -- to see what is available.
Can I really expect students to check the site on their own? At least I put up lecture notes (with code) twice a week and homework once a week to create some 'pull'. But students are pulled in many different directions, and maybe a little push would help. This raises a question: How many of my students use a newsreader or RSS-enable web browser these days? Offering a news feed will only improve the situation if these folks take advantage of the feed. So I will have pushed the problem from one required habit to another, but at least it's a habit that consolidates multiple problems into one, and a habit that is growing in its reach. But beginning next semester, I'll ask my students if and how they use news feeds, and encourage them to give it a try. And I will offer a feed for my course web site. Perhaps that will help a few students stay on top of the game and not miss out on the latest information. You would think that we computer scientists would not be so behind the technological curve. Shouldn't we be living just a bit in the future more often? You know what they say about the cobbler's children... -----