TITLE: The Opposite of "Don't Do That" AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: October 02, 2008 7:12 PM DESC: ----- BODY: I had one of those agile moments on Wednesday. A colleague stopped by my office to share his good feeling. He had just come from a CS 2 lab. "I love it whenever I design a lab in which students work in pairs. There is such life in the lab!" He went on to explain the interactions within pairs but also across pairs; one group would hear what another was thinking or doing, and would ask about it. So much learning was in the air. This reminded me of the old joke... Patient: "Doctor, it hurts when I do this." (Demonstrates.) "Can you help me?" Doctor: "Sure. Don't do that." Of course, it reminded of the negative space around the joke. Patient: "Doctor, life is great when I do this." (Demonstrates.) "Can you help me?" Doctor: "Sure. Do more of that." "But..." But. We faculty are creatures of habit, both in knowing and in doing. We just know we can't teach all of our material with students working in pairs, so we don't. I think we can, even when I don't follow my own advice. (Doctor, heal thyself!) We design the labs, so if we want students to work in pairs, we can have them work in pairs. I've had one or two successful experiences with all pair programming all the time in closed labs. Back when we taught CS1 and CS2 in C++, in the mid-1990s, and I was doing our first-year courses a lot, I designed all of my labs for students working in pairs. I wish I could say I had bee visionary, but my motivation was extrinsic: I had 25-30 students in class and 15 computers in the lab. Students worked with different students every week, in pseudo-random assignments of my device. My C++-based courses probably weren't very good -- I was relatively new to teaching, and we were using C++ after all -- and the paired programming in our lab sessions may have been one of the saving graces: students shared their perplexity and helped each other learn. When they worked on outside programming assignments for the course, they could call on a sturdy network of friends they had built in lab sessions. Without the pairs, I fear that our course would have worked well for very few students. If something works well, let's try to understand the context in which it works, and then do it more often in those contexts. That's an agile sentiment, whether we apply it to pair programming or not. Whether we apply it at the university or in industry. Whether we apply it to software development or any other practice in which we find ourselves engaged. -----