TITLE: Course Notes from the Treadmill AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: May 17, 2010 5:19 PM DESC: ----- BODY: Teaching a course two hours a day , especially a course that is essentially new in this incarnation, feels like running on ice. I'm enjoying every day, but tomorrow becomes today way too fast! At the end of last week, I began to feel the effects of compressing a 3-credit course into four weeks. At the end of Week 1, we are a quarter of the way through the course. But one week is not really enough time for all these new ideas to soak into a student's brain or fingertips. TDD, refactoring, pairing, .... Ruby, an IDE, a VCS, ... Our brains take time to adjust. The students are doing remarkably well under the conditions, but some of them are feeling the rush of days, too. I most noticed the compression in my conflicting desires to do stuff and to talk more about stuff before doing anything big. Most professors tend to err on the side of talking more, but that isn't the best way to learn most disciplines. I decided that we had seen enough background on XP and that students had practiced enough on small exercises such as the spreadsheet TDD challenge and refactoring Fowler's code, Ruby style. It was time to start building software, and learn as we go. So today we played the Planning Game and put ourselves in position to write Line 1 of code tomorrow. It's been interesting talking to students about XP's practices. Pairing seemed odd to many of them at first, but they seem to have taken to it quickly. They are social beings. Refactoring seems like the Right Thing To Do to many of them, but in practice it is hard. Using a tool like Reek to identify some smells and an IDE like RubyMine to perform some of the refactoring will help, but RubyMine does not yet implement enough different refactorings to really dampen their fear of breaking code. TDD is causing a couple of programmers fits, because it inverts how they think about coding. When it comes time to write tests for the app they are building -- no longer a small exercise in their minds -- I expect us to struggle as we think about simple design steps. I hope, though, that this practice will get them over the hump to see how writing tests early or first can really affect how we think about our code. I am still surprised when developers bemoan their inability to deliver working code and then balk so mightily at a practice that could help them in a major way. But, as we all know, old habits die hard. When the mind is ready, change can happen. All we can hope for in a course is to try to be in position for change to occur whenever the mind becomes ready. -----