December 31, 2023 1:35 PM

"I Want to Find Something to Learn That Excites Me"

In his year-end wrap-up, Greg Wilson writes:

I want to find something to learn that excites me. A new musical instrument is out because of my hand; I've thought about reviving my French, picking up some Spanish, diving into Postgres or machine learningn (yeah, yeah, I know, don't hate me), but none of them are making my heart race.

What he said. I want to find something to learn that excites me.

I just spent six months immersed in learning more about HTML, CSS, and JavaScript so that I could work with novice web developers. Picking up that project was one part personal choice and one part professional necessity. It worked out well. I really enjoyed studying the web development world and learned some powerful new tools. I will continue to use them as time and energy permit.

But I can't say that I am excited enough by the topic to keep going in this area. Right now, I am still burned out from the semester on a learning treadmill. I have a followup post to my early reactions about the course's JavaScript unit in the hopper, waiting for a little desire to finish it.

What now? There are parallels between my state and Wilson's.

  • After my first-ever trip to Europe in 2019, for a Dagstuhl seminar (brief mention here), my wife and I talked about a return trip, with a focus this time on Italy. Learning Italian was part of the nascent plan. Then came COVID, along with a loss of energy for travel. I still have learning Italian in my mind.
  • In the fall of 2020, the first full semester of the pandemic, I taught a database course for the first time (bookend posts here and here). I still have a few SQL projects and learning goals hanging around from that time, but none are calling me right now.
  • LLMs are the main focus of so many people's attention these days, but they still haven't lit up me up. In some ways, I envy David Humphrey, who fell in love with AI this year. Maybe something about LLMs will light me up one of these days. (As always, you should read David's stuff. He does neat work and shares it with the world.)

Unlike Wilson, I do not play a musical instrument. I did, however, learn a little basic piano twenty-five years ago when I was a Suzuki piano parent with my daughters. We still have our piano, and I harbor dreams of picking it back up and going farther some day. Right now doesn't seem to be that day.

I have several other possibilities on the back burner, particularly in the area of data analytics. I've been intrigued by the work on data-centric computing in education being done by Kathi Fisler and Shriram Krishnamurthi have been at Brown. I also will be reading a couple of their papers on program design and plan composition in the coming weeks as I prepare for my programming languages course this spring. Fisler and Krishnamurthi are coming at these topics from the side of CS education, but the topics are also related to my grad-school work in AI. Maybe these papers will ignite a spark.

Winter break is coming to an end soon. Like others, I'm thinking about 2024. Let's see what the coming weeks bring.

Posted by Eugene Wallingford | Permalink | Categories: Computing, Personal, Teaching and Learning