Monday, September 29, 2008

start of term

Time to commemorate my first lecture with a blog entry. (year 2 module: "decision, computational and language"). My Monday at 9am slot makes it the "welcome back" lecture, likely to be better-attended than most of its successors...

From meeting my tutees last week, and a few others at a reception for new students, I got the idea that our students are coming for farther afield than last year. This year we have the first cohort of XJTLU students, but I'm actually making that observation about UK/EU students. I may be wrong; my sample is admittedly too small to be statistically significant.

If it's true however, that is an important asset for Liverpool generally. In order to prosper, a city the size of Liverpool has to provide goods and services that go beyond its immediate region, and preferably beyond the UK. My impression is that Liverpool still does not have enough employers that achieve that objective.

(Unrelated: Here is a sensible take on the forthcoming vice-presidential debate.)

Friday, September 19, 2008

Mathematics: understanding the score

A new report by Ofsted, Mathematics: understanding the score criticises school maths lessons for being dull, uninspiritional, and "teaching to the test". The report, which received some good coverage on the radio this morning, is also reported here.

The report addresses a common complaint within the British academic computer science community (and presumably in the maths community as well). We see lots of students with supposedly good A levels in maths, who appear to have gained the qualifications based on memorised formulae. And then they go on to use these formulae without a baisc understanding of how or why they work.

The problem is long-standing. Most of my school maths lessons were uninteresting; I think my motivation for pursuing the subject further came from various outside things, e.g. popular science book, puzzles, an exhibit in the Science Museum, etc. And to be fair, some of my lessons were genuinely interesting. Specifically, the ones that did not teach to the test.

It is very good to see this problem get the official recognition that is needed. (Will there be anything similar on computing in schools?)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

credit crunch

I seem to have promised to do more tasks than I have time to complete them. If my creditors catch me making a lengthy post to this blog, I would have some explaining to do.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

conclusion of COMSOC-2008

The COMSOC web site now has the proceedings and most of the slides that were presented. (Next thing to do, is try to call in the remaining slides.) Also there is a link to some great photos by Ji Ruan, including a group photo taken outside the Ashton Building, which gives the misleading impression that the weather was good. I was very happy with the way COMSOC went overall. Despite the well-known pitfalls of judgement aggregation, I think the conclusions of the business meeting can be distilled into the opinion that any subsequent COMSOC should be much like this one.