domingo, 23 de agosto de 2009

Funny witty story that made me think about this persisting educational trend toward exalting mediocrity

Yale Patt"Professor" and "inspiration" are kin words (or at least they should be). Every word tells in this funny, inspiring speech by professor Yale Patt (Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Texas at Austin; see old photo from his homepage), at the IEEE 60th anniversary celebration in San Juan (Puerto Rico, 2006). It is called "The future of Computer * (Are we in serious trouble?)", the "*" meaning Science, Engineering, Architecture... you pick it.

It is very well worth its 44 min (plus 16 of question answering), but don't take my word for it: even if you're not into computer architecture or if you think you can't afford to watch the whole video, try this short story inbetween 39:24 and 42:16, in which professor Patt describes his old man's reaction to his winning a medal for losing.

I don't want to spoil the story, but if we had more people speaking out like this maybe we could get back on track in education, helping students to "get it" instead of helping them "feeling good about themselves" (or trying to, since it doesn't work). "You get a medal when you win; you don't get a medal when you lose". Professor Patt also talks about computer architectures, Moore's Law (on doubling chips' capacity), education in Computing, ..., quantum computing, NP-completeness, ..., marriage, cellphones, "football" (the one played with the hands), etc. in a very enthusiastic way.

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