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"Team Ada: Ada Advocacy Issues (83 & 95)" <[log in to unmask]>
jim hopper <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 2 Dec 1999 16:35:36 -0500
"Richard L. Conn" <[log in to unmask]>
"Richard L. Conn" <[log in to unmask]>
text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1"
text/plain (195 lines)
Hi, Jim,

I was not aware of the cutoff for the Hope Scholarship.
I really can't explain the high dropout rate then.
My role is as an Adjunct, so I'm out of the loop on
student selection.

What's interesting is that the range is so wide.
While I'm observing a 50% failure rate, I also have
students with a current grade of 120% (I offer extra
credit exercises, and some do them all).  They are
all over the place on their grades.

I haven't seen any arguments to convince me that VB
is not right for this climate or the need to make
learning fun is not justified.  Both work effectively.

The PITAC report I spoke of the other day speaks of
Component-based Software Engineering.  That's where I
see VB fitting in like a glove, and that's were I see
Ada lacking.  The VB GUI is not just buttons and text
boxes (THAT was the first day).  It is also dynamic
list boxes (a form of linked list without the pointers),
drive list boxes and directory list boxes and file list
boxes which combine to allow you to navigate a file
system without programming any system calls, the chart
control which allows you to configure and draw 16 kinds
of charts (bar, XY, line, area, pie, both 2D and 3D, etc)
without worrying about manipulating pixels, the common
dialog control which allows for 6 common program needs
(open a file, save/create a file, select a printer,
select a font, select a color, and invoke online help)
with almost no effort, and so on.  The standard packages
in Ada95 are very good, but no where near this level of
abstraction.  Assuming the components are reliable
(which they seem to be), you can put together massive
applications with very few lines of code.  They work the
first time (in my experience) and you are done and ready
to move on.  The Web Browser I wrote in 1 hour on a
Sunday morning was part of what made me trigger my first

The domain engineering which went into VB really shows.
We see the five target domains clearly: Windows OS
interfacing, GUI development, data manipulation,
OS-based device control, and communications in general
(and web in particular).  The VB controls
operate at such a high
level of abstraction that you don't have to worry about
the low-level details and can concentrate on the problem.
Ada was a significant step in the right direction, but
VB is a much bigger step.  Ada could be there as well
(there's no technical reason why these highly abstract
component features cannot be added), but the cost of
such an effort would be really significant.

Component-based SE is a PITAC goal for the future.

Well, that's the last 21 message responses in a nutshell.

Another opinion,
Richard Conn, ASE and PAL Manager

> -----Original Message-----
> From: jim hopper [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
> Sent: Wednesday, December 01, 1999 10:57 PM
> To: Richard L. Conn; [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: What the competition looks like
> Rick,
> My sister lives in georgia and her kids go to school on the hope
> grant you are refering to.  they have to graduate with at least a b
> average (might be b+ but its certainly not losers who get to go to
> school) and they ahve to maintain a b average in collage to keep
> going.  i don't see this as leading to a lower quality of students
> than mikes GWU students as georgia high schools were a big step up
> from ohio schools when my sister moved there. from what i see of the
> kids education there is far from junk and so kids with b averages are
> pretty much decent starting material.  true they don't have as many
> roadblocks to get to school as kids who have to pay their own tuition
> but they still have to come up with living expenses and such.
> i do understand you point about wanting to attract kids to stay long
> enough to get them interested, but on the one hand you say you are
> covering the material, but on the other you say you cant teach them
> generics, tasking, other things that would seem just as fundimental
> to me as Newtons Laws.  perhaps i am to far from being a freshmen.
> jim
> At 7:52 PM -0500 12/1/99, Richard L. Conn wrote:
> >Hi, Mike,
> >
> >Glad you joined in.  You made a lot of good points here.
> >
> >Yes, our equations are a lot different.  You are right
> >about the nature of the universities ... in Georgia,
> >we have a really different way of handling higher
> >education that is double-edged in my opinion.  With
> >the Lottery providing huge amounts of money for
> >education, high school students with an average above
> >a certain level get to go to college for (I think)
> >free so long as they retain their average.  I could
> >be wrong, but it's something like that ... either free
> >or almost free.
> >
> >We also have classes teaching C++ to Freshmen.  This
> >is my first semester here, and when I saw some of
> >my students doing so poorly, I asked the dept heads
> >if there was a problem.  Their response was that this
> >kind of thing is typical and not to worry.  So I kept
> >following the lesson plan with my own little Ada twists.
> >
> >I don't have the experience of trying to teach Ada
> >to Freshmen (just graduate students and industry
> >people), so I don't have a basis of comparison.
> >But it continues to strike me that the fun aspects
> >of VB let me cover the same or more material more
> >effectively than I could have with Ada.  And I'm
> >introducing objects and classes from the start in
> >a visual way.  So, I think it does make a difference.
> >
> >Rick
> >----------------------------------
> >Richard Conn, ASE and PAL Manager
> >
> >
> >  > -----Original Message-----
> >  > From: Team Ada: Ada Advocacy Issues (83 & 95)
> >  > [mailto:[log in to unmask]]On Behalf Of Michael Feldman
> >  > Sent: Wednesday, December 01, 1999 6:00 PM
> >  > To: [log in to unmask]
> >  > Subject: Re: What the competition looks like
> >  >
> >  >
> >  > [said Rick]
> >  >
> >  > > I really hate seeing a student drop out.  I think making
> >  > > it fun helps reduce that problem.  But it still happens.
> >  > > My Freshman dropout rate is a little more than 50% this
> >  > > semester by my current estimates.
> >  >
> >  > And you're teaching VB to them, so clearly VB is not keeping
> >  > them in, is it? You guys really need to try to find out why so many
> >  > are bailing out. For whatever consolation it is to you,
> >  > I've heard of lots of 50% dropout rates in CS.
> >  >
> >  > At GW our dropout rate from freshman to sophomore year is typically
> >  > 25-30%; this is to be expected because a lot of students come into
> >  > CS with no clue about what it is, then bail out when they find
> >  > out there's (gasp!) math and science in it, not to mention
> >  > all the SE concepts they must get at least in the second course.
> >  >
> >  > If we had anything like a 50% bailout rate, we'd be REALLY
> >  > upset and trying VERY hard to figure out why. Of course, we are
> >  > also a middle-tier private university, dependent on (very)
> >  > high tuition. Maybe KSU, as a state school, is less concerned,
> >  > because their entrance standards may (by legislative fiat)
> >  > be lower. Dunno.
> >  >
> >  > And of course we are teaching Ada 95 in our first 2 courses,
> >  > so clearly an Ada-based curriculum does not, in itself, lead
> >  > to lower retention. And a VB-based one does not, in itself,
> >  > lead to higher retention.
> >  >
> >  > There are lots of factors here, Rick (and everyone) - after 25
> >  > years as a full-time CS prof (and the one responsible for the first
> >  > 2 courses, and an undergrad advisor, and the curriculum chair...)
> >  > I'm convinced that there are no magic bullets. I don;t think a
> >  > really good discussion of currculum development needs to degenerate
> >  > into a language war - there is MUCH more to it than that, as our
> >  > respective situations make obvious.
> >  >
> >  > I hope John McCormick is reading this - I'm cc-ing him just to
> >  > be sure. He may have some things to say on this subject.
> >  >
> >  > [snip]
> >  > >
> >  > > Rick
> >  >
> >  > Mike
> At a recent computer software engineering course in the US, the
> participants
> were given an awkward question to answer.  "If you had just boarded an
> airliner and discovered that your team of programmers had been responsible
> for the flight control software, how many of you would disembark
> immediately?"
>                      unknown author