Riding higher waves

At the risk of boring you all with my frequent thoughts on better teaching, I wanted to give you another metaphor on good teaching, inspired by a surfing class I took. To sum it all up, surfing was great fun. But this year, I was a bit unfortunate to get teachers who were a lot worse than the ones I’d had previously. The high waves and the shallow water make for good metaphors for the basics and the advanced topcis I frequently drone on about in my philosophy of teaching well. So, there you go. The shallows and the high waves The teachers were over-protective of us in the shallow waters. They helped more than we would have needed help and thereby, didn’t teach us to act independently. I wanted to do so, but it was not encouraged and we weren’t given any instructions on how to catch a wave on our own. They wouldn’t even let us paddle onto

read more Riding higher waves

“Student journals” – The good, the bad and the ugly

In this post, I want to share some experiences regarding “student” or “young researcher” journals. By “student journal” I mean journals which specialize in supporting young researchers, mostly only accepting publications from authors who don’t yet have their PhD. While this is a great idea in general which should absolutely be supported, I find that it can often be misleading and less-than-great in reality. In these journals, often even undergraduate students (before finishing their Bachelor’s) would be qualified to submit. But I find that they tend to be too much of a hassle, especially as they are not perceived as ‘high quality’ journals. Also, like the title suggests, my own experiences were mostly not so good. So, the gist of what I am going to say is: I wouldn’t recommend them. “Student journals” are “worth less” in your CV and, confusingly, I have found them to be more trouble than normal journals are. So, mostly a total waste of time

read more “Student journals” – The good, the bad and the ugly

Regarding comments and contact info

Dear all, apparently the LaTeX Noob is not alone to be a noob 😉 I just realized I had to approve your comments before they are published. Oops 😉 Will see to that more quickly in the future. Also, I heard that some of you were not able to find contact information which maybe I might have messed up too 😉 I guess I just hadn’t really thought about having actual readers who want to contact me so far. And I am very happy that you exist and do wish to contact me! I will therefore add my contact info in the about section. Sorry, I am such a complete idiot not to have thought about this before 😉 Best and thanks again for all your positive feedback!

[Guest Post] Confessions of a LaTeX Noob

I am happy to introduce my first guest post on this blog. It’s from my archaeologist friend whom we decided to call “the LaTeX Noob” here. She will give her perspective on how using LaTeX in the Humanities feels for her and the problems she has encountered. Like how getting help can be tricky, you don’t want to look like an idiot and how you constantly have to defend your choice to use LaTeX (to users and non-users alike). “Why would a Humanities person want to use LaTeX anyway? You don’t need it and you’re not up for it” are the most common insults a Humanities person might have to endure after choosing LaTeX.   Here come the confessions of a LaTeX Noob: Confessions of a LaTeX Noob Okay, here I am, the LaTeX noob. Well, not that noob-noob, but noob nonetheless. I am an archaeologist and I am trying to write my thesis in LaTeX. Well, my catalogue, to

read more [Guest Post] Confessions of a LaTeX Noob

Didactical Reduction, Part II

In my first post on didactical reduction, I argued that reduction of learning materials to meaningslessness can be detrimental, that teachers should trust in their students’ ability to learn and rise to a challenge. In this post I want to discuss ways of reducing complexity which actually makes sense. The gist is: reduce unneccessary detail, not difficulty. Build complexity in a carefully chosen progression. Telling the difference between unnecessary detail and challenging complexity In my post on why programming classes fail and learning ‘algorithmic thinking’, a main example was that students starting out programmig don’t need to know about data types. I will stick with this example here because I just think it illustrates my point so well. The skill to learn I discussed in the post really wasn’t the ‘vocabulary’ of your first programming language, but ‘learning programming’ means successfully communicating with a computer and in order to do that, you need to develop the skill of algorithmic thinking. This

read more Didactical Reduction, Part II

How to quit MS Word for good

This post I want to dedicate to the pressing question of how to live without Word in the Word-filled environment of Academia where Word lurks behind every tree and jumps at you when you’re not paying attention. Do you actually enjoy this eternal distraction of a non-working text editor? Well, I don’t. And even though it’s not actually a good tool (if you’re being honest with yourself, deep down in your heart, you know I’m right), it has infested the world (not only of Academia).   How the story begins… At some point, now over a year ago, I decided that I wanted to quit MS Word once and for all. I had hoped to do that before but every single time, I had came up with about a million excuses why I just couldn’t. Probably kind of like you are now already preparing your counter arguments as to why that might work for me but it sure as hell

read more How to quit MS Word for good

Learn programming from a book vs. tutorial? Thoughts on deliberate practice

In this short little post, I want to share some thoughts on deliberate practice and how it affects coding, learning how to program, etc. I will argue that, in the long run, you can only become a better programmer with some systematic (self-)education, be it from books or academic classes. Tutorials alone, on the other hand, get you actionable quickly but do this at the expense of providing “the bigger picture” which will ultimately harm and slow down your progress. The concept of deliberate practice I have been intrigued by the concept of ‘deliberate practice’ for a few years now. It mostly comes up in the context of the so-called 10.000h rule (popularized by Malcolm Gladwell’s The tipping point – which is full of blatantly false information by the way and has been debunked by Steven Pinker, see Resources). Deliberate practice is needed for expertise and reaching a level of mastery. If you just want the ‘quick fix’, don’t bother

read more Learn programming from a book vs. tutorial? Thoughts on deliberate practice

Learning “Advanced LaTeX” – The LaTeX Ninja Project

I had been using LaTeX for 5+ years and had always wanted to “do more”. But somehow I never did. The LaTeX Ninja was not a label I put on myself – it was a goal. I wanted to become a LaTeX Ninja and I wrote it down in my notebook. The plan Just before Christmas this year, I rediscovered that old piece of paper. I had been working in Paris at the time and I had already typeset one book with LaTeX but was no further along the path of the LaTeX adept than I had been when the idea of “wanting to become a LaTeX Ninja” had first crossed my mind. Then, that summer when I was working in Paris, I decided: if I ever wanted things to happen, I had to put my plans into action. So during my last week in Paris, I started diving into what I want to call “Advanced LaTeX” (see [THIS POST]

read more Learning “Advanced LaTeX” – The LaTeX Ninja Project