Author: William

College: Still not for everybody

I know I already ranted about why not everyone should go to college, but I was reminded today of my first year at CSU. The class I TA’s my first three semesters was called CS 110: Personal Computing; it was an introduction to computers for non-majors that covered how to use Windows and Microsoft Office. Now, this is pretty much the easiest college class possible, because it’s divided into units (one for Windows, one for Word, etc) and you can opt out of a unit by getting 85% or higher on the pretest; then your pretest grade is your grade for that unit. A few people, but not many, take advantage of that, which is somewhat surprising considering that all of the pretest questions are available in advance. So let’s review. There’s a pool of questions, which make up the pre- and post-tests,  that are available from the beginning of the semester for anyone who wants to go over as often as they want. There are three TAs and over a dozen lab assistants to help you figure out the answers if you get stuck when practicing for the pretest. This is a 100-level (freshman) class. And yet…we have people who fail to graduate because they take the class senior year and don’t pass. I would like to offer commentary on this, but seriously…words fail me. If you’re an...

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Rant: Teacher Pay

So this afternoon I’ve been looking at job openings for community colleges in the Denver area. Not many places have full-time openings (and the ones that do have an annoying tendency to not answer their email in spite of requesting applications through email), but there tend to be a small number of adjunct positions open at each college. So what leads to today’s rant? I was looking at the salary listings for one of the community colleges.  Lecture classes, like math, pay $609.00 per credit hour, which is disgustingly low; even if you taught a full 5 classes per semester, that’s only $18,270 per year for a job that requires a master’s degree! On the other hand, if you teach a PE class, that pays a somewhat more respectable $1,218.00 per credit hour. Seriously? Teaching someone to throw a ball is worth twice as much as teaching them to do algebra? Anyway, suppose a class meets for only fifteen weeks each semester, twice per week for 75 minutes each time. A math class generally has homework due every week; assume that the instructor is pretty efficient and can finish grading the homework in four hours. That comes to a total of 6.5 hours of work each week, not counting office hours. A class that meets 2.5 hours per week would be three credit hours; 15 credit hours would thus work out...

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Easy WAMP

As I mentioned before, one of the books I’m reading this month is about PHP, MySQL, and Javascript. One minor annoyance when working on server-size scripting is, of course, the need for a server. True, if you’re a student it may not be that much of a hassle to ssh in to the lab computers, but it’s still one more step, plus you may end up making things publicly available without intending it. Personally, I want to work on my own computer with the tools I have installed here; at the moment that’s a Windows 7 machine (although I’ll be booting up linux later to play with Google Go). Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to set up a WAMP  (Windows Apache/MySQL/PHP) and do everything locally. Right now I’m using EasyPHP; it’s a simple install and makes it easy to start and stop Apache and MySQL as needed. Share on...

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Update your software! A problem involving WordPress..

One thing I’ve learned about lately is the amazing variety of problems that can be caused by not having updated software. Most recently, after setting up this blog, I started getting weird error messages and problems in my WordPress administration. After a little work, I realized that the problem is my webhost defaults to PHP4, but many things in WordPress require PHP5. They DO have PHP5 installed, so it’s a simple fix: just add the line “AddType x-mapp-php5 .php” to the .htaccess file and all is well. If only all strange errors could be dealt with so easily.. In other news, I’m wrapping up my series on Search Engine Optimization over on the One Ear Productions blog; this morning I posted part 5, Pagerank Doesn’t Matter. I’m in the process of reading through the latest O’Reilly book on SEO, so a number of my posts right now are on that topic; a full review should show up on my book review site within the next few weeks. Other books in the queue include one on designing iPod/iPad/iPhone applications and one on PHP, MySQL, and Javascript; I expect I’ll be ranting on those topics later this month. Share on...

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Going Back To School

With the economy the way it is, many people are considering going back to school to brush up on their skills and improve their prospects in the job market. If this describes you, here’s what you’ll need to know. If you’re returning to school, we’ll assume you’ve been in the workforce for a while; if you’re going for an undergraduate degree, you may be able to receive credit for previous experience. Talk to an advisor at your school and find out if you can apply previous college credits or test out of lower-level classes. On the other hand, you might need remedial work in some areas, most likely in mathematics; your advisor can tell you how to set up a placement test to determine whether you’re ready for classes. A college education isn’t for everyone, but someone who’s been in the workforce and is making an informed decision to go back for more education is well-positioned to succeed. Going back to school after an absence isn’t easy; one of the largest challenges can be the financial issues. Remember that financial aid is available even for adult learners, in the form of Pell Grants and Stafford Loans. The trick is to cut down on expenses; it’s really difficult to go from earning a decent wage to living on a student budget! If you’re planning on going back for a graduate...

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