Academic Revelations

In my first blog post back in December of 2014, I spoke of my intention to begin typesetting my homework using LaTeX. With much pride, I can say that I have done that. It was a recommended method for my discrete mathematics class. What is more, it seems downright necessary for my accelerated calculus class.

Without a doubt, the self-enforced requirement to write homework in LaTeX has contributed to greater success with assignments. My homework scores have increased significantly in both discrete mathematics (EECS 203) and accelerated calculus (MATH 186).

Contrasting this success is a failure to do well on exams. In EECS 203, MATH 186, and “Programming and Introductory Data Structures” (EECS 280), my scores have been below average by more than half of a standard deviation.

I have always been a fine test taker, and for that reason my lack of success has come as a surprise.

Recognizing this fact is one thing; responding to it is another. Are these results proof that I am not studying properly? Is a change in order?

I would think so. But what is there to change?

For one, I would not expect it to be my study habits. Over the course of my academic career, studying has mainly been an exercise in review: I review work I have done; read over notes I have taken. During high school, I did not spend very much time on such activities. Now, however, I devote far more time to review leading up to an exam. From the quantitative perspective, then, one could say that my studying habits have improved. What, then, is the problem?

To put it simply, I would say it is focus in lectures.

In high school, I was always attentive: listening to every word spoken by the teacher, scribbling down notes when I felt it was necessary.

College lectures have proven quite different. Rather than focus on the lecturer, I may instead focus on a computer screen a couple of rows in front of me. The attention to such things around me often times feel compulsive.

When I am able to shake off distractions from the environment, lectures prove difficult to follow. Often times the lecturer’s English is shaky, the concepts are unfamiliar, and the slides move too quickly for any substantial notes to be written.

Resolving this issue, though seemingly a momentous task, may be easier than previously thought. The wide range of reading materials, from textbooks to online slides, allow for instant access to materials that enhance my knowledge of the subject matter. A more in-depth and laborious examination of these materials seem to be the most likely approach for future success.

Indeed, the greatest way to improve is to have a greater sense of self-awareness. A rigorous examination of what it is that causes one to fail will indicate how improvements can be made.

An Introduction to Blogging

It was in 2011 when I first learned how to program. The language was Visual Basic, and the setting was James Caldwell High School. The impetus, you may ask? The State of New Jersey requires a diverse curriculum in order to graduate from high school. This diversity can best be seen with required enrollment in a fine art (e.g. Draw, Paint, Design (DPD); Ceramics; Graphic Design; Band; Chorus; Orchestra) and a “practical art” (Computer Science; Woodworking; Foods; Robotics) before graduating. After having taken DPD, I decided I would swiftly get my practical art out of the way. I intended to continue drawing and painting, viewing the practical art requirement as a hindrance to the making of truly beautiful things.

Fast forward to October 24, 2013, when I registered (according to WHOIS). I had abandoned DPD, replacing my love of design with a love of code. I was in the thick of OOP and web design using WordPress. The media specialist at my high school spoke highly of an online portfolio to showcase my websites and projects.

She never said anything about writing a blog.

Luckily, I’ve stumbled upon people who have. After trying to get a little bit of coding confidence back in me after some rough work in an Objective-C bootcamp, I searched for the “The Myth of the Genius Programmer” a lecture that I had heard about but had never watched. Whether by the strength of his words or the strength of his SEO strategy, Josh L. Davis and his blog were the first things I found. He provided an excellent description of the ever-famous myth of the brilliant programmer, as well as advice on how to become a better programmer through becoming more vulnerable.

Davis says that he started his blog after reading Nathan Marz’s. I’m beginning mine after having read Davis’s. He’s truly quite insightful.

Besides blogging, Davis advises to promote one’s GitHub presence (doing that) and to write one’s homework in LaTeX (will be doing that).

One of Nathan Marz’s blog posts describes the benefits of blogging. Not only does it increase the “compelling” aspect of your character, but it allows for inbound opportunities: those who read your blog may have a project for you.

Fully convinced of the benefits of blogging, I’ll start writing when I can. Marz says that I’ll be doing poorly at first, but that’s fine. I recognize it will take a little bit of time to get better. I expect there to be some code ramblings (C++, Objective-C, Python), tech news ramblings, and more. Blogs are nothing more than a set of ramblings, right?

I’m not certain how plentiful the benefits will be of starting this thing, but I’m happy to venture into the unknown and see the results.