Thursday, February 07, 2019

Programming Projects and the Good Idea Fairy

I think Garth Flint (blog at Garth's CS Education Blog) first introduced me to the idea of the good idea fairy. The good idea fairy strikes you with a great idea that works out well (most of the time) but takes you more time to deal with than you first expect. That is probably why you take the idea in the first place.

Well, last semester the good idea fairy visited the idea of a Pez dispenser object  when I was teaching creating of classes and objects in my honors programming class. The implementation was horrible but it did seem to help as one more example. Follow up to a few days ago and the new call for proposals for the annual CSTA conference. What do I have that is a nifty project? I’m still trying to decide what might qualify but the good idea fairy smacked me with the Pez project.

Even before I looked at the old project and realized how bad it was the good idea fairy suggested that a Pez dispenser project really should use a stack object. Well, duh! I and others have been using a Pez dispenser as an example of a stack for years. So that is what I have been working on lately.

I need a Pez candy class first. I think that will be easy for students to design. The data is simple and the methods are few. Then we can design the dispenser class. I think it will be interesting to see how different students design these classes from how I have been thinking about them. I’ll be disappointed if I don’t learn something from them or at least get some ideas for other methods and properties.

I’m constantly trying to think of new projects and improve existing projects. Finding projects that students can relate to, that they can have fun with, and that can really teach to concepts is a never ending task. It’s a task I love though. Wouldn’t it be horrible to teach the same projects year after year? Thank goodness for visits from the good idea fairy.

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