[TOS] profs: good simple open source in-class techniques?

Matthew Jadud mjadud at allegheny.edu
Tue Sep 1 15:59:22 UTC 2009

Hi all,

I've used SVN twice in several different contexts. In one, the
students saw the value, and mastered the tool. In another, they were
still uncomfortable with the command line, and really weren't ready to
master the tool. I've now stepped back and reconsidered where and when
I introduce a VCS, because they do involve a number of new ideas that
are, essentially, orthogonal to the learning objectives of lower-level
courses. (Yes, it is a critical tool, but when is it a critical tool?)

On Mon, Aug 31, 2009 at 21:40, C. Titus Brown<ctb at msu.edu> wrote:
>  - I used a completely broken submit model.  They worked off of
>   hw-specific directories, such as hw5/ and hw6/; since the homeworks

Because I don't worry about what changes students make between the
"deadline" and when I actually grade the work, I hadn't considered
this particular bit of juggling before. That said, I like the idea of
tagging for submission, and will use it in the future.

> This term I'd really like to use git, but I won't because it's pretty
> hard to teach.  If I had a github-like site with good security access I

I agree about the access. I haven't felt comfortable using a public
resource yet, simply because we don't have any control over the
access. And while I agree that our students should be able to learn
from each-other, I don't feel empowered to have my students develop
solutions to texts, post them publicly, and make life more difficult
for my colleagues around the world who feel differently.

Hence, a modicum of control matters, I think.

> might still try... DVCS is awesome and has changed the way I think about
> developing myself, so I'd like to bring it to the students.

I think getting at least one model down matters, and I still sometimes
struggle with git. Nonlinearity is hard. Depending on context, that
could be a deal-breaker. (Eg. If I'm using this with second-semester
students, perhaps I just want them to get used to a VCS, and we'll
save decentralized VCS for later.)

I will say that I once made the mistake of keeping course materials in
a repository, as well as them having a repository. Do you know what
happens when you check one out in the other? At the least, confusion.

I've decided I need to do a series of screencasts on using Subversion.
I haven't had time yet, but will at some point.


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