1st Semester Update

Ok, so this is my first blog post after so much encouragement (or is it pressure) from Lorenzo Danielsson with whom I’ve been sharing so many thoughts. I’ll take this opportunity then to appraise all on life as a Teaching Assistant this past semester in the Computer Science Department of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science & Technology, Kumasi, Ghana.

It’s been a very rewarding semester. But the highlight of it is the level of student interest in gaining practical expertise in the IT field today. I started the semester off with a free 2 week training programme on the JBoss Seam framework. It was a very challenging time for me, and it also further highlighted the lack of expertise and even appreciation of the concepts behind enterprise application development in Ghana. However, I liked the enthusiasm with which some of the participants wanted to get to the bottom of JavEE concepts and Seam.

I used Tradewinds, my open source trade fair management application as the teaching ground, bringing them to appreciate an Ajax based way of web applications development. I’m glad that at the end of the day, four of the guys who attended the training programme decided to join the effort on Tradewinds, and they are still sharpening their skills to take an active part in the project. Of course there were those skeptics who attended the session for a day and were wondering why they had to learn Seam when they had CMSs like Joomla and Drupal. I only pity their ignorance in focusing on an already built solution as the be all and end all. They haven’t really been hit with a truly unique application requirement yet.

Concurrent to this was an initiative started by the Computer Science Society called the School of Groups (SOG). It was a way to get people to begin to learn some of the technologies used in software as well as web design using a peer teaching approach. I was responsible for the teaching of the Java programming language and was assisted by Solomon Afenya of CS IV. I felt that a lot of the mindsets about Java were confronted, and some of the guys have taken to Java as a preferred development platform even outside their normal course work and I see them exploring new things every day. I love NetBeans’ GUI builder for dispatching desktop application development with ease. Productivity is becoming a very important factor in the choice of a language/platform and I’m happy with the tools NetBeans provides. Coupled with the Beans Binding and the Swing Application Framework, I think that GUI development in Java is finding it’s feet (forgot to mention Nimbus).

Next semester SOG plans to take on an a real project, which will focus on applying a particular software development methodology from start to end. It’s a laudable idea and its proponent, Edwin of CS III should be commended for the efforts he has made so far, being also the originator of the whole SOG concept. We need more guys like him to build up formidable IT skill in this department and in the country at large. We plan to start work after exams ends on the 14th December.

Lastly, Linux has seen another boom among students this semester. I’ve been assisting my Lecturer on Open Source Operating Systems (Linux) with CS II, and this time we brought Linux to them. The focus was on getting them to appreciate and begin to use Linux as system administrators. It was quite a challenge, because I had to get our lab all fixed up with Fedora 7 and organise a few tutorial and lab sessions for hands on work. Some of our efforts were frustrated by the lack of access to the labs, but I guess the little that we did was enough to set the ball rolling. They are writing their exam today and I wish them well. Interestingly, a CS III friend of mine commented on the enthusiasm with which most of the CS II guys talked about Linux and wished they had had the opportunity to be that well informed on it. Of course, it didn’t take him long to realise that I was part of that reason. He’s always on my case for polluting the minds of students against Windows, which frankly is a very false accusation. I just tell them that they could live without all the viruses and anti-viruses if they want to. What evil have i done? 🙂

That’s more than enough of an introduction, but I’ll keep updating on events as they come. Look out for my stuff on JBoss Seam and my experiences with the Fedora OS. Ciao.

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One thought on “1st Semester Update

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