Here’s another video from Jake about supervision in Cambridge. The video is of the final supervision that I give for the Concepts in Programming Languages course. Concepts is a really fun course that covers the history of different programming languages. The idea is that by thinking about how languages have evolved over time you might be better placed to exploit (or invent) new ones.
This has some nice overlap with my research at the moment too in which we are looking at how scientists use Fortran and how the language has evolved over time. You can see a bit more about this on the New Approaches to Programming in the Sciences (NAPS) webpage.
The supervision took place near to the exams and so you’ll see me at the beginning talking about choosing exam questions. This is unusual since Cambridge exams take place at the end of each year and so for the rest of the time we are free to focus on learning without worrying about exam strategy.
Note Jake’s comment that the supervisor will try to ask you questions that interpret the course rather than just repeat the facts. I think this is the whole point of a university education – we don’t want students to just learn the book by rote but instead we want them to be able to link the pieces together and apply them in new ways. In teaching terms this is called a deep approach to learning.
Jake and I have made a recording of an undergraduate interview (not a real one!). Jake has edited it down and added some very useful commentary so you know what’s going on. Hopefully it might help demystify the process for people who are applying to Cambridge.
This year I was privileged to be awarded one of the University teaching prizes. They only give out 12 awards a year and so given that there are around 1,600 academic staff in the university I was very pleased to get one.
My nomination was from the Computer Laboratory for the work I’ve done with the programming lecture courses I teach. For the first and second year Java courses this involved moving away from lectures to practical sessions with automated unit tests so that students can work at their own pace and actually practice on large programming tasks. I also teach the second year course on Prolog and in this course I replaced the lectures with video recordings – the idea was to investigate how a MOOC would work in tandem with the Cambridge supervision system. All of the above work I did in collaboration with Alastair Beresford who is a senior lecturer in the department and a fellow of Robinson College – he won a teaching prize too this year for this work.
Here’s a picture of me getting my award from the University’s Vice Chancellor Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz:
You can see more details about the awards on the University news pages
and a slightly belated well done to the first years too. Queens’ computer science first years scored two 1st’s and three 2.1’s between them.