Teaching in Impatient Times
Recently I held an in-house, two-day-workshop on pair programming and test-driven development. After having done similar workshops for almost a decade now, reading the feedback sheets rarely provides me with new topics or new types of criticism. This time it was different: Two of the participants wrote something along the lines: "sometimes I got bored". This had never ever happened before and I had thought it never would. Granted, my presentation style might have become boring, some of the topics might have been already known and some exercise or the other might not have been as challenging as expected. But there is also something else that I notice more and more during workshops: Impatience. And lots thereof.
The exercises you are supposed to work on in my workshops are not very complicated but they stress one or two essential points. If you just rush over them, you can solve the task, but most of the effect lies in thinking about and discussing the subtleties of different solutions and approaches. That's why I make participants work in pairs, especially in Pair-Programming workshop! Watching people work reveals that nowadays many - if not most - don't do this carefull pondering and discussing anymore. They just hurry to a solution, going back to their email-reader or smart phone as soon as a solution to the task at hand seems to be found. When doing it this way most of the benefits of Pair-Programming, Test-Code-Refactor & Specifiaction by Example are lost. It's all about thinking, discussing, experimenting, rethinking, rediscussing and improving.
During my first years of giving talks and presenting tutorials I always stopped on ringing cell phones, and I made sure the workshop computers had no internet access. I asked people to either switch their phones off or to leave. In short: I required attendants to be attentive! I guess I'll have to reestablish these rules in workshops to come. Not in order to patronize people, just to become effective again.
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