So, for any of you who've come to one of our Lunch and Learns, chances are you've seen the slide where I mention that I'm on 3 different Advisory Board Committees at Francis Tuttle Technology Center. Today was one of those meeting days where the committee gets together and discusses current industry issues, where the industry is going, and what things will get a student hired in Oklahoma.
I can't really express how much I enjoy attending these meetings. I've always enjoyed teaching, and participating in that process for other students. Francis Tuttle gave so very much to me while I was a student there, that I can't help but want to give back, and I think that right there is the proof in the pudding for the school and their methods. With that said I'll admit to being... opinionated in all of the committees I attend, and that makes for some really interesting conversations, especially in this particular committee. Programming is such a wide and varied group of people, it's hard to get a consensus on much of anything, and yet we always try to give good concrete ways that Marc Hill (the teacher of the program) can improve his program and give his students something more than they'll get elsewhere. Again, I think this is really a big part of what makes Francis Tuttle so successful as a school.
At any rate, there were some really great discussions on all sorts of things programming related: Google/Yahoo APIs, Java, OKC Java User Group, .NET, Frameworks, Drupal (my own contributions mostly), etc. I think what makes these meetings especially interesting is to hear everyone elses take on the same topics we find ourselves covering internally. "What is 'Enterprise'?", Mashups, Open Source vs Closed Source, etc. And these are topics that the entire community world wide is talking about every day. At any rate, I think it's really great to get to participate in these meetings, and in a lot of ways, it's sort of like evangelizing Drupal. It's what we use internally so much that it's really my frame of reference for everything.
I think one of the topics I find most interesting is the basic basics that are trying to be conveyed to students. Of course we all KNOW it's important for employees to have an understanding of how our basic building blocks all work together... i.e. MySQL, PHP, & .NET in our shop. But, Drupal makes these things so effortless, I have to wonder if the students wouldn't be better served to start building something that works immediately (get some success under their belt) and then get into the guts of how this is working, and what the code for something like that really looks like. Back during the dark ages we had dbconnect include files on ever php page of our system... we don't need that sort of stuff anymore... it's archaic and if a student doesn't ever have to build a system that works that way... I'm not sure it hurts their productivity to us. Ultimately I think it goes back to a question of basics: What should the student know? When's the best time to introduce this concept? Building products in Drupal is so satisfying that I think I'd personally encourage people to start there, and then get answers to the "HOW".
It's kind of hard to get a Java/.NET based class to accept Drupal at that level though, so perhaps the same approach with something in that same environment would be beneficial? I don't know, I can't say that I'd really recommend anything that's not Drupal these days.
Finally, I got to chat with some of the Java User Group guys: Brian Sheldon, and Brett Schuchert. These guys have so many great things to share with the group and are a constant source of good information and experience. I know that, as someone who came to programming only within the last 3-4 years, their insights into how things can/should work often get me re-evaluating what I'm doing, and thinking about what I could do better, and I think that ultimately is one of the best things I get out of these meetings. For those of you who might be interested Brian has a blog going where he discussed this just a little. You can find it at the link below: