M.S.U.(1966 - 1970)

Michigan State University

East Lansing, Michigan

Teaching Computer Science as Graduate Assistant at MSU

Course Taught:

## FORTRAN

Programming

for Engineers

My Experience Teaching at M.S.U.I decided to pursue a math doctorate, but Western Michigan

University where I was working as assistant director of the

Computer Center in the Mathematics Department did not

offer the PhD degree, so I enrolled in Michigan State

University at East Lansing to earn my Mathematics

doctorate. I was awarded a graduate assistantship in the

University's acedemic Computer Science department in the

Engineering School to help teach the beginning Computer

Science class. My assistantship duties were first helping

Professor Jim Burnett teach a basic computer science class.

There were so many students, that he taught one recorded

lecture that was replayed on video at various classrooms.

I wrote multiple choice exams for the class that I would help

administer at the classrooms. I taught the video class once,

but my biggest job was manning a help desk to help tutor

students having difficulty with the assigned exercises that I

often created myself. I promoted my position that we should

not show how to solve the problem, but only assist in finding

the solution. It would have been much simpler to show the

solution, but I was convinced that would be a less effective

teaching approach. Jim appreciated my help, and we

became friends. He drove me in his tiny red Corvette to a

few photography shows in Detroit.

I was next assigned to teach alone a special technical

computer programming class for engineers. I created

technical exercises typical of engineering problems. My

brother is a Licensed Surveyor, and he helped me design a

problem in calculating results of realistic field surveying.

MSU had a much bigger computer than we had at Western,

but the students' programming exercises were done

similarly. I was often found at all hours helping students

in the Computer Center solve their programming exercises.

Late one evening, the night shift employees brought to my

attention that many of my students were cheating. They

were apparently getting copies of another student's

successful solution card deck. The cheating was obvious

because the printed programming was identical. Since

students invent their own names for the many programming

variables, this never happens. I asked for the offending

students' card decks and outputs. The workers left notes

to those students to meet their instructor. They asked if

they should treat cheaters in other instructors' classes the

same way, and I agreed. But those other teachers were

annoyed at me because of the extra work it required of us

to meet and resolve the stealing issue; they would have

preferred not knowing about the cheating problem.

In my second year at MSU, I was having doubts about

pursuing that PhD. I found that I was not enjoying my math

classes, but the Computer Science classes I was also taking

were fun. I was enjoying teaching Computer Science classes.

And I was realizing that the abstract math I was learning

was relatively useless compared to the extremely useful

programming skills I was learning. I decided to drop out of

the math program and earn another Master of Science

degree in Computer Science and teach that at the college

level instead of mathematics. I saw that there is a lot of

applied math in Computer Science, and that having graduate

degrees in both made sense to me, even though starting over

would mean not getting that degree until after four years at

MSU.