The lack of a real classroom does not have to translate into a lack of real learning.

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Photo by Ivan Aleksic on Unsplash

As the fall semester approaches, many teachers are banging their heads as they struggle with the complicated transition to online learning. I myself have been preparing to teach an introductory computer science course this fall as a student instructor. This has led to various discussions with professors, students, and other teachers on how to best transition online. Based on these conversations, I have developed a list of guidelines for teachers this fall. Of course, this is only a small subset of the amazing ideas and techniques that educators can adopt to improve the online teaching experience, but it is a start. …


Because sometimes it seems that way.

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Photo by Pro Church Media on Unsplash

One of my favorite quotes is a simple saying:

“Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”

Some attribute the saying to the Buddha, although the exact origins are unclear. That is unimportant, though; what does matter is that this quote is more relevant now than ever before.

Today, our world exists in a deeply divided state. The lines which separate us have taken precedence over the common humanity which unites us. It is truly heartbreaking. …


An unedited conversation with myself at the peak of quarantine-inspired introspection.

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Photo by Nijwam Swargiary on Unsplash

Why do we hate and love in but a single moment? What is a feeling? A fleeting, ephemeral burst of dopamine, followed by a fall from a great height.

Eternal falling, it often feels like. Never to come to an end. A body full of emotions it is not equipped to handle. A mind full of ideas it is too naïve to understand. We know nothing, and yet we aim to know everything. If only for a moment everything were to stop — complete silence … complete freedom — how wonderful would that be? A dream for which we all hope, while confined to a reality created by illusions. We know not what we see, we hear only what we want to hear, and we speak nonsense half the time. …


And why it shouldn’t be taught in introductory programming classes.

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Photo by Mike Kenneally on Unsplash

“Welcome students, to your first ever day of computer science! This is going to be a fascinating year, and I cannot wait to teach you all about one of the most relevant topics in the world today. Teaching computer science is my passion, and although all of you may not go on to be computer scientists, I do hope to instill you with deeper understanding of why computer science is so powerful. I hope that wherever you end up, you find a way to use it for the better.

Of course, today is just the first day, and we will start slowly. You will write your first ever program in Java! The learning goals for today are directly related to the program. …


Hint: It has nothing to do with the leader.

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Photo by jean wimmerlin on Unsplash

After working hard throughout the first three years of high school, I was overjoyed to be appointed a captain of the Mock Trial team my senior year. My excitement at leading a group of peers for the first time overshadowed any underlying nervousness, as I believed the effort and skill required of a participant would automatically translate into my success as a captain. After all, how hard could it be to lead?

Nearly four years later, I still carry one particular experience with me. Our team was really two teams that would compete separately: Black and Gold. The former consisted of the more experienced students while newer recruits made up the latter. With this in mind, I made what I thought was the best choice for my school to win: I focused on Team Black. I didn’t consider that this might not be the best choice the everyone as a whole. As I focused on polishing its members, I inadvertently neglected Team Gold. This oversight largely escaped my notice, but it certainly did not escape theirs. The group chatted among themselves and a screenshot of a particular message was passed around, finally ending up on my own phone. …


College students — this is for you. You need to hear it.

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Photo by Volkan Olmez on Unsplash

“These are the best four years of your life.”

If you’re in college, you’ve almost certainly had someone say that to you at some point during your undergraduate career. You’re usually probably happy to hear it. After all, college is mostly a good time. You get to be independent, meet your lifelong friends, and find out who you are.

However, there are other times when hearing that phrase can be frustrating. It’s almost like a mantra that is fed to college students religiously, irrespective of the situation. Decided not to go to a party because you weren’t feeling it? Well you should have gone, because you’re missing out on the best four years of your life. Failed your final? Get over it; you’ll regret wasting the best four years of your life moping. Genuinely unhappy because of the combined stress of trying to do well in classes, maintain your relationships, and get enough sleep? …


They never really leave us.

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Photo by Mads Schmidt Rasmussen on Unsplash

The man rode in the darkest of night,
so far deep that there was no light.
He passed the highest mountain,
and the lowest valley;
went as far as any two eyes
could see.
He ran out of food, he ran out of water;
and that’s when he saw her.
The one who he’d lost after so much strife;
in the dark he saw his wife.

Tears in his face he ran in the dark
as his eyes glittered with a spark.
He turned to his love, and here’s
what he said:
“I’ve missed you so; I can’t accept
you are dead.
I lived only for you;
please return.


If you’ve ever taken a college math class, you’ve definitely heard this.

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Photo by Changbok Ko on Unsplash

I vividly remember the first math course I took in college. I wasn’t used to the abstract nature of the material, and I had to spend countless hours studying to even begin to understand my homework. I scrambled to keep up during the professor’s lectures, frantically scribbling down notes as he erased the chalkboard. Although he was pretty clear and helpful overall, he had one habit that really irritated me. He would finish explaining something confusing, and I sat there desperately hoping for a more detailed explanation. Longing for something, anything, that would help me learn. …


We just need to look more carefully.

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Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash

Most of us spend our lives believing that math class was possibly the most unnecessary part of our education. The conception of math as having no real-world application begins in our early schooling, and it often lasts up until college (fueled by everyone who isn’t majoring in math but is forced to take college calculus anyways). Just the other day, I saw an Instagram post that said “Another day … still haven’t used y = mx + b.”

The issue I have with posts like this is that they miss the point. The math in our world is not hidden or nonexistent — we simply refuse to see it. In part, this is due to myths about math that we pick up during childhood. However, as we grow older and more consciously choose what we learn, for some reason we still choose to ignore math. …

About

Murtaza Ali

Call me Murtz — an optimistic student with a predilection toward academia and making people smile.

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