Glencora Borradaile






         Associate Professor & College of Engineering Dean's Professor, School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Oregon State University

October 4, 2011

Note to self: turn off cell-phone data connection during class

In my large intro class I used Robozzle to talk about program control and introduce recursion. Robozzle does use a true call stack and to solve some puzzles (for example, learning stackrecursedlearning stack 2limit your stackcounting – green) you really need to understand both recursion and how the to use the call stack.  This is week one of computer science, so  I didn’t get into a huge amount of detail, but it did seem to get the “newbies” engaged and make the “hackers” realize that they do have something to learn.  Only a tiny handful of students could solve the aforementioned puzzle before being taught how the call stack can be used.  Overall, it was a success (I think), and I recommend it as a learning tool.

A colleague once mentioned “boy, this would be difficult to debug” and reminded me that the iPhone version of the game shows the call stack – or a version thereof – in the “step-through” mode.  I decided it would be a good idea to use the document camera to show this live (rather than hand-drawing the call-stack on the board).  It never even occurred to me that while my phone was exposed under the document camera, I could receive a call from <embarrassing pet name> or a text of <face-reddening material>.  And then “BING”.

Cue my nightmare.

Thankfully the text message was some automated one from AT&T.  However, in my “deer in headlights” teaching state, it didn’t occur to me to then turn off my phone’s data connection.  Nervously, I made it through the next 10 or so minutes of class without incident.

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1 Comment

  1.   Nitish — October 11, 2011 @ 6:36 am    

    That could have been seriously awkward. 🙂
    I’m not sure, but I don’t think turning off the data connection suffices to block SMS messages. Though the Messages App complains if you open it when you don’t have a data connection, apparently one can still send/receive messages.
    To prevent any kind of awkward notification (including a phone call from someone with or ), you could also switch to airplane mode.

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