January 21, 2012
This is a “how-to” course about computers. Most of you have been using computers in one way or another for most of your lives, but I'll try to make sure that everybody, no matter what your computer experience, has something to learn from this course. This course satisfies the “Second Competency” component of the old Adelphi General Education requirements, and the “Information Literacy” component of the new Adelphi General Education requirements, and is a requirement for the “Computer and Management Information Systems” major, but does not count as a math/science distribution course. If you’re interested in writing your own programs or are considering majoring in computer science, you may still take this course but might be better served by a programming course like CS 160 “Computer Programming for Non-Majors” or CS 171 “Introduction to Computer Programming”; talk to me.
Topics covered this semester fall into several main categories:
Terminology. You’ll understand enough of what’s going on inside a computer to distinguish between programs, files, folders, operating systems, hardware, Web pages, and so on. You’ll be comfortable enough with computer terminology to not feel like an idiot when shopping for computer hardware or software. You’ll be unafraid of error messages, able to read and use them to figure out what’s wrong.
Specific software. You’ll be comfortable using a variety of features of common operating systems, word processors, spreadsheets, databases, mail programs, presentation managers, Web browsers, Web search engines, etc. You’ll understand enough of the concepts underlying these programs that when you move to a different program of the same kind, you can learn it quickly.
Web site design and construction. You’ll learn to use both authoring software and the HTML language to build and modify Web pages with formatting, graphics, links, and tables; you’ll know when to use which graphics format and how to convert one to another; you’ll consider how best to present particular kinds of content, and use those features that make your site more effective.
Current events and issues. This is a rapidly-changing field, in which the answers aren’t all known. There will be technical developments, legal developments, political developments, etc. in the course of the semester. I’ll try to bring in a variety of interesting stories to discuss and debate; if you run into interesting stories, you’re welcome to raise them too. Some of this discussion will be in class, but I expect most of it to be on-line (on Piazza).
Big Ideas. Even in an introductory course like this, we’ll run into some of the same concepts studied by professional computer scientists: single point of definition, alternative representations and interpretations, hierarchies, abstraction, the limits of computation, the possibility of artificial intelligence...
This course will involve reading assignments from Parsons & Oja’s Computer Concepts, and a lot of on-line materials. Since the Parsons & Oja book has a new edition every year, it doesn’t have much resale value, so I wouldn’t recommend buying it for about $90, but you can do a 6-month “digital rental” for about $55; there’s also a copy of last year’s edition on reserve at Swirbul Library, and older editions on the shelves, so you don’t have to buy it at all.
We’ll go through most of the first 7 chapters this semester, about 500 pages, plus a bunch of on-line reading assignments; this comes to about 40 pages/week (although a lot of it is fairly easy reading, with lots of pictures!) Make time in your weekly schedule for the reading!
As I write this (the week before classes start), I envision 7 small homework assignments, each worth 10% of the semester grade, and a final exam worth 20% The remaining 10% of your grade will be based on class participation: asking and answering good questions in class, working well with team-mates, participating constructively in on-line discussions, etc. This schedule may change; I’ll keep an up-to-date schedule on my Web page.
Homework will be accepted late, at a penalty of 20% per day (or portion thereof) late: an hour late is 20% off, 25 hours late is 40% off, and after five days, don’t bother turning it in.
The final exam must be taken at the scheduled time, unless arranged in advance or prevented by a documented medical or family emergency. If you have three or more exams scheduled on the same date, or a religious holiday that conflicts with an exam or assignment due date, please notify me in writing within the first two weeks of the semester in order to receive due consideration. Exams not taken without one of the above excuses will be recorded with a grade of 0.
Assignments in this class are to be done either individually or in teams of two; in the latter case, you may not do multiple homeworks with the same partner. You may discuss general approaches to a problem with classmates, but you may not copy. If you do, all the students involved will be penalized (e.g. I’ll grade the assignment once and divide the points equally among the several people who turned it in).
All work on an exam must be entirely the work of the one person whose name is at the top of the page. If I have evidence that one student copied from another on an exam, both students will be penalized; see above.
The Adelphi Code of Ethics applies to this course; look it up on the Web at http://academics.adelphi.edu/policies/ethics.php .
This class meets every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10:00-10:50 AM in Science 227, except on University holidays or if I cancel class. The schedule of topics, reading, and homework is on the Web; the dates are subject to change depending on how classroom discussions actually go. I expect you to have read the reading assignments before the lecture that deals with that topic; this way I can concentrate my time on answering questions and clarifying subtle or difficult points in the textbook, rather than on reading the textbook to you, which will bore both of us. Please read ahead!