Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ada Lovelace day

This post is dedicated to my daughter, who is named after Ada Lovelace. May she do whatever she chooses with all the power and grace of the many women I know in technology.

Last week I was driving Juliana to the hospital when suddenly I thought to myself, "I miss dancing the mergesort."

Now, this may not make a whole lot of sense to some of you. Merge sort is a computer algorithm that efficiently sorts items. Matt could tell you how efficiently it works, but he's never danced it. I have.

My friend Tanya, as well as having her Ph.D. in CS, is one of the most creative people I know and really devoted to teaching. (It's a good combination for a computer science prof, don't you think?) One day, deciding she could "make algorithms fun" for elementary school students, she choreographed a dance to illustrate how mergesort works. But she didn't stop there (like I would have, if I'd been lucky enough to have such a cool idea myself): her passion was such that she managed to inspire eight normal, introverted, busy grad students to get together once a week to learn and practice this dance and then to perform it!

Occasionally, when I'm struggling to put a class together in a way that doesn't bore even me, I'll think about this experience. So far, I've never had the creativity or the guts to dance my theology course, but it's definitely made me think about how teaching methods are only as limited as my passion and my imagination. So thanks Tanya, and happy Ada Lovelace Day.