Tools vs. Technologies classes

There are two types of training classes…

(Okay, mandatory aside: there are two types of people in this world — those who divide people into two categories, and those who don’t.

(Variation: there are actually three types of people in this world — those who can count and those who can’t. :)))

… classes based on tools, and classes based on technologies.  It’s the difference between a “servlets and JSPs” class and a “servlets and JSPs in RAD6” class.  IBM itself has classes in both.  You can learn about the technologies, or learn about the tools.

Of course, any tools class uses the technologies and every technology class refers to the tools, so they’re not completely independent.  Of the two, however, I much prefer teaching technology classes to teaching tools classes.

That’s probably not a big surprise.  Technology classes are about learning how to do new things I didn’t know how to do before.  “You want to do multimedia?” they say, “here’s an API.  Go for it!”  Or object/relational mapping.  Or dependency injection.  Or whatever.

Tools classes assume that you have a tool that runs (sometimes a rather bold assumption) and you’re learning how to use it to get the job done.  While I don’t mind learning that, the class often gets sidetracked with discussions on the proper way to handle the technology issues that inevitably arise.

Plus, sometimes the tool doesn’t do what it said it can do.  Or it crashes.  Or an update won’t install.  Or it works on every machine but one for no discernable reason.

Note I haven’t even gotten to the fact that it is inevitable that some student in the room will be incapable of following written directions, no matter how often or how clearly they are explained.  That’s just a fact.

The good thing about tools classes, though, is that they give me the opportunity to examine parts of the tool that I never use.

This week I’ve been teaching a tool class (of course), the subject of which is Eclipse 3.2 with WTP (the web tools platform).  I’ve vented some frustrations here recently about Eclipse issues, but the examples in the materials seemed to have worked, with only about three crashes in the the three days.

Yes, three crashes in three days, for completely unknown reasons.  All I have to do is restart the program and things worked again, but still.  I think the problem is that while Eclipse is pretty mature at this point, I think the WTP is a version 1 product and behaves accordingly.  Someday it’ll be good, but right now it’s problematic.

(I’ll be that drives the MyEclipse developers nuts.)

I did get to play with the Database Explorer a bit, which was fun.  As Callisto projects go, that’s an interesting one.  I’m still waiting to use TPTP or BIRT or some of the others.

So it’s been a good class.  The students appear to have learned a lot (even the one who simply can’t follow printed directions), the material was fresh enough that I found it interesting, and I was even able to manage the off-topic-but-fascinating architectural discussions enough to finish nearly on time.  Not a bad week’s work, actually.

Of course, since the Red Sox signed Daisuke Matsuzaka, life is good.

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