Posts Tagged ‘video lectures’

The Teaching Company

August 24, 2007

My wife and I are both big fans of the college courses produced by the Teaching Company. The courses cover a wide variety of subjects, and come in a range of video and/or audio formats.

I personally find that the audio format usually works somewhat better. The lecturers are very good, but watching a professor lecture on TV is inevitably somewhat dull. On the other hand, when I’m driving or riding in a car or train, I find that an audio lecture fills an ideal amount of mental bandwidth. (Every so often, the lecture gets complicated at the same time as the driving, but one can always rewind).

My favorite course so far was Robert Greenberg’s course on How to Listen to and Understand Great Music. Music courses are naturally a great fit for an audio course!

Otherwise, there are unfortunately not that many science and mathematics courses that go beyond the beginning undergraduate level, although I did enjoy Stephen Nowicki’s course on Biology. If you are interested in history or philosophy, or other subjects in the humanities (like my wife, who is a historian) there are many more interesting options.

The Teaching Company has an unusual pricing policy. The courses are very expensive, except when they go on sale, when they cost roughly one quarter the normal price and are very reasonable. All the courses go on sale on a regular rotation, so unless you are in a tremendous hurry, you should definitely wait until the course you are interested in goes on sale. A lot of the courses are available at libraries too, so you can borrow one to see if you like it first.

Here’s another blog post endorsing the Teaching Company, with some reader comments on their favorite courses.

Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs: Videos and Textbook

August 17, 2007


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This set of videos, of Gerald Jay Sussman and Hal Abelson teaching their course on the “Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs” in July 1986 for Hewlett-Packard employees, is one of the treasures of the internet. The clothes are out of style, but the material presented is still completely relevant.

The SICP web-site has lots of useful additional information, including the complete text of the 2nd edition of their classic textbook.

I am not going to try to write a better review of the Abelon’s and Sussman’s textbook than the Amazon review written by Peter Norvig. Norvig is the head of Research at Google, and a co-author of Artificial Intelligence: a Modern Approach, the leading AI textbook.

But I will add one comment: what I love most about these lectures is the point (see the picture above of Sussman in his wizard hat) that a computer programmer is like a wizard–he creates something real out of ideas. Computers let us be wizards; and I believe we have only scratched the surface of the possible “spells” that we can learn to cast.

If you want a nice implementation of Scheme, the beautiful dialect of Lisp that was invented by Sussman with his student Guy Steele, and used in this textbook, I highly recommend DrScheme.


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