Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Dude's Thoughts for Testing Education

Yesterday I posted an entry for the Association for Software Testing blog. It was also forwarded to the rest of the membership via their newsletter. In it, I made clear the fact that I will be taking over as the chair of the Education Special Interest Group (EdSIG) on March 31, 2012. But that wasn't all. I also stated that I had another "bold boast" up my sleeve, potentially my boldest boast yet.

I stated that, while I both admired the work and value of the content that is available through the Black Box Software Testing (BBST) courses, and I personally found them to be very valuable, there are many members of AST who will never take the classes. The reasons are varied but they often come down to one thing. BBST's three classes, as designed, is the equivalent of a university semester course on software testing. You get a lot of one on one time with instructors and assistants, we provide feedback and direct grading, we coach people directly. For those willing to commit to it, it is immensely beneficial, but there's no question about it, you are being asked to set aside a significant amount of time to do it.

For the people that will take the classes, there's little that needs to be done to convince them to do so. For those that will not take them, there's little that we can do to convince them to do so. With this in mind, I'd like to try something different.

I've seen these examples in things like NetTuts+ and Zed Shaw's and Rob Sobers' "Learn Ruby the Hard Way". These are specific, targeted, longer examples of learning, ways to get into the muck and do stuff, directly, with a dose of humor, and a lot of practical focus. There are many topics in testing that are just causally touched upon, because going into them in depth would be a huge undertaking. Describing context-driven testing principles alone has so many possible variations. Is it any wonder that we often reach for the overtired phrase "it depends"? It's 100% true, it's totally accurate, and most of the time, it's completely unhelpful. Wouldn't it be much more beneficial to gather a number of examples and actually show the differences? We often speak of polar opposites like a MMO video game and a pacemaker, and set these up as our examples of why context matters. I do not disagree, but specifically, what do they do that is different? What do they do that is similar? Why do they make the decisions they do? How can we encapsulate that in a meaningful way for testers to see, experience and consider?

It's with this that I want to look at the areas I'm already familiar with and expand the conversation to them. I'd like to see AST podcasts, screen-casts and video-casts taking on these areas. What's more, I'd like to see more voices included in the discussions. Cem has devoted literally thousands of hours over the years to recording the lectures he uses for BBST. It's been a monumental work on his part and  I have no intention to redo or replace them. I also know that I personally don't have the time all on my own to do new video entirely. What I'd like to see is video conversations and examples explained by people in various industries. We hear all the time about the differences between finance, web, medical, government and academia, and many others. There are testers in all of those spheres. Who would you rather hear talk about their testing challenges and triumphs. Me? Or them? I'd much rather hear from them, from YOU, and I hope to find ways to include YOU in on the conversations and developments we make.

All this is my possibly over zealous and San Juan Hill charging way (or it might be a Little Big Horn charging way, time will tell) of saying "this dude is looking to make some new ways to look at testing education". I am not going to be able to do it alone. Are you willing to help me by lending your voice, your experience and your successes with me, so that we can help teach others and give US the tools to do more and be more? If so, Dudes and Dudettes, leave me a reply and lets get rockin'!!!
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