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SPECIAL SEMINAR (teaching): Michael Nowak, "Dynamic Memory in C++"

Event Type
Illinois Computer Science
Talk and Q&A link will be disseminated via email to limited participants
Apr 3, 2020   11:30 am - 12:30 pm  
Allison Mette

Dr. Nowak gives this lecture on Dynamic Memory in Texas A&M University’s Introduction to Program Design and Concepts (CSCE-121).  The address space of a C++ application is first reviewed, with the discussion focused primarily on the stack.  A walkthrough detailing the implications of a function call are also reviewed, with particular attention paid to the role of the activation records (stack frames) during this process.  The limitations of exclusively using the stack in one’s programs are considered.  The free store (heap) is subsequently introduced and how this region addresses the limitations of the stack is examined.  Thereafter, the allocation and deallocation of primitive types and compound types (arrays, pointers) are illustrated.  The talk concludes with the introduction of an “implicit contract” that one enters into upon allocating objects on the free store, with discussion pertaining to the implication of breaking the various clauses of that contract.

Dr. Nowak is currently an assistant lecturer in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Texas A&M University.  He received his PhD in Computer Science from Texas A&M University and his BSc in Neuroscience and Computer Science from Trinity University (San Antonio, TX).

Dr. Nowak is passionate about computer science education and enhancing pedagogy across the computer science curriculum. He is interested in universal design for learning in higher education and its incorporation on college campuses to reach/teach everyone.  Dr. Nowak’s teaching style preference is guided discovery.  Using this pedagogy, his students are ‘guided’ towards the correct solution of a problem, prompting them to ‘discover’ the resolution on their own.  The amount of guidance that he initially provides to his students is dependent on the course level, however, the overall idea is to gradually reduce the amount of guidance provided to his students as competence is gained throughout the course of the semester.  This guided-discovery pedagogy is supported by favorable learner retention rates in the literature.  Given that learning is a process and that computer science can be considered more-or-less as a science of problem solving, Dr. Nowak believes the application of this pedagogy will help prepare his students naturally for the dynamic and multifaceted field of computer science.

Dr. Nowak considers it important that all of his students feel welcomed in his classroom and does his best to communicate that each student truly belongs there.  It is not uncommon for him to arrive to the classroom thirty-minutes early, so that he has time to interact with his students and learn more about their interests, goals, and aspirations.  Dr. Nowak thinks that the use of inclusive language in the classroom is imperative.  Moreover, that office hours can be used to build student mastery in the material or to build rapport that can make one feel more comfortable in the classroom.  That through such engagement, one’s sense of belonging in computer science is built.

In class, Dr. Nowak believes that it is important to first introduce the material in lecture, following-up with a sensible assortment of guided-discovery based learning activities.  In these learning exercises, he aims to challenge his students to think critically, objectively, and creatively about the material that is presented in class.  He frequently uses short assignments to help guide his students through the fundamental principles and subsequently assign more-involved homeworks that build-upon the shorter assignments.  With respect to testing, Dr. Nowak favors quizzes designed to evaluate student understanding through problem solving over memorization, and frequently use these on a regular basis to encourage students to stay current with material while exercising their critical thinking skills.  Furthermore, that exams should be written to evaluate student understanding of principle concepts, with questions ranging from testing one’s knowledge about simple and concrete topics to the more complex and abstract aspects of the subject-matter.  Finally, Dr. Nowak believes that the learning objectives for all graded assessments should be crafted with Bloom's Taxonomy in mind and at the appropriate level(s) within that hierarchical model.     

Dr. Nowak aspires to positively impact the lives of all his students, to help them achieve their potential, and move them closer to achieving their goals – it is with passion and through preparation that he hopes to empower his students.

Faculty Host: Geoffrey Challen

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