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General Chat Thread, BBC Click - Can a 15 computer solve the programming gap? in General; Programming isn't difficult, but it does require a certain logic in thought processes which I, and I suspect many edugeeks, ...
  1. #16

    elsiegee40's Avatar
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    Programming isn't difficult, but it does require a certain logic in thought processes which I, and I suspect many edugeeks, have. Many do not and training anyone to think that way is not straightforward... without it you end up with spaghetti code...

    Former mainframe programmers may remember the Pansophic code generator. It was ace at spaghetti code; the programs it produced were monsters. the insurance company that I worked for reverted to people doing all the coding pretty quickly when we proved that our code was much more manageable!

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    SteveBentley's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dhicks View Post
    But JavaScript in web pages are a perfectly good way to start programming
    Oh yeah, but do people have the motivation to want to do that?

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    We have flowol installed and there have been attempts to get students to program with it. I've witnessed one class and none of students managed to complete even the simplest task. Is this a result of bad teaching or overly complicated software? I think the latter. I was a programmer for 20 years and while I could see what flowol was supposed to do, I found it far to complicated to drive. At my previous school, we used tried to use blassic in programming class and the students couldn't cope with it at all. People today as too used to seeing a GUI and when they learn to program, want to see a pretty interface; blassic is pure command line. There was more success with logo.

    When I was in high school we had a computer club and we learned to program in basic on a machine at the local university. Computer club was invitation only and it remains a mystery as to why I was invited. I wasn't the most mathematically inclined student. The programs we wrote were very simple; print your name on the screen etc. It wasn't until I was at uni that I realised how difficult programming can be.

    Three years ago, I received some blurb about a programming competition which was run especially for UK students. I asked the ICT teachers if any of the students might enter; they said said it would be a waste of time as the students were too thick. I wish I could remember which competition is was. There are schools that have success in programming competitions. I found this one Animation11: UK Schools Computer Animation Competition (School of Computer Science - The University of Manchester)

  4. #19

    jinnantonnixx's Avatar
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    At the risk of veering off-topic, BlueJ and Greenfoot might be worth a look for more advanced students.

    BlueJ - Teaching Java - Learning Java

    greenfoot.org

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    Quote Originally Posted by dhicks View Post
    But JavaScript in web pages are a perfectly good way to start programming - they need no resources, work on pretty much every platform (including phones) and the code-compile-test cycle consists of saving your file and hitting "refresh" in the browser.
    I think the downside to JS is going straight into structured object oriented programming and having to grapple with the DOM. There's also the difficulty of debugging (although firebug makes that a joy these days).

    I'd personally start with something like python, where the first interactions can take place in the interpreter on the command line, a=1, print a, a=a+1, etc. It's handily free, available for many platforms and has extensive libraries available.

    As for programming being easy, I think that is misleading. Apart from trivial programs which demonstrate features of a language, it's almost impossible to decouple the programming from the problem solving. So whether it is easy or difficult is more down to the scope and complexity of the problem you are trying to solve than the facilities of the particular language or the bag of techniques that the programmer can dip into.

  6. #21

    SYNACK's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pcstru View Post
    As for programming being easy, I think that is misleading. Apart from trivial programs which demonstrate features of a language, it's almost impossible to decouple the programming from the problem solving. So whether it is easy or difficult is more down to the scope and complexity of the problem you are trying to solve than the facilities of the particular language or the bag of techniques that the programmer can dip into.
    I think that you are right in that good programing being easy is largely misleading. The fundimentals of the languages are generally reasonably easy to pick up but the actual problem solving and analytical steps are more difficult to teach but are also the important and useful in the long run.

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    mac_shinobi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SYNACK View Post
    I think that you are right in that good programing being easy is largely misleading. The fundimentals of the languages are generally reasonably easy to pick up but the actual problem solving and analytical steps are more difficult to teach but are also the important and useful in the long run.
    Not trying to side step here but are there any good books ( regardless of which language, java, c#, C++ or whatever ) that goes through all the above things as far as fundamentals to the more advanced things

    Would be nice to make an application something fun like an mp3 player or something thats a bit more then just a showing if caps lock is on or off

    Appologies for side tracking

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    JJonas's Avatar
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    Not sure if mentioned but Gamemaker is worth a look if you want something to get kids started in programming.
    Last edited by JJonas; 7th June 2011 at 11:17 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mac_shinobi View Post
    Not trying to side step here but are there any good books ( regardless of which language, java, c#, C++ or whatever ) that goes through all the above things as far as fundamentals to the more advanced things
    Abelson and Sussman - "Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs"

  10. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by SYNACK View Post
    The fundimentals of the languages are generally reasonably easy to pick up but the actual problem solving and analytical steps are more difficult to teach but are also the important and useful in the long run.
    I think problem solving and analysis are the difficult bits, and the bits worth learning, but those aren't unique to computer programming - programming should just be another tool in a learner's set of available techniques to help them find answers to, and pose, questions. We need to avoid dirfting over into teaching school pupils software development - they can wait until at least post-16 education for that and go and do a 2 or 3 year dedicated course, but programming as one tool for thinking about problems is useful from primary age. As such, we maybe don't give children enough credit when it comes to what we think they'll find "interesting" - children don't neccesarily need lots of graphics and extranious stuff to keep their attention, in fact, I'm sure the average child will see straight through any attempts to try and dress up a "dull" subject. Good teaching is what makes an interesting lesson. The very basics of computer programming should easily cover most child's needs, although room to explore for the interested pupil is always good, of course - as pointed out above, Python would be an excellent choice for a language that can be used very simply and expanded upon later if wished.

  11. #26

    SYNACK's Avatar
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    @dhicks - we agree, I think Pascal is still a decent learning tool, might be an older language but it is still nice form wise.

    @mac_shinobi - not sure of any books specificly for that but the one that is recomended above is probably a good start.
    Last edited by plexer; 7th June 2011 at 12:24 PM.

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