Yes, I am rather frustrated that people tend to think of computers as "magic boxes" rather than the programmable things that they are. I wish we did more to teach programming to kids.
That said, I was once called a "fascist" by a computer scientist when I suggested that we spend the first two years of an undergrad humanities degree teaching these people how to code.
2011-09-15 11:24 pm (UTC)
Re: This would be great...
I wouldn't go so far as to call you a fascist, but one should probably teach some humanities at some point in the first two years of a humanities degree :-)
2011-09-16 03:28 pm (UTC)
Re: This would be great...
Quite honestly it would be a great idea to teach some humanities to the nerd crowd also. Two years of that before programming might make better citizens.
I agree, that's why I created a website collecting info about various programming languages/environments specifically targetting kids:
Sorry for the plug, but this is a completely non-for profit project, so I figured it's ok.
No problem at all! Your site's a great idea, and I'll do what I can to plug it.
I like it. Sorry not to see Processing on there, but I guess it's not specifically targetting kids...
Processing is something I always was unsure about including, but I went ahead now and added it. "kids" is not exactly a strictly defined term and for teenagers Processing is cool.
For what it's worth, I started out with 'the easily-programmable 8-bit micros that programmers of my generation cut their teeth on' - at around the age of 8 or 9 - and I'm pretty sure that Processing is at least as easy as ZX Spectrum BASIC, even if it is a lot more powerful!
2011-09-15 11:34 am (UTC)
Yeah many agree, and our national science foundation and others are making a big push for this, if you search for phrases like 'computational thinking' or programming for all. Here are some resources:
programming is the new literacy
Program or Be Programmed - Douglas Rushkoff
Tools for learning some basics of programming for kids:
Light Bot http://armorgames.com/play/6061/light-bot-20
Kodu for xbox http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/projects/kodu/
For older kids & undergraduates
I would not recommend starting off with python or ruby or the like. Those were not designed with beginners or kids in mind. Even with older kids / high school students I would emphasize things that let them get productive / make something quickly, like some of the mobile app builder sites, or gamemaker and the like. The point is to let them see what you can do & accomplish with programming, not teach programming for programming's sake.
2011-09-15 12:15 pm (UTC)
Re: computational thinking
Good stuff, and thanks for the links!
[Minor point: IIRC, Python grew out of an earlier language called ABC, which was intended as a first programming language. But I agree that it's possible to do better.]
2011-09-15 01:39 pm (UTC)
Re: computational thinking
Go Python! It would be my current first choice for a language around which to base a core coding curriculum.
2012-05-05 12:44 pm (UTC)
There is also ToonTalk (http://www.toontalk.com/), a videogame-style logic programming language suitable also for kindergarteners.
Saying that only a few people need to code today is like saying that only a few people needed to read and write in the 1500s².
Yeah. The next stage is when coding would be the distinction of a higher class. =) And then we should wait for mandatory coding education.
Fortunately this is going to happen much faster than in case with literacy.
I've thought something similar to this for a long time - ever since I was at school myself and discovered that the Computing course I was taking (standard grade) didn't actually teach you to code anything beyond three or four simple statements in Pascal.
Fast-forward to when I was teaching in secondary schools and covering ICT lessons... idly thumbing through the revision guide for current GCSE ICT courses is just depressing. Apparently knowing the capacity of a floppy disk and what the difference is between a mainframe and a minicomputer are essential, but being able to code? Barely even mentioned.
I think school ICT curricula should be thrown out and re-written from scratch. Start kids on things like Lego Mindstorms toys (with their visual block-based programming tools) and move on up to a nice, tidy language like Python later on.
I think the ICT curricula themselves are only half the problem. Maths teaching is the other half. School maths courses do not teach problem-solving, and the concept of proving something barely gets a mention until A-level. The skills children should
be learning in maths classes from an early stage would provide an excellent foundation for algorithmic and logical thought. I reckon the excellent A Mathematician's Lament (pdf)
, which I suspect you've already seen, has the maths angle pretty well covered.
2011-09-15 02:47 pm (UTC)
Petition is for UK citizens only
I'd like to see it open for the U.S.
2011-09-16 08:26 am (UTC)
Re: Petition is for UK citizens only
Perhaps start one for US citizens? It doesn't make much sense for you chaps to be voting on a UK poll when the US has the same issues.
I'm with you here. I don't want to be part of the high priesthood of the computer.
I want everyone to be able to easily deal with data and repetitive tasks.
Raspberry Pi looks like a lot of fun here.
2011-09-15 08:41 pm (UTC)
Interesting Links for 15-9-2011
2011-09-17 12:42 pm (UTC)
This will never work.
If you let kids learn how to program computers some of them will love it and explore it further, others won't bother.
If you force them to (by marks/grades) most of them will hate and forget it after just a few weeks.
I'm with you, most generally because as kids learn to code, they develop logical thinking that is sometimes hard to develop in other environments. And frankly, too many children are growing up idiots, at least in the States. :/
2011-09-19 09:22 am (UTC)
I agree with your post. I think the wording in the petition is weak and uninspiring which might be why no-one has signed up. Perhaps you could help get that text edited
2012-05-05 12:40 pm (UTC)
There is also ToonTalk (http://www.toontalk.com/) (source code (http://code.google.com/p/toontalk)), a videogame-style logic programming language suitable also for kindergarteners.
2012-06-05 02:14 am (UTC)
2014-03-21 08:16 pm (UTC)
Hello! Do you use Twitter? I'd like to follow you if that would be okay.
I'm undoubtedly enjoying your blog and look forward to new posts.
Sure! I have the same username there.