Greg Hewgill (ghewgill) wrote,
Greg Hewgill
ghewgill

on learning programming

I didn't get as much done on xearth today as I had planned to. Instead, I got involved in a long conversation at chchspace about programming languages, which migrated toward a discussion about a way to introduce programming to young people. For example:

class Hello {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        System.out.println("Hello, world");
    }
}

is a lot more crap to have to explain (just how long does it take to explain away "public static void main"?) than:

print "Hello, world"

But even then, "Hello, world" is a major let-down as far as a first program goes. My first ever program was a graphics program: It drew a diagonal line from the top left to the bottom right of an Apple ][+ high-res graphics screen. Printing text came later, on an as-needed basis (probably when I first needed to debug something). I think it's important to introduce programming using a medium that's more malleable than plain old ASCII text.

Text is symbolic. By itself, it rarely looks interesting, but it's a representation of something interesting (maybe). It requires a bunch of cognitive processing to go from the letters on the screen, to ideas that are meaningful. When you're learning a new method of expression such as programming, having to apply this extra cognitive load to everything you do (that is, having to read and understand the program output) detracts from the learning process. Young children learn to draw pictures before learning to write words; even Koko can draw pictures.

What's the right answer? Is it Logo? Maybe they were on to something in 1967. Is it Adobe Flex? Silverlight? Yahoo! Widgets? I believe it's likely to be something like that. It is definitely not "public static void main".

Tags: osw
Subscribe

  • islands of the world tour 2009

    Amy and I haven't been back to North America to see family since we got married in 2007. We've been talking for a while about taking a trip back,…

  • changing travel plans

    Things are suddenly moving fast. It looks like Amy and I are going to try to make it to Austin in time for SXSW (that means leaving Canada around…

  • photos from the usa southwest trip

    I've finished culling, sorting, and organizing the photos that I took during our trip. There are 339 photos, 132 of which are in the "60 mi Gallery"…

  • Post a new comment

    Error

    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

  • 7 comments