[OT] Teaching methodology

Richmond richmondmathewson at gmail.com
Wed Aug 12 16:34:33 CEST 2015


On 12/08/15 15:51, Mark Schonewille wrote:
> 1) A course can be systematic yet playful. The teacher needs to stick 
> to a number of principles and a plan, but the children should just 
> have fun and learn something.

Of course. Except I take exception to the *just* in "just have fun" as 
that debases coding classes to the level of something to keep snotty-nosed
children off their parents' backs, and there is far more to coding than 
that. While kids learning coding should find it enjoyable, they should also
be aware that it is NOT 'fun' in the sense that a game of Snakes and 
Ladders is fun, but a whole lot more.
>
> 2) When I create software, I do this with the skills I already 
> possess. When I run into a problem, I enhance my skills until I can 
> solve the problem. As a programmer, I am always ready to learn 
> something new. If it is required to solve the problem, I'll learn a 
> (to me) entirely new language.

Well, that goes for me as well.

The semi-quote (i.e. I reconstructed it from a Skype chat I had with 
that chap) was not from me, but it did seem a provocative statement
that could reflect some of my questions and worries, and how one can 
communicate those to people who are not experienced school teachers
and not experienced xTalk coders.

>
> 3) Programmers want to work efficiently. If they decide to invest time 
> into learning something new, they are already out of their comfort 
> zone. However, if this is about the parents of the children you teach, 
> you have a problem.

Bulgarians do not like teachers telling them what is good for their 
kids: even if some of those parents are, frankly, extremely ignorant.
Bulgaria is also an intensely patriarchal society: I had a thundering 
fight with a father of 2 girls [he threw a chair at me] who had decided
they should go to the hairdressers' school when they wanted to go to the 
Mathematics school: why? because Maths 'is' for boys. Luckily
I prevailed and they will be starting at the Maths High school in 
September [admittedly at the price of their father thinking I am
an insufferable pig . . . Ha, Ha!]. The father is an electronics 
engineer who programs circuit boards: I hope his daughters "rip shit" 
out of him
in that field very soon indeed - and somebody else can cut his hair!

> These parents don't want to take the time to learn something new and 
> they don't need to, but their children do.

Ah, but stupid "Mummy" knows best, and stupid "Daddy" says 'Yes' to 
stupid "Mummy" - and, Please, don't tell me that is only
a Bulgarian phenomenon, because it isn't.

>
> Do people really think that the world may fall apart, if everybody 
> could suddenly make their own programmes? Until the late 1980s, 
> everybody was forced to figure out programming by himself, because a) 
> there were no specialized schools for this and b) the internet was 
> only barely available.
>
> People went to computer clubs and everybody who was interested could 
> not only make his or her own software, but also build his or her own 
> computer! Did the world fall apart? No!

Well, I started with MiniFortran at my school computer club 40 years 
ago: but Bulgaria was in the Communist chest freezer
and those things just didn't happen. Only the very privileged (i.e. the 
kids of the Politburo) ever saw anything bearing
a very faint resemblance to what we had in the West.

>
> I think you need to convince the parents that the world has changed. 

this is not really about the difficult parents. This is about whether I 
should bother to give the children I teach a long, tedious "systematic 
introduction" which will serve to turn most of them right off one day 1 
[Oops . . . I seem to have answered my one question] or just
get on with the programming.

For instance, the 1998 book on C++ has absolutely "co**-crinkling" 
sections on "What is a computer?" going into excruciating detail.

I generally start off by telling kids that a computer is a *box full of 
magical properties* that is only limited by our need to learn how to
communicate with it properly, and that the way people communicate with 
computers is through a programming language. I then tell them,
that, as cavemen communicated in a language that was simpler than ours, 
languages developed within the last 20 years are better
and easier for communicating with computers than those developed 50 
years ago.

I also don't have an urge to tell them about *compiling* and *running* 
as with LiveCode it isn't necessary.

> Not only has programming become easier, programming is now everywhere 
> in our daily life and has become a required skill.

Like driving a car.

AND, also like driving a car insofar as it is not a prerequisite to 
driving a car to understand all about internal combustion engines.

> Not only because some people might want to become a "programmer", but 
> also because people need to be able to understand an error message on 
> the computer, think logically when programming the microwave or 
> DVR/PVR/STB, and be careful and precise when entering a key on the 
> website of their bank. It would be ludicrous to think that everyone 
> first would have to learn C++ to acquire these skills.

I am beginning to wonder if the 'problem' both in terms of education and 
fossilised parents might not lie in the word *programming*.

Maybe it is time to either chuck that term away, or use it strictly for 
people working with 1,2 & 3G languages, and use *coding* for 4G languages
and beyond.

I am quite sure that if I had to I could explain the distinction.
>
> I know a toddler who can't even talk yet, but uses pictures on a 
> mobile phone to show what she likes to eat and then goes to Youtube to 
> listen to her favourite music. In fact, I know several examples like 
> this one. These people are not going to need programming languages the 
> way we do now, but we need to offer them some framework within which 
> they can develop their skills. 4GL's may offer this framework, 
> together with Arduino's, Raspberry Pies, and who knows what else we'll 
> see in the near future.
>
> -- 
> Best regards,
>
> Mark Schonewille
>
Richmond.


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