[Edu-sig] Getting it going

John Glossner glossner@pobox.com
Fri, 4 Feb 2000 06:28:12 -0500

Ok... here's my background and interest in this group.

I have 4 kids the oldest of which is 10. I live North of
New York City. I work for IBM Research. I know more languages 
than I would like to (C/C++/VHDL/Verilog/Java/Python/Perl
/ML/FORTRAN/APL/ and on and on). I blush to say that I can 
even program in Visual BASIC.

Now, my struggle has been what language do I teach my
8 and 10 year olds. Being trained in Computer Science,
my first thought was teach my oldest functional programming
(ML) before he is corrupted :-) Then, to my horror, he 
received a math assignment which required BASIC. ugh...

This began my journey of trying to find resources for
kids to learn programming. Yes, I know of Logo but my
kids are all very computer literate and all they really
want to do is program Pokemon stuff rather than turtles :-)
Actually to be fair, Logo is probably the best thing
to teach kids but lets continue on from here. Well, I 
was amazingly disapointed. As near as I can tell there 
are no resources to teach kids serious programming.

Since my personal favorite language is Python, I decided
this was the route to go. Well there are still no materials
and my son doesn't really know what virtual methods
and dispatch tables are (or by the way binary arithmetic). 
So, try to tell me how you teach a 4th grader computer
architecture (my specialty) and programming when the
first question he asks is what is hex! Oh boy... 

So I figured the best way to learn is just start to
copy some programs and see how they run. Thus the Python
annotated archives comes to the rescue. He has
worked through about 3 programs so far. It has
been better than I expected and he has gotten to
learn some important math. Oh, by the way, you may 
ask why he persists in this. Well that's simple -
no gameboy time unless he does something 
educational :-)

So this is still totally unsatisfying because now
he still does not know what he is typing. However,
he can at least use the Python interpreter, emacs,
and Linux. We will struggle through the programming
part together and eventually he will be able to
fly on his own but the learning curve is tremendously
steep. However, just wait until he graduates to
Zope (which after 3 months I'm still restling with!!!).

Now having my eldest jumpstarted I set off to figure
out what to do for an 8 year old. This was a total
bust and I rationalized Logo was the only choice.
Then I found alice. I am just now evaluating it
but I am encouraged by what I see. Maybe 3D Pokemon 
games are just around the corner :-)

What I would like to see from this sig is a set of
resources for Python which are age appropriate. Perhaps 
the following categories:
  1) Math illiterate (any age but probably under 5)
  2) Early Education (5-7 year old)
  3) Elementary Education (8-10 year old)
  4) Middle school (11-13 year old)
  5) Senior high (14-16 year old)
  6) Advanced Senior high (16-18 year old)

Since I currently have 2/6/8/10 year olds I cover a lot
of the categories. I would be interested in helping
develop free and open curriculum for these age groups.

Thus, I ended up here on this sig.

John Glossner
    (my homepage is slightly out of date)