[Edu-sig] Creating worlds.

Stephen R. Figgins fig@oreilly.com
Fri, 04 Feb 2000 23:36:17 -0800

On the subject of providing worlds, not providing worlds, etc.  Don't
we already live in a world with interesting problems to solve?  I
would rather see something grounded in the real world - or at least,
the real internet world.  Maybe there are some sections of the
internet that are more easily manipulated than others.  Hopefully lots
of them.

Rather than creating game worlds, perhaps we could help people find
those places they can manipulate, that will be their teachers.  CP4E
suggests that when everyone knows a bit of programming, they can more
easily script and manipulate the programs they use.  There is a
promise of freedom there.  A freedom to alter the real world.

Anyone out there have any inspiring stories of some problem you solved
cleverly using a tiny bit of programming.  A few lines of code that
changed everything?  Any stories that explore the freedom found in
knowing how to program?  Maybe a problem that eluded you until just
the right aha moment got you?  Ever manipulate an existing program or
set of programs or some feature on the web or internet with a bit of
python to glue it together and make it into something different?

Such stories could be part of the inspiration provided in training
materials, along with explorations of where programs are most
scriptible, how to become aware of what is scriptable, how is it
scriptable?  How can you find out more?  A lot of applying programming
well is just knowing where to look. 

Then you take some power tools and patterns commonly found in
programming and utilized in the stories, and show how those tools can
be applied to change the world, if only just a little bit.  The more
ineresting and useful the change the better.  The more connected it is
to the real world (or at least the internet) the better.  Even
scripting some MUD out there - building objects online would be better
than some isolated world you are trying to problem solve.  The more
others can see it, comment on it, be impressed by it, the better.  And
the less it is something contrived to teach a lesson, the more likely
it is that a lesson will be learned.

If our own world does not provide enough interesting opportunities for
programming, then why should everybody learn programming?  Actually
that is probably the biggest hurdle to teaching anyone programming,
inspiring them about what is possible.  Once inspired, you can hardly
stop them from learning.  We must answer "why should everybody learn
programming" for each person to whom we will say "you should learn

Stephen R. Figgins