[Edu-sig] Programming for everybody for non-CS purposes

Bruce Sherwood bas@andrew.cmu.edu
Sun, 06 Feb 2000 16:10:20 -0500

I really liked what Dave Scherer said about computing for everybody, which
is the flavor of CP4E that interests me. I have nothing against improving
CS education, it's just not all there is in the world, and apparently
there's no shortage of people interested in working on that. The CP4E issue
goes beyond issues of teaching programming and computer science.

One of Dave's examples was "if educators could write educational
software..." In the history of educational software at the college level,
many theorists claimed that the ideal development model was for faculty to
feed pedagogical ideas to programmers to implement. This was supposed to
provide the efficiency and quality of the industrial production line, with
useful division of labor. But mostly it led to mediocre materials, produced
at very high cost (due to the inefficiencies of communication between
educators who didn't understand the medium and programmers who didn't
understand education).

Where possible, it is much better for the people most concerned to be able
to do the programming themselves, with the programmers providing the tools
to make that feasible.

Years ago the theorists pooh-poohed having faculty themselves write
educational software with the sarcastic analogy, "You obviously wouldn't
want to waste a professor's time on typesetting a textbook." This sarcasm
was tool-conditioned: now the tools permit professors to typeset their own
textbooks. It's a lot of work, but having total control of the production
process is terrific and can lead to higher quality. (Actually, it used to
be a lot of work anyway dealing with editors and illustrators and
typewritten drafts and secretaries and...)

Bruce Sherwood