[Edu-sig] On case sensitivity

Dustin James Mitchell djmitche@cs.uchicago.edu
Thu, 10 Feb 2000 20:44:13 -0600 (CST)

On Fri, 4 Feb 2000, Kirby Urner wrote:

> If case sensitivity is a big problem for non-CS Alice programmers, my
> first response would be to front load the intro with plenty of
> warnings to students that they'll likely introduce bugs by forgetting
> about such sensitivity.  But I wouldn't make the sensistivity go away
> necessarily, as this would encourage laziness and bad habits.

This sounds reasonable, and in truth I agree, but there are many such
issues that we would 'front load', and they all contribute to the
learning curve on the first day of class.  However, after a week or so,
most students are comfortable with such things.  Perhaps, rather than
change the language, we should devise some system wherein the early
examples and assignments can be made all-lower-case to ease the burden on
the users (just don't capitalize anything!) and later more advanced
capitalization can be introduced.

I also think that debugging is a VERY VERY VERY important part of learning
to program.  As programmers, all of us are aware that we spend at least
50% of our time debugging our programs.  As a novice user, with only a
shallow comprehension of the program, debugging can be an extremely
daunting task.  So far (and I'm only on message 40 of 126) I haven't heard
a thing about it.

Mr. Rossum's ideas about building lots of intelligence into IDLE to catch
syntax errors and notify the user in an appropriate manner will help here.
But we should also be sure to include in the lesson plans a section on
"what can go wrong" -- discuss infinite loops, off-by-one, etc. and
perhaps do some in-class demonstrations of the debugging process.


|                         Dustin Mitchell                )O(        |