[Edu-sig] Age groups

Dave Demko daved@empiricdesign.com
Fri, 11 Feb 2000 09:17:55 -0500

For what it's worth, I gave my 8-year-old son his first taste of Python with
the proven "steal this code" approach. We started with a working Tkinter
script with buttons calling a function that displayed text in a widget. He
already could read and do basic on-screen editing (typing, copy-and-paste).
We didn't discuss concepts like scope and parameter passing, but just
started copying and modifying code. Soon he was changing the widget colors
and printing his own messages to the screen.

I think the lesson is that Piaget was right: make the material conform to
the student's cognitive developmental level. For 8-10 year olds, that means
keeping things concrete and emphasizing the "how" over the more abstract
"why." You might say they start off more as language users than programmers
(in the same way that I'm a computer user and not a chip designer). Children
at this age are not ready for abstractions, but they learn well by seeing
things work. Treat the program as a machine, and let the students adjust the
input and watch the output change. The quick code-and-run cycle with Python
helps qu ite a lot in this regard.

Dave Demko
Empiric Design, Inc.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Dustin James Mitchell" <djmitche@cs.uchicago.edu>
To: "Edu-Sig" <edu-sig@python.org>
Sent: Friday, February 11, 2000 1:07 AM
Subject: Re: [Edu-sig] Age groups

> On Fri, 4 Feb 2000, John Glossner wrote:
> > > >   2) Early Education (5-7 year old)
> > >
> > > I think it's still to early to teach kids who can't read programming.
> > >
> > My just barely 6 year old is fully able to read.
> > She is also extremely computer literate.
> But she is by far the exception, not the rule.  I think that a core part
> of the CP4E curriculum is that it brings to the educational table a piece
> of the equality that is so unique to the online world.  We need to target
> all students, not just the bright ones.  And hitting them with programming
> involving reading at 6 (Kindergarten) will blow away the vast majority of
> kids.
> > > >   3) Elementary Education (8-10 year old)
> > >
> > > You can start here. The concept of variables, lists and functions can
> > > be explained. Dictionairies too, I think. Classes will probably be
> > > for the very smart ones.
> > >
> > I can tell you from experience that it is very difficult
> > to keep their interest. My son complains why does he have
> > to learn this binary arithmetic stuff. Why can't I just
> > make Ash's Pokemon battle Gary? And let's talk about the
> > current literature available to them. It is impossible
> > for them to take any of the Python books and just start
> > reading them. There is too much background that they
> > assume. These books are excellent for programmers but
> > not ok for kids.
> Why does he have to learn binary arithmetic?  For the most part, Python is
> high-level enough that bits are irrelevant..
> However, as for books, I wholeheartedly agree.  I learned BASIC from some
> book with lots of worksheets in it and clowns and cute decorations all
> over it.  So long ago I can't remember what the name was.  But it worked!
> Dustin
> ---------------------------------------------------------------------
> |                         Dustin Mitchell                )O(        |
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