[Edu-sig] How do we tell truths that might hurt

Anna Ravenscroft anna at aleax.it
Thu Apr 22 12:27:01 EDT 2004

On Thursday 22 April 2004 17:17, John Zelle wrote:

> So, start with Python, keep things concrete as long as possible, use
> abstraction as it becomes necessary and useful, and let the students
> have fun. That's the road to universal computer literacy. Comments?

The nicest thing about Python, imho, is that it works well with teaching 
algorithmic thinking. It cuts to the necessary parts of actually getting 
things done, without adding excess baggage. 

I just wanted to mention - in case my discussion with Art somehow obscured my 
message - I have no issue with using math as part of teaching programming. My 
concern is when the entire course has gone by without (as happened to me back 
in college) mentioning that programming is useful for things *besides* math, 
and that you don't have to be a wizard to use it for those other things. I 
can easily see myself having spent the past 20+ years programming regularly, 
instead of dumping it until a year and a half ago - IF I had known. 

Would I have ever become a CS major? No. But would I have used programming  
more extensively in my life? Yes. It isn't *always* about the big 20,000 line 
programs - for something large and complex, I'll get someone who does it for 
a living - just as I get a mechanic to fix the transmission on my car. But, I 
shouldn't have to pay the mechanic just to check the oil, change a tire, or 
replace a headlight. And I shouldn't have to hire a programmer just to do a 
simple 20-line program that makes my life easier.

The fact that I *can* do these things (both with the car and with the 
computer) improves my life - and also makes it easier on the professional I 
talk to about those big jobs, because I have a better idea what they're 
talking about and what kind of information they need to do their job 


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