[Edu-sig] Don't kids program anymore?

Darren Payne inxdr at yahoo.com.au
Sun Apr 30 12:32:33 CEST 2006

note that even the geeks?those
> who voluntarily choose 
> to major in hard sciences?enter university never
> having programmed a 
> computer. When I was in grade six, the Commodore PET
> came out, and I 
> jumped at the opportunity to learn how to program
> it. Now, evidently, most 
> high school computer classes are about Word (tm) and
> Excel (tm). Is this a 
> bad thing? Should we care?" Do you think the desire
> to program computers 
> has declined in the younger generations? If so, what
> reasons might you 
> cite as the cause?"

I am not surpised at this. I have noticed this trend
for at least three years now. Kids (in Australia at
least) are into multimedia and GAMES. They can see the
importance of being a competent user of technology -
hence the growth in more general ICT (information &
communications technology) elements in all subject
areas. THis should not be denigrated - it is a simple
fact of life in our modern information age.

Re programming - kids want to PLAY GAMES most of all!
Many would like to program their own games ... but do
not wish to put in the time/ effort neccessary to
develop the level of skill required. 
In addition, programming ... as many of us in this
list know it ... is primarily CONSOLE BASED - by this
I mean you spend alot of time entering text on a
screen to run the thing to get more text on the screen

THis is why so many schools (once again in Australia)
teach VB. THe VB GUI is sooo good and allows students
to create REAL LIVE Windows programs with pull down
menus, dialogue boxes etc with very little effort (and
no understanding). But even this is putting many kids
off know - a - days - the kids don't like the
"business world" feel of it all or the preponderance
of business problems that many teachers tend to favour
(yes me too :)). 
Like I said at the start kids want games, fun and
multimedia - colour, music and animation / video.
I tried to get a class into PyGame two years ago - but
even this requires such a large amount of background
skill and knowledge. Since then I have moved to
GameMaker (take a look and you will see why kids love
it! gamemaker.nl).

I said on this list about two or three years ago -
Python (and all "fringe" languages) need to become
like VB in terms of the IDE - if it doesn't it simply
will not be taken up in schools.

On a separate tack - I have TWO students in the whole
school of 960, who are now in yr12, who just love to
program and want to learn everything they possibly can
about programming. I can show these kids any language
and they go for it wholeheartedly simply because they
have a passsion for this area of human endeavour. In
yr7 they were into basic, blitzbasic and darkbasic -
over the years I have encouraged their development in
Python, Haskel and Prolog ... and in every one of
these they know far far more than I ever will.


Darren Payne 
Hurlstone Agricultural High School 
Ph: 9829 9222 Fax: 98292026


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