[Edu-sig] a non-rhetorical question

Andy Judkis ajudkis at verizon.net
Sun Jul 8 06:04:14 CEST 2007

I've been out painting my house, so I have some catching up to do as well.

First, to respond to the post from Michael Tobis:
> Sorry, but I don't think you've successfully motivated your students
> if that is all they can do in a month. Let me hazard a suggestion.
> Rather than being too mabitious you are not being ambitious enough.

I thank Andre for coming to my defense, but I think Michael's on the right 
track. The problem is that I haven't found something sufficiently motivating 
to get these kids to climb the hill.  It's not that I haven't tried, but it 
hasn't worked out very well. I too try to get to graphics stuff as quickly 
as possible, but I think it isn't very meaningful without some control 
structure around it.  I use the livewires API because it's the simplest I've 
found, requiring the least foundation, but it still takes a while to get to 
where you can do much.

I've tried showing the kids VPython in the first week or two, and they think 
it's cool and can type stuff in but they have -no idea- what any of it 
means.  I have not thought of a way to use it as anything other than 

I would love to hear from someone who feels that they have a fairly 
successful high-school programming class. Specifically, I'd love to know in 
some detail what you cover in the first month.

To respond to Vern's post about the Head First book -  that is outstanding! 
I will be first in line to buy it.  I love the idea of Head First-style 
books in high schools, someday I'd like to write one myself :-)   To the 
extent that you're willing/permitted to talk about it, I'd be very 
interested in hearing about how you are presenting the material.  And if you 
need a class of guinea pigs, I can probably deliver.

To respond to Andrew Harrington's post:  It's very humbling to me to see how 
much thought people put into breaking the concepts down into pieces, and 
thinking about how to present them.  I thought I did a lot but this 
discussion has helped me to see how much I've overlooked.  My background is 
in engineering, not education, and I started teaching after 20 or so years 
in various aspects of industry, including quite a few years programming in C 
and Java.  Things that are intuitive are invisible -- it's hard for me to 
see what I'm really asking of the kids.  I'm learning, but not quickly 

To respond to John Zelle's post from a while back, about the complexity of 
some APIs interfering with kids learning the basics:  yeah, that's the 
problem -- keeping kids motivated while laying the foundation.   The parts 
that are necessary to provide the cool factor can obscure the real heart of 
the lesson.

I'm seriously thinking about using Scratch rather than Python, for just that 
reason -- the cool factor is built-in, it's as accessible as "if" or 


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