[Edu-sig] Nat's report from NZ (OSCON follow-up)

kirby urner kirby.urner at gmail.com
Mon Jul 28 21:26:49 CEST 2008

So per this post to Math Forum I'm taking pretty seriously this
feedback from New Zealand, Nat Torkington reporting (during a
keynote), regarding what works and what doesn't in CP4E and/or P4E


Discoveries:  robots are lame, Logo blows, scratch.mit.edu followed by
process.org makes a good pipeline.

Of course some kids love robots, likewise turtles, so none of this
makes sense without a goal up front, which in Nat's case was "training
future hackers".

Why I take Nat this seriously is it's hard to imagine a more
personable geek with better people skills, what it takes to be an
O'Reilly conference chair I'd imagine.  So I can factor out a lot of
the ego I'd expect from more biased and/or blinded individual.

In the end, I sensed a willingness to make peace with robotics,
provided the stuff works better, isn't crap.

His argument was they'll pour on the hours, delaying gratification in
ways only kids can, only to have the assembly not work as advertised,
through for no apparent fault in construction i.e. they did all the
steps, and still a no go.  Too complicated, gets ugly.

Per my Chicago talk (showmedo etc.), I'm not working with the same
demographic in terms of age (could be New Zelanders -- as when working
with Bernie **), am more focused on an older set, with stronger math
skills thanks to earlier teachers.

Why he didn't like Logo is it demands too much "degree-angle"
thinking, all those 30-60-90 conventions, which eight year olds maybe
don't have, thanks to withholding such material until much later (when
learning to read a clock is when it should start, in conjunction with
discussions about the Earth's spinning, i.e. 1st & 2nd grades, 24 hour
dial clocks good to have handy).

By the time students get to Python, I think we can assume "clock
arithmetic" (another name for modulo arithmetic) and at least an
inkling of what's in the math module, if not cmath (come later, as we
navigate through NQRC).  My only competition, at this level, are
calculators on the low end, Mathematica / MathCad on the high end
(Matlab isn't competition, given how Python and Matlab inter-operate

sociality.tv might be going with ML (?), plus Ruby is strong with some
of my Saturday Academy geeks, but I'm not too worried about the fate
of our snake, even though Nat poked fun at its cryptic error messages
(again, Guido never claimed 8 year olds were his target audience when
inventing this creature).

Per a conversation with Steve Holden, I go "everything is a snake in
Python" in my intro, because I use "snake" to mean "generic object" --
because of all the __ribs__ (special names).  Per rms, hackers like
these kinds of jokes, even if they're not recursive in nature (not
saying this one isn't -- kinda like the joke in 'Cars' (everything is
a car in 'Cars', even the bugs)).


** Bernie Gunn, geochemist par excelance:

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