[Edu-sig] General Programming Education

kirby urner kirby.urner at gmail.com
Fri Jul 15 07:51:05 CEST 2011

On Thu, Jul 14, 2011 at 8:20 PM, Corey Richardson <kb1pkl at aim.com> wrote:

<< SNIP >>

> But, my real question to you educators is, which paradigm do you use when
> first teaching programming, and why? My peers cite OOP because, frankly,
> it's the only thing they've learned and have heard that e.g. procedural
> programming is bad. Personally, I like to use procedural (this is in
> Python, of course) for as long as possible. I don't even mention objects
> for a while, they aren't necessary or even desirable in many instances.
> I love using games as a project, and that's when I swoop in and bring up
> objects. My segue are usually the monsters of a text based game. I don't
> have them design an object for everything because it introduces complexity
> without benefit. Of course, it's not as flexible/correct a program as it
> could be, but it's a nice slow ease into OOP. But it certainly isn't the
> ONLY paradigm out there, and certainly not the most useful for everything.
> Any other insights?
> --
> Corey Richardson
>  "Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves"
>     -- Abraham Lincoln
I like the Lincoln quote.

Many approaches have validity of course, especially in the hands
of someone experienced who keeps it interesting.

When I first splashed into programming, OOP had yet to hit, but
it wasn't like there wasn't already a veritable menagerie of amazing
languages -- even sans OOP.

Like, we had SNOBOL and APL and PL/1 (just a few I got to mess
around in).

I transitioned to OOP along the xBase track, as many did:
dBase II, dbase III, dBase IV, Clipper, FoxPro, FoxPro for
Windows, and Visual FoxPro (VFP).

Some of my peers along that track are just beginning to appreciate
Python, now that Microsoft has signaled it's pulling the plug on


The J community (J being a successor to APL (or a mutant
child of?)) uses a grammar-teaching approach to teaching
programming, referring to verbs, nouns, adverbs, other parts
of speech as parts of its language.


Following that model, I sometimes teach OOP by writing
things like:


and so on, deliberately confusing "parts of speech" talk with the
OOPy stuff.  Then I teach looking at the world that way, not using
a computer language.  What are the properties and behaviors
of a flower?  A panda?  Analyze an airport in terms of its objects
and processes.  Come back to computers when you're ready,
take your time.

But then when I can get away with it, my topic is not "programming"
or "CS" but a more exotically named "digital math" or (last year)
"martian math".  In the more formal presentations, the latter is
a topic area within the former:


In this approach, you want to develop an awareness of types
(types of things -- like types of biotum) and their respective
namespaces.  This dovetails with Carl's focus on objects
before classes.

A "list" is a convergence of many concepts, a "dict" is another,
an "int" yet another and so on.  A "type" is not just a simple
thing.  Knowing about types helps us learn about math,
with its concentric N, Z, Q, R and C types.

In treating computer languages as math notations, we're
treading somewhat in the footsteps of Russell and Frege (etc.),
except we're using Stallman type tools for building our
machinery, more than the tools of the so-called analytic
philosophers (Quine etc.)


@ Pacific Lutheran University (PLU)
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