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*Practical* HS projects (was Re: [seul-edu] Language to teach 10 year olds)

On Monday 16 July 2001 05:05am, Chris Hedemark wrote:
> The key thing I think the more academically minded are missing, IMHO, is
> that these aren't CS majors we're talking about but grade school children.
> Theory is useless.  Practical applications are what will pay real money
> when the kids are out of school.
> I occaisionally hire high school students for some programming work. 
> Nobody is going to get a job with smalltalk or some other classroom-only
> language as their core competency.  Show me strength in perl, python, C,
> tcl, etc. if you want to actually have an after-school job, summer job, or
> half-day mentorship during the school year.

I have actually been think a lot about this lately, and your post inspired me 
to"fork" this thread ;-)

I was thinking that practical technical experience in HS would be a wonderful 
thing. When I was in HS, I took an "Applied Physics" course. This course was 
truthfully a front for an arcade game repair shop (and the teacher actually 
sold the fixed machines. Unethical? Perhaps ;-) We were taught simple 
electronics, and set about repairing these old arcade games. In spite of the 
morally questionable motives of our teacher, I actually learned an awful lot 
and really enjoyed the class.

My point of mentionning this is that it taught me a lot of the skills I use 
today. I may not be an electrical engineer, but the problem solving, logic, 
critical thinking, etc. I learned there was invaluable. I feel that even if 
kids don't become computer programmers, they can learn a lot of these same 
general-purpose mental skills that I did from being exposed to programming 
without dilluting their tasks too much.

So what I was thinking would be a great way to 1) give students "real world" 
computer programming experience, 2) involve them in something that can 
actually be fun [repairing and testing arcade machines was /very/ fun], and 
3) involve them in something which has a rather loose schedule [which better 
fits the HS teaching model where the students are already so busy] would be 
to involve the students in an open-source/free-software project.

For example, I am the project manager for Tux Typing (educational typing 
game, yadda yadda). My project is already very mature, yet we are constantly 
in need of people willing to contribute code to our project. Much of the 
"grunt" coding or testing/debugging work we have could easily be done by 
students as they are learning basic C. Thus a project such as mine could 
benefit greatly from student involvement, while the students learn and gain 
practical experience at the same time.

Also, I am certain that there are other open-source/free-software project 
managers out there who would feel the same.

Anyway, just a thought. I know this may not apply to 10 year olds (as was the 
original topic), but it certainly can apply to older students (heck, even 
college age students could benefit from something like this).

Sam "Criswell" Hart <criswell@geekcomix.com> AIM, Yahoo!: <criswell4069>
Homepage: < http://www.geekcomix.com/snh/ >
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