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Re: [seul-edu] Language to teach 10 year olds

Hmm ...

 It seems to me that if one 
> is going to be teaching the basis of computer programming, i.e. logic, 
> then letting them concentrate 100% of their time and effort on 
> understanding logic would be the best introduction of all.

I am almost 180 degrees diametrically opposed to this position. I don't
know if you're a practicing primary teacher or not, but I simply cannot
imagine sitting 10 year olds down for classes in formal logic as a prelude to 
teaching them programming.

In my view, programming is about tinkering, trying things, learning from 
experience in the course of attempting to achieve a concrete real life 
goal ... in other words, what real programmers do.

> Creating a program that visually represents what a computer program 
> does, and which gradually moves them from the tangible world around them 
> to the abstract world of computer languages seems to be the best method 
> I can think of to teach programming.

Just jump in and solve a real world problem ... 
"Look, if you type this here then that happens there ..."
"Cool! What about if I do this instead? .... "

> Here's an example of what I mean:
> In the first stages, the student could be doing something like an 
> assembly line; they have to get all the machines on the line running 
> correctly, in the correct positions on the assembly line, and then run 
> it.  During these early stages, simple if/then logic trees could be 
> introduced and reinforced.  Later, add on for loops, switches, etc.  
> Each successive 'level' of the program could introduce another logic 
> concept, and then reinforce them through tangible situations that 
> students can visualize.
> Once they mastered the ideas in a tangible way, then the program could 
> introduce the same ideas in the abstract.  Introducing the if/then 
> statement as an abstract idea representing something they are already 
> familiar with.  Instead of using something tangible, like a faucet or a 
> light switch, they   would actually be using the statement to do 
> something tangible.
> This would be a perfect preface to a programming language.  Instead of 
> having to understand the concepts behind programming as well as trying 
> to master the syntax, they can concentrate on learning the syntax.

OK, now that I've read on I can see some merit in what you're saying.
But I would see this stage as a small and relatively minor part of a total
programming curriculum. The quicker students moved to activities that
more closely approximated the real life work of programmers (which we are 
attempting to induct them into) the better. That means getting their hands
dirty with solving real problems with real tools. I don't believe in the 
childist arguments that children always need to be sheltered from the real
world with watered-down 'kids versions' of things.


Michael Hall
ph/fax (+61 8) 8953 1442
ABN 94 885 174 814