Teaching programming concepts to kids

Jesse Stay jesse at thestays.org
Sat Nov 11 10:20:10 MST 2006

I've been teaching my 6-year old daughter Logo through
http://www.logowiki.net.  She absolutely loves it, and is now trying
to teach my 4-year old son what she now knows how to do.


On 11/11/06, Michael Torrie <torriem at chem.byu.edu> wrote:
> Recent discussion on Java's merits got me thinking.  I recently read an
> article, entitled "Why Johnny Can't Code[1]," which I thought was
> interesting, but I'm not sure if his points really are valid.  But I
> came across a little project on freshmeat the other day called BASIC-256
> [2] that makes me really think.  BASIC-256 teaches BASIC in an
> interactive way (but without line numbers and forced spaghetti).  Now
> whether or not BASIC is a good language for this is irrelevant.  But the
> thing that got me thinking was that this kind of simple, integrated,
> immediate environment just isn't really done much anymore.  Sure I could
> fire up Eclipse (or visual studio) and teach kids to program, but the
> entire burden of project management (which is probably 50% of what real
> programmers do in the real world) takes away from the simple joys of
> learning how to program.  Many of us probably grew up with our first
> exposure to programming being the BASIC interpreter on our original
> Apple II or IBM PC (well those my age or older).  When I was in 6th
> grade, Borland was in their hayday with this new fangled thing called an
> IDE.  They were simple by todays standards, and even though they had a
> compile step, they were almost as interactive as the old interpreters.
> QuickBASIC did have completely interactive capabilities where you could
> call functions you had just defined and do all kinds of testing (sounds
> like python doesn't it).  The integrated debugger in the Borland IDEs
> worked very well and I learned how to step my code and watch variables.
> My first step away from spaghetti-land was with Borland's TurboBASIC
> which brought all the advantages of Pascal to BASIC, and left out some
> of the things i always hated about Pascal.  Later I taught myself C and
> C++ with Turbo C++ 3.0 (great IDE).
> Anyway, our modern IDEs are similar to what Borland started, but way to
> complicated to get a young child started on, in my opinion.  I think
> bringing back integrated, interpreted, immediate environments like
> BASIC-256  is a good idea.  The Logo environment is also great.  Seems
> to me our modern languages such as Java, C#, C++ don't lend themselves
> well to a 5 year old (which is when I started programming).  Python just
> might, though, except that a 5-8 year old may not always understand the
> concept of white space.  And I do think it is important to first teach
> procedural programming first.  OOP and event-driven are great, but as
> the computer itself is procedural, if we want to teach budding computer
> scientists how computers actually work inside, we need to start on
> procedural programming (and polling), then probably event-driven (help
> them understand interrupt-driven stuff), and then introduce them to
> other artificial abstractions that they will eventually use exclusively.
> Any thoughts?
> Michael
> [1] http://www.salon.com/tech/feature/2006/09/14/basic/index_np.html
> [2] http://kidbasic.sourceforge.net/
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