Archive for February 25, 2010

A Computing Education Debate in CACM

The March 2010 Communications of the ACM (CACM) includes publication of two Blog@CACM pieces, a sort of point-counterpoint.  CACM published my piece about “How we teach computer science is wrong,” where I argued that dumping students in front of a speeding compiler is not the best way to ramp students up into computing, and that we might think about instructional design mechanisms liked worked examples.  CACM also published Judy Robertson’s piece “Introductory Computer Science Lessons — Take Heart!” where she argued that what we actually do introductory computing actually has the right pieces that good instructional design research recommends.  When I heard that they were going to publish these two pieces together, I thought it was a great idea.

The title they chose was, “Too much programming too soon.”  I think it’s really about the definition of “programming.” I do think a novice facing an empty edit buffer in an IDE is an awful and scary way to get started with computing.  However, I deeply believe that programming is a wonderful part of computer science, but programming more broadly than “Debugging a blank sheet of paper.” It’s creative, powerful, awesome, and often surprising.  There are lots of ways of getting started with programming that are much less scary, such as Squeak Etoys, Alice, and Scratch.  I also think that we should explore reading examples, modifying existing code, debugging code, and new kinds of activities where students do limited text programming, some form of “reduced cognitive load” activities.  We need broader definitions of what “programming” means.

February 25, 2010 at 10:36 pm 11 comments

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