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Education Java Programming

Programming Is Heading Back To School 169

Posted by Soulskill
from the hook-'em-young dept.
the agent man writes "Researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder are exploring what it takes to systematically get programming back to public schools. They have created a game-design-based curriculum, called Scalable Game Design, using the AgentSheets computational thinking tool. Annual summer institutes train middle school teachers from around the USA to teach their students computational thinking through game design and computational science simulations. What's truly unique about this is that it is not an after-school program; it takes place during regular school courses. Entire school districts are participating with measurable impacts, increasing the participation of women in high school CS courses from 2% six years ago to 38-59% now. Educators would like to be able to ask students, 'Now that you can make Space Invaders, can you also make a science simulation?' To explore this difficult question of transfer, the researchers devised new mechanisms to compute computational thinking. They analyze every game submitted by students to extract computational thinking patterns and to see if students can transfer these skills to creating science simulations."
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Programming Is Heading Back To School

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Why?

    Programming should be a college-level course, for those who want to go into the field. If a high school wants to offer an AP class, swell. But I just don't see the need to waste nonprofessionals' time by teaching them perishable skills they will not use.

    I simply can't explain why an average student needs to know this. Whatever they're taught, unlike English or math, will be obsolete inside a decade. I'd be thrilled if Mom knew that USB ports were pretty much interchangeable (thank you USB 2.0, 3.0, and

    • by Toksyuryel (1641337) on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @06:46PM (#36443460)

      Everyone should learn how to program, because knowing how to program gives you total power over your computer. You can only say you truly control your computer when you can use programming to make it do anything you want it to do; otherwise you are at the mercy of software vendors that seek to take that control away from you.

      • by icannotthinkofaname (1480543) on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @08:31PM (#36444514) Journal

        Everyone should learn how to program, because knowing how to program gives you total power over your computer.

        Well, that's a stupid reason to learn programming. Do you also only think as far ahead as the next fiscal quarter? Do you only have plans to do work tomorrow, with no clue as to what your assignment in two days might be? Are you looking further ahead into the future of your living space than just next month's rent/mortgage payment? Or is programming the only thing about which you think in such small and short terms?

        Sure, power over a set of hardware is a nice immediate benefit of learning computer programming. But computer programming is so much more than that. Anyone can throw a python script together. Anyone can leak memory like crazy in C. But to wield that control over hardware in a way that accomplishes a useful purpose requires a good deal of ingenuity and (occasionally) a touch of magic.

        Teaching school-age children computer programming necessarily also entails teaching them to think differently. It teaches them to break a task down into its constituent steps. It teaches them to know exactly what they are doing and to know that they know exactly what they are doing. These are life skills that are useful to very nearly anybody, even if they don't use it to control their own hardware. The ones who want to learn it will learn to think as they must, and even the ones who memorize it for the exam will have to retain some of the skills that are necessary to write a program that does nothing more than start, do an arithmetic operation, and exit. The ones who do not learn this will simply fail the class.

        This ideal is why programming should be taught in schools. There is so much more benefit than just bending a few digital logic gates to your will.

        • by narcc (412956)

          Teaching school-age children computer programming necessarily also entails teaching them to think differently.

          Damn Apple fanboys!

          All kidding aside, I couldn't agree with you more. You don't teach kids computer programming so that they can all go out and write computer programs. Well, you put it best:

          It teaches them to break a task down into its constituent steps. It teaches them to know exactly what they are doing and to know that they know exactly what they are doing. These are life skills that are useful to very nearly anybody, even if they don't use it to control their own hardware.

          It's all about critical thinking and reasoning. Just about every educator I know claims that they "integrate critical thinking skills" into their lessons -- but I've yet to find one who can articulate how. It's more "the right thing to say" than something that they actual do. By teaching computer programming, we hav

          • Damn Apple fanboys!

            All kidding aside, I couldn't agree with you more.

            Thanks. All kidding aside, for the record, I hate Apple as much as the next Slashdotter. Linux FTW, damn Apple's tyranny, and all that.

            Seriously, anyone who's gonna pay $99 per year just to get the iDevTools deserves to have whatever they want posted to the App Store. And screw the whole "Unix for people who don't need a computer" thing.

      • by CastrTroy (595695)
        Yes, except they should be taught programming as it applies to them, not game programming. Start off with teaching them how to use Excel and basic functions (sum, avg) and move on to some VB Script. Then move on to Access, and some database design with SQL and VB Script. You could then take the same skills and expand on them as needing, moving outside the office suite, making your own GUI. Just think about how much more productive the office would be if everybody understood a little basic computer program
        • by chrismcb (983081)
          I am pretty sure games apply to teenagers a LOT more then Excel and basic functions do.
          This isn't about teaching them how to do something. It is about getting them excited to want to do it.
        • by sg_oneill (159032)

          This is about teaching kids. I learned to program as a nine year old , hacking away on a "Dick Smith Wizard" 4k computer and a Basic cartridge trying to figure out how to make games. It crash coursed me on some basic maths that put me on a flying start when we started algebra in highschool , and set me up with a life-long interest in math and computing that 25 years later earns me a pretty decent wage. That whole concept of "Can't fix your computer? Ask your kids" started with our generation, and it was ALL

      • by bcrowell (177657)

        Everyone should learn how to program, because knowing how to program gives you total power over your computer. You can only say you truly control your computer when you can use programming to make it do anything you want it to do; otherwise you are at the mercy of software vendors that seek to take that control away from you.

        This is completely unrealistic. Many people don't even know how to *use* a computer, or even how to type on a qwerty keyboard.

        It's also completely unnecessary. Programming skills have nothing to do with being at the mercy of Evil Software Vendors. When I install ubuntu on a new machine, here is the list of packages I install, all of them open source:

        fluxbox fluxconf menu feh numlockx aterm mg bluefish gedit texlive-full tipa ispell tex4ht dvipng ssed inkscape gimp imagemagick pdftk xpdf autotrace potrace g

      • by hairyfeet (841228)

        And you sir should learn how to design and build automobiles, otherwise those nasty engineers get to decide what kind of car you should drive! Oh and with all the low level "code jockey" jobs being offshored this is about as smart as teaching them to be factory workers don't ya think?

        As someone that knows BASIC (and later VB) because that was the only way to interact with a computer at the time let me say that particular "skill" has been about as useful over the years as being able to whistle through my eye

    • by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @06:47PM (#36443476) Journal

      Learning to program isn't just about learning the language. It's about conceptualizing and problem solving. Those aren't perishable skills.

      • by RobDude (1123541) on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @08:44PM (#36444612) Homepage

        I hear this argument a lot. X isn't just about X, it's about all this other stuff that it sorta kinda addresses too.

        I think the question really needs to become, 'Does X teach other important stuff *better* than all of these other things we could cover?' I'm sure there are Shop teachers that would argue building a bird house or fixing a car teaches problem solving.

        You can learn a lot playing Monopoly or Checkers or Chess or Dungeons and Dragons or watching TV or studying math or programming or working in a factory. I'm not sure that programming really does a better job of teaching 'problem solving' than many other things. Procedural programming, particularly at an introductory level, doesn't seem like it would do a good job. Algorithmic programming, sure, but to get to that point you need to cover the basics and then, most of the time, I think you could have the same educational experience focusing on the problem and math to solve it.

        • by IICV (652597)

          I'm not sure that programming really does a better job of teaching 'problem solving' than many other things. Procedural programming, particularly at an introductory level, doesn't seem like it would do a good job

          Oh god it does. You're just speaking from the perspective of someone who already knows how to program, and probably hasn't tried to help someone else struggle through the process.

          Look, fundamentally, in order to program in a procedural language, you must be able to come up with a procedure. In order

          • by Toonol (1057698)
            And then, when it comes time for them to create their own causal chains, when it comes time for them to put 5 into x and then print it out on the screen, they are utterly lost - they have no idea what the immutable will of the Universe is in this case, so they just guess. And then sometimes it works, hallelujah amen, and sometimes it doesn't and they'll never know why.

            That's very eloquently stated.

            Maria Montessori tells the story of a woman with a young child. The child had put their dirty shoes on
        • Well, in shop class or chemistry class children can be injured, however you can teach programming at a very early age (9-10 year olds).

        • by Xest (935314)

          Agreed, really the goal should be to spend more money on improving Math education in the West to make it more attractive, more interesting, and just generally taught to better standards.

          I'm a programmer, and have loved and lived computing most my life, but really, taking a maths degree was the best thing I ever did. It made learning and applying computer science stuff as well as many other things easier than ever.

          I agree with the GP that those abilities are important, but I agree with your point more that t

    • by jhoegl (638955)
      Agreed,
      If they wanted to focus on programming, there are two "basic" options... HTML with JavaScript and/or Visual Basic (HA, just kidding). I mean Access type databases (AP course for sure, not because of the easy programming and scripting, but because of the database concept).
    • by loufoque (1400831) on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @06:50PM (#36443510)

      You seem to have a completely distorted idea of what programming is.
      It has nothing to do with knowing the different kinds of USB plugs. It's knowing how to describe a calculation so that it can be automated by a machine.

      It's essentially applied math.

      • It's knowing how to describe a calculation so that it can be automated by a machine.

        I'd go further. It's about understanding your problem well enough to figure out how to *always solve it*.

        My example is Sudoku, mostly because a solver is the first nontrivial program I wrote. You need to understand the game on another level, and in an entirely different way, in order to find the answer to (effectively) all of them. "I know how to solve Sudoku puzzles" is not the same, and not nearly as powerful, as "I can solve *every* Sudoku puzzle". Making that leap from the specific to the general is wha

      • by Kjella (173770)

        If you want to go into higher computer science and such then yes it's very much applied math, but the basics of it is not. For example, understanding program flow, basic object management (how do we copy/move/reference information), loading and saving information, network communication and that sort of thing. I'm fairly sure you could teach a lot of practical programming without ever going far beyond primary school math. You could at least make it to basic business app level, connect to a database, select a

        • It's all about logic and structure, That also tends to help you understand math, but it's not math that makes you able to program.

          Sure it is.

          I mean, aside from the fact that all programs are, in fact, mathematical expressions, there's the fact that mathematical thinking is exactly what programming is. I'm not talking about O(n), I'm talking about logic, recursion, sets... Maybe basic calculus seemed really unrelated, but it seems like the more math I learn, the more closely related it is to the coding I've done.

          Like for example I've rewritten some really horrid SQL, I'm sure both Microsoft and Oracle has put tons of work in optimizing microseconds off the execution time...

          Even stuff like software engineering, though. Math, particularly trying to prove interesting things in abstract spaces, tryin

          • by Kjella (173770)

            I mean, aside from the fact that all programs are, in fact, mathematical expressions,

            This is a bit like saying psychology comes from brains consisting of neurons, neurons obey the laws of nature and those laws are applied math so psychology is applied math.

            there's the fact that mathematical thinking is exactly what programming is. I'm not talking about O(n), I'm talking about logic, recursion, sets.

            Sure but you hardly need a degree in math to understand how to loop through all items in a list, even if that is an extremely rudimentary application of math. How to structure a program isn't a deductive logic like developing theorems from axioms in math, design and structure is more informal logic that is argued not proven. I'll admit re

        • You seem to thinking that 'math' means 'the subset of mathematics that is of no practical use to anyone'. The mathematics that programming teaches you is a subset that has a lot of practical applications beyond programming, but that doesn't mean that it isn't mathematics.
      • This is a useful way to think of computing if you are a computer scientist or a mathematician. Most people however would be completely baffled if you asked them to give you a (informal) definition of computation. Most people would rarely mention something like finite state machines where computation is essentially "changing a state if you encounter a symbol", or even computation as symbol manipulation. Most have a rather narrow definition of computation as arithmetic, and would not recognize physical proces
    • The same reason the average persons should know that a toaster works by running current through some wire coils to heat up the bread. The same reason people should know how to do basic math without a calculator. Basic programming skills simply don't go out of date. Put a 70 year old FORTRAN programmer who's willing to learn in front of any modern language and they could be up to date in a matter of weeks. Knowing how your computer works, hell, just knowing that it isn't a magical box that is impossible

      • by bored (40072)

        That means a good base in all the essentials of modern society: language skills, math, science, computers, and yes, they should have some experience doing manual labor as well. At least then if they choose to enter the work force they'll know what they're getting themselves into.

        Well that is the intent, but good luck finding an electronics class, car repair, shop, or any number of other real life classes in a modern HS. Much less a proper economics, statistics, etc class. It is all reading,ritting and rithm

    • by hedwards (940851)

      In elementary school I had a friend from South Korea, he came here for fourth grade, and he had already had some schooling in Basic. Granted that's a God awful language to start with, but he wasn't that smart, comparatively speaking, but it's something that was available to him in elementary school.

      • by narcc (412956)

        Basic. Granted that's a God awful language to start with

        Why? It seems like a perfectly good language to start with to me.

    • by khallow (566160)

      But I just don't see the need to waste nonprofessionals' time by teaching them perishable skills they will not use.

      As Hatta noted [slashdot.org], these "perishable skills" include conceptualizing and problem solving.

      I simply can't explain why an average student needs to know this.

      Perhaps that is a symptom of how you view knowledge? Everything nontrivial we learn or do has some application outside the narrow confines of the knowledge or activity in question.

      I'd be thrilled if Mom knew that USB ports were pretty much interchangeable (thank you USB 2.0, 3.0, and high-power USB for wrecking that bit of simplicity, BTW). But she's scared to death that if she plugs something in wrong, hardware damage will result (thank you APC for making your "data port" [read: USB] connector the same as Ethernet instead of a USB B jack like God intended). And we're supposed to teach people like this programming? And expect it to stick? Give me a break.

      The obvious benefit is that if you succeed in this teaching, then they won't be "people like this." The number one lesson of technology is that you have to try stuff in order to learn how it works. Once you learn that, you might still be a techno

    • Your mom is in high school? I can see why you'd be jaded with life already if you are reading slashdot at age 4.
    • One in a million people need understand machine language.

      One i one a thousand need to understand a high level language.

      One in ten need to understand Excel macros.

      Everyone needs to have some understanding of how computers "think".

      One in ten get by with no knowledge.

      One in a thousand pay someone to look after all their computing needs.

      One in a million control the programs.

      One in a ten million control the architecture.

      Programming was a high-school level course as far back as the 1970s and, for many, it was at

    • Why?

      Programming should be a college-level course, for those who want to go into the field.

      Negative. I flipped an Apple IIe disk upside down on accident and began coding at the age of 8, in elementary school. Teacher was smart enough to find me a couple books on BASIC, and fortunately my step-father had a home computer -- MS DOS came with MS Quick BASIC, and a few simple games. Taking apart video games such as NIBBLES.BAS and GORILLAS.BAS jump started my programming career.

      For Christmas I got an expensive Borland C complier (on 24 5.25" floppies) -- I was selling software (shareware) by the

      • by RobDude (1123541)

        I'm not really sure if it's fair to assume other people would have your experience.

        I'm sure there is some rich, successful business man who has many millions of dollars who started his first lawn care business when he was 8. That doesn't mean the key to future generation's financial success is to make them all cut grass all day. There are plenty of entrepreneurial types who do what you've done, in other areas than computer software. And there are lots of people who study computer science and never make a

    • by syousef (465911)

      Why?

      . Whatever they're taught, unlike English or math, will be obsolete inside a decade. I'd be thrilled if Mom knew that USB ports were pretty much interchangeable

      1. I hope your mom is out of middle school. She belongs to a different generation which did deal with equipment that broke easily if you experimented without knowing what you're doing. She is not the intended audience.

      2. General programming and logic skills are no different to math and English. The underlying language with it's syntax and semantics may change, but the basic concepts of logical operators, iteration, conditional statements etc. apply to all procedural and object-oriented languages. Being able

    • by grumbel (592662)

      I simply can't explain why an average student needs to know this. Whatever they're taught, unlike English or math, will be obsolete inside a decade.

      The fundamentals of programming a computer have essentially not changed at all in quite a few decades. The only real difference between now and 30 years ago is that today you have more memory and CPU to waste and languages that do a bit of the stuff automatically that you used to manage manual. The core programming concepts are essentially the same.

    • Why?

      Presuming we're talking about electives (and I know *I* had slots for electives during the normal school day starting in Jr High in my schools) and not core required courses, then why not? Seriously, having as broad a base of electives available as possible can only be good.

      I'm pretty sure an "average student" didn't "need" the electives I took in Jr High or high school, but I'm certainly all the more well rounded as a result.

      I took the same view to my college electives as well, with my required humani

    • I would absolutely love to see well taught programming classes available in high school. Unfortunately, that is not going to happen until the schools get out of the ever-more-desperate race to meet the no child left behind standards.

      I originally supported the NCLB ideas. I was wrong.

    • by narcc (412956)

      Programming should be a college-level course

      Why? I'm willing to bet that a significant portion of this sites users we're writing BASIC programs on their micros before the age of 10.

      I also recall a number of studies in the 80's introducing computer programming to younger children via Logo.

      I just don't see the need to waste nonprofessionals' time by teaching them perishable skills they will not use.

      Don't be obtuse. Programming is a skill that is entirely separate from the language you used to learn it. Those skills ALSO transfer seamlessly to non-computer areas; I can think of no better way to teach critical thinking and reasoning than through computer program

    • by Toonol (1057698)
      The language will be obsolete, but so what? The language is not the important thing you learn from a programming class.

      What you learn is the concept of unambiguously breaking a process down into discrete steps. Abstracting a general behavior from a bunch of particulars. This is good for everybody to learn, even if they will never touch a computer again. It's valuable in nearly any job you're ever going to work.

      It certainly shouldn't be a university-level course; if you don't already know how to pr
  • Let K-5 and non-math-geniuses from 6-8 bring graphing calculators to school. Parents shouldn't care, since most kids will need one for later math classes anyway. The only people that would be bothered by this would be the teachers. Me and my friends would always play BASIC and ASM games on these devices during our free time in 7th grade algrebra. Later on, I eventually started reverse engineering games like phoenix, and, the amusingly-named, "pimp wars." It was good fun, and got me interested, which is real

    • by Anonymous Coward

      ...and who's going to be paying for that? The kids who can afford graphing calculators aren't the ones who need help here.

      Hell, I'm a comp sci major, from a somewhat wealthy family, and I never owned a graphing calculator...nor has anybody I know. Sure, we used them in highschool...but we borrowed them from the school. Those things are _way_ overpriced, and far too expensive to expect even that even a miniscule percentage of kids would be bringing their own to school, even if it was encouraged. What the hel

    • I had a friend in highschool who played "Drug wars" on his palm pilot. One day his mom was snooping on the palm pilot and found an itemized list of drugs, payments received, payments pending etc...

      Confusion and hilarity ensued.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Back 40 or 50 years ago working on cars was very popular and all school-age boys were building hot rods in their garage. There is less interest in building hot rods because it's harder to invent something in your garage which has not been done before without a team of people helping you. The same could be said with computers and programming.

    • by Anonymus (2267354)
      That's exactly the reason I went into programming. As a developer, it's possible for me to single-handedly create something revolutionary. Not just that, but I can do it with minimal resources, anywhere in the world. I may not ever do it, but at least it's possible. If I had gone into, for example, some sort of medical research, I would need to spend years working my way up through research positions, assuming it's even possible to find the positions anyway, and I'd be greatly limited by lab equipment s
    • Unfortunately, and ironically, computers are too prevalent in cars to really be able to do that nowadays. I knew two kids in HS a couple years back that were building hotrods, but they were building the same hotrods you were talking about - '70s Corvettes and GTOs and things. Modern cars are really too complex to take apart and fiddle with, unfortunately.

      • by russotto (537200)

        Unfortunately, and ironically, computers are too prevalent in cars to really be able to do that nowadays. I knew two kids in HS a couple years back that were building hotrods, but they were building the same hotrods you were talking about - '70s Corvettes and GTOs and things. Modern cars are really too complex to take apart and fiddle with, unfortunately.

        It's not really the computers are the problem; you can get replacement engine computers that can be programmed to change the timing and fuel injection if y

      • by bored (40072)

        Modern cars are really too complex to take apart and fiddle with, unfortunately.

        Bah, total BS. You can do plenty of fiddling on a modern car before you hit the electronics. Modern hot rod kids start by replacing headers, injectors, boost valves, etc. The computers all work around that, often to some advantage. Then you start buying alternate fuel/air maps, and other computer mods. There are even open source ECU mods and even open source ECU's. A quick google search like http://www.google.com/search?q=open+s [google.com]

  • It's funny that back when I was in high school in the early 80s and we were one of the few schools that had a PDP-11/44, an IMSAI 8080, and some TRS-80s, the head of the computer program got all pissy if he saw us writing game programs let alone playing games and now game software is a multi-billion dollar industry.

    • Multi-billion dollar industry or not, faculty members still get pissy if you use their computers to play games (unless it was the assignment).

  • Wasn't the consensus to outsource the actual work to China and save the Americans for the difficult work of being middle manager morons and sales cretins?
  • by Ex-MislTech (557759) on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @06:56PM (#36443604)

    I taught myself BASIC at 13, and Assembler at 14.

    I wanted to do it, but little else so college didn't work for me,
    so I dropped out.

    Later I saw that ti would shift to countries that can pay their
    coders less, and US firms went for it a great deal and or
    brought them to the US via one of the 73 different Visas.

    So while I am glad to see them do something for those
    with this desire, it came about 3 decades late for me.

    Good Luck to all the neo-serfs under the new world order.

    • by xaoslaad (590527)
      Maybe you should go finish school. Tne ability to write proper sentences is usually considered a valuable skill regardless of your profession.
    • I have a working (graphical) snake game I wrote in QBASIC (self-taught) saved from the month I turned 13 (the code is of course horrific). School didn't teach me any programming either (I self-taught a variety of languages though), until taking a university course in computer game programming. Fast forward to the present day, and I have one shipped PC/360/PS3 game on my resumé and am a year away from adding a PS3-exclusive to that.

      I live in the same economy as you, had the same opportunities. The diffe

  • NCLB (Score:2, Informative)

    by Black Parrot (19622)

    From what I've been told, most school districts have ditched whatever programming curriculum they once had because the standardized tests don't include it, so it's a distraction from "teach the test".

    • by hedwards (940851)

      You get what you test. You don't get what you don't test. It's a side effect of our deciding that we're way behind the rest of the world in general without actually bothering to do any investigation.

      The other aspect of it is that as more stuff gets crammed into the curriculum, something is going to be left out and that thing is always one of the items that's not on the tests.

      • by kenh (9056)

        Teachers distract parents when they start talking about 'teaching to the test' - the tests were designed as assessments, indicators of a schools progress, not an exhaustive, all-inclusive inventory of the only things students need to know.

        The tests are designed to identify weaknesses in the instruction, and by resorting to rote memorization and occasional cheating, issues in our public schools get buried under by standardized test scores.

        Standardized tests are so skewed now it's amazing - kids in my distric

    • Yes, if programming is an isolated activity done only in the computer class then this could be the result. But if one teaches more general notions such as computational thinking in a way that they become relevant to science, math and even art then computing education becomes a literacy relevant to many aspects of education. A crazy dream, you may comment, but for instance one of the school participating in the Scalable Game Design project has become THE US National Middle school of 2011 in part because they
  • by boast (1227952)
    My highschool offered programming as an elective. You either took it because you were interested or you didn't. Are they going to jump straight to openGL?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'd be happy to see an increased emphasis on teaching algorithms and data structures. But I'd be happier if students learned relational algebra. Microsoft Access or similar would be a perfect vehicle for this, not too big, not too small, easy to relate DDL to their input and output representations (i.e. forms and reports). It's not Access or SQL per se that's important, but the relational database concepts which you must learn to use the effectively. I know a bajillion programmers, and almost none of th

  • Until I read this article, I had totally forgotten that a teacher taught me Logo on primary school.

    So many memories, like the time I learned to replace words from a text, first we had to write a story with certain highly-uncommon words, and then they would be replaced for their synonyms (hilarity ensued!). And the time I saw an implementation of Battleship and I thought "Gosh, I'll never do that, it's too hard..."!

    It was easy to pass (we were six/seven years old after all), but it was my first contact with

  • by leftie (667677) on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @08:08PM (#36444312)

    My dear old great-grandmother had this saying from the old country. It went something like this..
    "$99 bucks per license per kid. Go Fuck Yourself!"

    I had a cool great grandmother. Like she said, this is exact reason charter schools and privatization of public schools is nothing but legalization of theft of public property.

    • "$99 bucks per license per kid. Go Fuck Yourself!"

      I wonder then what she would say at the cost of "traditional" textbooks.

    • by kenh (9056)

      Charter school typically cost less than 'traditional' schools, so I'm not sure how her "$99" saying relates...

      Charter schools do one thing most public schools do not - they put the children first - they are non-union. Don't think that makes a difference? Did student performance increase or decrease after tenure was introduced in your district? Given the choice between an 'out of control principal' firing teachers without cause (the teacher's union favorite justification for tenure) or a couple hundred teach

  • Had I been presented with an educational program based on games, I would have hated it.

    The very first program I wrote did real work that I needed done. All programs that I've written since then have also done real work. In this, I was assisted in this by the fact that I was a communication arts major and could choose my own path in learning computer science without the interference of an instructor. I went on to work at Pixar and to be credited in their films, and to be one of the founders of the Open Source movement in software, etc.

    I've never liked games very much, and to be able to do something real with the computer made it much more exciting.

    Not everybody learns the same way.

    • Will, to do real work they have to know the problem domain. And to be honest, writing games is more fun than writing a prime number seeking program.
      Also, one man's "real work" is another's useless fluff.

      P.S.:
      Since when does "a communication arts major" do real work?

    • by hairyfeet (841228)

      Not to mention as with every other class currently taught it will quickly become "teach to the test" where kids will spill off the same rote answers and will be actually "learning" in the same way one "learns" by memorizing a list. Should make a nice chunk o' change to the ones pushing the software, $99 a license? Nice job if you can get it.

      As someone who ended up homeschooling his kids because of "teach to the test" frankly schools would be better off if they taught a more rounded educational platform wit

      • We're not really educating from Washington. Shamefully, the "No Child Left Behind" act which is responsible for replacement of two weeks of education each year with testing which isn't returned to the student in time to do them any good, and for giving the most powerful push to schools to teach to the test, is the product of my former congressman out here in the San Francisco East Bay.

        Which brings up an important point. There is not some faceless enemy called "Washington" that does bad stuff to you from a d

        • by hairyfeet (841228)

          Must be nice to have choices where you are Mr Perens, where i'm at the choices are "rich corporate suckup in a blue suit" or "rich corporate suckup in a slightly darker blue suit". Every D we have elected turned out to be a DINO, every R turned out to be the same as the D. Where is the choice there? Even on the local level being on the meth highway your choices are "Guy already bought by the narcos" or "guy that will be bought by the narcos 3 minutes after election" again where is the choice?

          The simple fact

    • by ShakaUVM (157947)

      Mm, it doesn't have to be programming per se to teach fundamental concepts. I credit LogicWorks (is that the name) on the old Apple IIe to giving me a solid foundation of how to assemble complex AND / OR / NOT gates in the correct way.

      Robowars was a great way to learn programming too, as your code was directly used to hunt and kill your competitors... taught basic code concepts, interrupts, and so forth.

    • You did note that it is an education program for teachers, designed to give them material to teach to public school (primary / elementary and secondary school) level students, that is under 18.

      And because it is important to stress this point, this material is intended to be taught by teachers, not programmers, to any student. The goal of such a program should be basically to look behind the curtain [imdb.com] of prepackaged applications and understand the basics, in general terms, of how computer systems (hardware and

      • Children frequently engage in constructive play, or Lego would not be so popular. My 10 year old's favorite toy, right now, is an architectural CAD system that was intended for adult use. He found this himself and demanded that I buy it! He throws off houses and landscapes, complete with 3D rendering, on a daily basis.

        If you decompose play you can break it down into various motivators: social, competitive, entertainment, and constructive, and no doubt others. Nurturing that constructive urge is one of the m

  • Making up games in BASIC got me started on the path to a good career.

  • There will be a lot of disappointed programmers from this program when they get out into the real world and find 99% of the jobs are building programs to generate TPS reports.

  • Kalman will be proud. This is mad, I tell you, MAD!!!

  • They should consider using Gamemaker [yoyogames.com] instead as it's much more powerful and a lot cheaper (Free for Lite version and $40 for full version versus $120 for AgentSheets)
    • by oheso (898435)
      ... and it goes into an infinite launching loop if the school's filter is set to block games.
  • So, the obvious questions. So, the obvious questions, if you're going to claim this program brings in the girls and teaches programming skills: - Control group where as much time, money and effort was put into teaching programming with other attractive goals (e.g., video making vs games)? The control mentioned in the study is apples/oranges - They're figuring out if they are teaching programming by having the teachers examine the students' work to see if computational patterns are there. And how is this
  • I can't believe that in the mid-80s classes in Basic, the IBM PC, Apple II and even C programming were available in high school. Today? Not a chance. The same downsizing of the traditional trades was another idiotic maneuver.
  • Our tech teacher designed this type of approach 3yrs ago and its a popular class. Using Gamemaker software gets kids into the class who might not go for straight up programming. The path is: Game Design 1, Game Design 2, then Java. At that point students can continue on to advanced Java projects that they define themselves. The other neat thing we do is in the Game Design 2 class there is is 1 large project - students form into teams of 3 and then they are matched to 1 or 2 Art students. They learn to work

  • I am a strong fan of teaching creative things like programming in a project based way. It does not matter if they write a VB script which simplifies their lifes, a small web-spider which searches trough the local school web page or program a small game, whatever they like. Teachers just just make sure its doable and assist if help is needed.

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