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Programming Education

Excite Kids To Code By Focusing Less On Coding 207

Posted by Soulskill
from the or-by-bribing-them-with-candy dept.
the agent man writes "The Hour of Code event taking place December 9-15 has produced a number of tutorials with the goal to excite 10 millions kids to code. It's really interesting to contrast the different pedagogical approaches behind the roughly 30 tutorials. The University of Colorado's 'Make a 3D Game' tutorial wants to excite kids to code by focusing less on coding. This pedagogy is based on the idea that coding alone, without non-coding creativity, has a hard time attracting kids who are skeptical of computer science, including a high percentage of girls who think 'programming is hard and boring.' Instead, the 'Make a 3D Game' activity has the kids create sharable 3D shapes and 3D worlds in their browsers, which they then want to bring to life — through coding. There is evidence that this strategy works. The article talks about the research exploring how kids get excited through game design, and how they can later leverage coding skills acquired to make science simulations. You can try the activity by yourself or with your kids, if you're curious."
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Excite Kids To Code By Focusing Less On Coding

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  • by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Saturday December 07, 2013 @09:08PM (#45629943)

    A better way to promote programming to kids:

    https://www.google.com/search?q=booth+babes&source=lnms&tbm=isch [google.com]

    • by JMJimmy (2036122)

      Dear Daughter,

      Be inspired to code by dressing really slutty and letting a bunch of geeks you'd never go out with ogle you.

      Your Loving Father

      • Be inspired to code by dressing really slutty and letting a bunch of geeks you'd never go out with ogle you.

        Have you seen what your teenage daughter and her friends are wearing these days by their own choice? This is already happening so she might as well be inspired by it.

    • A better way to promote programming to kids:

      https://www.google.com/search?q=booth+babes&source=lnms&tbm=isch [google.com]

      That would scare young male geeks into the next time zone (all the while bragging about what they would have done, had they, you know, not been unfortunately called away ...).

  • by Brett Buck (811747) on Saturday December 07, 2013 @09:09PM (#45629951)

    Coding for it's own sake is *easy* and boring.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      They like it better when it's hard—it's easier to take it all in.
    • by msauve (701917)
      Hello, World!
    • by antdude (79039)

      It is/has? :P

    • by rtb61 (674572)

      The best way of teaching coding is firstly in the manipulation of interesting simulations, firstly where the manipulation of inputs into the simulations alters the outcomes and then reviewing the underlying algorithms and how changes there further alter the outcomes. This provides access to much more complicated programs that in total are out of the intellectual reach of learning students but far more interesting, so while the whole program is far to complex, elements of it are within reach and draw the st

    • by gweihir (88907)

      No, it is not. Or rather people that think this will never be good coders. That is why there is no way to qualify 10 millions kids to code, there are just not that many with the required talents and interests. Coding above a certain, very low competency level, is not a skill you can train people for. Add to that that smart people do not become coders today, due to bad working conditions, bad job security and being treated like shit by management.

      This one here is still absolutely current. If anything, things

      • Coding above a certain, very low competency level, is not a skill you can train people for.

        Either that "low" level is a lot higher than you think, or our world is doomed. Coding is a matter of process-thinking, and any large company runs on process thinking. Getting people to code early as a core skill, rather than as a specialism, would have knock-on effects in all organisations employing more than a few dozen people.

        • by swillden (191260)

          Coding is a matter of process-thinking

          It's a lot more than that. Coding is very different from the sort of process thinking you use to build processes executed by people, because computers are completely incapable of filling in any gaps or exercising any initiative. If you build company processes the way you write code, they'll be very ineffective, and if you write code the way you build company processes, your code will rarely work.

          In addition, outside of code that defines business rules, coding involves huge numbers of details and abstracti

          • Coding is very different from the sort of process thinking you use to build processes executed by people, because computers are completely incapable of filling in any gaps or exercising any initiative. If you build company processes the way you write code, they'll be very ineffective, and if you write code the way you build company processes, your code will rarely work.

            Oh, if only. There's been plenty of times when I've identified holes or ambiguities in the company process, identified the most likely misinterpretation from the way it's worded and been told I'm just being picking and people will understand what it means... only to be hauled up a year later for not following the designated process when I did what was originally intended, rather than what the documents said.

  • ...however Ronald McDonald has shown that a happy meal with a TOY works best.

    Unless the toy its stupid and boring CODE.

  • by MrEricSir (398214) on Saturday December 07, 2013 @09:16PM (#45630005) Homepage

    If you want people to get interested in programming, you have to show them something interesting they can do with it? *gasp*

    Personally I didn't get interested in programming because someone showed me how to do a for loop. I got interested because I could build games in ZZT or add my own cheat codes to gorillas.bas. (Those damn gorillas didn't stand a chance against my nuclear bananas.)

    • by Tablizer (95088)

      I got into programming because my friend talked me into taking an elective class in high-school. I was reluctant at first. But after I saw what it was all about, I realized how potentially powerful programming was: a wide variety of ideas that I could conceive I could turn into a "device" and shape it to my vision: the computer was a blank canvas and the programming language was a rack full of shiny new paints and brushes.......and it was fun and liberating, until the boss made me paint the corporate equiva

      • I hate to say it, but some people can't think even if forced to at gun point or with the promise of vast wealth. I (as an adult learner) was in a class of high school students learning CNC and manual machining. I told them about my father, a CNC programmer of over 40 years experience, and how his tax refund was almost always more than I made for any given year. The instructor backed me up, stating that he made a lot of his yearly income doing side projects and contract work during the summer.

        I couldn't beli

  • Since when... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 07, 2013 @09:17PM (#45630013)

    Was programming ever not hard or boring?

    Me thinks some little kiddies are in for a rude awakening when they realize their favourite games are comprised of nothing but hundreds of thousands of lines of "code". The real world doesn't hide C or C++ behind a pretty sugar coated UI. If they're not interested in programming, then they're not interested in programming. I don't understand why there seems to be this excessive push to force programming on younglings these days. It's definitely not for everyone, and the last thing we need right now is more dis-interested programmers who write crummy code because they're just there for the cash.

    • Re:Since when... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 07, 2013 @10:05PM (#45630229)

      The push is to get young girls into programming. Because if young girls can't do what a grown man can, that would imply that grown man are superior to young girl in at least one thing. And that would get the feminists mad. So keep pushing kids into stuff that do not interest them, because you go girl! Nothing is more important then proving men are inferior.

    • Re:Since when... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 07, 2013 @11:32PM (#45630581)

      Exactly. Programming was never "boring" to the right kids. We don't need the other kids.

      • Programming was never "boring" to the "right" kids because those kids were creative and had the ability to imagine the possibilities provided by computers and the motivation to see them through. But with the outright failure of the American (and possibly elsewhere) educational system, it's not absurd to suggest that maybe we ought to foster this sort of creativity and innovative behavior in more people through different approaches to educating children. As it stands, academic subjects are taught as horrible

    • by fermion (181285)
      I would say that coding, at the high level, it much less tedious than it once was. A lot can be done by drag and drop. Even the most tedious platform coding, for the Mac, has been greatly simplified. Of course much of this 'simple' coding does not pay very much.

      From a pedagogical point of view, the idea is to teach techniques and process without overwhelming the immature mine with the details. It many cases this leads to meaningless games and trivial activities that don't really teach much. Universit

      • Perhaps, before you make these kinds of statements, you should actually look at the research of the University of Colorado including studies showing that kids can leverage the MEASURABLE skills they got from game design to science simulation building.
    • It's definitely not for everyone, and the last thing we need right now is more dis-interested programmers who write crummy code because they're just there for the cash.

      While I agree that just being in it for the cash is the wrong approach, I also vehemently disagree that programming is the last thing kids need. Kids need programming with their mathematics. Consider a Sigma symbol -- That's a fucking for loop you twit. Now, if we had just taught the kids how to do mathematics on computers instead of shitty little calculators then they could control the primary IO they have with the digital world: HTML and JavaScript.

      Once you realize that programming is essentially appli

      • by narcc (412956)

        Are you a scientist? I don't think you are.

        I'm starting to seriously doubt your credentials...

        you can't just say shit like "the last thing we need is ___" without testing the damned hypothesis

        That's not an hypothesis, not in the scientific sense at least, as it's not testable. Not for any given combination of 'we' and ___!

      • by DarkOx (621550)

        Exactly This ^^^

        You want to motivate someone to really learn something show them the power of the thing. If you try to teach programming or math by showing kinds "hey you make 3d animations" many are not going to be interesting; because many won't see value in the application. On the other hand convey this can open endless possibilities its a tool that you can use to accomplish YOUR OWN goals, and kids will take interest.

        For one student that might be animating their favorite comic book character, but for

      • Consider a Sigma symbol -- That's a fucking for loop you twit.

        The danger in using strong language is that it makes you look like more of a fool when you're wrong. Like right now.

        You can implement a sigma-style summation using a for loop, but the underlying logic is totally different. Computer science may be a branch of applied mathematics, but the underlying nature of digital computation is not a direct model of classical mathematics. The sigma summation is just one type of "for all" expressions in maths, but these are fundamentally limited to be self-completed, and t

    • Was programming ever not hard or boring?

      It's not that hard. But perhaps the best approach to the "boring" bit is to point out that the alternative is even more boring. Rename 500 files to the new naming scheme? I'll just write a wee shell script, thank you very much. Others would do it manually.

  • by kervin (64171) on Saturday December 07, 2013 @09:22PM (#45630035) Homepage

    I love to code and have been ever since I owned my first computer, but the kids are right. Programming is hard and boring compared to a lot of things they could be doing. So may we can try to help them understand why this hard and boring task is still worth their time. Instead of try to put lipstick on that particular pig.

    • by cascadingstylesheet (140919) on Saturday December 07, 2013 @09:31PM (#45630083)

      I love to code and have been ever since I owned my first computer, but the kids are right. Programming is hard and boring compared to a lot of things they could be doing. So may we can try to help them understand why this hard and boring task is still worth their time. Instead of try to put lipstick on that particular pig.

      Most things worth doing have their hard and boring stretches ... but when that program works, or that music plays beautifully, or whatever it is just comes together, there is a lot of satisfaction.

      • You know, any task done well should logically have this property, but for some reason you never hear about the years of kitchen catastrophes that go into making an innovative world-class chef, or years of grinding practice that make a gold-medal figure-skating or gymnastics routine. Maybe there really is an image problem that's bigger than we'd like to admit.
      • by innerweb (721995)
        The real problem has nothing to do with whether coding is boring or not, it has to do with attention span and critical thinking. Most kids have a short attention span and little to no critical thinking skills anymore. Add that to the expectation of instant gratification and yeah, kids are not going to like any process without immediate feedback or required thinking. Stop dumbing down the world so the children with the least abilities can appear to compete at a younger age. Reality does not care. ALL ch
    • by msauve (701917)
      "Programming is hard and boring compared to a lot of things they could be doing."

      Like digging ditches on a road crew? At least programming pays well and is respectable.
      • "Programming is hard and boring compared to a lot of things they could be doing." Like digging ditches on a road crew? At least programming pays well and is respectable.

        Great point.

        When my previous job cut down their janitorial service to the point that we were in practice having to empty our own trash, I said that I had no problem with it, but did they really want to pay me programmers rates to take out the trash?

      • by mjwalshe (1680392)
        Actually I saw a two job adverts recently at a local employment agency window one was for a PHP developer the other for an experienced "ground worker".

        The ground worker role was paying about £10k more than the developer one - and if you dont know Civil engineering jargon ground worker is the politically correct name for a Navvy
    • by gweihir (88907)

      For most of them, it is not worth their time as they will never get really good at it and work conditions suck. Good coders are idealists, all other intelligent, capable people go into jobs where they earn more money and are treated better. Unless we as a society start to treat good coders as a scarce and very valuable resource, things will not get better.

      Caveat: Yes, I am a PhD level coder (among other things), and I write anything from assembly (mostly C these days though) to journal papers. And I am not

  • A nation turns its lonely eyes to you (Woo, woo, woo) Programming for the People [creativeapplications.net]

    • Having once written for HyperCard, I'm glad it's gone. It had some syntax in common with COBOL. ADD 1 TO N is valid COBOL and valid HyperTalk. The data access in Hypercard (put the second word of name into last_names) was worse than COBOL.

      If you used card names instead of card numbers, the program ran much slower.

      • by mlts (1038732) *

        HyperTalk was oddball, but HyperCard was a decent way to get a non-technical user to be able to present data in a usable form, then expand from there.

        I could easily do similar with a Web page and some backend scripting, but there was something fairly nice about HyperCard's instant gratification where once the script was in, it was ready to go. No makefiles, no compilation, the source was the object code.

        I would not be surprised if we saw a modern version of Hypercard come around again, because done right,

  • This is no secret... And yet it's not really done enough. At Griffith University a language called MaSH is used to lower the bar and allow people to actually make stuff happen, while still being a good introduction to *real* coding (it's a subset of Java and a few specialised APIs). Simple text processing, simple graphics, simple robotic control. http://www.ict.griffith.edu.au/arock/MaSH/ [griffith.edu.au]
  • What is it with all the stuff that wants me to use Chrome these days? Fine for an educational setting, of course. But this coding to the browser stuff is getting offensive. Is Chrome really that much better at graphics or whatever? And is Firefox getting fixed up, or what?

    • Chrome has a full application interface for writing apps in it, much like Android or iOS. Feel free to hit https://chrome.google.com/webstore [google.com] and have a look at some.

    • Fine for an educational setting, of course.

      Really? I think it's most inappropriate for an education setting.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Really? I think it's most inappropriate for an education setting.

        It's fine because you can use Chromium. You've got a captive audience, you can tell them which browser to use. It sucks to have to change browsers just to view some content at home, though.

  • Not just kids (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Wonko the Sane (25252) * on Saturday December 07, 2013 @09:46PM (#45630139) Journal

    I've never learned any language for it's own sake, and I've always been interested in programming as long as I can remember.

    Every time I've tried to learn a language just to know it, it's about as successful as pushing a string. As soon as I have some goal I'm excited about where not knowing a certain language is getting in my way of achieving it, I learn virtually effortlessly.

    • I tried learning LISP for its own sake and realized I had no actual use for it.

      I love the idea of learning a language just to expand my programming vocabulary theoretically, but in practice its just dull.

      • and realized I had no actual use for it.

        You had no actual use for a general programming language? You must be living like a hermit, or perhaps you're herding sheep in some remote place, then.

    • That's pretty sane - when I force myself to learn a language just to try it out, I usually end up forgetting it days later. When I really need to learn one for something specific though, it's fun, it sticks, etc etc etc.

      Also, I like your name. Makes me want to go read....

  • That's the most hideously-designed site I've seen in a long while.

  • Take them to 1981 and give then an Apple II or a Commodore PET? And a 100 different copies of "Compute" magazine so they can type in their own programs and get immediate gratification from a small amount of code?

  • That's a long hour.
  • by Tablizer (95088) on Saturday December 07, 2013 @11:10PM (#45630491) Homepage Journal

    Why the hell the push to force more women into programming? Programming is a dead-end job. The stats and personal experience show a good percent move on to something else. Burnout, RSI, ageism, long-hours, etc. are real issues in programming. Women want stability because they often end up being the primary care-givers of families for good or bad, and programming is NOT stability.

    If you like programming, that's fine, but don't expect to be able to stay in it for more than 15 or so years. Have a Plan B.

    I'm just the messenger.

    • If you like programming, that's fine, but don't expect to be able to stay in it for more than 15 or so years.

      I think you've just identified the reason. If the supply of programmers is burning out that fast, we've got to shove as many replacements in as we can, lest we face having to do something really drastic, like pay them more...

    • Why the hell the push to force more women into programming? Programming is a dead-end job.

      Yeah, and they should stop teaching kids how to write, because writing is a dead-end job.

      Do you see my point? Programming is a skill that can be applied to many jobs. If you can program, you can write macros and scripts to automate day-to-day office tasks such as file archiving. If you can program, you can create a little bit of code to do your accounting and stock-taking rather than building a confusing and error-prone spreadsheet. Programming is not just for programmers.

    • by swillden (191260)

      If you like programming, that's fine, but don't expect to be able to stay in it for more than 15 or so years. Have a Plan B.

      Your experience is completely at odds with mine. I'm 45 and have been a professional programmer since I was 18 (I started writing code at about 12). I work with many guys who are in their 50s and 60s... they're excellent engineers, and compensated very well for their experience and knowledge.

      Granted that I work with the upper tier of professional programmers, but it is far from impossible to have a long, satisfying and financially rewarding career writing code. You have to love it, you have to be good at

  • by msauve (701917)
    "It's really interesting to contrast the different pedagogical ...This pedagogy"

    Protip: If you want to try to impress by using big words, learn more of them.
  • Everyone knows that there's no future for American computer programmers. I've been scrounging since the dot-com bubble burst. That was followed by the outsourcing phenomenon, the guest worker/fake job ads [youtube.com] phenomenon, and the perfect-fit phenomenon.

    That's why kids don't want to become computer programmers. Because they're not as stupid and gullible as you think.

    • kids don't want to become computer programmers. Because they're not as stupid and gullible as you think.

      I completely agree with this, but for a completely different reason which kind of contradicts the premise of your reason.

      IMHO, there is a bright future for American computer programmers. We're needed more than ever, and good ones are harder to find per capita. Pay is good.

      However, the problem is the **work environment**

      Coding work sucks, but all work sucks. I was a snowboarding instructor for 5 seasons an

      • by ulatekh (775985)

        IMHO, there is a bright future for American computer programmers. We're needed more than ever, and good ones are harder to find per capita. Pay is good.

        I sure hope you're right. I've got another ~25 years before I can take Social Security (assuming it still exists then...big assumption), and fear the day that age discrimination ruins my remaining chances to stay employed.

        [H]ave a gander at this borderline psychotic but not a joke job ad [gawker.com] for a web coder for Penny Arcade.

        That's awesome. I've bookmarked that in my "job search" folder.

        As to your personal situation and why you've been scrounging since the dot-com bubble burst...well, it could be a lot of things. Maybe your idea of "scrounging" means turning down a job a Microsoft because you don't want to work for the man...maybe you're a true genius who makes everyone even the bosses look bad so is ostracized...hell, idk...but I don't think your experience is representative ...

        No, "scrounging" is more like having to (repeatedly) uproot my life and move hundreds of miles just to stay employed...a few years back, I left Southern California, where I've lived all my life, to take a job in Sierra Vista,

  • I'm using Chrome with NotScript and Flash Blocker. Even when I permitted the scripts and Flash, that 3d frogger thing was bogged down and unworkable.

    That's OK though. All they have to do is go to their own web site and learn how to code.

  • What is the difference with other STEM subjects? For example, I liked learning calculus (ok, I didn't really learn calculus in the mathematics theory sense - measure theory and stuff - till grad school) in high school, though mainly I liked the use of calculus to physics (projectile motion, mechanics, electrostatics). Now, you might consider physics a "cool" application, but it really isn't - it is just as cool as say, building Pascal's triangle. If anything, I can see the results of programming almost inst

  • Coding can be fun.

    I think the problem lies in how we define the act of "coding" and in what context we present the activity, combined with a misunderstanding of what people actually think is "fun".

    Coding is a powerful tool. It is how humans control virtually all complex machines.

    Kids love complex machines, but I think the break point is what machines we teach them to program and what behaviors the programming automates.

    People, especially kids, like playing video games, so it stands to reason that teaching t

    • by Prune (557140)
      I take issue with the premise that coding should be made fun in the first place. In a world where, within a couple of decades, machines will program themselves, I don't think coding or any other technical (let alone blue collar) field is an appropriate thing to invest in learning--and I say this as a gainfully employed computer "scientist". When I have kids, I would probably discourage them from specializing in such subjects (though general knowledge is another matter). As someone posted on slashdot once, w
  • Most people get into programming in their childhood do it because they want to make games. Why did it take a research study to figure this out that writing games is less dry and dull than dumping someone into Java's cargo cult boilerplate class definitions and telling them to write hello world?

    I would venture to say that making games is a good way to teach adults how to program, too.

  • I saw the posters at my kids school and I am was unconvinced this is a good idea.

    Programming / coding is a lot of things, and it's different to a lot of people. But the idea of teaching it by discussing game design really strikes me as a bad idea, for a lot of reasons:

    1. Game design is inherently difficult. I mean, it's an art and science, and it is multi-discipline. After an hour, or ten hours, or whatever, you aren't going to have a lot to show for your efforts. Games designed and built by large team

  • Teach the kids how to write a labor-saving screenscraping app that automatically logs into an adult website and in a short amount of time downloads an unthinkable amount of Pr0n.

  • I don't think this problems is limited to 'coding', whatever that means. It is easy to learn something, when you are motivated; so finding things that motivate students is crucial. Personally, I am not convinced that making games is the best motivation - initially it will sound very interesting, but as soon as it turns out that the game you are able to make is not going to be the all-singing, all-dancing version of your favourite game, the motivation is replaced by disappointment.

    I suspect it is a lot easie

  • Why do we not hear more about nand2tetris.org [nand2tetris.org] and the wonderful work Mssrs Nisan and Schocken have done? They teach computing concepts from first principles, and in a way that's fun and engaging. I say this is perfect for introducing a gifted youngster to the wonderful world of computing.
  • If it were easy and fun, everyone would be doing it for themselves.
    But the Software Industry knows this and avoids anything that will gravitate towards the self recursive act of programming to automate complexity for and by the end users.

    Programming can and should be a lot easier but like the Social and earning position of the Roman Numeral Accountants, those in the software industry (both sides - FOSS and Proprietary) do not want this because it will remove their earning and social position (while making

  • This was back in the 1970s, when I was just a kid. It was a purely text-based moon landing game on a mainframe -- REALLY text-based, played via a "terminal" consisting of a keyboard and a dot-matrix printer. The computer printed out how much fuel you had and how fast you were descending; you had to enter a number indicating how much fuel you want to burn, and then the computer would recalculate and print out the new velocity and fuel level. Repeat. The idea, obviously, was not to crash.

    A few years later

  • How about we get kids excited about solving maths problems without having kids solving maths problems?

    We can give kids a ruler, a compass, and a protractor instead: and just see what neat things they can create

"Any excuse will serve a tyrant." -- Aesop

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