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Programming Education GUI Python

Justified: Visual Basic Over Python For an Intro To Programming 648

theodp writes ICT/Computing teacher Ben Gristwood justifies his choice of Visual Basic as a programming language (as a gateway to other languages), sharing an email he sent to a parent who suggested VB was not as 'useful' as Python. "I understand the popularity at the moment of the Python," Gristwood wrote, "however this language is also based on the C language. When it comes to more complex constructs Python cannot do them and I would be forced to rely on C (which is incredibly complex for a junior developer) VB acts as the transition between the two and introduces the concepts without the difficult conventions required. Students in Python are not required to do things such as declare variables, which is something that is required for GCSE and A-Level exams." Since AP Computer Science debuted in 1984, it has transitioned from Pascal to C++ to Java. For the new AP Computer Science Principles course, which will debut in 2016, the College Board is leaving the choice of programming language(s) up to the teachers. So, if it was your call, what would be your choice for the Best Programming Language for High School?
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Justified: Visual Basic Over Python For an Intro To Programming

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  • by X0563511 ( 793323 ) on Tuesday January 20, 2015 @11:58AM (#48856247) Homepage Journal

    Visual Basic is not suitable for anything, except perhaps as a form of torture.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 20, 2015 @12:14PM (#48856437)

      VB.NET isn't that bad. It's just C# for people with an irrational aversion to curly braces.

      • by Bengie ( 1121981 )
        VB.Net still uses enough English to make some things hard to remember. Concepts are easy to remember, specific words are not. Some concepts have multiple words.
        • by shutdown -p now ( 807394 ) on Tuesday January 20, 2015 @10:37PM (#48862297) Journal

          It also randomly renames things that have well-established terms already. E.g. "abstract" methods - all languages that have them, have agreed on the meaning of it for the past 30 years or so. But VB calls them "MustOverride". And "abstract" on classes is "MustInherit". And those labels don't even make much sense, because, taken literally, they make claims that are plainly not true (you don't have to inherit from an abstract class - you just can't instantiate its instances; and even if you do inherit, you don't have to override any abstract methods - it's just that your class is also abstract if you don't).

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 20, 2015 @12:17PM (#48856457)
      Yes. And the problem is that VB is MS only. It is a vendor lock in. What about stuents that have a Mac or Linux at home? He chains them to MS.

      Also python being less complex/powerful than VB? That depends a lot. Python is easier to use (that also why you say you use VB and not C++), but much more powerfull. Here Sieve of Eratosthenes on 1 line:
      print sorted(set(range(2,n+1)).difference(set((p * f) for p in range(2,int(n**0.5) + 2) for f in range(2,(n/p)+1))))

      Now do this in VB.

      PS: I really hope he did not get any kind of bonus from MS for this. (I know some profs that implemented some .NET stuff for MS for much too much money to afterwards tech C#)
      • by tepples ( 727027 ) <tepples@gmail.BOHRcom minus physicist> on Tuesday January 20, 2015 @12:28PM (#48856573) Homepage Journal

        What about stuents that have a Mac or Linux at home?

        For that matter, what about students that have only smartphones, tablets running a smartphone operating system, and game consoles? Such households exist []. A $200 laptop that includes a copy of Windows [] is no more expensive than some textbooks that college students are required to buy.

        • by qpqp ( 1969898 ) on Tuesday January 20, 2015 @12:36PM (#48856663)
          You can code on a smartphone. If you want to.
          In this regard C, PHP, Java and Python are much more accessible than VB, which you can maybe write on a smartphone, but not compile.
          • by tepples ( 727027 )

            You can code on a smartphone. If you want to.

            One can do so on an Android tablet with AIDE, as I mentioned in a reply to the linked post. Un-jailbroken iOS not so much, as its strict W^X policy and App Store Review Guidelines make on-device compilers impossible. Or were you referring to using up megabytes of your data plan to SSH into a remote server where the user compiles and runs the C and Java and interprets the PHP and Python?

            • by qpqp ( 1969898 )
              You have outdated information:
              e.g. []
              • by tepples ( 727027 )

                First you said

                C, PHP, Java and Python

                Then you said

                Processing for iOS ( Javascript ) and Pythonista

                This adds JavaScript and removes C, PHP, and Java. How does one go about learning C, PHP, and Java on iOS, or completing the course requirements if a compulsory course happens to require one of those languages or another language not usable on iOS (such as Visual Basic, the language of the featured article)?

        • by morgauxo ( 974071 ) on Tuesday January 20, 2015 @12:56PM (#48856943)

          What about them? They do the same thing kids have ever done who take a computer class but don't have one at home. They use the school computers.

          Actually.. there are ways to program on a smartphone. So long as it isn't iOS you can even get compilers for just about any language. But... that doesn't mean you get to use it for class.

          No teacher is going to want to support that. They would have to either limit everything to the least common denominator (Yay, everybody gets to write a hello-world console app!) or teach a dozen variants per class. (this is how you create a window in Windows, here is the code for Linux umm.. is that X or Wayland... here is how to create a form on Android... here is how to do it on OSX..)

          No, the school will standardize on a type of PC, maybe Windows, maybe Mac and the teacher will pick the rest of the development environment. If you are too much of a trendy butthead to own a real computer and expect to do everything on your smartphone then you use the school lab. If they are nice maybe they set up a vnc or remote desktop server that you can log in to with whatever device makes you happy.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by morgauxo ( 974071 )

        "...VB is MS only."
        No it's not. []

      • by vux984 ( 928602 ) on Tuesday January 20, 2015 @12:49PM (#48856843)

        print sorted(set(range(2,n+1)).difference(set((p * f) for p in range(2,int(n**0.5) + 2) for f in range(2,(n/p)+1))))

        Now do this in VB.

        If that's your idea of code to be proud of, you are an idiot who shouldn't have any input in teaching kids to program.

        Yes. And the problem is that VB is MS only. It is a vendor lock in.

        The programming you'd pick up in a high school computer course is hardly language proficiency. There are no jobs for people with "high school computer science" on their resume. Its a very basic introduction to structure, program flow, conditionals, variable, type, parameters, fucntions.

        And its not going to make one iota of difference what language you learned those fundamentals on in high school when you get to university.

        I'm not a fan of VB myself either... but its perfectly suitable for the task its being used for here.

        • by Sarten-X ( 1102295 ) on Tuesday January 20, 2015 @01:08PM (#48857117) Homepage

          For quite some time, I've argued in favor of teaching a programming class with QBasic. No, not the early BASICs that required line numbers, but the later QBasic that shipped with certain versions of DOS and Windows.

          Later BASIC variants have one defining characteristic that makes them perfect for educational use: Zero overhead. For the simplest example programs, there is absolutely no boilerplate required to allocate memory, configure the process, or tell the compiler/interpreter how to work. An example that demonstrates three things has three lines.

          For the very first stages of programming education, that's all you need. It's enough to show that instructions are executed sequentially, that you have to be explicit, and to walk through the compile/execution process. It hits all of the major concepts, with no extra parts to confuse the new students. From my time teaching CS, those basic concepts comprise the bulk of the initial difficulties most struggling students face. Once they understand those building blocks fully, the students can begin learning algorithms, design patterns, and all those more substantial parts of a full CS education... and that work should be done in a language that can trace its heritage to C.

      • Yes. And the problem is that VB is MS only. It is a vendor lock in. What about stuents that have a Mac or Linux at home? He chains them to MS.

        On Debian 7:

        $ uname
        $ vbnc
        Visual Basic.Net Compiler version
        Copyright (C) 2004-2010 Rolf Bjarne Kvinge. All rights reserved.

        Error : VBNC2011: No files to compile! Cannot do anything!
        Compilation took 00:00:00.2141430 []

        Also, the new Microsoft .NET compiler (Roslyn) is open source.

      • by Celarent Darii ( 1561999 ) on Tuesday January 20, 2015 @01:56PM (#48857665)

        Actually that example is not even valid Python code, you'll get an 'n not defined'. Furthermore you need to indent it properly. You probably want something like this:

        def primes_upto(limit):
                is_prime = [False] * 2 + [True] * (limit - 1)
                for n in range(int(limit**0.5 + 1.5)):
                        if is_prime[n]:
                                for i in range(n*n, limit+1, n):
                                        is_prime[i] = False
                return [i for i, prime in enumerate(is_prime) if prime]

        And VB6 you can actually do this on one line :)

        Sub Eratost() : Dim sieve() As Boolean : Dim n As Integer, i As Integer, j As Integer: n = InputBox("limit:", n) : ReDim sieve(n) : For i = 1 To n : sieve(i) = True : Next i : For i = 2 To n : If sieve(i) Then : For j = i * 2 To n Step i : sieve(j) = False : Next j : End If : Next i : For i = 2 To n : If sieve(i) Then Debug.Print i : Next i : End Sub 'Eratost

        If you want one-liner programs, we should really force people to use perl which is famous for that. Python is not friendly to 'one-liner' types of programs because it forces indentation.

        But really, the parser is supposed to work with you, not against you, so why not write it on several lines to help readability? I fail to see how writing code on one line really proves its power.

        For bragging rights, you could go full-genius mode [instead of full-retard] with APL (change 100 to whatever you want the vector of primes to be) :


        EDIT: Damn it, you can't even put APL code in Slashdot. Here is a link to explain the code []

    • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

      Very true. Old VB6 was useful. The current VB is a convuluted horrid mess that is only there because Microsoft wanted everyone to hate it so much they migrated to C#

  • by nneonneo ( 911150 ) <> on Tuesday January 20, 2015 @12:00PM (#48856271) Homepage

    I understand the popularity at the moment of the Python, however this language is also based on the C language. When it comes to more complex constructs Python cannot do them and I would be forced to rely on C.

    It's pretty obvious that this guy hasn't done his research. This is a very ignorant statement about both Python and C in general.

    I'd love to see *any* "complex construct" that C can do, that Python cannot do in a general computer science/algorithm sense.

    • Not to mention there isn't a modern VB
      But which in generally is C# with a language wrapper. So is more c based then Python.

    • I'd love to see *any* "complex construct" that C can do, that Python cannot do in a general computer science/algorithm sense.

      Especially since in Python "complex is better than complicated." [] Although Python programmers sometimes do resort to C, it's always for speed of execution, never to somehow minimize complexity. In fact, since Python provides a simple and elegant system of object-oriented and generic programming, it's also better than C++ for jobs where speed of execution isn't the dominant factor.

    • Also fails history. (Score:2, Informative)

      by Comboman ( 895500 )

      Since BASIC was introduced in 1964 and C was not released until 1972, it is highly doubtful that BASIC is in any way "based on C". BASIC is patterned after Fortran and to a lesser extent Algol. Those language also influenced C, though in different proportions (more Algol, less Fortran), but any claim of BASIC being C-based is quite laughable.

    • I'd love to see *any* "complex construct" that C can do, that Python cannot do in a general computer science/algorithm sense.

      More to the point, I'd love to see any "complex construct" that VB can do, that Python cannot.

  • Does Microsoft even give Visual Basic full-throated support anymore?

    And which version of Visual Basic is being used in the class? The old versions that worked, or the re-architected versions that suck?

  • Proprietary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mrflash818 ( 226638 ) on Tuesday January 20, 2015 @12:05PM (#48856331) Homepage Journal

    No, thanks.

    Choosing a proprietary solution is not a good answer.

    • by dave420 ( 699308 )
      They are teaching how to program (using VB as the language in which to teach), not how to program VB. A difficult distinction to make, I'm sure. It's not comparable to teaching how to use MS Office, for example.
    • Re:Proprietary (Score:4, Interesting)

      by rockmuelle ( 575982 ) on Tuesday January 20, 2015 @01:14PM (#48857177)

      Look, I'm a huge Python and open source advocate and use it for almost everything I do, but the "proprietary" argument doesn't hold any water. VB, and Microsoft's languages in general, have seen more long term support than any open source language. They have consistently had a level of commitment to backwards compatibility and long term support that no open source language implementation can match. Sure, with an open source language you can fix problems yourself*, but if there's good support from the vendor, as is the case with MS, you never need to.

      You're going to need to give a much better reason than "proprietary" to discount the VB argument. There are lots of good ones, but this isn't one.


      *though I'd argue that there are only a few of us out there with the chops to actually do that

      • Re:Proprietary (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Jeremi ( 14640 ) on Tuesday January 20, 2015 @03:17PM (#48858661) Homepage

        You're going to need to give a much better reason than "proprietary" to discount the VB argument. There are lots of good ones, but this isn't one.

        Proprietary isn't just a matter of whether the language is well-supported or not, but where it is supported.

        For example, say you've spent several hundred hours of your life learning Visual Basic, and then several thousand more hours writing the Great American Program, in Visual Basic.

        Now your boss wants you to get your program running on a Mac. Or a Unix box. Or a Linux box. Or anywhere that isn't Windows.... and here's where you find out that it simply can't be done, because Microsoft doesn't support anything other than their own OS's.

        So, all of the time you spent learning and programming with Visual Basic gains you nothing at this point; now you have to go back to square one, learn a different (hopefully less proprietary) language, and rewrite your program from scratch in that language.

        That's the real problem with "proprietary". You're locked in to doing only whatever your single-source vendor wants to allow you to do.

  • by NotDrWho ( 3543773 ) on Tuesday January 20, 2015 @12:05PM (#48856333)

    May as well teach them something powerful and useful from the beginning. If the test is based on Java, then why not start them on Java?

  • by MikeRT ( 947531 ) on Tuesday January 20, 2015 @12:05PM (#48856335)

    Then switch from Java or Python to Groovy. It's got a REPL tool like Python and Ruby, compiles to Java bytecode with tight Java interop and usually looks more like Ruby or Python than most people's Java code. That and it's a substantially more marketable language than any dialect of BASIC.

    • Too bad Groovy's REPL is very nearly utterly useless since it can only compile and run a single statement/block at a time:

      groovy:000> def num = 1
      ===> 1
      groovy:000> println(num)
      Unknown property: num

      There are a lot of other things wrong with Groovy but I get how attractive it can be after you have already painted yourself into a corner with loads of horrendous Java code. I get paid to write Groovy (among other things) but I'd rather be writing Python.
    • by rvw ( 755107 )

      Then switch from Java or Python to Groovy. It's got a REPL tool like Python and Ruby, compiles to Java bytecode with tight Java interop and usually looks more like Ruby or Python than most people's Java code. That and it's a substantially more marketable language than any dialect of BASIC.

      Better learn them the basics in a programming language that will be around for the next 10-20 years. Python will, but Groovy? Never heard of it, or heard of it and forgot about it. I wouldn't recommend it. It will learn some people skills that are useful for simple tasks, on any platform. Some of them will move on to other languages, and for those people it doesn't matter if it's groovy or python. But for those who learn only one language - this one - it will matter.

  • by buddyglass ( 925859 ) on Tuesday January 20, 2015 @12:07PM (#48856373)
    Java. It has the broadest popularity in industry, isn't tied to any one company (e.g. Microsoft), can be developed using a wide variety of host operating systems (Windows, Mac, Linux), lends itself well to teaching O.O. design and has a wealth of free tools. It's also what the majority of universities use in their intro level courses. (Though that's changing.)
    • C# and also match those criteria if you dont exclude Mono.

      Java is what the Open University uses for a lot of its courses, and I can tell you its a painful language once you've used something that has evolved past it.

  • VB6 was simple and allowed very easy GUI creation, which is cool for young students. VB.NET is much more complex and not as useful (Excel macros). Python as a language is much better. However beginners will be limited to command line programs, which is not as cool.
  • by jtara ( 133429 ) on Tuesday January 20, 2015 @12:10PM (#48856405)

    You can declare variables. Or, not, and then likely get in trouble for it. I like that. (For teaching. ;) )

    It can be used for something useful.

    It is trending. It is starting to be used on servers and desktops, and so it is useful in almost ALL computing environments.

    It is a gentle intro to functional programming languages. It is NOT object-orientated, though you can pretend that it is.

    It's f*cked-up, but not nearly as f*cked-up as Visual Basic. I like that. (For teaching ;) )

    I like mildly f*cked-up languages for teaching. It gives the student a taste of the real world, without forcing them to go along with the completely ridiculous choices adults sometimes make.

    • Javascript also has low requirements which is good for cash-strapped schools and students. All you need is a text editor and a browser which are pre-installed on every computer and every OS (except maybe Chromebook?)

    • by narcc ( 412956 )

      It is NOT object-orientated, though you can pretend that it is.

      You are very confused.

  • Javascript (Score:5, Insightful)

    by A nonymous Coward ( 7548 ) on Tuesday January 20, 2015 @12:11PM (#48856413)

    I tell friends to play with javascript.

    * Any web page has source code to learn from.

    * Small edits to said source pages show instantaneous results and are painless.

    * No need for a comand line, which scares some people.

    * The GUI changes, like changes ol to ul, or adding table cell padding, or changing styles, or easy and fun.

    * Adding loops and conditionals are not very complicated, since most web pages with javascript provide sme examples.

    Overall, for someone curious about programming, it's about the best self-taught intro I can think of. Anyone who wants to learn mroe can find out if the like the concept, the puzzles, and the headscratchers with just as much time and thought as they want.

    • by SQLGuru ( 980662 )

      I think Javascript is a good choice in terms of barrier to entry and examples available online. The only thing I dislike is that it is a dynamic language -- and I think that people learning to program need a very structured language as they are learning (protect them from their ignorance).

      • Re:Javascript (Score:5, Insightful)

        by A nonymous Coward ( 7548 ) on Tuesday January 20, 2015 @12:38PM (#48856695)

        That's probably true once they get past the initial hurdles. But for newbies who don't even understand the most basic concepts, trying to explain the difference between 123, 12.3, and "123", or why 12 / 5 is different from 12.0 / 5.0 is confusing.

        Javascriupt's primary benefit is letting the newbs discover for themselves whether they like programming. I used to tell people, way back in the day, to take any community college beginning programming course; if they couldn't wait to get to the class and stayed late at the lab using the class computers, they liked programming and would make excellent programmers. If they had to force themselves to keep going to class and ducked out of labs as soon as possible, they hated it and would make terrible programmers.

        Programming is like hot rodding up to the 1970s or so. You don't need a degree, you don't need classes, you can pick most of the basics up from books, friends, and experimentation. What counts is whether you like it.

    • The two top languages you should not learn by example are Javascript and PHP. In both cases, the low barrier to entry means that there's a wealth of code, but the average quality is extremely low.

      Not only that, Javascript is a poorly understood language, even by those who spend a lot of time with it. You'll likely end up learning coding by ritual instead of understanding why it works - and more importantly, why when you do it, it doesn't. It's like trying to learn ruby by starting with an RoR app coded b

      • That's true. I bet only BASIC has more shoddy code out there (including Visual Basic). But I was thinking more of the newbie who has no clue and only wants to find out what programming is, not become an expert. You might almost say shoddy examples are better, because if someone still likes it, they can survive and prosper.

  • C# (Score:5, Informative)

    by RockClimbingFool ( 692426 ) on Tuesday January 20, 2015 @12:12PM (#48856423)
    I don't really think you can beat C#. There is a freely available IDE. It creates applications for Windows (large install base). It is an object oriented language. The syntax is straightforward (you don't have to deal with complex point nomenclature, unless you want to for speed). Its a modern language that is as simple or complex as you want.
    • by Gondola ( 189182 )

      I personally like C# as a language and I use it for development, but I think Java is a more generalized language suitable for learning, even though I personally dislike parts of it. It's much more ubiquitous and easy to install and I think those aspects are essential for a learning platform.

      Yes, with the addition of Mono, C# can run on other platforms, and Microsoft appears to be pushing to open source it completely. Once C# has an easily-installable runtime and SDK for all major platforms (Windows, Mac, Li

    • by Hadlock ( 143607 )

      How about Powershell? It has an ISE you can pickup and learn in less than 20 minutes. It takes about 2 hours just to get to the point where you're writing actual code. Powershell gives you full access to the .net library and runtime but the requirements to produce executable code are on par with Python. In fact Powershell looks a lot like "Python#" and IDLE.

  • by pscottdv ( 676889 ) on Tuesday January 20, 2015 @12:13PM (#48856425)

    I use Python every day and I love it, but he may have a point about variable declaration. Statically typed languages are important to learn about.

    I do find it hard to imagine what other constructs he is teaching his beginners that cannot be done in Python. Anonymous functions, maybe? Does VB do that yet? It didn't when I last used it. Tail-end recursion? I don't think VB does that either.

    But with so many languages to choose from, VB seems like it would be way down on the list.

    I also disagree about C being "incredibly complex for a beginner". I found C to be very easy to grasp and very good at exposing what the computer is actually doing under the hood. I would agree that programming C well is complex (and also time-consuming), but that is because it is simple, not because it is complex.

  • Stop using dynamically typed languages altogether. Java is much more C-like than python or VB and can be used to teach most of what C can do in a relatively painless fashion. Kids aren't stupid; stop trying to dumb things down for them. Java handles memory allocation and other object-creation issues that might hamper someone learning a programming language while still containing classes, abstraction, inheritance, and a typed object/primitive hierarchy that will do a lot more to teach students about programm
  • Who cares (Score:2, Troll)

    by HBI ( 604924 )

    Every language named is Turing-complete and has the capability of implementing any algorithm you might wish. The whole argument is meaningless since the nascent developer will have to learn multiple languages across a career developing software. The language police are very boring by this point. I remember Pournelle arguing about what language was best in the 70s and I know the argument was happening before that.

    Dumb argument.

  • Please describe a construct that you can do in C that you can't do in python?
  • Two Camps (Score:4, Interesting)

    by djbckr ( 673156 ) on Tuesday January 20, 2015 @12:18PM (#48856471)
    I see two camps:
    • The people that want to know what goes on in the computer - systems level stuff
    • The people that want to get something done - application developers

    The first people would do good to learn straight-up C, and graduate to C++. The latter group should learn Python/Java/C#/Javascript/HTML/CSS/SQL. Though I don't use Python regularly, I think it's a good starter language.

  • by Egg Sniper ( 647211 ) on Tuesday January 20, 2015 @12:20PM (#48856495)

    I knew a Professor (of biomedical engineering) who suggested it would be best to teach introductory programming outside of any language. Teach the concepts in their most general, basic form before allowing an individual language to force understanding into an arbitrary syntax.

    I first learned in C++, then later relearned and made extensive use of Visual Basic, then switched to Matlab, and now I'm just starting to learn Python. I personally had a very difficult time with C++ and found Visual Basic to be much easier to grasp. That is likely the result of many things, only one of which is the specific languages I experienced.

    In my opinion what's more important than the first language you learn is that you learn a few languages early on, all at once - the more varied the better. Seems to work for learning statistical analyses.

    • My first CS in college was like this. The teacher was very high and mighty into the theory. Pure academic.

      "Computer Science," he said, "does not require computers." "When I wrote my first program, it was with pen and paper, and that's all you'll ever need."

      So we ended up learning the same way, an introductory computer course where the first half was lambda calculus & church encoding, and the second half was functional programming with APL using an onscreen keyboard emulator since half the keys don't

  • by netsavior ( 627338 ) on Tuesday January 20, 2015 @12:22PM (#48856511)
    Finally, a nationally branded computer science educational program, we need to build our brands for captive audiences, or we might lose grip.

    Art - Photoshop 101
    Literature - Kindle Classics
    Math - MSExcel
    Writing - MSWord
    History - Amazon Prime Presents: Ken Burns - American Minutiae

    That way our kids won't know how to do anything without a license fee.
  • by svanheulen ( 901014 ) on Tuesday January 20, 2015 @12:23PM (#48856519)
    I never understood why people think that C, or even assembly, are "too complex" for beginers. Obviously they're complex if you're trying to do something complex like graphics but why would a beginner need to do stuff like that? They should be learning the fundementals, which are often obsucred by higher level languages. Wouldn't it make more sense to start lower (and simpler) and work your way up so that you have a solid understanding of what's happening behind the scenes in higher level languages?
    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      The experience I have made as an academic teacher in that area is the EE types have no problem at all with C, while CS types often struggle. The thing is that many CS types do not really understand what a bit/byte is, what a pointer does, what machine-code looks like and how it is executed (I am not talking about reading or writing it, just the main ideas), etc. This is a failing of the teachers though, not of the language. Understanding these concepts is critical for any professional software developer. Ot

    • by Nemyst ( 1383049 )
      You want them to learn the abstract concepts of programming. With C, you quickly get bogged down in memory management, notions like pointers, the complete lack of object-oriented programming, awkward functions and weird workarounds like variadic functions. You can learn that stuff after you've understood what a loop is and how variables work.
  • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Tuesday January 20, 2015 @12:26PM (#48856557) Homepage

    I don't really care what language, but I'm of the opinion you should be laying your groundwork with something with a Wirth-ian syntax.

    Why? Because it's the most accessible syntax for people, relies on less of the syntactic sugar of other languages, has very explicit start end end blocks, "reads" very much like English, and in some ways can be useful to describe how things work at the assembly level.

    Things in the scheme family have some things which may be far harder to grasp for a beginner since they're essentially mathematical in nature.

    And things like Python ... well, the whole whitespace being syntactically significant is quite possibly going to give you some bad habits.

    There's a reason why Pascal and Java made good teaching languages for so long. If you can "speak" one Wirth-ian language, you can pretty much read all of them.

    • While Python is my favourite language overall, I think the Fortran/Julia style strikes the best balance in readability. Blocks have clear start and end, but there is no messy punctuation. For example, line breaks are meaningful, so there is no need to have something like a semicolon after every statement. That's as far as the whitespace thing goes, so there are none of the indentation issues of Python.
  • by steak ( 145650 ) on Tuesday January 20, 2015 @12:28PM (#48856579) Homepage Journal

    I keep seeing stories about how cobol is sticking around, let the kids do it.

  • by medv4380 ( 1604309 ) on Tuesday January 20, 2015 @12:30PM (#48856605)
    VB has always been a horrible place to start. Any programming language that doesn't have a ridged syntax structure like C is a bad place to start. It teaches sloppy habits, and makes it so you have to get rid of those habits if you want to move up into a more ridged language. C is an excellent place to start. Python is ok as a language, but makes the same sin as VB by trying to make things more "human" readable thus I believe it would have a similar effect. However, since my experience with this is limited to when VB as the idiots intro to programming I've never seen what happens when someone learns Python first. Again, C is an excellent place to start.
  • Well, *I* think that 64k different languages should be enough for anyone. //rim shot

    So, anyway, anyone who claims that any particular language is the right one to start with (and will lead to fame, fortune, and everything that goes with it) is a fool. I can see some justification for avoiding heavily obfuscated languages like APL or perl in favor of any language that actually uses, you know, words, to identify the functions and operations you want to do. If a high-school kid can't understand that "fo

  • Why not teach more than one language? These are AP classes for smart kids. They can handle it.

    Start with Java. Run them through the basic iterative programming constructs (conditionals, loops, etc). Then go on to basic OOP principles. Once you're through that you can go back and start with C++ and introduce them to statically typed variables and pointers. There's no reason a smart kid in the last couple years of high school can't grasp all of this in a single AP class.

    I know it's a radical idea to tea

  • by PJ6 ( 1151747 ) on Tuesday January 20, 2015 @12:36PM (#48856649)
    For all intents and purposes it is equivalent to C#, which is an excellent language.

    I might actually prefer VB to C# because it doesn't have all those damn curly braces and semicolons - VB is much faster to type and the automatic indentation is better. The only dealbreakers for me were the awkward anonymous method syntax and industry stigma.

    You want to talk about programmers being ruined, look at what the experienced do with Java.
  • by petes_PoV ( 912422 ) on Tuesday January 20, 2015 @12:37PM (#48856671)

    If the teacher doesn't know Python, they will have a difficult time teaching it and the quality of the lessons will be poor.

    In practice, it probably doesn't matter what the language is. The key is that it will only be a student's first language - not the only one they will ever user. So it's far better to teach them well, in a language the teacher is competent in, rather than to have the teacher just a page or two ahead of the children in the class. Apart from anything else, that will give the kids a more positive impression of CS, rather than having a teacher who continually has to look stuff up or answer questions with "I don't know".

    It's also important for assessments that the teacher is experienced in the language that coursework is written in. Otherwise the marking will be hit and miss and the teacher won't be able to properly distinguish well written work from stuff that works by chance rather than by design.

  • You can't really fault him for sticking with what he knows and knows how to teach. Any of us would probably do the same. Yes I'm confused as any of you what he means about python being based on C. But I can't really fault him. He probably (obviously ) has no experience with python. Come to think of it most of you bashing visual basic probably haven't ever used it either.

  • In my opinion what is important is how to think logically and organize a computer program. Some support this organization better than others but I haven't found a language yet that can't be written properly with care and thought. While I prefer something object oriented like C# or Python or even *mutter*Java*mutter*, the concepts of proper programming are most important.
  • I think what matters, when you learn to program, is that you enjoy programming; the language doesn't really matter. Some people seem to just get the idea, while others never quite get the hang of it - I suspect it has a lot to do with personality. In my experience, a good developer is somebody with an 'engineer's personality': who approaches everything in terms of how to construct things, who enjoys working out which procedure is best, what resources are needed etc. A good programmer is probably not bad at

  • by gatkinso ( 15975 ) on Tuesday January 20, 2015 @12:42PM (#48856741)

    that is a win right there regardless

  • Fortran is a very simple language to get to grips with the basics: For loops, if statements, subroutines. These concepts are the same in almost every language. That way, the language does nog stad in the way of learning the concepts. Nothing like classes & objects, pointer magic, etc. Things that belong to a course aimed at somebody who has mastered the basics.
  • by mccrew ( 62494 ) on Tuesday January 20, 2015 @12:51PM (#48856867)
    What is the one true religion?
  • Who cares? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mr Z ( 6791 ) on Tuesday January 20, 2015 @12:59PM (#48856991) Homepage Journal

    I learned programming in Microsoft BASIC, assembly language and a touch of Pascal, prior to reaching college. I don't use any of those languages now. (Ok, I still program in assembly language, but for different processors.)

    As long as it's actual programming, with variables, data structures, and code to manipulate those things, then great! I don't really care if it's VB, Python, TCL, Lua, Perl, C++14, Delphi, Haskell, LISP, Erlang...

    The real point is to open up the computer as a programmable device, and to get kids seeing the computer as something they can extend themselves with their own creativity. For that to happen, you want to choose a language that students can pick up quickly enough to see interesting results early on. You don't want their first meaningful program to come in the last weeks of a year-long class.

  • by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Tuesday January 20, 2015 @01:07PM (#48857093)

    The argument that he would have to include C-based modules for "more complex functionality" is a straw-man. This is simply not true. Python natively offers everything a beginner needs, including advanced OO functionality. My guess is that this guy actually has some personal problem with Python and hence wants to avoid it. Possibly he wants to show off some platform-specific stuff (which has no place in a platform-agnostic programming course) and Python does not support that or he has problems understanding dynamic typing and how to use it right.

    As to the variable argument: Sure, but you can declare variables in Python, even if you declare scope and not type. This is however something that a competent teacher can explain and when doing interfaces to methods or functions, you can and sometimes will need to enforce types at run-time.

    Really, in most regards, Python is a modern, portable language, while VB is not at all. And for advanced students, sure, extensions in C require you to learn C, but Python has a really clean interface for including C classes and as an additional benefit, you learn how to do OO in plain C which helps some students tremendously to understand what an OO language does behind the scenes. The only language I know that is easier to extend cleanly is Lua.

    • by torpor ( 458 )

      I agree: Lua is absolutely one of the best things to be teaching high school students. You can either sit entirely in the Lua language itself, or you can learn to extend the capabilities of the VM and interface with outside libraries and frameworks.

  • by Slime-dogg ( 120473 ) on Tuesday January 20, 2015 @03:16PM (#48858643) Journal

    The question is for programming, but the blog discusses AP CS. There are differences there, which are fairly important.

    If one were to teach another to program, then I'd stick with a language that is closer to English. This is a reason why PASCAL or BASIC was used - they are a lot more verbose in nature than C, Java, etc. I think Python should qualify as well, because you do want to impress upon the learner the importance of formatting.

    For CS concepts, it might be better to start with a language that's closer to the concepts in CS. For this purpose, I'd say Logo. There's a direct feedback in Logo, and it starts really simple. I learned it in junior high school. From there, you can get crazier into the functional programming world and migrate to scheme or full blown lisp, which then translates rather well to automata, grammars, languages, etc.

  • by Stonefish ( 210962 ) on Tuesday January 20, 2015 @04:45PM (#48859635)

    Python is simply a better choice for beginers, . It's indent based syntax indirectly teaches students what programs should look like instead of require the teacher to state how indentation improves readability. There are many other nice features however these have been covered elsewhere. I have worked in IT for 25 years and about a decade ago my sister who teaches senior high school students enquired about 'better" teaching languages. I suggested python and after more research and similar suggestions from IT staff in Sydney University she adopted it. The NSW department of education rates teachers based upon their performance based the performance of the students compared against their baseline performance and she has consistently performed in a top few percent. Python won't make a great educator however it is a tool that a good educator would choose.

Suburbia is where the developer bulldozes out the trees, then names the streets after them. -- Bill Vaughn