Monday, December 6, 2010

Re: Programming

I teach programming in middle school. All 6th graders take computers, and I=
introduce programming in that course. I also offer electives in programmin=
g for 7th and 8th graders. Here's what I've found over the last 8 years:

1. Microworlds Logo was too difficult. Not that the syntax was difficult, b=
ut the students spent too much time getting tripped up on punctuation, etc.
2. I next tried Squeak, which I like a lot. Free, open source, visual. Howe=
ver, the graphics capabilities are kind of limiting, so I then went to ....
3. Scratch. I think this is a perfect introductory language. It has all the=
advantages of Squeak (being built upon it), but a better interface and rea=
dy-made sprites. I introduce many of the basic programming concepts (loops,=
conditional statements, variables) in a pretty painless way.
4. I now use GameMaker for my programming electives. It's still visual, dra=
g and drop, but much more powerful than Scratch. As well, it has GML (GameM=
aker Language) available for students to explore if they want to get "under=
neath the hood".

This is just middle school, of course. If I taught upper school, I would pr=
obably go right to Python or PHP. And then Java in AP, but only because Jav=
a drives the curriculum.=20

Just my .02,

Bob Irving
Lancaster Country Day School
Lancaster, PA
Mr I's Digital Domain

"Real learning, attentive, real learning, deep learning, is playful and fru=
strating and joyful and discouraging and exciting and sociable and private =
all the time, which is what makes it great." -- Eleanor Duckworth

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