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Teaching Children to Program

Posted by daniel on October 15, 2003 at 6:36 AM PDT

There are many "firsts" that you remember. One of them is the first computer you programmed.

I remember carrying rolls of paper tapes in a bookbag. Others remember stacks of punchcards. When I first taught, a collection of peeks and pokes for an Atari and programs stored on audio cassettes were the first experiences my students had. At night we were shown experiments in math modeling done on a Commodore 64.

Over the years we've used a variety of platforms to introduce kids to programming. Joshua Marinacci writes in his blog entry How do kids program today? that in "the old days we had Basic and Logo, but what do kids use today?"

I loved teaching with Logo. Mike Clark recently emailed me some thoughts on StarLogo and pointed to accompanying curriculum. Erik Hatcher and I have also been discussing Squeak as an immersive environment that can support rich science and math exploration. The three of us recently participated in an adhoc session on this topic and most of the other participants were looking for video game type of software for teaching children.

Josh's goal is to teach children to program. I think that just as Logo was a great entry into procedural programming, Squeak can be used as a first experience in OO. Both can be introduced much younger than many would suspect as long as there are supporting materials.

I hope we return to this topic of teaching children in general and programming in the specific. Perhaps there are projects that can be created in our Education and Research community.

Other Weblog entries include Jayson Faulkner's entry What do you think about weblogs. I started to comment on the blog entries I've enjoyed but would rather have you post your feedback to his entry with your thoughts on what types of blogs interest you the most. Who would you like to hear from and what would you like to hear.

Philip Brittan writes that often company's think about the Ease of Initial Development first when creating a UI technology in ROI of UI Technology. He argues that Ease of Use should top the list. If you don't think of the customer first then people won't adopt your technology. He also suggests that you should place Ease of Deployment and Maintenance above your tendency to think about initial development.

In Also in Java Today , Greg Travis extends what you store using the preference APIs to include objects. What do you think of his idea in his developerWorks article to Store objects using the Preferences API? He turns objects into byte arrays and breaks them down a bit and then stores them as preferences.

I've also left a note to myself on the site today. I'm usually uploading my JavaOne submissions the night that they're due. One of my former students beat the deadline at a couple of conferences by using the Google cached version of the submission pages after the official page had been taken down. To help you plan ahead, we're pointing to the site where JavaOne submissions opens October 22 .

In Projects and Communities we look ahead to a more immediate conference. I'm bummed to be missing OOPSLA this year but there are an unusual number of conflicting conferences that week. The Java Patterns community points to this year's OOPSLA schedule featuring a long list of tutorials and workshops and keynotes from Larry Lessig, Tim O'Reilly, and Erich Gamma.

The Java Communications community has unveiled their new home page . They also are hosting this week's featured project: JAIN-SIP which includes a reference implementation and TCK for the Java APIs for Integrated Networks Session Initiation Protocol. That's a long acronym for the Java implementation of the "IETF standard protocol for IP-communication."

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