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Big Ideas / Individualized Projects

During our online meeting on February 2, several participants settled on topics for their third challenge.  The ones I have are:

  • @duaneg and @kayalle will explore what we know about motivation and learning
  • @ericgj and @coxandrew will take a look at what we know about teaching human languages that can be applied to teaching programming languages
  • @MrSteve and @leopoldomt are going to try to find out what makes examples good for novices
  • @darleneflor (and possibly @ethanwhite, who had to leave early) will try to find existing collections of examples that we can adapt and use
  • @seacreature: will summarize the research reported in the book "The Penguin and the Leviathan"

Everyone's goal is to bring back something interesting that the rest of us can learn from by February 14, so that we can discuss it in our next online meeting (which will be February 16 or 17 --- I'll get a Doodle up to find a time).

If you weren't able to join us yesterday, and want a topic for task #3, please either propose one via a post on this site, or try to write something by February 14 that describes the core concepts or big ideas that you're trying to convey to your learners.  I recently revised the list for Software Carpentry, but what I think you'll find more interesting is what Michelle Levesque has put together for Mozilla, which is now available in handy graphical form.  What are you and your colleagues trying to get across beyond the syntax of a 'for' loop or how to make the text in a web page blink?  Do you want to change the way your learners see the world, and if so, what change are you hoping for?

Task Discussion

  • MrSteve   Feb. 29, 2012, 4:22 a.m.

    Sorry, I have been out of touch for a while and missed the last chat, super busy with work.  But I have been reading and thinking about Novice Programmers and finally made time to write (at the expense of sleep)

    Mark Guzdial asks:

    “Why?” Is programming an unnatural activity?
    Could programming be made easier in a different form?
    Could programming be taught in a different way that makes learning easier?
    Or maybe we just have no idea how to actually measure what students know about programming. (1).
    My main problem with the Guzdial paper (this was more my problem than a problem with the paper) is I felt it didn't provide enough details or specifics on "Why it is so hard to learn to Program?"  I need specifics and examples to get my head around things.  Roy Pea, was a great find and perhaps not surprisingly (for me at least) the Resnick article was very useful. 
    Many more thoughts and references in my blog post:

    "Why Is programming an unnatural activity?

    Would love to hear people thoughts, especially where you think there are "bugs" in the post;s thinking ;)

  • Eric G   Feb. 29, 2012, 12:24 p.m.
    In Reply To:   MrSteve   Feb. 29, 2012, 4:22 a.m.

    Thanks for those references in your blog post, MrSteve. A lot of good stuff there. That earlier Guzdial paper was very helpful to me in understanding some of the history of efforts to teach programming through specialized environments.  It also has a lot of good references.

    Especially interesting to me were Amy Bruckman's papers (Situated Support for Learning and Gender and Programming Achievement).

  • Eric G   Feb. 22, 2012, 1:26 p.m.

    I saved the IRC transcript from today here.  Thanks for the good discussion!

  • Eric G   Feb. 21, 2012, 5:27 p.m.

    Andrew and I started this collection of articles about teaching/learning human languages, and some ideas about how this can be applied to teaching/learning programming languages. It is missing some baseline research in this area and also could use some more analysis, but it's a start. 


  • Kerri   Feb. 19, 2012, 9:09 p.m.

    Hi All,

    Here are two links from Duane and me. In them we wrote up summaries of information we found online re: motivation.
    We definitely found common threads during our independent research.
    Looking forward to your feedback and comments.

  • Eric G   Feb. 9, 2012, 2:14 p.m.

    Looking for something else, I found this from 1999 - Computer Programming For Everybody, a proposal by Guido van Rossum. Does anyone know about this project / how successful it was?  

    (@darleneflor @ethanwhite, note for your list it mentions a bunch of "proto-programming" teaching tools/environments some of which may not be around anymore...)

  • Greg Wilson   Feb. 10, 2012, 2:22 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Eric G   Feb. 9, 2012, 2:14 p.m.

    CP4E had a lot of enthusiastic supporters in the Python community, but never really found traction among educators. There's been slow-but-steady growth in the use of Python since then, though, mostly at the college level.

  • Gregory Brown   Feb. 10, 2012, 4:56 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Greg Wilson   Feb. 10, 2012, 2:22 p.m.

    Was their active opposition / disinterest in it, or is it just possibly a set of "good ideas that never caught on"? Curious to see if there have been any public commentaries by educators on it, because I always feel like programming communities tend to be echo chambers (which is a weakness of ours).

  • Greg Wilson   Feb. 10, 2012, 7:22 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Gregory Brown   Feb. 10, 2012, 4:56 p.m.

    I think it was just disinterest --- you might find answers in

  • Ethan White   Feb. 9, 2012, 1:55 p.m.

    Sadly I don't have a lot of time to chip in this week and it sounds like I'll be out of town for our next group get together. For my embarassingly minor contribution to Task 3, I did do a little looking around for examples and came across this site It is primarily about a book, but contains both free access to the e-book and a nice combination of examples that are intended to be of general interest (who doesn't like computer games) and provide both the actual code and the ability to walk through its execution on the site with commentary as you do so.

    To try it out click on the link under Related Content next to the chapter of interest and the click on the Online Trace Tool link.

  • Greg Wilson   Feb. 10, 2012, 2:23 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Ethan White   Feb. 9, 2012, 1:55 p.m.

    Thanks for the link, Ethan—how are other people's projects coming along? And for those who weren't online with us last week, are you working on descriptions of the "big ideas" you're trying to get across?  If so, please post links.

  • Gregory Brown   Feb. 10, 2012, 4:54 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Greg Wilson   Feb. 10, 2012, 2:23 p.m.

    I've started to take notes on "The Penguin and the Leviathan" but am currently working on preparing general notes and then will take a second pass through to pick out the things relevant to this course. I'll definitely post something by the 14th.

  • Duane Griffin   Feb. 11, 2012, 4:14 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Greg Wilson   Feb. 10, 2012, 2:23 p.m.

    Kerri and I have found a few interesting articles and are hoping to digest and summarise them this weekend. We'll see how we go from there.

  • Gregory Brown   Feb. 15, 2012, 4:07 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Gregory Brown   Feb. 10, 2012, 4:54 p.m.

    Have not forgotten about this, but had a few unexpected twists and turns this week. Will try to catch up as soon as I can.