[ExI] Open source programs to get more kids to code

Tomasz Rola rtomek at ceti.pl
Tue Oct 1 18:21:26 UTC 2013

On Mon, 30 Sep 2013, Mike Dougherty wrote:

> as far as the "storytelling" Alice goes, I doubt it is obvious that 
> "boys don't like Alice very much."  I think it is more likely that girls 
> prefer the storytelling, stage directing, control of the 'action' that 
> is afforded them in the storytelling Alice mod.  I wonder if this is a 
> gender bias that we're still programming onto children.

Boys don't like storytelling to Alice - and much later, they don't like 
when Alice insists to know what they are thinking about. Connection?

> Anyway, I wanted to endorse Alice for being a pretty cool project 
> overall. I went looking for other game-like means of teaching 
> programming.  One of my favorite back-in-the-day Apple //c games was 
> Omega.  Your battle winnings could be used to purchase better virtual 
> tank hardware and the clever/efficient "AI" software you wrote for it is 
> what gave you any hope of surviving battles vs other tanks.  Yes it was 
> primitive; and it was fun.

Perhaps because the tank didn't ask you strange/idiotic questions :-).

> I'm not sure if we can teach that experience as "fun" anymore.  It seems 
> like any activity that takes more than 3-4 minutes to learn and start 
> receiving positive reward feedback is probably going to be abandoned for 
> those that do.  Maybe we're not yet wireheaded, but it seems we're 
> heading towards wireheading even if it's wireless by the time we arrive.

Ouch. Only 3-4 minutes? This is so much worse than anything I could 
expect. It almost resembles a situation from Kate Wilhelm's "Where Late 
the Sweet Birds Sang" - when they discover new clones lack imagination, 
and when old ones see snow sculpture of a girl the new only see a heap of 
snow, no associations, bye-bye. I wonder if it always was like this (only 
some kids can trespass 3-4 min limit without passing out) or is it 
peculiarity of recent times?

So, it's going to be peak programmers, too? In a world where everything 
including rolls of toilet paper is to include a micro? Wow. 

I understand that LOGO [1] is very much defashioned and forgotten? And 
"program is text" has been flushed down the drain, too? I ask because one 
thing that struck me was the number of environments available in the 
article - so it is possible a kid will end up learning all eight or ten of 
them, always repeating something. Would have been nice to have just one 
language good enough to cover at least 80% of those different areas - 
especially if its name wasn't Java, Javascript or Basic.

[1] AFAICT LOGO is being constantly mistook for kids' prog lang, while 
being also a fully fledged full time lang on par with Lisps. I recall 
reading once that it's LISP without parentheses. [2]

[2] Opinions like these can be very misleading - says someone who learned 
Python after being trickled into believing "Python is just like Lisp" by 
one prominent AI hunter. Well, assembler is just like Lisp, too. But in 
case of LOGO it may be much more true than in case of Python. Heh.

Tomasz Rola

** A C programmer asked whether computer had Buddha's nature.      **
** As the answer, master did "rm -rif" on the programmer's home    **
** directory. And then the C programmer became enlightened...      **
**                                                                 **
** Tomasz Rola          mailto:tomasz_rola at bigfoot.com             **

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