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Johnny Can Code

January 9, 2007

Curtis Barron recently wrote a post on his son’s blog (Rants, Raves and Real Estate) entitled, “Why Johnny Can’t Code and How to Help Him” in response to a similarly titled article from Salon.com that discussed the current situation with kids and programming. Spencer found out about Leopard from a comment of recommendation that one reader contributed to the Salon.com article, and he both mentioned and linked to Leopard in his programming language roundup.

It’s nice to see others speak out in support of teaching programming to students. Not only can programming be fun, but it’s also one of the best ways for kids to learn how computers work, and this instruction has repeatedly opened large creative doors to young students who want to use technology as more than just a hobby.

Spencer makes an interesting point about how kids need a goal in order to get motivated with programming, and I think what we’re doing with weather information is a fantastic solution to this. It gives teachers and students a direction in which they can get started with teaching and learning how to program, and this is helpful because they’re already familiar with using the weather data in their curriculum.

Near the end of the post, Spencer also had this to say:

Some languages, such as Logo, KPL, and Leopard, are said to be oriented toward making the learning about computers fun; this may be a consideration.

In the end, if the first experiences that students have with programming are boring, difficult, and time-consuming, then they’re going to hate it immediately, and that’s why Leopard has been built in the way that it is.

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One comment

  1. I appreciate your mentioning the above article. Actually I wrote the article on my son Spencer’s website at his invitation.
    I have not yet had the privilege of digging into Leopard to see how it “ticks”, but I have no doubt that it will be intriguing when I do.
    You may have noticed that I mentioned Oberon-2 as my suggested starting point for learning programming. It was co-designed by Niklaus Wirth, who created Pascal, which was created as a teaching language. But I believe Oberon-2 was created for a different audience than Leopard. It is simple and elegant, but it is not the kind of language that would inspire the “Aha!” experience of Leopard or Logo. It is more designed for the pre-teen/teenager, and it will help students learn deep computer concepts quickly. It is designed to be easy to teach. Leopard is easy to learn; that is a critical difference.
    Leopard and Logo and BASIC are designed to be discovered; languages like Java and C++ and, yes, Oberon-2 are designed to be taught and learned.
    All of my children knew how to read by the time they started kindergarten, so for me learning to read may be compared to learning to program. Learning to program in Leopard is like helping your child to read books like “A Cat In the Hat”; learning to program with Java is like helping your child to read “Les Miserables”- a brutal task. (I still haven’t finished it.) It no doubt could be done, but there are much better ways to do it.
    Thank you for your interest.

    Curt Barron



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