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Teaching kids to program (in Java)

 
 
Mark
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      04-12-2012
Hi,

Does anyone know any good resources to teach Java programming to kids.
I know the theory but I don't know how to make it interesting for
children. When they realize they won't be writing the next FPS game
within the first half hour they often lose motivation
--
(\__/) M.
(='.'=) If a man stands in a forest and no woman is around
(")_(") is he still wrong?

 
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glen herrmannsfeldt
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      04-12-2012
Mark <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:

> Does anyone know any good resources to teach Java programming to kids.
> I know the theory but I don't know how to make it interesting for
> children. When they realize they won't be writing the next FPS game
> within the first half hour they often lose motivation


I don't know if it helps or not, but you might look at:

http://webster.cs.washington.edu:8080/practiceit/

-- glen
 
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Roedy Green
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      04-12-2012
On Thu, 12 Apr 2012 09:12:39 +0100, Mark
<(E-Mail Removed)> wrote, quoted or indirectly
quoted someone who said :

>
>Does anyone know any good resources to teach Java programming to kids.
>I know the theory but I don't know how to make it interesting for
>children. When they realize they won't be writing the next FPS game
>within the first half hour they often lose motivation


I taught computer summer camp circa 1983 with spectacular results vis
a vis motivation. I am sure I wrote an essay on my techniques, but I
cannot find it.

After interviewing each camper, I discovered they nearly all wanted to
write video games. Astoundingly the 7 to 15 year olds wrote primitive
ones in a week.

I promised them I would not tell them anything that was not needed to
write video games. They would have to trust me.

I never demanded their attention for more than 15 seconds at a time.

I presented everything as a puzzle to be solved, rather than methods
to be memorised. They were NOT supposed to understand. I just gave
hints. They have to figure it out. For example the opening exercise
was to figure out what each of the keys on the keyboard did. They
figured it all out far faster than I could have explained it to them,
and without the tedium.

I leaked information to advanced students. Other students seeing the
benefits of this knowledge would chase me around demanding to be
taught too. Some professional teachers went bug-eyed seeing some ten
year olds DEMANDING to be taught trigonometry.

Pandemonium is normal and should not be discouraged. I relaxed every
normal rule of school I possibly could, including demanding respect.

There were handouts in the form of simple program listings students
could, key, understand and then do theme and variation. They never saw
anything put properly commented structured code, and so it never
occurred to them to write anything else. Visual elements, especially
reusable visual element lead naturally to logical structure.

The idea to start the student did almost nothing, but got a huge
payoff, e.g. a giant flying helicopter. Over time to get more subtle
control they had to master more and more. None of this boring learning
to do arithmetic. That was left to the very end when they were
motivated to demand it. Lots of use of canned random number generation
to clone and randomly position.

I had a dream team of tutors who worked with the kids. Mostly what
they had to do was keep kids who were falling behind the others from
freaking out. The kids expected so much of themselves.

The kids were insanely motivated, pouring over listing every waking
moment.

I had some "experienced" older kids who were resistant to learning
anything. I just let them go. It was so fun when the little kids
quickly surpassed them and their spaghetti methods.

I poured a jug of orange juice over one brat's head. I was legendary
ever after ever though the backers were terrified the kid's parents
would sue.

We had spectacular food. Even the kids commented how good it was.
--
Roedy Green Canadian Mind Products
http://mindprod.com
When you were a child, if you did your own experiment
to see if it was better to put to cocoa into your cup first
or the hot milk first, then you likely have the programmer gene..
 
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David Lamb
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      04-12-2012
On 12/04/2012 7:36 AM, Roedy Green wrote:
> I presented everything as a puzzle to be solved, rather than methods
> to be memorised. They were NOT supposed to understand. I just gave
> hints. They have to figure it out. For example the opening exercise
> was to figure out what each of the keys on the keyboard did. They
> figured it all out far faster than I could have explained it to them,
> and without the tedium.


BTW, this is now standard educational theory even for university
students; our Centre for Teaching and Learning is big on problem-centred
learning, among many other ways of engaging students. The trouble for
the OP is that Roedy doesn't have a textbook to point you at, nor do I.

Since he's a freelance, I suppose you could hire him!

 
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Lew
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      04-12-2012
Roedy Green wrote:
> I taught computer summer camp circa 1983 with spectacular results vis
> a vis motivation. I am sure I wrote an essay on my techniques, but I
> cannot find it.
>
> After interviewing each camper, I discovered they nearly all wanted to
> write video games. Astoundingly the 7 to 15 year olds wrote primitive
> ones in a week.
>
> I promised them I would not tell them anything that was not needed to
> write video games. They would have to trust me.
>
> I never demanded their attention for more than 15 seconds at a time.
>
> I presented everything as a puzzle to be solved, rather than methods
> to be memorised. They were NOT supposed to understand. I just gave
> hints. They have to figure it out. For example the opening exercise
> was to figure out what each of the keys on the keyboard did. They
> figured it all out far faster than I could have explained it to them,
> and without the tedium.
>
> I leaked information to advanced students. Other students seeing the
> benefits of this knowledge would chase me around demanding to be
> taught too. Some professional teachers went bug-eyed seeing some ten
> year olds DEMANDING to be taught trigonometry.
>
> Pandemonium is normal and should not be discouraged. I relaxed every
> normal rule of school I possibly could, including demanding respect.
>
> There were handouts in the form of simple program listings students
> could, key, understand and then do theme and variation. They never saw
> anything put properly commented structured code, and so it never
> occurred to them to write anything else. Visual elements, especially
> reusable visual element lead naturally to logical structure.
>
> The idea to start the student did almost nothing, but got a huge
> payoff, e.g. a giant flying helicopter. Over time to get more subtle
> control they had to master more and more. None of this boring learning
> to do arithmetic. That was left to the very end when they were
> motivated to demand it. Lots of use of canned random number generation
> to clone and randomly position.
>
> I had a dream team of tutors who worked with the kids. Mostly what
> they had to do was keep kids who were falling behind the others from
> freaking out. The kids expected so much of themselves.
>
> The kids were insanely motivated, pouring over listing every waking
> moment.
>
> I had some "experienced" older kids who were resistant to learning
> anything. I just let them go. It was so fun when the little kids
> quickly surpassed them and their spaghetti methods.
>
> I poured a jug of orange juice over one brat's head. I was legendary
> ever after ever though the backers were terrified the kid's parents
> would sue.
>
> We had spectacular food. Even the kids commented how good it was.


Don't worry about finding that essay; this one is fine. I am so in awe of your
methods then, and courage to use them, that words fail me. Bravo.

--
Lew
Honi soit qui mal y pense.
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedi.../c/cf/Friz.jpg
 
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David Lamb
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Posts: n/a
 
      04-12-2012
On 12/04/2012 4:12 AM, Mark wrote:
> Does anyone know any good resources to teach Java programming to kids.


I passed this question along to our intro programming profs and they
uniformly said don't use Java. Recommendations included

(a) Logo (presumably with turtle graphics)
(b) Python. One example: http://coweb.cc.gatech.edu/mediaComp-plan/27
(c) The Alice environment (Alice.org)
 
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David Lamb
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      04-12-2012
By the way, Roedy, my conversation of one of those profs reminded her of
"How to Write Unmaintainable Code"
http://thc.org/root/phun/unmaintain.html and she plans to use it next fall.
 
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Arne Vajh°j
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      04-12-2012
On 4/12/2012 1:09 PM, David Lamb wrote:
> On 12/04/2012 4:12 AM, Mark wrote:
>> Does anyone know any good resources to teach Java programming to kids.

>
> I passed this question along to our intro programming profs and they
> uniformly said don't use Java. Recommendations included
>
> (a) Logo (presumably with turtle graphics)
> (b) Python. One example: http://coweb.cc.gatech.edu/mediaComp-plan/27
> (c) The Alice environment (Alice.org)


I would say that it depends a bit on the age of the kids.

If they are old enough to learn serious math in school, then
they are old enough to learn Java.

Arne

 
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David Lamb
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      04-13-2012
On 12/04/2012 7:16 PM, Arne Vajh°j wrote:
> On 4/12/2012 1:09 PM, David Lamb wrote:
>> On 12/04/2012 4:12 AM, Mark wrote:
>>> Does anyone know any good resources to teach Java programming to kids.

>>
>> I passed this question along to our intro programming profs and they
>> uniformly said don't use Java. Recommendations included
>>
>> (a) Logo (presumably with turtle graphics)
>> (b) Python. One example: http://coweb.cc.gatech.edu/mediaComp-plan/27
>> (c) The Alice environment (Alice.org)

>
> I would say that it depends a bit on the age of the kids.
>
> If they are old enough to learn serious math in school, then
> they are old enough to learn Java.
>


Hmm. I suspect "old enough for serious math" might be a tad older in
North America than in Dennmark.
 
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Roedy Green
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Posts: n/a
 
      04-13-2012
On Thu, 12 Apr 2012 07:42:09 -0700, Lew <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote,
quoted or indirectly quoted someone who said :

>
>Don't worry about finding that essay; this one is fine. I am so in awe of your
>methods then, and courage to use them, that words fail me. Bravo.


Kids ten years later would come up to me and tell me that week at
summer camp had encouraged them to take up programming as a living.

I started from a different premise. I was not teaching kids, I was
trying to find a way to make them have a wonderful time involving
computers. He had paid primarily to have fun.

The problem is this style of teaching is utterly exhausting. I was
burned out by the fourth week group.

But from an efficiency point of view using student time, I have never
seen anything like it. I had my exercises planned for the first
group, but they had vacuumed them up in the first two days. Every
night my team worked to prepare something to try to stay ahead of
them.

The big problem now is we bore students to death. Only a few of them
are resilient enough to retain curiosity.

We try to force students to learn things without convincing them first
there is any practical use for the knowledge. This is really dumb.
It is not just any practical use, but something THEY care about.

I remember in grade 1 being motivated to read by a picture of a pet
rabbit. I was convinced that once I learned to read, I would find out
something terribly interesting about the rabbit. I was betrayed. All
it said was something like Look look, see see.

This is why I recommend Java students select a student project. It
gives them emotional motivation to learn whatever they need to
complete the project, rather than just learning syntax is isolation.

--
Roedy Green Canadian Mind Products
http://mindprod.com
When you were a child, if you did your own experiment
to see if it was better to put to cocoa into your cup first
or the hot milk first, then you likely have the programmer gene..
 
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