[plt-scheme] A Couple of Questions on DrScheme/Mzscheme

From: Zbyszek Jurkiewicz (zbyszek at duch.mimuw.edu.pl)
Date: Mon Sep 30 10:31:33 EDT 2002

On Sat, 28 Sep 2002, Matthias Felleisen wrote:

> Why do young students object to Scheme as a language? Or do they? 
> -----------------------------------------------------------------


> Don't get me wrong .. SICP is a wonderful book and it can be 
> the basis of a wonderful course, but SICP cannot possibly be 
> the basis of a good introductory course if programming and 
> program design are the goal. MIT students become decent programmers
> despite this course, not because it. Places with similar students
> have the same experience -- and admit it if they have the courage
> to analyze what's going on.

As far as I understand SICP, it is meant to be introduction to Computer 
Science in general, and not introductory course on programming and
program design.  We are basing our "Introduction to Computer Science"
on it, and then follow with more "advanced" course on programming
and program design.

Definitely whether course based on SICP is hard or not depends on
many things, the most important is the availability of good supporting 
tools .  DrScheme would be appropriate environment for it (if not for
the lack of debugger) and then we could ask whether the course and
exercises were hard or not.

Also it all depends on "computational maturity" of students.  In Poland
people go to University at the age of 19, after 4 years of high school
where they learn about computers in a separate subject (called
"Informatics" btw), so they already know quite a lot about programming.
They have to apply for a particular major already at the beginning,
so we teach ONLY people who are going to be professional
programmers/designers/analysts etc.

Thus we should not expect this course to be easy, same as students of 
Physics do not say Introductory Physics is easy -- they were
selected acc. to their abilities.

As I remember in US situation is a little bit different -- student
start studying earlier, but decide on major later, so practically
anybody can take this course --- even if he "should" work on
some other subjects (e.g. humanities).  Such people complain
later, that the course is too heavy for them -- and it is.

Probable conclusion: ther's place for two different kinds of courses:
- based on SICP for people, who are going to specialize in CS and want
to work hard for it;
- based on HTDP etc. for broader spectrum of students.

 From my experience using HTDP exactly for the first bores them -- I just
steal the ideas and selected examples, but do everything much faster.

Best regards,

Zbyszek Jurkiewicz


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