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

From: Matthias Felleisen (matthias at ccs.neu.edu)
Date: Mon Sep 30 10:45:17 EDT 2002

At Mon, 30 Sep 2002 16:31:33 +0200 (CEST), Zbyszek Jurkiewicz wrote:
> On Sat, 28 Sep 2002, Matthias Felleisen wrote:
> > Why do young students object to Scheme as a language? Or do they? 

> 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.

If you need a debugger, it can't be an introductory course on computing
and programming. 

> 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.

> 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.

Yes, the situation here is very different from continental Europe. 
Students here don't know enough program design and computing when 
they enter the university (certainly not from high school or AP

> 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.

HtDP is pedantic in the first part, because it is intended for high school
students. It is a compromise. At a university with students like Rice, I 
cover the first part in three (3) lectures and the second part in the next
two (2). I promise that the students aren't bored :-) 

If Polish high school students know how to design programs according to
the recipes in HtDP (not necessarily know the book), I congratulate you
and your country for putting together one fantastic pre-college curriculum. 
I'd love to see this in action. 

-- Matthias

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