[plt-scheme] 3rd-8th Grade

From: Gregory Woodhouse (gregory.woodhouse at sbcglobal.net)
Date: Mon Mar 20 01:07:26 EST 2006

On Mar 19, 2006, at 9:24 PM, Carl Eastlund wrote:

> Apparently my intention didn't come across well to anyone.  I wasn't
> trying to challenge anyone's viewpoint and maybe my claims about the
> virtues of picture programming came across too strong - I didn't mean
> to say "it's just as good, how dare you say otherwise", what I was
> trying to say was "I don't see what's wrong with it, what are you
> seeing that I'm not?"  Sorry for the confusion.
> I still don't see a clear reason why it can't be done well.  I don't
> see why we couldn't make a "shapes" language level for DrScheme that
> was essentially the same as MzScheme (or to start with something
> simpler, Beginning Student) but done entirely "drag and drop".  Until
> someone does it, I of course completely admit I have no solid evidence
> if it would be good or bad.

I don't know if I've ever mentioned this, but I never took any  
computer science courses in school (though I did keep reading CS  
textbooks on the side, and most of my friends were computer science  
majors -- why didn't I get the hint?) That What's the point of this?  
Well, having studied mathematics, I cannot help but think of what  
some of the classics are: "Flatland", "How to Solve it", "The Fractal  
Beauty of Nature", certainly Feynman's "Lectures of Physics" and his  
lesser known "Lectures on Computation" (about the energy cost of  
computation, and featuring his "billiard ball computer"). I'm a big  
believer in simple illustrations (graphical or not) and books that  
focus on conveying the essential ideas of a mathematical discipline.  
The amount of formalism and symbol manipulation will of course vary,  
but the key is engaging the interest of the student. If a graphical  
language allows the student to avoid working with more algebraic  
notation, but really do nothing else, then I don't think it will help  
that much. What sorts of ideas are being illustrated with the robots?  
Backtracking?  Sorting? Prefix codes? Okay, maybe they wouldn't be  
expressed in those words, but I think the key to engaging elementary  
students is to expose them to interesting ideas.

Gregory Woodhouse
gregory.woodhouse at sbcglobal.net

"The most incomprehensible thing about
the world is that it is at all comprehensible."
  --Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

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