[plt-scheme] Computers considered harmful

From: Marco Morazan (morazanm at gmail.com)
Date: Wed May 6 18:21:55 EDT 2009

> Okay, we knew all this already.  So what's the new part?  In my mind (and
> this
> understanding may be new only to me) I think it has to do with the nature of
> the student's interaction with the computer: is it a tool with a bunch of
> knobs
> (external) to be manipulated to find the solution, or is it a means of
> translating our programs--concieved independently!--into meanings?

Yes, of course, I have heard this before. Blaming the computer for our
problems in the education of students is like a carpenter blaming his
saw for the problems his apprentice has. The role of the computer,
much like the role of a saw for a carpenter apprentice, depends on
what we are teaching. Some teach students that the computer has a
bunch of knobs and libraries that we need to adjust and connect --
with no need to investigate how the knobs and libraries are
implemented and work. This leads to a rather unuseful form a trial and
error (i.e. try different combinations until something works for some
small number of tests). Others teach students to discover which knobs
and libraries they need to solve a problem, how to design the
solution, and how to implement the solution by either using existing
or newly created by them knobs and libraries. So, the interaction the
students has with the computer is precisely what they are being taught
about the use of this tool.

Allow me to add that I do believe it is necessary for designs to be
implemented. The implementation can in itself be a very illuminating
process that shines a light on errors in our design and develops
important skills to take an abstract idea and build something concrete
from it.




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