[plt-scheme] Re: [plt-edu] Leads on Liberal Arts Education andProgramming

From: Jos Koot (jos.koot at telefonica.net)
Date: Tue Apr 15 11:32:47 EDT 2008

Answerimng the question "what is the difference between *using* a program 
and *writing* a program?" is as difficult as the distinction between 
programs and data or as giving a definition for the word "art".

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Marco Morazan" <morazanm at gmail.com>
To: "marty" <marty at ucls.uchicago.edu>
Cc: "TeachScheme" <plt-edu at list.cs.brown.edu>; "mzscheme Mailing List" 
<plt-scheme at list.cs.brown.edu>; "Karen Buras" <kburas at hotmail.com>
Sent: Tuesday, April 15, 2008 5:20 PM
Subject: [plt-scheme] Re: [plt-edu] Leads on Liberal Arts Education 

>> The article uses strong language in favor of "programming as the new
>> literacy".  The problem is that Marc Prensky thinks that doing a web 
>> search
>> is programming.  After hearing him speak at a conference last summer, I
>> posed the question "what is programming" to this list-serv, along with a 
>> few
>> others, and very few CS folks agreed that doing a web search is
>> "programming".
> Why exactly is doing a web search not programming? It is not general
> purpose programming -- the type we associate with programming using,
> for example, Scheme --, but is doing a web search in, say, Google, not
> similar to typing a program into DrScheme? We enter a string --
> correctly formatted for a given syntax for it to work right -- and an
> interpreter takes actions to do what we want (i.e. it is executed).
> Web search engines have ways of refining (i.e. syntax) the search to
> exclude terms, to match strings exactly or partially, to curtail the
> number of results, etc. In essence, we can program the search engine
> in quite sophisticated ways to get the results we want much like we
> program in DrScheme.
> I would not call what, I suspect, most people do today with search
> engines sophisticated programming. That is, most people simply type in
> a string of words in a natural language to get results. Most of the
> time, it would seem, this works well enough even when tons of
> irrelevant results are produced. This, to me, is like typing integers
> and returns at the DrScheme prompt. In both cases these users are
> barely, if even that, tapping into the potential of the (virtual)
> machine they are using.
>> What Prensky is describing is technology literacy, or even
>> what the CSTA might call "fluency" -- it's not programming.
> I agree that Prensky has failed to capture or grasp the full argument
> that needs to be made. Programming is a skill that goes beyond video
> recorders, cells phones, and computers. Is it too far fetched to state
> that a painter engages in programming when creating a painting? She
> provides input to our eyes to create a reaction or communicate an
> idea. The painting is a program that generates a desired reaction in
> the viewer.......may I dare say that we have uploaded the program
> created by the painter and executed it?
> It seems to me that we tend to associate programming only with
> computer programming which does not seem quite right. Generals program
> their armies to achieve a military goals, companies program their
> workers to achieve financial goals, the Argentine soccer team is
> programmed to win world cups, etc. Are living organisms not
> programmed? How do cells know what to do? I certainly do not tell my
> cells what to do to keep me alive. In fact, I do not know what they do
> to achieve this (and the truth is that nobody really knows......we
> only have a vague idea of how cells work). Programming is really
> fundamental just like reading, writing, and mathematics (beyond
> arithmetic from my perspective). It is part of our daily lives and
> needs to be studied by all. Perhaps, it is more fundamental than
> reading, writing, and mathematics.......as a species we needed to
> program a hunt before we invented reading, writing, and mathematics.
> Respectfully submitted for your consideration,
> Marco
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