[plt-scheme] Re: [plt-edu] Should computer programming be mandatory

From: Shriram Krishnamurthi (sk at cs.brown.edu)
Date: Wed Oct 15 09:43:58 EDT 2008

True, but:

- Anecdotally, we haven't seen a huge difference amongst the students
coming out of these classes.

- More to the point, there are very significant secondary effects that
are hard to control.  The courses are interchangeable curricularly,
but not socially.

-- For instance, the functional-first class tends to attract more
mathematically-minded students.

-- The objects-first class is a bit of a circus (live videotaping,
skits, etc.).  This attracts some students, while it drives others
away (I personally find some of this risible).

-- The objects-first class is much more graphics-oriented (our
functional-first folks are pointlessly ascetic, though historically
it's easy to see why: their course emerged as a *reaction* to the
other course).

-- Some of us, including me, certainly believe that the
functional-first sequence tends to attract more elite students, and
that that trend is growing.

-- In the minds of its designers, the variety of PLs is only one
feature functional-first approach; equally important to them is what
they call the "integrated" introduction (algorithms + programming
throughout the year, rather than a traditional CS1/CS2 split).

-- Students in most parts of America don't generally pick up
additional languages just by assimilation.  But that's not true of
computer languages.  So we would have to somehow control for those who
went through the objects-first approach AND learned no other languages

So what would we be measuring, exactly?

As we've said repeatedly on this forum, the great thing about social
studies is that if you don't like the outcome of the one you're
presented with, you can simply study the parameters -- do so long
enough and you can show why it doesn't apply to you.  This is a
standard problem with educational literature and its adoption.


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