gritz
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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Mon Feb 20, 2012 11:04 am

rurwin said:


gritz said:


Perhaps if we junked the term "programming"


Perhaps if we junked the term "dustman" and made him a "Waste Reassignment Engineer"...

Regarding HTML, by all means teach them HTML and any other web technology, but I believe that if we want to teach programming, we need to be teaching something turing-complete. ie we need to teach a programming language and not just a mark-up scheme.

Sure you could teach PHP and Javascript, but then it's all confused behind some HTML project you're developing.



What got a lot of my contemporaries fired up about programming (in the very early '80's) was the possibility to create games, visuals and sound - presumably because these fields were emerging into popular culture at that time. So programming had relevence. It never was sexy, but in the beginning it was a means to an end and eventually it could also become a delicious challenge to those who enjoyed logic problems for their own sake. So possibly there would be a place for a bit of HTML5 and Java today, if only to show how it fits into the whole modern information technomological thinger. Relevence again. A carrot, if you will, so that the blinking command prompt doesn't feel quite so opressive.

Effective coding inolves a lot of transferable skills anyway, so I'm sure there'll be folks who migrate to coding firmware in household appliances and all the other essential if unglamourous stuff. My waffle is academic anyway - looking at the people involved with the Pi Foundation I'm sure there is one heck of a Grand Plan.

I stand by my assertion that there are image issues with programming (or possibly with those who program) though!

adlambert

Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Mon Feb 20, 2012 11:04 am

Grumpyoldgit said:


I'm not sure how easy you want it. The distro we have been given so far takes you to a login prompt. After logging in you just type Python. That's it. If the little kiddywinks can't do that they certainly aren't going to be able to type in some code. Surely the whole point is that students haven't been exposed to a command prompt for the best part of 20 years and that the Pi is an attempt to go back to basics.



How easy is a good question. I don't think anyone is looking for spoon-feeding, but I would think we are looking for a path of least resistance, so that the kids take that path. I'm not sure how relevant a command prompt is to kids these days, they are remnant from the time when there was nothing else, and as relevant nowadays as a choke is for starting a car. (a modern fuel injected car controls its own fuel air mixture using sensors and software but if you are really into engines you can set up your own mixture control if you want). Modern OSes use windowing interfaces and if we try and impose a retro interface then I can see a lot of kids switching off quite quickly. And yes, I do know how powerful the command line can be.

PS: Dustmen became "Refuse Collectors" a very long time ago.

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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Mon Feb 20, 2012 11:08 am

Please make your mind up. The Distro comes with the LXDE front end but you wanted it simpler than that. What is simpler than typing the word Python?

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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Mon Feb 20, 2012 11:43 am

Grumpyoldgit said:


Please make your mind up. The Distro comes with the LXDE front end but you wanted it simpler than that. What is simpler than typing the word Python?



*sigh*

It's how to engage people in the bit that happens next that's the important part imo.

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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Mon Feb 20, 2012 11:45 am

'I'm not sure how relevant a command prompt is to kids these days,'

that's one of the reasons - for RPi's

and command prompts are more relevant than you can possibly imagine

...

"Modern OSes use windowing interfaces and if we try and impose a retro interface then I can see a lot of kids switching off quite quickly.."

aha modern as in from about 1984 ...
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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Mon Feb 20, 2012 12:38 pm

This is what you are letting people in for:

Python 3.2.2 (default, Sep 4 2011, 09:51:08) [MSC v.1500 32 bit (Intel)] on win32

Type "copyright", "credits" or "license()" for more information.

>>> for i = 1 to 10

SyntaxError: invalid syntax

>>> help

Type help() for interactive help, or help(object) for help about object.

>>> help(for)

SyntaxError: invalid syntax

>>> help (for)

SyntaxError: invalid syntax

>>> help()

Welcome to Python 3.2! This is the online help utility.

If this is your first time using Python, you should definitely check out

the tutorial on the Internet at http://docs.python.org/tutorial/.

Enter the name of any module, keyword, or topic to get help on writing

Python programs and using Python modules. To quit this help utility and

return to the interpreter, just type "quit".

To get a list of available modules, keywords, or topics, type "modules",

"keywords", or "topics". Each module also comes with a one-line summary

of what it does; to list the modules whose summaries contain a given word

such as "spam", type "modules spam".

help> for

The ``for`` statement

*********************

The ``for`` statement is used to iterate over the elements of a

sequence (such as a string, tuple or list) or other iterable object:

for_stmt ::= "for" target_list "in" expression_list ":" suite

["else" ":" suite]

The expression list is evaluated once; it should yield an iterable

object. An iterator is created for the result of the

``expression_list``. The suite is then executed once for each item

provided by the iterator, in the order of ascending indices. Each

item in turn is assigned to the target list using the standard rules

for assignments (see *Assignment statements*), and then the suite is

executed. When the items are exhausted (which is immediately when the

sequence is empty or an iterator raises a ``StopIteration``

exception), the suite in the ``else`` clause, if present, is executed,

and the loop terminates.

A ``break`` statement executed in the first suite terminates the loop

without executing the ``else`` clause's suite. A ``continue``

statement executed in the first suite skips the rest of the suite and

continues with the next item, or with the ``else`` clause if there was

no next item.

The suite may assign to the variable(s) in the target list; this does

not affect the next item assigned to it.

Names in the target list are not deleted when the loop is finished,

but if the sequence is empty, it will not have been assigned to at all

by the loop. Hint: the built-in function ``range()`` returns an

iterator of integers suitable to emulate the effect of Pascal's ``for

i := a to b do``; e.g., ``list(range(3))`` returns the list ``[0, 1,

2]``.

Note: There is a subtlety when the sequence is being modified by the loop

(this can only occur for mutable sequences, i.e. lists). An

internal counter is used to keep track of which item is used next,

and this is incremented on each iteration. When this counter has

reached the length of the sequence the loop terminates. This means

that if the suite deletes the current (or a previous) item from the

sequence, the next item will be skipped (since it gets the index of

the current item which has already been treated). Likewise, if the

suite inserts an item in the sequence before the current item, the

current item will be treated again the next time through the loop.

This can lead to nasty bugs that can be avoided by making a

temporary copy using a slice of the whole sequence, e.g.,

for x in a[:]:

if x < 0: a.remove(x)

Related help topics: break, continue, while

help>

You are now leaving help and returning to the Python interpreter.

If you want to ask for help on a particular object directly from the

interpreter, you can type "help(object)". Executing "help('string')"

has the same effect as typing a particular string at the help> prompt.

>>>

Is this really going to motivate kids?

Chris

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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Mon Feb 20, 2012 12:51 pm

Chris

I do think you are being a bit obtuse. The pupils will be in a lesson with a teacher. There will be structure.

If you are an adult or a student who wants to learn at home there are many resources available. Even on this board, if you look under Educational there are several, including Jaseman's Python Lessons.

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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Mon Feb 20, 2012 1:09 pm

@Chris

What on earth is your point? That programming isn't simple? I think we already know that.

You simple DON'T learn ANY programming language from the help command. That's not the purpose of the help. It's there as a reference, not a teaching guide. Did you follow the link that the help command brought up for beginners to Python?
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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Mon Feb 20, 2012 1:19 pm

Chris Rowland said:


This is what you are letting people in for:

Python 3.2.2 (default, Sep 4 2011, 09:51:08) [MSC v.1500 32 bit (Intel)] on win32

Type "copyright", "credits" or "license()" for more information.

>>> for i = 1 to 10

SyntaxError: invalid syntax

>>> help

Type help() for interactive help, or help(object) for help about object.

>>> help(for)

SyntaxError: invalid syntax

>>> help (for)

SyntaxError: invalid syntax

>>> help()

Welcome to Python 3.2! This is the online help utility.

If this is your first time using Python, you should definitely check out

the tutorial on the Internet at http://docs.python.org/tutorial/.

...snip...


A really important aspect of coding is attention to detail, looking what is in front of you and learning to RTFM.  I suggest you re-read and follow the contents of what you just copied and posted from the help system (above).

The R-Pi will have an Educational release later this year and as part of this there will be an Educational User Guide.  This will include a lot of informative and motivational material like you suggest.

adlambert

Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Mon Feb 20, 2012 1:21 pm

RaTTuS said:


'I'm not sure how relevant a command prompt is to kids these days,'

that's one of the reasons - for RPi's

and command prompts are more relevant than you can possibly imagine


To kids..... relevant to kids was my context. Kids that can operate an XBOX gaming controller in their subconscious.


...

aha modern as in from about 1984 ...


??????????????????????????? Constructive or dismissive? You tell me.

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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Mon Feb 20, 2012 1:22 pm

Chris Rowland said:


This is what you are letting people in for:

Python 3.2.2 (default, Sep 4 2011, 09:51:08) [MSC v.1500 32 bit (Intel)] on win32

...



I must say thats a bit more helpful than

****  COMMODORE 64 BASIC V2  ****

64K RAM SYSTEM  38911 BASIC BYTES FREE

READY.

which is the sort of prompt that showed up when kids a generation ago switched on their home micros, and there wasn't much of an online "help" system either.

Admittedly, the first batch of Raspberry Pi boards will be pretty basic, but they're not aimed at schools or children. They'll be snapped up by experimenters and evaluators and used to drive the onward development of the Raspberry Pi in all sorts of directions.

You have to remember that "Python" is very much a placeholder for "a computer programming language".  I would imagine that comments in threads like this will inform those who are devising the RaspPi educational release - I'm sure there wouldn't be anything as crude as dropping a potential learner into an unadorned command prompt, rather there will be a selection of usable IDEs for various languages, along with reference materials and tutorials.

Even if you're not in an educational edition, there are resources all over the internet to help you start programming in whatever language you like.  Even Python.  There's even a "Python for Dummies", though I believe its not highly regarded.  But its there. Googlewhacking through a Python interpreter help system as a way to demonstrate incomprehensibility is a bit pointless, an experience like that would only tell the user to look for information elsewhere.

Google, for example! 
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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Mon Feb 20, 2012 1:32 pm

My point is that giving people a command prompt and letting them get on with it is throwing them in at the deep end.

The sort of thing people need is some help about the basic things, in this case the syntax of the "for" keyword.

What was provided was several pages of technical information, including the BNF definition.  The syntax is there - somewhere - but it's not easy to find.

This sort of thing belongs in a technical manual, not be the first help that's provided.

But I've no idea how to achieve anything else, this seems to be fundamental to Python.

Chris

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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Mon Feb 20, 2012 1:33 pm

I'm not a huge fan of Python, but one of its virtues is that it is cross platform. So from a terminal session I can do this:

(HUGINN)REITER>python
Python 2.5.4 (r254:67916, May 31 2010, 21:16:50) [DECC] on OpenVMS
Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or "license" for more information.
>>>

So someone with Python experience can immediately do some useful work on one of our OpenVMS systems.

As for the command line, well the more kids who are not scared of it the better.I would like to see kids who have an appreciation of what goes on under the hood, not tied bound and gagged to a particular IDE or language.

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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Mon Feb 20, 2012 1:39 pm

Chris Rowland said:


My point is that giving people a command prompt and letting them get on with it is throwing them in at the deep end.

The sort of thing people need is some help about the basic things, in this case the syntax of the "for" keyword.

What was provided was several pages of technical information, including the BNF definition.  The syntax is there - somewhere - but it's not easy to find.

This sort of thing belongs in a technical manual, not be the first help that's provided.

But I've no idea how to achieve anything else, this seems to be fundamental to Python.

Chris



I agree up to a point, but I'd suggest that the market for Python is not necessarily the programming rookie. I'm fairly sure that the amount of python tutorials available online will get most people past this hump. Especially in a classroom situation where the instructor should have the information to hand

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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Mon Feb 20, 2012 1:55 pm

As always the following is just my opinion which I hope I am entitled to have

One should keep in mind that the RasPi is part of a bigger picture.

It is about removing the hurdles that hinder the accessibility to modern day information technology education.

Now keep in mind that the modern day instructions can only be delivered by old day people, which instead of receiving aid from the government (its the same here in germany mostly btw) are fighting against windmills.

So add outdated knowledge to permanent frustration, mix that up with school kids on very varying levels of intellect and access to hardware and you have a nice tasty catastrophe pudding.

The industry on the other hand is always progressing and new tech hard- as well as softwarewise is changing the way the coder is working in the day to day business.

With the RasPi an unbeatable low priced device, offering access to everything needed to learn (either with real software or maybe special education software) is easily available.

The first thing I predict to happen is that teachers worldwide will be finding out about the RasPi and start to form a community on their own, even becoming autonomous from the RasPi. Now the surprising things to happen after the hurdles that stand in the teachers ways have been overcome will be sharing of experiences of the ways that kids learn.
And I dare say we will all be very surprised - the programming language might be among the least concerns.

Looking at the popularity of tablet devices, somehow I have a feeling that the omnipresence of keyboards and mice might be coming to an end, which will of course completely change the coding experience.

(Also I still like my staged difficulty approach suggested earlier in this thread)

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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Mon Feb 20, 2012 1:57 pm

I think a lot of people on this board are under-estimating children. Kids have sticking power if there is something they are interested in, and I don't see that in a lot of the complaints above. A huge number of the posters on this board taught themselves to program in BASIC just by reading other people's code and reading. Have a look at the two programs here. Are you really saying that while loads of people here taught themselves BASIC from programs like that, kids today couldn't grasp Python in the same way?

Whether the RaspPi goes directly into Python or not is irrelevant. Just clicking on an icon is probably close enough. It might be better, because an icon advertises its presence, whereas just booting into an environment closes off all other possibilities.

We are never going to turn every child that touches a Raspberry Pi into a programmer. That's a straw-man and a stupid idea. What we can do is to give the educational sector something to work with, and give the few percent of self-motivated kids something they can use to create with. We can help the teachers if we provide facilities for tying the RaspPi to one environment, but we help the kids if we give them several options. It seems to me an LXDE desktop with half-a-dozen icons on does both. I may be wrong, but that is why the RaspPi hasn't been released to schools yet. The foundations has a few months to find out how best to configure it.

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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Mon Feb 20, 2012 2:21 pm

Kids have sticking power if they are interested in something, this is true. But the choice of things available for them to be interested in in 2012 is quite staggering and for any one of those things to hook a lot of kids enough to get the critical mass required for a sustainable community will need a very attractive bait hung in front of their faces.

If the sustaining community comes about, then you can end up with what is termed as a "craze", which is probably the ideal situation and something like what happened in 1981.

But the 1981 comparison isn't really valid because there were not many distractions standing in the way of the affordable home micro back then. What did it compete against? Ping tennis with 1 axis moveable bats?

What now? PSP, Wii, XBOX, PS3, DS, Mobile Phone, Ipod, tablet computer, netbook, laptop, PC, SmartTV, the WWW, Facebook etc, I could go on. (I acknowledge that some of those can be brought to bear in supporting interest in the R-Pi).

Affordability then? Prices of BBC Model B on release (£335) relative to average earnings translates to about £1500 now - MacBook Pro i7 money.

What I'm saying is, not to be complacent about the attractiveness of linux as a leisure  interest.

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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Mon Feb 20, 2012 2:34 pm

Chris Rowland said:


My point is that giving people a command prompt and letting them get on with it is throwing them in at the deep end.

The sort of thing people need is some help about the basic things, in this case the syntax of the "for" keyword.

What was provided was several pages of technical information, including the BNF definition.  The syntax is there - somewhere - but it's not easy to find.

This sort of thing belongs in a technical manual, not be the first help that's provided.

But I've no idea how to achieve anything else, this seems to be fundamental to Python.

Chris


Who said that throwing them in at the depth end was was going to happen? You just made an assumption that all the users get is the Python system (which in itself isn't aimed at beginners), whereas they will in fact be in a classroom, with a teacher and relevent documentation. You don't (usually) just give someone a technical maths book and tell them to learn calculus. They get a teacher and a teaching maths book. Same with this.

What the help provided was EXACTLY what is usually required to use a language in anger. Detailed information on the syntax etc. It's not intended to teach, its a reference.
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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Mon Feb 20, 2012 2:39 pm

adlambert said:


Kids have sticking power if they are interested in something, this is true. But the choice of things available for them to be interested in in 2012 is quite staggering and for any one of those things to hook a lot of kids enough to get the critical mass required for a sustainable community will need a very attractive bait hung in front of their faces.


Why do they need bait? Do they have bait to study English? Maths? No, they do it at school. They may not like it but they do it. Same could apply to the Raspi. Some people will hate every second and drop it as soon as possible, but a decent percentage of those people introduced will find it interesting, and will take it further. And that should be enough people to really make a difference.
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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Mon Feb 20, 2012 10:35 pm

JamesH said:

Why do they need bait? Do they have bait to study English? Maths? No, they do it at school. They may not like it but they do it. Same could apply to the Raspi.
So it doesn't matter if the Pi is horrible to use, because the kids will just have to lump it?!?

Hmm... seems to me there are 2 groups on this thread: the "let them eat cursor" brigade who feel the only reason kids went off programming was because the command line got buried under too much GUI, and the "let's make it cool" faction who feel the answer is to give them something that is more relevant to the 21st century.

I vote for the latter. But then I know that if I'd had an XBox 360 in 1982 I'd have spent my £50 on MW3 rather than a second hand ZX81.

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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Mon Feb 20, 2012 11:07 pm

TheManWhoWas said:


JamesH said:


Why do they need bait? Do they have bait to study English? Maths? No, they do it at school. They may not like it but they do it. Same could apply to the Raspi.


So it doesn't matter if the Pi is horrible to use, because the kids will just have to lump it?!?

Hmm... seems to me there are 2 groups on this thread: the "let them eat cursor" brigade who feel the only reason kids went off programming was because the command line got buried under too much GUI, and the "let's make it cool" faction who feel the answer is to give them something that is more relevant to the 21st century.

I vote for the latter. But then I know that if I'd had an XBox 360 in 1982 I'd have spent my £50 on MW3 rather than a second hand ZX81.


If you want the kids to have a Windows PC and teach them how to word process, create spreadsheets and do a few presentations give them a Windows PC with Office on it. The Pi is not that. And that is the point of it. It is a small cheap piece of kit that kids can mess about with and not do any harm. You need to have a look at some of the discussions on here about ICT and how the overwhelming consensus between teachers, universities and now the government is that it is irrelevant, tedious and boring.

The Pi is an attempt to get back to basics.

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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Tue Feb 21, 2012 12:19 am

Errrrmm... you can code on a PC and the average UK school already has stacks of 'em (often leased at great expense by people who didn't read the small print). Microsoft do academic deals. The problem up 'til now hasn't been a lack of available tools, it's been a lack of imagination at the top.

Hopefully this project (and the great deal of publicity and discussion that it's creating) will kickstart some change.

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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Tue Feb 21, 2012 2:49 am

gritz said:


Errrrmm... you can code on a PC and the average UK school already has stacks of 'em (often leased at great expense by people who didn't read the small print). Microsoft do academic deals. The problem up 'til now hasn't been a lack of available tools, it's been a lack of imagination at the top.

Hopefully this project (and the great deal of publicity and discussion that it's creating) will kickstart some change.


The key point is about the administration in schools. For the most part, they don't understand technology any better than (and sometimes much worse than!) the students. Sure, lots of schools in developed countries have "computer labs" with 30-ish computers to accommodate a class. However, these all run Windows, and the teachers don't know how to use them for anything but your basic MS Office tools.

By offering something that motivated kids want (a class comparable to an intro college class on a path to a desirable major, a skill with interesting possibilities), and providing the basic tools to do so, a fairly large percentage of them will have a real interest in something that they've probably never experienced before, and probably never would have without the slight intervention. I think it opens up an option that wasn't there before, because a $25 computer with Python preinstalled and basic Internet capability is enough to get the average kid learning the entire language via tutorials and Google within a few hours.

Sure, you might "force" some kids to learn it. But maybe (hopefully!) that's the same way you "force" a 6 year old to learn how to spell, then later see a high schooler beginning to write a novel. Anybody who has "seen the light," so to speak, can be truly passionate about it. And anybody else will have spent a semester for a mandatory class that they might end up taking as part of science/math/engineering in college anyways.

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Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Tue Feb 21, 2012 1:07 pm

iAreNewb said:

I think it opens up an option that wasn't there before, because a $25 computer with Python preinstalled and basic Internet capability is enough to get the average kid learning the entire language via tutorials and Google within a few hours.
Yes, but it doesn't provide them with any motivation to do so.

OPTION 1:

The Pi could have 3D sandbox environments like RobotC Virtual Worlds or Alice that allow them to make spaceships whizz about and animals forage for food. That would be pretty cool right?

The Pi could have an Apache web server installed, and kids could learn to write HTML, then PHP and all the other web technologies, and see their work appear in their web browser. They could take their Pi to school and plug it into the router to show the class, and upload their sites to the school web site to show their friends and families. That would be pretty cool right?

The Pi could have a fantasy game world where rather than control your avatar with a gamepad, you have to program it to complete the quests. That would be pretty cool right?

The Pi could have a simulated battle arena where all the players program their robots. They can go round each other's houses, plug their Pis into the router, and they'll automatically find each other and then the robots will battle controlled by their programs. That would be pretty cool right?

OPTION 2:

The Pi could present the user with a command line. And they could learn Python. Or go and do something more interesting...

adlambert

Re: Isn't this all too complicated?

Tue Feb 21, 2012 1:28 pm

I'm sure that the Foundation have a good plan and all this covered.

But ideally for me, what would happen is that enough of a buzz would be generated about the Pi and the online community would build to a critical mass that would mean that people want to get in on the act (some of that is starting to happen already) then the kids start talking about it in school and online and we end up with the snowball effect that becomes a craze. In other words, the Pi takes off.

It is helpful that everything is standard so people are talking about the same thing, rather than different forks all over the place diluting the effort.

To achieve that interest with 2012 kids the Pi needs a hook, a cool factor. And in my opinion, that hook doesn't look like this:

[me@raspberrypi me]$

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