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Teaching Programming Now Emphasizes Sharing

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the did-you-bring-enough-for-everyone-to-steal? dept.

Education 132

An anonymous reader writes "The NY Times explores some of the best ways to teach kids and finds that some of the new tools are encouraging the kids to share their work with each other. One teacher first tried to keep the kids quiet and staring at their own monitors but found it was better to let them copy each other. He calls MIT's Scratch a 'gateway' tool. Then the article points out that programming Blender with Python is not as hard to pick up as your grandparent's programming languages — and kids today are learning them in a few months." The Wikipedia entry on Scratch is worth reading, too.

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FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (4, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#38013206)

The summary makes it sound like these kids are being encouraged to cheat off one another. The actual article just says that they're looking at each others' work to build on one another to make more complex programs. That pretty much describes what any good programmer does. Unless you live in a bubble building all small projects solo, you're always going to be working together on a project with other programmers and designers. And even if you live in a bubble, you had to learn coding from SOMEWHERE. You look at code in a book or on a website, you learn how it works, you start using it and adapting it in your own projects. That's just learning.

I, for one, say "Huzzah!" for these kids. If they keep at it and get their CS degrees, they'll have a great future working for $3-an-hour in India someday.

Wait, that sounds cynical. I meant $4-an-hour.

Oh, and I've found Alice [alice.org] to be a great teaching tool for kids too. It teaches programming principles in a way that's a little more exciting for beginners than having to learn Commodore 64 PEEK and POKE coding (the way some of us came up).

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (1, Informative)

wisty (1335733) | more than 2 years ago | (#38013292)

The problem is, educationalists now believe that everything should be marked, as students try harder when they are micro-managed with incentives.

As a consequence, either group learning is bad, or cheating is OK.

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38013424)

educationalists

This is not a word.

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (0)

LifesABeach (234436) | more than 2 years ago | (#38014496)

I believe the correct word is Educator, the plural is Educators. This is a minor example of when someone believes they know all about Education, because, well, they did go to school.

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (1)

JBMcB (73720) | more than 2 years ago | (#38016632)

You could learn a thing or two from an educatinator.

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (3, Informative)

wisty (1335733) | more than 2 years ago | (#38016522)

An educationalist is someone who researches education, or shapes education policy. It's somewhere in between "education expert" and "education policy czar / ivory tower education academic" in flamebaitness. "Educationalist" *is* a word, in relatively common use (Google tells me it's about half as common as "critical theory" (in quotes) on the web), unlike flamebaitness which I just made up.

I won't be pedantic, and go into any detail as to what the definition of "word" is, as there are several different meanings, one of which ("a word in common use") which makes some kind of sense in the way you are using it.

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38013560)

WTF is an "educationalist"?

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (2)

517714 (762276) | more than 2 years ago | (#38013784)

It is what happens when educators don't do their job properly.

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (5, Funny)

Cajun Hell (725246) | more than 2 years ago | (#38013930)

WTF is an "educationalist"?

It's a more respectable title, created by conservative backlash against educologists.

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#38014072)

Someone who is prejudiced in favour of (or possibly against) education?

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 2 years ago | (#38015216)

In most fields this is obviously silly, but I think there could be a future for the word in CS. A lot of coders are self-taught, after all; perhaps the "educationalism" movement promotes formal schooling. Just a zany idea.

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#38015886)

It's sorta like an educator but without the expected results?!?

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#38013670)

NCLB is forcing teachers to be less rigor toward stopping cheating. When you have a child that just doesn't get a subject, but giving them the appropriate grade means mo funding and all children will suffer, I can understand the less rigor.

I don't agree with it. I think schools are being too nice regarding budget cuts. Personally, I would give the approprieat grade,a dn when the school system gets less money, start cutting minutes off every day.

Parent will get it.

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38013352)

You learned on a Commodore 64? Lucky... way more convenient than having to save your programs on cassette tapes (the way some of us came up)

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (1)

Oligonicella (659917) | more than 2 years ago | (#38013464)

NCR399 anyone?

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38013500)

Do people really have to wave their massive dicks around every time someone mentions an outdated piece of technology? It gets old. You aren't cooler. You're just less lucky.

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38013818)

Someone needs a nap.

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38014972)

If they have a massive dick, are they really less lucky?

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (1)

teg (97890) | more than 2 years ago | (#38013568)

You learned on a Commodore 64? Lucky... way more convenient than having to save your programs on cassette tapes (the way some of us came up)

Disk drives were expensive back in -83... here in Norway, they cost about 800 USD or so. So tape drive [geekvintage.com] was the most common data storage for the first years, until the price on the 1541 dropped.

Re:Commodore Disk Drives (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 2 years ago | (#38014182)

But the funny thing was, a 1571 drive was apparently affordable by 1986 when I got my C128, and I don't recall Dad making the fuss like "oh dear gawd this will cost more than a month's mortgage". I still sorta wish I were 10 years younger without all that "legacy baggage" but I still think amiga style tracker mods are better music than a third of today's stuff, so go figure.

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (1)

tmarsh86 (896458) | more than 2 years ago | (#38014070)

I had a cassette tape drive for some time before I got the disk drive for the C64.

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (1)

gfxguy (98788) | more than 2 years ago | (#38014420)

What makes you think people using Commodore 64s didn't use tape drives? Most did, AFAIR, and I did for years on my Atari 400/130 for years before getting a disk drive. At one point I smashed it to pieces because I lost all the work I'd done the day before because it was crap.

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (3, Funny)

hughbar (579555) | more than 2 years ago | (#38015872)

I learnt on Babbage's Difference Engine but Lady Ada Lovelace helped me with the harder bits.

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38014992)

The tape drive often associated with the VIC-20 certainly did work with the C64 and was viable (if patience-trying) storage. Some people did, in fact, use it.

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (4, Insightful)

brit74 (831798) | more than 2 years ago | (#38013390)

The actual article just says that they're looking at each others' work to build on one another to make more complex programs. That pretty much describes what any good programmer does. Unless you live in a bubble building all small projects solo, you're always going to be working together on a project with other programmers and designers.

If that's the goal, then I don't know why the teacher doesn't give them a generic set of code to build off of (written by a make-believe programmer whom they "work with" or that existed in a book) - and each student still works entirely independently of each other. Then, at least the teacher could grade each student individually instead of making wild guesses about which student did which work and whether a particular student did any work at all.

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (1)

pburghdoom (1892490) | more than 2 years ago | (#38013530)

I feel like there are all sorts of teaching frameworks that do this (often developed at specific schools and tailored towards the class at hand). Also a lot of textbooks websites will supply code examples or class that have a mix of implemented methods and method stubs to teachers/students to use so not everything has to be developed from the bottom up.

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (5, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#38013690)

If that's the goal, then I don't know why the teacher doesn't give them a generic set of code to build off of (written by a make-believe programmer whom they "work with" or that existed in a book) - and each student still works entirely independently of each other.

Because then students wouldn't be able to ask each other "hey, how did you do this?" or "hey, wouldn't this be a better way to do that?" Collaboration improves learning.

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38014218)

Collaboration improves most ANY human endeavor.

Learning....Building...

Even Cooking.....even when there are lots of cooks.

Structure isn't the problem. It's the niching, and separation of minds that limits the results we can achieve.

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (1)

mrlpz (605212) | more than 2 years ago | (#38014282)

People over processes......works every time.

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38014256)

When I was taking my intro to programming classes, we were allowed to partner with one other person to do several of the main programming projects. On the first day of class, I had to show the person next to me how to turn on their computer, so of course I ended up being stuck with them as a partner. To my surprise it ended up being immensely helpful to me, mostly because I not only had to design the bulk of it, but I had to explain it all to them, and do a good enough job getting my ideas across so that they could do some of the work themselves.

The process of having to explain to someone else what I had just learned really helped cement the ideas and concepts that were being taught in that class. It seemed to have helped my partner as well, because they managed to consistently ace the exams and both of us ended up easily passing the class in the top 90%.

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (3, Insightful)

colinrichardday (768814) | more than 2 years ago | (#38014898)

Making the top 90% doesn't seem so hard. Or did you mean top 10%?

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38015534)

Collaboration improves learning IF YOU WANT TO LEARN. Unfortunately, all of that collaboration that students are used to in grade school, middle school, and high school translates into "Why do I have to learn to do this on my own?". Too many of my college students do not understand that they are not in the class to get a grade - they are there to learn something. I would estimate 15 to 20% of my students collaborate to fulfill requirements, with no desire to gain education from their time in the class.

Teachers in high school: Use collaboration to raise interest, but remember that the student still has to be able to perform on their own. Test! Validate! Verify! And don't cave to the huge pressure of grade inflation.

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (1)

suomynonAyletamitlU (1618513) | more than 2 years ago | (#38013772)

When I started learning programming in high school, I was exceptionally shy. I found that I understood it better than most, and would often help other people learn, which was a big thing for me. Part of the reason I latched onto programming since then is because I was able to be of value to the people around me. If I had understood it just as well, but had to sit there pretending to work together with imaginary people through bullshit code snippets, just so the teacher had an easier time grading my work, I probably would have chosen a different profession.

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (2)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 2 years ago | (#38013838)

That is probably because the goal of this one teacher wasn't to grade each studenty individually, but to help them learn something.

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (1)

mehrotra.akash (1539473) | more than 2 years ago | (#38013392)

Whats wrong with $4/hour if the living expenses are proportionately lower?

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38013486)

It leads to poverty, unemployment, and protests in the US.

And the living expenses won't be lower for much longer when companies realize they can charge you what they want and enough consumers will pay.

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (1)

schlesinm (934723) | more than 2 years ago | (#38013554)

It leads to poverty, unemployment, and protests in the US.

And the living expenses won't be lower for much longer when companies realize they can charge you what they want and enough consumers will pay.

So, you believe people making $4/hr will still pay whatever companies want them to pay? With what money?

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (1)

517714 (762276) | more than 2 years ago | (#38013796)

If they shared their work in school, they should be happy to share their apartments with several other families.

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (1)

mehrotra.akash (1539473) | more than 2 years ago | (#38013620)

Most stuff (with a few exceptions like fuel,console games,electronics) also cost proportioantrly less.
Check out the PC games,Books prices at www.flipkart.com and compare them with the Steam prices
Similarly, medicines cost around 10% of US costs
And the worlds cheapest telecom.
0.00020008 U.S. dollars (converted using Google) per second : and thats one of the more expensive plans

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (1)

ksd1337 (1029386) | more than 2 years ago | (#38014080)

Fine, but you have to view it in proportion to your wage. If your wage is decent, then the relative prices in India will be the same as here.

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (1)

mehrotra.akash (1539473) | more than 2 years ago | (#38014168)

Yeah, basically thats what I meant.
Calling $4/hour a low salary doesnt make sense if everything is proportionately lower.

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (1)

ksd1337 (1029386) | more than 2 years ago | (#38014114)

And Indian telecom sucks, IMHO. WAY way too many dropped calls if you're trying to call international.

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (0)

mehrotra.akash (1539473) | more than 2 years ago | (#38014212)

Atleast we dont pay for incoming calls and messages
But yeah, call quality on the cheaper networks does suck sometimes

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (-1, Flamebait)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#38013628)

Whats wrong with $4/hour if the living expenses are proportionately lower?

Well, nothing if you don't mind living in a city with an open sewer running down the street.

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (2)

mehrotra.akash (1539473) | more than 2 years ago | (#38013654)

Whats wrong with $4/hour if the living expenses are proportionately lower?

Well, nothing if you don't mind living in a city with an open sewer running down the street.

You have a very distorted vision of India.
What is it that makes you believe that a open sewer running down the street is common?

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (3, Informative)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 2 years ago | (#38013766)

Minimum wage in the US was under $4/hour in 1990. I must have missed the rivers of raw sewage flowing down the streets. In 1974, minimum wage was $2/hour. In 1956, it was $1 an hour.

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38015378)

$1 in 1956 is approx $8 in today's money. Minimum wage now is $7.25.

Yup, we're getting screwed.

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (2)

pburghdoom (1892490) | more than 2 years ago | (#38013468)

The summary makes it sound like these kids are being encouraged to cheat off one another.

Yeah for reals. In college there were those kids who just wanted to copy someone else's code to get an assignment done and those who worked in collaboration to make something truly excellent. There is a huge difference and for the summary to call it copying is not at all what the article was about. I also find the whole "learning them in a few months" highly suspect as well.

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38013604)

I, for one, say "Huzzah!" for these kids. If they keep at it and get their CS degrees, they'll have a great future working for $3-an-hour in India someday.

Counterexample: I am a programmer in the U.S. and I make _very_ close to a six-figure salary while having no degree at all.

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38013968)

Me too.

No highschool diplomoa
No Degree of any kind.

I do have bad ass programming skills that embarrass college grads.

Posting AC to say this obviously. I made $60K/year at 18. $70K/year at 20, and now I'm getting 85K/year at 24.

Not only am I a young punk. I'm a young punk who is smarter than you :)

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (4, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#38013636)

The problem is it is hard to draw the line between cheating and working in a group, for an educational setting.

I remember in fifth grade a "Progressive" teacher had the kids who are good at a topic to work with children who needed some help, to help them out. So I was helping someone with some Math. He got mad at me because I was explaining the steps and not giving him the answer. Because some kids want to learn and others just want to pass, he didn't care about learning, he cared about getting it done and getting a passing grade so he doesn't need to do it again.

Now in a programming class, this shared concept will work when the students are wanting to learn how to do something vs. just getting a passing grade. So if they want to learn working with peers is great (In any topic) but if they don't they will use it as a way to cheat, and get the answer from someone else.

I resent the statement about the $4 programmer. In the US there are a lot of jobs that needs Software Developers. That needs a good programming background.
A Programmer is a Job a Software Developer is a Career. If you need a programmer then you have done all the Architectural work and planning then yes you can hire a $4 an hour outsource to turn out code. But for most organization requirements are more organic and you need a Software Developer who does more then just write code he takes in the Problem, comes with a solution to a problem, figure out the business case, work with the end user for an appropriated solution , calculates the trade offs, then writes the code.

Most companies when they see a Programmer for $4.00 an hour try to go with them and then pay for it later. Because they soon realize they didn't hire a software developer they just hired a programmer.

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (1)

TheSpoom (715771) | more than 2 years ago | (#38013808)

I <3 C64 BASIC. :^)

That was where I got my start as well. We had four or five in our grade 5 / 6 classroom and were basically encouraged to do anything we wanted with them short of actually damaging them. It was awesome. (Whether or not BASIC is an ideal starting programming language is not a topic I want to get into here.)

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (1)

ArmchairGeneral (1244800) | more than 2 years ago | (#38013810)

I think this is also a great argument against software patents. More innovation can be realized when seeing what others are doing. How many people have figured out problems faster or added unique ideas when working by themselves?

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (1)

demonbug (309515) | more than 2 years ago | (#38014194)

Oh, and I've found Alice [alice.org] ...

Alice? Who the fuck is Alice?

Sorry, couldn't resist... you may go about your business. Move along.

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 2 years ago | (#38014228)

"Nope! That's piracy, copyright infringement, trademark violations, plagarism, and all around cheating! Keep your eyes on your own work or else! The minute each precious sentence is scrawled in blue pen, that's a copyrighted work! If you copy it you will be sued by RightHaven for $150,000 per note book page! Now, wasn't that a nice class?"

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (1)

trcollinson (1331857) | more than 2 years ago | (#38014330)

Your comment is a tad cynical. Especially since, at least in my area, we're not seeing a decline in salary for good developers at all. But maybe that is the point, good developers make money. The people who have a problem are those who spend 2.5 years running through a "CS" degree at ITT Technical Institutes home study program and then come out with a resume that reads like the who's who of fast food workers and yet expect a starting salary of $85,000 "because my college recruiter totally said that is what I could make". Those people will be making $4 an hour working as the next great Friday night waiter or waitress at Applebee's (but they might also make a tip, occasionally).

Is it hard to find a job? Well, that depends. Do you know how to collaborate? Do you come up with innovative solutions in a group setting? Do you keep up on your skills and network in the IT community? If you do, you'll have a good, well paying job.

And, from the article, that is what these children are being taught in these classes. Good for them!

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (1)

Xphile101361 (1017774) | more than 2 years ago | (#38014652)

I have to agree. A $4 an hour programmer gets a specification and builds it to the letter (mostly). They never try to reuse code, build it to be reused or see how it can be tied into what already exists. My company found that hiring offshore programmers wasn't worth it as it took as much time away from our normal developers to hold their hands and correct their mistakes. A good developer is more than just a code monkey. They solve problems, they look at how this enhancement might be useful for others as well, they suggest new products that could tie into what is being developed today.

Re:FTFA: Not sharing so much as building together (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38015110)

Can't we just say "Hurrah!" or "Hooray!"? Huzzah is sort of retarded, even if it is original, like "doth" or "thou." This isn't the 1600s.

Teach them to give analingus (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38013274)

It happened when I was 19, a guy I met a guy in my College library took to his dorm and turned me around having pulled pants down. I figured he wanted to eat me doggystyle, when he stuck his tongue up my anus...

7 years later and more than 30 partners of all shades; half of whom have performed analingus on me, has me thinking its perhaps the new cunnilingus and 10 years time it will be part of foreplay.

PS: I return the favour.

Your thoughts.

Dear Princess Celestia (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38013278)

Today I learned that it is better to let kids copy from each other, and that they learned Python in just a few months.
Wow.

Re:Dear Princess Celestia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38013776)

go away brony

Re:Dear Princess Celestia (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38014024)

It's a meme. Love and tolerate it :)

Sharing (5, Funny)

Threni (635302) | more than 2 years ago | (#38013364)

Sounds like a gateway drug into P2P, torrenting, and ultimately murder.

Re:Sharing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38013398)

O for a mod point!

A good method (4, Insightful)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#38013378)

In high school my math teacher organised us into pairs and encouraged us to work together on the problems. It's can be very enlightening to see a situation from someone elses point of view. And teamwork is also a skill that has to be learned, preferably in school.

Re:A good method (2)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 2 years ago | (#38013904)

Especially if your lab partner has big boobs.

A Bad Method (3, Insightful)

Kamiza Ikioi (893310) | more than 2 years ago | (#38013928)

In high school my math teacher organised us into pairs and encouraged us to work together on the problems. It's can be very enlightening to see a situation from someone elses point of view. And teamwork is also a skill that has to be learned, preferably in school.

That's annoying as hell for the smart kids paired with kids who just don't get it. Being one of those kids that didn't like "showing my work", I would have spent 50 minutes of a 60 minute class teaching my partner how I got the solutions. Conversely, there were kids smarter than me, and I didn't want them giving away the answer before I'd figured it out on my own. People need to learn how to solve problems on their own. In my humble opinion, math is only a team sport for anyone going above Calculus. I don't believe in that one for all, all for one junk in school. Let's save the teamwork for Phys-Ed.

Sounds like a great way for the teacher to make other students do the job of the teacher. I certainly don't want my son going to school and spending the majority of his time teaching rather than learning something new under some false assumption that they can all be winners. As the kid who always held the class record for math speed tests in elementary school, its a shitty teacher that would make that me spend most of my time helping other students on rudimentary problems when I could have instead moved on to something more challenging.

If that kid's parents want to pay me for after school tutoring, that's fine! Heck, I paid another student for music lessons over a summer in high school. He was a first chair, and I was 5th. My money resulted in him being paid for a valuable service that helped me make second chair the next year. But should he become the instructor of all the kids below him? Hell no, he was allowed to shine on his own. This guy went on with a music scholarship, and the rest of us just have band camp memories. Why hold him back? Why hold back excellence? I can only imagine someone like modern Einstein in high school wasting time trying to explain chemical bonding to a kid who will grow up to flip burgers. That's a far out analogy, but it highlights the problem, at least until later years of college where classes aren't just large groups of kids lumped together not by knowledge, but simply by age and geography.

I want kids to go to school to learn, not teach remedial topics to their classmates.

Re:A Bad Method (5, Insightful)

trcollinson (1331857) | more than 2 years ago | (#38014200)

But to learn what? I was in the very top percentile of my class at every school I went to. Unfortunately for me, very few of the teachers could teach me anything that I did not find remedial. In the 7th grade I had a math teacher give me the greatest insight I have ever had the pleasure of realizing. She said, I would never learn anything from the teachers or textbooks in school that I couldn't easily figure out on my own. She encouraged me to help others and learn new and interesting things from those around me by observation.

This opened up a whole new world for me. Yes, I tutored many people for a heft sum (enough to comfortable pay for college without incurring any debt). But I also helped those who couldn't afford my services, I made friends, I learned as I taught, I gained valuable social and managerial skills, and most of all I got a great experience out of school even though I hated just about every textbook I ever picked up and most of the lectures where teachers attempted to prepare me for "life" (which I guess is a code word for some standardized test that helps them get funding for the school).

For me I think collaboration is the way to go. Ultimately, in good companies, that is how things work. I have my strengths and the 6 people on my team sitting around me right now have their strengths. We complement one another and we work well. Personally, I am glad I learned that while I was in school, and have mostly forgotten about all the lectures that bored me so badly.

Re:A Bad Method (4, Informative)

smbarbour (893880) | more than 2 years ago | (#38014274)

Sounds like a great way for the teacher to make other students do the job of the teacher. I certainly don't want my son going to school and spending the majority of his time teaching rather than learning something new under some false assumption that they can all be winners. As the kid who always held the class record for math speed tests in elementary school, its a shitty teacher that would make that me spend most of my time helping other students on rudimentary problems when I could have instead moved on to something more challenging.

I want kids to go to school to learn, not teach remedial topics to their classmates.

One of the best ways to solidify one's grasp of a topic is to teach it to someone else. Additionally, everyone has a different method of presenting information to others, and some people are more receptive to different methods of learning. Ideally, students of similar levels of aptitude would be paired together to learn from each other, increasing the knowledge of both, but we all know that the real world does not revolve around ideal situations at all times.

But Also Valuable if Done Correctly (2)

mx+b (2078162) | more than 2 years ago | (#38014422)

I believe your premise has some merits (obviously, bright students should be allowed to progress), but I don't think it is a terrible idea to, at the end of every unit/chapter/major concept, quiz the class and let students take turns teaching other or flailing on a chalkboard in front of the class. Sure there's some pressure but you get used to it, and better because any job has a habit of putting you in the spotlight from time to time.

Sometimes it is incredibly instructive to "teach" another student, or at least be able to do a presentation of some sort and reframe the concepts in your own words, because it forces one to approach a topic/problem from another method (i.e., "how can a person not as familiar with me understand my thoughts?") that might not have otherwise come up, and in those moments, you personally grow in your understanding and expertise by wrestling with the topic, even when the topic seems "remedial".

The more optimistic (perhaps?) way of looking at "remedial" is "foundational". If you do not have a solid foundation, then you do not truly understand the concept, no matter how much you can convince yourself and others that you are an expert. At the suggestion of another discussion on /. a few days ago, I looked into the Force Concept Inventory (FCI), which is a standard test of sorts to fish out misconceptions of basic physics. Fascinating topic, in which the lead author specifically points out that many people -- even graduate students in physics -- significantly screw up on what should be "remedial" topics if you have had any physics course. They aren't mathematics problems with crazy solutions, they are straight-forward conceptual problems that immediately are solved, if one properly understands "remedial" physics, i.e., how to properly quote and use Newton's laws. In other words, you can get significantly far in schooling while still retaining incorrect or incomplete concepts of other things, which are only noticed when forced to use concepts and, as the author of the FCI points out, personal interviews where students are forced to explain their reasoning. The key is putting a student in a position where an explanation is required. I'm speaking in terms of the STEM fields where critical reasoning is key, I couldn't speak for a subject such as music. Maybe music is more memorization and doesn't require such explanations?

This all being only an example of course, but if there is a way to double check a student truly understands a concept or philosophy or what have you before throwing them to the next challenge, I support it, and forcing one to be able to explain a concept or methodology to others is a fantastic way of doing so. Much rather that the gifted students refine their ideas and grow while helping the lower-performing students, than to let the gifted students move on to another topic without any verification that they truly understand the material and not simply found a way to feign understanding on the exam/project. To counter your Einstein argument, Feynman was also a brilliant physicist but had a way of talking with the public and students about it and bringing the level down. I personally think being able to function brilliantly and describe it to others is a mark of a well-developed understanding and intellect.

Re:A Bad Method (1)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#38014424)

I forgot to mention that the class was split into two groups based on skill, so differences weren't that big. Also, you were free to sit next to anyone.

Re:A Bad Method (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38016538)

Sounds like someone doesn't play well with others...

Re:A good method (1)

fermion (181285) | more than 2 years ago | (#38016722)

Such a teaching method is very enlightening. One very good way to get everyone to learn is give them different but similar problem sets and let them work though the problems. Cheating is minimized, and learning is maximized.

I recall in high school our programming class, Fortran, was a vey isolating experience, and though I learned I did not learn how to manage the writing of code. I could write any program you wanted to, as long as it was small enough to do on my own. One thing that changed my outlook was an upper level college physics class in which we had to model energy levels of the atom. This was very much a collaborative semester long research project. I admit that not every did an equal amount of programming, but everyone did an equal amount of work, and that is really what being a professional is all about.

All this collaboration would be well and good except for how topic are tested. We know in the professional world a lot of success is based on what one can learn and assimilate through research and personal discussion after a problem is presented, yet that is not the focus of learning, especially in high school. High level test are based on, at least in science and math, on giving student relatively novel problems for thier age and then expecting them to solve it with no outside resources. I am sure this is a good way to determine who is a good student, but maybe not such a good way to determine who is going to be the good professional problem solver.

So really, good programming courses have always been based on sharing and collaborations. The most succesful will help and share with everyone else, and accept help and input. The problem is that when the subject is tested, too often one is tested on standard sort routines, or debugging a bit of code without context, or identifying some minor piece of jargon.

Why optional? Peer review should be required! (4, Insightful)

tucuxi (1146347) | more than 2 years ago | (#38013402)

If your students are motivated by "building cool stuff", sharing is great - they are trying to add the elements they find into their own designs. However, if your students are motivated buy "getting the passing grade", then sharing may become copy-pasting, and they will not retain any knowledge of the process. In real life, students are motivated, to a different degree, by building cool stuff, grades, and a host of other factors. My policy up to date has been "ideas sharing is fine, peering at screens and finding out how others did things is fine, but if I find evindence of significant copy-pasting, you will get a stern warning and/or a some sort of discipline". Works fine with undergrads learning compsci, especially once they learn that our in-house copy-pasting detection system is quite accurate at finding cases of badly-disguised cut&paste.

I am even going one step further, and *making* my students review each other's code (they get good grades for writing good reviews, not for receiving them, and reviews are anonymous, so there should be little incentive to 'cheat'). I find that far too many students are not exposed to a) the potential beauty and simplicity of good code vs. b) the horror that bad coding is to the unwary mind.

Does anyone know good systems to automate this peer-review for undergrad coding exercises?

Might and May are good policy indicators (1)

Okian Warrior (537106) | more than 2 years ago | (#38013988)

I agree with you completely. Sharing may become copy-pasting, and putting off motivation is probably the better way to teach.

If only there were some way to compare different models of teaching to determine which way was better. Some process where the amount of learning could be measured in both methods.

Until that magical method is invented, I suppose we'll just have to keep teaching kids in the best way we know how.

Re:Why optional? Peer review should be required! (2)

hendrikboom (1001110) | more than 2 years ago | (#38014846)

I once gave a reviewing assignment in a graduate class -- only the language used was English, not computer code. Each of the students had a term project they had to do and report on (the projects were all different). I graded the projects. But along the way, each draft of the final report was handed out to several other students for review. Those other students where responsible for providing constructive criticism. I too reviewed the drafts. A student's final grade was based on my grading of his final project and my grading of the reviews the student gave to others. The draft report was not graded.

It took a lot of effort. I can't see how to automate this process. The reviews covered both technical issues and presentation issues. I think the students learned a fair amount; there was a *lot* of improvement between the drafts and final versions.

-- hendrik

Scratch is the new BASIC (3, Insightful)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 2 years ago | (#38013436)

It'll teach the kids to write the most simple programs - but once they need to use a real programming language, they need to unlearn Scartch.

I've taught Scratch to kids before, though only briefly. None of the class picked up much on their own, so it's no replacement for good tuition.

Re:Scratch is the new BASIC (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38016838)

And what about scratch makes it not a "real" programing language? All the rudiments are there, need I point you toward the ray tracers that have been written in scratch :)

Sharing is piracy!!!! (2)

Nyder (754090) | more than 2 years ago | (#38013438)

Or so the corps want us to think...

Re:Sharing is piracy!!!! (1)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 2 years ago | (#38013462)

Sharing is theft

-- MPAA

Re:Sharing is piracy!!!! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38013622)

Since you obviously don't agree with this, I'm sure you won't mind when I share your paycheck with all of my friends.

The MPAA has gone off the deep end, but that's no reason for us to respond by equally stupid chest-beating. Copying music/songs/movies/games does hurt the producer (though not nearly as much as they pretend it does), because value is based directly on scarcity. Remove scarcity, and you remove value.

Re:Sharing is piracy!!!! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38014018)

"Remove scarcity, and you remove value."

so the value that you gain from having food to run your metabolism; the means of transportation you use to go here and there and materials with which to construct shelter comes from those things being scarce??? This notion of scarcity somehow *creating* value is absurd in the utmost. Is your health valuable to you because others are less healthy? Do you enjoy a piece music because it is rare? A piece of art because few have seen it?

Betting on the value of intangible "things" which can be made un-scarce for effectively zero-cost seems like a terribly bad idea to me.

Re:Sharing is piracy!!!! (1)

petteyg359 (1847514) | more than 2 years ago | (#38014026)

value is based directly on scarcity. Remove scarcity, and you remove value.

Quality is a great replacement for scarcity. Scarcity is a tool of the mediocre.

Re:Sharing is piracy!!!! (2)

ewibble (1655195) | more than 2 years ago | (#38014188)

Since you obviously don't agree with this, I'm sure you won't mind when I share your paycheck with all of my friends.

His paycheck is scarce. where is knowledge is not sharing only increases it.

The problem isn't that it removes scarcity, the problem is that that scarcity has been artificially added in the first place. Maybe out of necessity.

But who should decide how much scarcity should be introduced, I don't think it should be either the one who directly benefits from that scarcity or the one who benefits from that lack of it, because neither one is likely to fairly judge its value.

It should be enough so that the creator is motivated enough to produce the work in an efficient manner. It just seems that law as it currently is so skewed in the favour the owner of the right, that people don't mind ignoring the rights of the owner.

Make content easily accessible, at a fair price, with fair terms, for a fair duration and piracy will simply shrink into insignificance.

Re:Sharing is piracy!!!! (1)

heinousjay (683506) | more than 2 years ago | (#38014208)

Sharing works protected under copyright which you do not own is infringement.

The only people who try to determine the distribution rights of the works of others are, of course, the pirates. I'm not sure if that qualifies as irony, but it sure makes me laugh.

KTurtle (3, Interesting)

Plammox (717738) | more than 2 years ago | (#38013448)

It even comes [kde.org] with many different interface language options, making it ideal for children who just started reading in their mother tongue.

Re:KTurtle (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 2 years ago | (#38013694)

Nice to get them started on an open platform as well, especially since Scratch was blocked from the Apple store. Too bad, a tablet would be an okay place for kids to start learning programming concepts, but i guess someone might write some software Apple doesn't get a cut from. I urge everyone to remember that when they defend Apple for "protecting the user experience".

Re:KTurtle (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 2 years ago | (#38013844)

I should also mention that Scratch is available for Linux as well.

In my experience (5, Interesting)

slthytove (771782) | more than 2 years ago | (#38013490)

High school computer science teacher here in my 4th year of teaching. This year, I've emphasized group programming much more than the past 3 - I used to do 50/50 group/individual in-class stuff, but this year nearly every in-class exercise is done with randomly-assigned partners in my Intro and AP courses. The difference in comprehension is astounding - students are grasping concepts much quicker than usual. The thing is, when they go off on their own to do individual assignments now, they do so with much more confidence, thanks to the discussions they were able to have with their partners.

FYI, I teach at an all-girls school, so it's possible that these are unique results for girls, but I imagine that boys would similarly benefit from working with partners.

Re:In my experience (1)

heathen_01 (1191043) | more than 2 years ago | (#38013678)

From my experience pair programming, yes, boys do benefit too.

scratch? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38013584)

I prefer SNATCH! Ladies: share your snatch :)

Back in... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38013688)

Back in my college days students always shared code, secretly.

I almost got myself caught. Luckily I talked my way out of it by explaining that we discussed the code, but didn't exchange it.

We all learned better from each others mistakes, and overall made us each stronger programmers.

The problem with sticking strictly to one's own code is that sometimes simple problems can easily be over looked (syntax).

Not everyone has the same learning style, and it's helpful to work as a team.

I'll admit that in my advanced programming courses that relied more on group work, often had its fair share of slackers, as well as many bad group leaders.

Even with the caveats of group work, I still to this day prefer to work as a team member.

Re:Back in... (1)

FBeans (2201802) | more than 2 years ago | (#38013800)

There's a big difference between Collaboration and Plagiarism. Of course, at University level it's only right that peers work together to learn, espically in programming and development as it's how we work in the real world. Despite this one needs to take tests and produce personal course work to graduate, and these should be done alone. At university we use to work together on similar problems to the course work we were assigned. Then we'd go away and do the work on our own. Unfortuantly this is a grey area, because on the one hand we are trying to learn to be developers, collaborating, working together and learning off each other. On the other hand you need to produce work by yourself to prove your abilities. Of course if Degree's were like the real world we'd copy off each other, all try and take the credit and the person that actually did the work would probably fail.

Only after the fundamental are covered (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 2 years ago | (#38013828)

Once proficiency in fundamentals and advanced fundamentals are demonstrated should code sharing and collaboration be encouraged.

This kind of goes back to "when should math students be allowed to use calculators?" Obviously, it is established that they should be allowed only after they have a firm grasp of those functions which the calculator performs for them. Otherwise bad things begin to happen.

So what I am getting at is that once those fundamentals are present in the minds of these students, then they should be able to share and work together. Otherwise, what we end up with is one or a limited number of talented coders carrying the load for the many. And as it turns out, these "users" are also the ones who are good at doing job interviews and the good coders are the ones that often suck at them.... so who gets the good jobs? Right -- the "salesmen" who are good at selling their bullshit but then later cannot deliver on the skills he promised to offer the company when he got hired.

Theoretically, schools train people to an expected level of proficiency. Sharing too soon will affect that level of proficiency for quite a few and we end up with people in jobs they don't deserve... and the real nerds unable to get the jobs they are suited for at the pay they deserve. (Yes, this is a personal gripe of mine... not good in personal, but pretty good in technical... typical aspergers I suppose.)

1u1Z (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38013842)

0n1y n00bz0r$ u$3 pyt#0|\|, r3@1 #@x0r$ u$3 @$$3m813r!!1! I can't wait to see these kids get introduced to newsgroup flamewars, obfuscated C, IRC abuse and all the other wonderful things in the world of programming.

Kudos (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38013916)

I'm a high school comp sci teacher and I fully support this way of learning. Kids do much better when they collaborate because it's easier to remember concepts when you've had a conversation with someone about it. Cheating is different from collaboration. They aren't working together during the final exam.

Duh! (3, Insightful)

gstrickler (920733) | more than 2 years ago | (#38014042)

Reading (and figuring out) someone else's code is one of the best ways to learn to program. It also teaches the value of commenting your code and making it understandable and maintainable by others.

As for the "cheating" aspect:
1. In the real world, programmers "cheat" by sharing code to get the job done with the least effort.
2. Switch up the groups after every assignment so the learn to work with different people, you'll see a pattern in who is productive and who is a slacker.
3. In the later phases, switch up the groups in the middle of the assignment, just like a real workplace.

its always been encouraged, (1)

nimbius (983462) | more than 2 years ago | (#38015066)

just because its MIT doesnt make it any different. my undergrad CS profs would encourage me to collaborate but only so long as
i gave credit for functions or logic i used from other students. if only math worked this way too.

10 ?"Wasn't that hard in old days either":RUN (1)

D4C5CE (578304) | more than 2 years ago | (#38015440)

programming Blender with Python is not as hard to pick up as your grandparent's programming languages — and kids today are learning them in a few months

Then again, who of these (grand)parents didn't (even have to) learn BASIC, Pascal, PHP, Perl or even assembler in a matter of days?

This is So Wrong!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38016602)

Sharing is communism!!

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