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Programming — Now Starting In Elementary School

timothy posted about a year ago | from the deprogramming-starts-after-college dept.

Education 162

the agent man writes "The idea of getting kids interested in programming in spite of their common perception of programming to be 'hard and boring' is an ongoing Slashdot discussion. With support of the National Science Foundation, the Scalable Game Design project has explored how to bring computer science education into the curriculum of middle and high schools for some time. The results are overwhelmingly positive, suggesting that game design is highly motivational across gender and ethnicity lines. The project is also finding new ways of tracking programming skills transferring from game design to STEM simulation building. This NPR story highlights an early and unplanned foray into bringing game-design based computer science education even to elementary schools."

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What do you mean, "now" starting? (5, Interesting)

EmagGeek (574360) | about a year ago | (#40058347)

I took programming in 3rd and 4th grades. In 3rd grade we started with logo, and then in 4th grade we started writing in BASIC.

That was standard curriculum throughout the State back in the early 80s.

Re:What do you mean, "now" starting? (4, Interesting)

gman003 (1693318) | about a year ago | (#40058401)

Same - I was using Logo in 3rd grade, back in '96 or so. Loved that turtle.

Weirdly, programming disappeared from my curriculum until high school, when I was started on Java. Of course, I taught myself in the mean time - Basic, C++, Java, and so on. Tried teaching myself assembly - did not go so well.

Re:What do you mean, "now" starting? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40058591)

I taught myself in the mean time

That was very much the mode in those days.

Re:What do you mean, "now" starting? (1)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about 2 years ago | (#40060007)

I taught myself in the mean time

That was very much the mode in those days

I do not know about "those days" or "these days", but, as far as I know, I've been teaching myself all these while, since early 1980's

And it's still continuing

If the kids "these days" do not know anything about "teaching themselves" skills that they need, I can only say that I feel sad for them

Re:What do you mean, "now" starting? (3, Insightful)

EmagGeek (574360) | about a year ago | (#40058613)

I started teaching myself Fortran in 7th grade when I got my Ham Radio license and heard that it was the program of choice for modeling Antennas. Of course, I was not aware of this whole calculus thing, so I couldn't actually write my first antenna modeling program until 8th grade after my dad taught me calculus over the summer.

Math is another subject we seriously need to accelerate. High School just doesn't teach enough Math, even in AP. High school graduates pursuing STEM degrees need to have a firm grasp of Vector Calculus and Differential Equations by the time they get to college. Too many entry level classes are non-calculus based because of this problem, and are therefore a waste of time.

We can do better.

Re:What do you mean, "now" starting? (4, Insightful)

steelyeyedmissileman (1657583) | about a year ago | (#40058703)

Seriously-- there's no reason we shouldn't be teaching Algebra from the *very beginning*. I mean, come on.. what's the difference between 1 + _ = 2 and 1 + x = 2? You're figuring out the exact same thing!! The only reason I can think that we can't introduce Algebra from the start is that it scares the heck out of the teachers.

Re:What do you mean, "now" starting? (1)

oakgrove (845019) | about a year ago | (#40058803)

Agree completely. The high school math here in the states, I.e., algebra, trig, geometry and calculus is in no way "advanced" math and could be embarked upon years earlier. Advanced maths starts when you get into proofs IMO.

Re:What do you mean, "now" starting? (3, Interesting)

MightyYar (622222) | about a year ago | (#40058837)

Elementary math is memorization and learning a mechanical system of computing. Algebra relies more on symbolic thought.

That said, I think that algebra could be taught a few years earlier. I remember seeing it for the first time in 8th grade and thinking, "Oh, wow, this is just like variables in BASIC!"

Depends horw its taught (1)

gr8_phk (621180) | about 2 years ago | (#40060113)

Elementary math is memorization and learning a mechanical system of computing.

If you just drill in the procedure then yes. But I asked my daughter (6 years old in grade K) what 60 + 20 is. She didn't get it, but I asked things like "how many 10s in 60?" She said 6. I asked how may 10s in 20. She said 2. So I ask how many 10s in 80. She thinks, she then says 8. So what's 60 + 20. 80. This is all while we're driving somewhere, so no looking at numbers on paper or anything. If you think about it, adding 10's is the same concept as adding X's. Same for hundreds. No, it's not algebra. But I think if you present early concepts the right way it will make things easier later.

Re:What do you mean, "now" starting? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40060305)

Elementary math is memorization and learning a mechanical system of computing. Algebra relies more on symbolic thought.

You sound like you know what you are talking about. Too bad.

Everybody on Slashdot pretends to be a cognitive neuro-scientist when these type of subjects come up. I guess I'll get back to the Khan Academy and practice "symbolic thought" because I'm getting bored of the "mechanical system of computing" that is called "elementary math".

Re:What do you mean, "now" starting? (0)

gman003 (1693318) | about a year ago | (#40058843)

The only reason I can think that we can't introduce Algebra from the start is that it scares the heck out of the parents.


A lot of the problem isn't the teachers - it's the dumbass parents who think "their babies" can't handle Shakespeare, or Al-gee-brah, or the history of any country that isn't 'MURICAH!

Yeah, you can probably blame a bit of it on the teachers, and on the students, and quite a bit on the government's continual lack of funding and constant barrage of tests and requirements, but a lot of the problem comes from the dumbass parents.

Re:What do you mean, "now" starting? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40058893)

No, the problem is parents who are more interested in paying for their SUV's and 3000 sq ft houses than their children. Our ghetto subculture has a similar problem, with a different cause, but the same affect.

Re:What do you mean, "now" starting? (5, Insightful)

RightwingNutjob (1302813) | about a year ago | (#40059225)

Lack of funding my ass. There's plenty of money to spend of laptops and HD projectors and electronic whiteboards and new sets of math textbooks with new sets of politically correct glossy pictures every other year. It ain't the money, it's the lack of an adult in the room to decree that it's the math that's important, not the glossy pictures. My dad showed me his 5th grade algebra textbook from 1950's Soviet Russia. The size of a DVD case, not a single picture, but all the math you need to learn in a simple package. And it probably would cost $20 to write, fact-check, print and distribute here in today's dollars.

Re:What do you mean, "now" starting? (1)

gman003 (1693318) | about a year ago | (#40059385)

Laptops? They barely had enough funding to get those for the teachers that needed them, never mind the students.

"HD" projectors (ie. 1024x768) and electronic whiteboards I'll concede to, but they're also actually useful - teachers can write notes on the board and just *save* them. Sure beats the old transparencies, in any case, which were usually so faded and yellowed that they were barely legible. And it also simultaneously replaces the crappy TV-on-a-cart used for any videos. Sometimes "wasteful" spending actually does the job better.

I still have my high school history textbook because they were literally used to death - they didn't even bother having students hand them back in, as they were finally being replaced with ones that post-dated Y2K. The pictures may once have been glossy, five years ago, but no longer. Same went for essentially every other textbook - the only "new" textbook I ever had was in Music History, and that was *paperback*.

Oh, and I didn't go to some crappy "ghetto" school. I went to literally one of the top schools in the state, a Governor's School, with strict entrance requirements (seriously, it was harder to get into that school than it was for me to *get* *a* *job*). Extremely bright teachers, bright students, but if *we* couldn't get that kind of funding, I shudder to imagine what the "regular schools" lived on.

Re:What do you mean, "now" starting? (2)

MightyYar (622222) | about a year ago | (#40059791)

I can't comment on your specific school district, but on average the US spends more per-pupal than just about any other country (I think we're number 2?). We rank far lower in achievement... money ain't the problem.

Re:What do you mean, "now" starting? (2)

sensei moreh (868829) | about a year ago | (#40059057)

My second grade teacher convinced me I could do algebra using essentially this example:
. Teacher: How much is 1+1?
Class: 2
Teacher: if 1+x = 2, what's x?
Class: 1
Teacher: You're doing algebra.
I was convinced. It wasn't until I hit my undergraduate group theory class that I started thinking maybe I can't really do algebra (but I repeated the class, group theory, that is, and convinced myself I really could do it)

Re:What do you mean, "now" starting? (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | about a year ago | (#40058985)

High School just doesn't teach enough Math

I wasn't aware that it taught math at all. Well, it teaches students how to memorize formulas, but that's about it. Let's try to improve schools before we "accelerate" any of the material.

Re:What do you mean, "now" starting? (2)

rrohbeck (944847) | about a year ago | (#40058645)

Modern CPUs are too complex to learn Assembly on them. I learned on an IMS6100, basically a single chip PDP-8. It had a RISC-y instruction set that you knew by heart within a week. Same thing a little later with the 6502. Even the 8086/8088 was tolerable. It started to get hairy with the 386. It's like C++: TIMTOWTDI and everybody uses a subset.
I'd start learning on an emulated old 8-bitter, maybe a C64 emulator.

Re:What do you mean, "now" starting? (2, Interesting)

OrangeTide (124937) | about a year ago | (#40058881)

amd64 is not too bad, it cleans up i386 stuff quite a bit. but ARM asm is where things get super easy. I don't understand why people are buying AVR and PIC microcontrollers, or why stuff like Arduino is popular, when an ARM microcontroller is as cheap and is easier to program. (yes, you can get a cortex-m0 for under $2 now)

Re:What do you mean, "now" starting? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40058989)

Microcontrollers are bought for the peripherals, not for the core, and of course there's a big helping of "I'll get what everybody uses".

false (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40059275)

if that was true then everyone would use PIC because they have the best peripherals. The ARMs and the ATmegas are roughly equal, except the ARMs usually come with 2x the SRAM and half the Flash compared to ATmegas in the same price range. Usually it's CPU, pins, and RAM that you run out of and not flash.

It's hard to get what everybody else uses because the hobbyists are split up almost evenly between AVR and PIC with everyone not in those two groups doing something else. And the professionals are divided up almost evenly among PIC, AVR, 8051, and ARM.

Re:What do you mean, "now" starting? (1)

rrohbeck (944847) | about a year ago | (#40059111)

Oh that sounds good. I'm waiting for a Pi...

Raspberry Pi sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40059313)

Pi isn't a microcontroller platform. It's an ARM SoC running Linux.

Also if you wait for Pi, you'll be waiting a long time. Beagleboard, Pandaboard, Boneboard, MX53 Quick Start Board and a few others are readily available and about 3x the real price of a Raspberry Pi ($35 isn't what people are really paying right now).

For cheapness there is the STM32 Discovery which is $8-$11.

Re:What do you mean, "now" starting? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about a year ago | (#40059141)

ARM assembly is pretty clean. One rich addressing mode, orthogonal architecture, lots of GPRs. If I were teaching assembly, I'd start with ARM today.

Re:What do you mean, "now" starting? (1)

rainmouse (1784278) | about a year ago | (#40058693)

Same - I was using Logo in 3rd grade, back in '96 or so. Loved that turtle.

Cant help but feel that in all likelihood what they learn there has a good chance of being utterly redundant or irrelevant by the time they are old enough to make use of it. Why not instead teach them the kind of programming orientated maths and logic?

Re:What do you mean, "now" starting? (5, Informative)

gman003 (1693318) | about a year ago | (#40058797)

No, it won't be "irrelevant", because it's some of the most fundamental elements of programming.

Things I learned in that Logo class:
variables and assignment
IF-THEN-ELSE statements
WHILE loops
FOR loops

With the exception of that last one, what, really, is different in modern programming? I still use every one of those, every day, except the goto.

The syntax is unimportant. The API is unimportant, as long as it's simple, and visual enough for a third-grader to "see" the results of his program. The important thing is teaching the basic programming elements. Hell, the important thing at that age is teaching that a computer is just a machine, that it's not some magic box. I've seen *adults* who can't grasp why a computer is doing what they told it instead of what they want.

Re:What do you mean, "now" starting? (1)

gman003 (1693318) | about a year ago | (#40059343)

Pre-emptively correcting myself before someone bitches at me: My "with the exception of that last one" was supposed to refer to the GOTO - I added Functions to the list while revising.

Re:What do you mean, "now" starting? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40059081)

Sure, but do you expect a third-grader to enter the workforce at the end of the year? That Logo may be irrelevant doesn't matter one bit, as the ones who liked Logo will go on to learning more programming (including -gasp- Java!) later in the lives, and maybe later, if they want jobs as programmers, they'll learn whatever flavor-of-the-year programming language they need, and if past experience is any judge it'll likely contain little new from Logo.

Re:What do you mean, "now" starting? (4, Insightful)

JonySuede (1908576) | about a year ago | (#40059387)

Logo's better than you think.

It is a scheme like language:
      world model --> initial environment
      procedure level -> nested environment
      turtles --> thread environment

It revolves around a built-in actor model funnily named turtles.
An implementation of a multithreaded logo interpreter is trivial because of that.

If Logo was compiled to byte-code or machine code using a modern compiler it would be a competitive language assumed it had a decent library or the capability to call to other languages transparently.

Re:What do you mean, "now" starting? (2)

RightwingNutjob (1302813) | about a year ago | (#40058445)

In the Philadelphia public schools in the early 90's, 2nd and 3rd graders would have computer class with Apple 2e's 1-2 hrs a week, and LOGO was the tool of choice to teach programming. Loops, subroutines, conditionals, everything. And then it disappeared, only to be echoed weakly with the occasional 10-line TI calculator program in high school calculus.

My thinking is that when you're talking about young kids, they'd be open to it, but the school district would have to have the funding, patience, and political will to have a programming class for each grade, not just a one-off thing in elementary school. After all, math, English, history, and foreign language are multi-year sequences. It would be absurd to only have arithmetic in 3rd grade and then do no math until high school, or to have one year of Spanish in 5th grade and then expect fluency out of high school grads.

Re:What do you mean, "now" starting? (2)

NotSoHeavyD3 (1400425) | about a year ago | (#40058495)

Yup, I'm another one. They had us do Logo when I was in the 6th or 7th grade in the early 80's. Still maybe if they get to the kids early enough they can teach them some good coding habits. (For instance yes, most of your functions should fit on the freaking screen. No, it's not a good idea to have functions that are several hundred if not several thousand lines long. Oh, and my favorite, DON'T CUT AND PASTE CODE THROUGH OUT YOUR PROGRAM! Write a function damn it.)

Re:What do you mean, "now" starting? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40058513)

Yeah, our text-books even had little snippets of BASIC in them as an enrichment exercise at the back of every math lesson, and this was in Alabama in the early 80s.

Re:What do you mean, "now" starting? (5, Insightful)

phaserbanks (1977290) | about a year ago | (#40058523)

Yup. Started BASIC in 3rd grade at public elementary school in Tampa. Fast forward today: I asked my son what they do in his computer class, and he said "we made a song in Garage Band". WTF

Re:What do you mean, "now" starting? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40058533)

Yup. Throw me onto the "me too" pile.

Re:What do you mean, "now" starting? (2)

the agent man (784483) | about a year ago | (#40058561)

I took programming in 3rd and 4th grades. In 3rd grade we started with logo, and then in 4th grade we started writing in BASIC.

That was standard curriculum throughout the State back in the early 80s.

yes, WAS! Programming has been tried before, in some way or another, even in Elementary Schools. However, these programs did not stick. At the high school level there are some CS AP courses but in general they are doing quite terrible especially with female and minority students. At the middle school level there are very few programming related activities. At the elementary school level there is basically nothing in US schools.

Unlike with the programming found in schools in the 80ies there is now some evidence suggesting that middle and elementary school teachers can be trained to sustain programming related activities and that programming can even be introduced into the curriculum. This was never really the case before.

Re:What do you mean, "now" starting? (1)

antdude (79039) | about a year ago | (#40058599)

Ditto. My parents signed me up for computer classes for BASIC. In sixth grade, I had a geek teacher, Mr. Mangel (is he on /.?) who taught us Apple 2 LOGO. He even had an awesome robotic turtle, like a slow plotter, that drew on big papers! That was radical/rad. :)

Re:What do you mean, "now" starting? (1)

CliffH (64518) | about a year ago | (#40058609)

About the same for me as well. We had a TRS-80 in class and learned on that in 2nd Grade (in '82). First it was copying down what was in the book, then basic problem solving along the lines of "What's missing in this line". I should have really kept going with it but by the time I was 12 I was completely and utterly fed up with it. That's when I switched to music. :) Of course, nowadays I pay the bills doing the usual admin and network engineering I would say a lot of us do and try not to get anywhere near programming.

Re:What do you mean, "now" starting? (1)

Dracos (107777) | about a year ago | (#40058611)

I started in 4th grade on an Apple ][e in 1985. I was the first kid in the class to figure out how to do animation, as a result of a bug in my code.

Re:What do you mean, "now" starting? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40058615)

another one here, hell I had more years of pre-collegiate schooling where i was studying programming than years when i wasn't

BASIC: 3,4,5+6
Pascal: 9+10
C++: 11+12, class of '99

all of those excepting 3rd in public(though affluent) schools

Re:What do you mean, "now" starting? (1)

Kensai7 (1005287) | about a year ago | (#40058633)

Amazing as it sounds, I had the same experience in backwards Greece in the early nineties. LOGO and BASIC in 4th and 5th grade (elementary school has six grades in us). So why the news?

Re:What do you mean, "now" starting? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40058639)

In the last 1960's the late Dr. Orla Bell started programming courses at East High School, Salt Lake City, Utah.
I took a ForTran course from her in 11th grade starting in the fall of 1969.
The courses have been offered ever since (now in all high schools in the several school districts in the Salt Lake Valley).

Strange that at this late date there is a move to move programming courses into the high schools.

Re:What do you mean, "now" starting? (1)

TheSpoom (715771) | about a year ago | (#40058681)

For me it wasn't standard curriculum, but we did have around 5 Commodore 64s in grades 5 and 6, and probably about half the class took the opportunity to learn C64 BASIC. It helped that we could to some degree control our learning in that class... not everyone is so lucky.

Re:What do you mean, "now" starting? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40058689)

I just hope it's optional, but then again, it's elementary school, so I doubt it.

Re:What do you mean, "now" starting? (1)

fongaboo (813253) | about a year ago | (#40058713)

What state? We had Commodore PETs in 3rd grade in 1983. Granted it was part of a 'Gifted and Talented' program and not my regular class curriculum. We programmed in BASIC.

Re:What do you mean, "now" starting? (1)

gatzke (2977) | about a year ago | (#40058821)

Back in the TRS 80 / Sinclair days, you generally had to copy games from a magazine into the basic interpreter. Not really programming, but you learned something from it.

I also took a few courses in elementary school, but did not program anything for real until middle / high school.

After judging FLL Middle School robotics for a while, the lack of anything on the programming side scares me a lot. They all seem to use very simple programs without any real structure or even sensor feedback. It worries me.

Smalltalk anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40059121)

Logo and Smalltalk were invented before most slashdotters were born. This is suppose to be a geek board right? Or is this place now only for idiots who have no concept of computing history and like to read slashbi?

Re:What do you mean, "now" starting? (1)

SixAndFiftyThree (1020048) | about a year ago | (#40059257)

Hmm, it seems that /.ers don't have children (even the ones who can remember back to the '80s). In the school where my kids go, a local robotics nerd is teaching programming to grades 3 and onwards using Scratch [mit.edu] and they're loving it. Yes, Scratch has a colourful GUI for junior programmers and doesn't let you edit your code in vi, but it has loops, objects, methods, variables, and most of the constructs that older programmers use.

Now if I could only get my 6th grader to stop fixing bugs in his maze and start watching his TV like he's supposed to ....

Statistics of motivation (5, Interesting)

imbusy (1002705) | about a year ago | (#40058377)

It would be interesting to see how many of us started out wanting to make a game/some graphics demo and then learning how to do it compared to some other motivation for learning programming. I started out that way myself.

Re:Statistics of motivation (1)

zmughal (1343549) | about a year ago | (#40058557)

My initial motivation was learning about fractals, so, in a way, it was about building a graphics demo. However, I soon got into figuring out how to get my computer and graphing calculator to do my mathematics homework. That was where I learnt about breaking things down into fundamental abstractions.

Re:Statistics of motivation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40058673)

I second that. At my high school, there was a policy that if you programmed a program onto your calculator. The thinking was that if you could program it into your calculator, then you obviously understood the material enough to do it without the program. However, before a test, you had to go through a process. This required getting a unique name from the staff and let them take a look at your program (my BASIC friends and I took a printout from the TI programming suite). Interestingly enough, they did not tell you if the program was right or not, they were really just looking for people using the exact same program to prevent copying. The reason I know this is the case is that my friend started programming in assembly and would submit it that way as I could barely understand what those programs did as he sat there explaining the source code to me, I don't think the faculty that reviewed them had any chance of getting it when all they had was it on a sheet of paper and no explanation. They were, BTW, a math teacher (who would have us reset the school calculators before class and then wonder why all the random numbers in the class would be the same on all the calculators), the computer teacher (who was a typist for 40 years before getting a teaching certificate the year before) and the vice principal (who would emphasize the word BASIC every time she spoke it and we used to joke that it was because it was in all caps).

You know, now that I think about it. Once they gave us the special name, I don't think they ever actually checked to see that the program was the same. Either way, that is why I learned programming: real motivation to accomplish something that is otherwise rote, not just completing an assignment for class for a teacher who barely understood more about the programming than I did.

Re:Statistics of motivation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40058709)

Same AC here. I screwed up the second sentence it should say: "At my high school, there was a policy that if you programmed a program into your calculator, you could use it on a test."

Re:Statistics of motivation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40058743)

I absolutely started that way, and never got there. It was disheartening to want to make big, complicated games, and learning that any programming I'd learned was completely inappropriate for the job.

If it works, it works (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40058389)

I'm a bit skeptical of dedicating grades 1-7 to teaching arithmetic, fractions, and getting kids' feet wet with algebra. Even before the Internet, that was a waste. Nowadays we can bet that kids in some countries are going to be learning STEM concepts much faster than ours, if we stay that course.

Ignoring the Actual Problem (4, Insightful)

TemperedAlchemist (2045966) | about a year ago | (#40058787)

The problem isn't that we don't teach them algebra soon enough, it's that we don't teach them how to think (read: at all). It's not that mathematics doesn't teach people how to think, it does. But only in some kind of sneaky way, and people are assumed to have great logical deduction abilities like it's some inherent intuitive concept. But it doesn't work that way.

Unless you attended a rich and large high school, chances are your exposure to any level of logic is nil. Why is it only philosophy majors are the ones forced to take informal logic (and not even very much at that)? The only way you actually get an adequate exposure to formal education in rational thinking is if you're a logician.

But really I'm just deluding myself, who wants a workforce that knows how to think?

Re:Ignoring the Actual Problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40058959)

It's sort of self-evident: In order to teach children how to think, you'd need teachers that possess such skills themselves, and also the rare skills to pass on such skills. However, most (not all) teachers having such skills would never be teachers in the first place, thus our society with its questionable list of priorities, would never be able to make school a place where you learn to think, about life and taking responsibility, until change has to happen.

Re:Ignoring the Actual Problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40059049)

This makes me happy that all throughtout late middle school and high school my dad exposed me to a ton of informal (and quite a bit of formal) logic and critical thinking skills

CoderDojo teaching kids to code (4, Interesting)

ei4anb (625481) | about a year ago | (#40058415)

I help out at the local CoderDojo, it's like a youth club and we show them everything from Scratch through HTML & Javascript up to developing Android apps (for the older kids). The company I work for just donated 100 old laptops to allow kids without their own (or parents) laptop to take part.

Here's what it looks like http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MMODHilE4qk [youtube.com]

A shrinking market (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about a year ago | (#40058443)

great thing to get kids interested in early, so by the time they reach working age, there wont be job..

Re:A shrinking market (2)

RightwingNutjob (1302813) | about a year ago | (#40058469)

Just because the hardware's made in China (we'll see how long that lasts, but that's another issue) doesn't mean the software can be. Software in many cases can't be one-size-fits all. Whether your business is sufficiently different that the off-the-shelf accounting or inventory software doesn't quite cut it or you want your web page to look *just right* and don't feel like playing email tag with some minimum wage drone 12 hrs away from your time zone, there will always be a need to people right here who know how to code. Nevermind all the embedded work that requires being physically present to get it to work.

Re:A shrinking market (0)

bmo (77928) | about a year ago | (#40058497)

Just because the hardware's made in China (we'll see how long that lasts, but that's another issue) doesn't mean the software won't be


Manufacturing has headed to China. And engineering has been moving with it. Somehow the software won't?

You're delusional and whistling by the graveyard.


Re:A shrinking market (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40058539)

And the United States is doomed, we should all lay down and slowly starve.

What does this kind of thinking actually accomplish?

China is doing very well, the US can too. We have a ton of exceptionally smart, talented people, and we need positive, forward thinking attitudes to keep them interested. Imagine the typical high school student mildly interested in computer science reading this discussion right now. What kind of message are you sending? You're basically telling him to abandon all hope and go into the service industry, and that there's no place for an advanced skill set in this country anymore.

Please, if it's so bad, leave this awful graveyard of a country, learn Chinese, and stop trolling.

Re:A shrinking market (5, Interesting)

bmo (77928) | about a year ago | (#40058813)

And the United States is doomed

We are, unless things drastically change in politics and the boards of corporations. This is a matter of facts on the ground. It's not open to debate. It's happening.

we should all lay down and slowly starve.

We won't have any choice if things don't change.

We have been handing technology, as a society, to the Chinese for decades now, with the delusional belief that all the high-end stuff will still happen here. I believe it started with Voc-Ed being a place to dump the "dummy" students. This is how I believe we lost the skills to make anything here - that we systematically decided that making anything = sweatshop and if you were smart, you didn't go into manufacturing, ever. We denigrated actual work for decades and anyone who worked in a factory making anything was therefore just some dumb monkey. And you can replace monkeys on one side of the planet with monkeys from another side. That's the thinking that got us here.^1

But transferring the manufacturing base over to China makes it inconvenient for the engineering and software to happen here, so guess where it's going to move.

Go ahead, guess.

Engineers and scientists are already moving to Shanghai.

Unless we stop the haemorrhaging and start building up our own manufacturing base here encouraging students to go into STEM without learning Chinese is a joke and a half.

But I don't see that happening any time soon.


Postscript: I was looking at a Popular Mechanics from the 1950s and there was articles that went on for pages on how to use a shaper and a tip on how to turn a taper using ball bearings instead of ordinary conical centers , and it was just *there* as if machining was a skill that many people had. You don't publish an article in a popular magazine where you deliberate write over the heads over your readers or write something they don't care about. It was expected that the readers of the 1954 Popular Mechanics^2 would find this stuff applicable. Today you would *never* find such an article in a mainstream magazine such as that.


1. The war on work: http://www.ted.com/talks/mike_rowe_celebrates_dirty_jobs.html [ted.com]

The first half goes on about castrating sheep. But that's the set-up for the second half, so watch the whole thing.

2. http://books.google.com/books?id=Nt8DAAAAMBAJ&lpg=PA126&dq=1954%20Popular%20Mechanics&pg=PA234#v=onepage&q&f=true [google.com]

Re:A shrinking market (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40058943)

Alright, you make some good points, but I'd argue that manufacturing jobs are leaving center stage anyway.

Look around, we build factories that require a tenth of the labor they used to. We build entire shipping centers that are more or less automated. I'm not sure that we really need manufacturing anymore. If anything China is serving as an excellent stop-gap to ease the transition to a much different kind of society.

I mean, when you get down to it, the problem is really that the amount of product per single skilled worker in a modern, automated factory is so large, that there quite frankly isn't a demand for the entire population to be employed. China has cheap labor now, but machines will become cheaper, and at that point the only thing left is engineering.

Re:A shrinking market (1)

bmo (77928) | about a year ago | (#40058983)

1. Not everyone can be an engineer.
2. An engineer who does not how to manufacture is a pretty fuckin' poor engineer and makes it painful for everyone else who has to deal with his shit downstream.


Re:A shrinking market (1)

gr8_phk (621180) | about 2 years ago | (#40060319)

Manufacturing is still important. You can't design products without knowing details of how they will be manufactured. Well you can try, but there is an interplay between physical product, electrical circuits, software, and manufacturing process. Even the MBA over at HBR are writing about how new products can not be created in the US. The classic example is thin films - which are in an ever increasing number of things from batterys to OLED displays and touch screens and much more. The problem is we outsourced TV production, so when that shifted to LCDs it was the other countries who developed large scale thin film manufacturing capability. Now it's hard to even research anything with such materials in the US because nobody does anything (read Makes anything) with them here. Another example would be IC fabrication - everyone outsource production (or part of their production) except Intel. If you can't make chips you can't make anything anymore - not even "cheap toys from China".

Re:A shrinking market (1)

indeterminator (1829904) | about a year ago | (#40059239)

Manufacturing has headed to China. And engineering has been moving with it. Somehow the software won't?

The whole "outsourcing to cheaper labor countries" is only temporary, it will sort itself out eventually. Either salaries rise in China, or they drop at our end. At that point, producing near consumption starts to make sense again.

Sure, it might get nasty in between...

Re:A shrinking market (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40059291)

Or you continue deficit spending until the big collapse comes. Then China takes over as the hegemon of earth and the USA becomes a miserable backwater place.

Re:A shrinking market (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40059319)

In a simple economic model, that is indeed the case. However, when the second country starts buying the assets (companies, properties, etc) rather than the goods of another country, the dollar of of the first country can stay propped up until until there are no more assets to buy.

Re:A shrinking market (1)

bmo (77928) | about 2 years ago | (#40059943)

"might" is a pretty big understatement.

Put it this way, unless you have people who can afford your products, your products are not going to get bought. And captains of industry in the US have been ignoring this obvious fact stated in plain terms by Henry Ford himself. Manufacturing isn't always the largest part of the economy, but it drives a lot of other industries in parallel with it.

Germany has always had a decent manufacturing base, and at this last downturn, they are still the strongest economy in Europe. Funny how that works.

The whole "outsourcing to cheaper labor countries" is only temporary,

This is wrong and stupid. It causes a cascade of talent loss that is not easily replaced. It is more likely to be permanent than anything else.


Re:A shrinking market (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about a year ago | (#40058777)

Sure, there will be some people left coding, but in a practical sense the days are limited that makes its a viable career choice.

For most people canned software is 'good enough' and RAD tools are getting to the point even a non programmer can create something usable on modern hardware. ( great, no, but usable ).

Re:A shrinking market (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40059019)

I usually agree with you but I've been hearing the non programmer programmer schpiel for a looking time. Not happening until the computer can take natural language input and spit out good code. And when they're smart enough to pull that off, it won't matter anymore anyway.

Re:A shrinking market (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40058473)

Shrinking market? Do you live in a mayonnaise jar? Right now there's a severe shortage of people who are competent at programming, and there's no reason this will decrease in the near term as we move more and more stuff online.

Re:A shrinking market (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40058623)

Right now there's a severe shortage of people who are competent at programming, and there's no reason this will decrease in the near term as we move more and more stuff online.

if there is a shrinking number of competent programmers, why are networking groups filed with them? could it be that they are over 40, out of work for more than 3 months, no tattoos and have families? yes, there are also rans but I've found people with talent and wisdom within 15 minutes of working the room, people that I would have hired when I was a hiring manager.

employers need to try different modes of working. for example I'm looking to find a part time gig (contract) where I can trade rate for learning. I want to learn more about HTML/CSS/javascript and map my UI knowledge onto that. I also find no greater learning incentive than "you have a client, you have a target, you are getting paid, now produce" Sadly I have not found such a gig yet. employers have a problem thinking out of the cube.

so don't give me that people shortage lie. good people are out there. just open your eyes and be willing to update their knowledge.

Re:A shrinking market (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40058477)

being able to program isn't always about securing a job. It promotes critical, analytical reasoning that is beneficial in many areas.

Re:A shrinking market (1)

akgooseman (632715) | about a year ago | (#40058549)

Learning to program offers much more to kids than the possibility of a future job.

Re:A shrinking market (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40058737)

Yeah, like... forgetting how to program when they don't use it. It happens to advanced math, science, and a variety of other subjects, and it'll happen to programming, too. Sorry, but teaching someone how to program won't make them magically intelligent.

Re:A shrinking market (2)

inglorion_on_the_net (1965514) | about a year ago | (#40059129)

How do you mean "there wont be job"? I thought elementary school was for giving kids a basic set of knowledge and skills, not to train them for any specific line of work. Programming teaches analytic thinking, logic, and gives some insight into how computers work and what sort of things they can and cannot do for you. These are useful skills to have in life, even if you don't actually end up developing software for a living.

Re:A shrinking market (1)

gr8_phk (621180) | about 2 years ago | (#40060271)

great thing to get kids interested in early, so by the time they reach working age, there wont be job..

The only jobs left are high-end jobs that require a LOT of training - doctors, dentists, lawyers, therapists - and the job of automating everything else. Believe it, the automators are going after those other occupations over the next several decades too. It's going to take a long time.

Don't really need programming (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40058471)

You really don't need to teach programming. If you teach good problem solving skills you've already accomplished the hardest part of learning to program. I've seen entirely too many people who know how to use proper syntax, but they can't write code to solve a problem to save their lives. Programming can be a good way of teaching problem solving, but it's not the only one.

Not all educational methods agree (-1, Offtopic)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year ago | (#40058481)

My nephews are being pulled out of public school after some issues my sister has had with their education (specifically, NCLB and such encourage schools to identify children as disabled if they are slow, then assess them at the 16th percentile - mainstreaming them - then, when the test come up, if they are hurting the school, bump them down to 15th percentile - which lets them be moved, on paper at least, in with the droolers who can't even eat without assistance, who are NCLB exempt, resulting in a class of student who are explicitly left behind because of NCLB, but that's what you get when you let Presidents who run on an anti-education platform "reform" education). But I looked at the school that she's putting them in, and they link to: http://drupal6.allianceforchildhood.org/fools_gold [allianceforchildhood.org] (probably as an excuse for being too cheap to buy computers, but they claim it's bad for the children to have computers in elementary).

Ironically, my sister, sending them to the anti-computer school has bought them a laptop each (well, "bought" being stole one of my old laptops and given it to one them, and bought the older one his own).

Not a bad idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40058485)

Okay, I'm down with this. Just make sure they get the kiddies started on a real platform [trollaxor.com].

Programming is treated as too "mystical" (4, Insightful)

whizbang77045 (1342005) | about a year ago | (#40058625)

Society seems to treat programming as though it were something mystical. In fact, it is simply learning how to think and express oneself logically, using a very basic (no pun intended) language. How is this different than learning how to read and write English effectively? We expect too many things to be hard, so we make them hard by our attitudes.

Re:Programming is treated as too "mystical" (4, Funny)

Tr3vin (1220548) | about a year ago | (#40058663)

Hey now, I make good money convincing people that what I do is something mystical. I'm sure many others here do too. Don't go and ruin it for the rest of us.

Re:Programming is treated as too "mystical" (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about a year ago | (#40059265)

No, it's just something that Whites and Asians do. It's discriminatory to divert school funds to programs that disproportionately affect privileged parts of society. You don't think so? Go ahead and try to argue this point before an inner-city school board. Justice for Trayvon.

generalize to problem solving (4, Insightful)

RichMan (8097) | about a year ago | (#40058661)

Programming is not special. Programming is the literacy of problem solving.
Facing a required task and then using known tools to construct a method the achieve the required task in logical steps.

There should be less emphasis on "programming" and more on general problem solving. Learning the general method is better than learning the specific method until you need to become as master of the specific method.

Programming can be one aspect of teaching problem solving because programming is very structured. However problem solving skills in general need to raised a lot higher than general grade school level before real programming can be done.

Re:generalize to problem solving (1)

Phroggy (441) | about a year ago | (#40059769)

Yes. This.

Programming isn't an end to itself. Programming is a means to an end, and it's a lot of fun to pick an end and find a means to it. Kids need to learn that using their brains is fun, whether that means programming or something else.

For me, the 70's (1)

michaelmalak (91262) | about a year ago | (#40058685)

I took BASIC in the summer between fourth and fifth grade. It was the summer before the TRS-80 and the Apple ][ were widely available, so we learned on the instructor's home-built ALTAIR. Storage was on paper tape. OK, so it wasn't standard curriculum (although it was held at a public school, it was privately arranged with the instructor volunteering his time). But just four years after that, The Math Box [pqarchiver.com] put Atari 800's in every Fairfax County school. Rumor has it that salesman made $80,000 commission. It wasn't until a few years ago that I learned the rest of the world went Commodore 64.

Fresh meat for the grinder (1)

Animats (122034) | about a year ago | (#40059025)

More fresh meat for the game companies who need armies of overworked and underpaid programmers.

Agentsheets is closed source, proprietary , costly (1)

jimmydevice (699057) | about a year ago | (#40059287)

I question using agentsheets (tm), at a cost of $45 to $99 a license when open source solutions like Squeak and BYOB are available for free.
This appears to be more an "enrichment" program for the owners of agentsheets.
What a great way to spend scarce funding.

Coming Full Circle (1)

wynand1004 (671213) | about a year ago | (#40059481)

All of the discussion going on about teaching programming in schools is a great new/old trend. Like many posters here, I learned basic programming skills years ago in middle / high school. But then that all changed somewhere along the line.

School technology courses began to focus on turning students into secretaries - students learn Microsoft Office. If you're lucky, they'll teach design skills (PhotoShop, etc.) The other trend these days is about using Web 2.0 to enable collaboration, which is not bad in and of itself, but misses the mark. That's where programming comes (back) in.

There are a lot of great free resources out there. I have taught programming using Scratch [mit.edu] to third graders, Microsoft SmallBasic [smallbasic.com] to fifth graders, and JavaScript [w3schools.com] to ninth graders. There is also GameMaker [yoyogames.com], which has a free lite version that allows for drag-n-drop game programming. Microsoft also has Kodu [microsoft.com], which let's kids make 3D games with a drag-n-drop interface.

A few months ago I gave a TEDxTokyo presentation [youtube.com] on the subject (excuse the shameless plug), which you may find interesting, possibly even entertaining...

"Perception" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40059813)

Great. Get people involved with programming - I'm all for that.

But the thing is - personally I do see it as really boring. That's my perception. I would have hated it if I had to do it at school.

I do linguistics and languages, I do music, politics, economics and history.... but programming is boring for me. I've tried it several times and it just didn't do anything for me. Those who will find it interesting will find it interesting. It's best to offer a broad range of topics/skills in an environment where children are able to pick up what suits them best. I failed math badly in school - and I've still never had to use any of it (over 10 years later). (Arithmetic being something related but different.) I also failed English because I had no interest in deconstructing Shakespeare and analysing something I was already proficient in. The time wasted doing things which I found boring and 'difficult' could have been better spent on subjects which I did find interesting and 'easy' (because the difficulty level of anything truly enjoyable typically becomes irrelevant).

Just some of my thoughts on the matter.

It is never too early to program (1)

GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) | about 2 years ago | (#40060459)

I started programming before I understood what the words and symbols I was typing did. I was about 5 yrs old.
I didn't even understand written English. I just typed in what I read in a book.
Then I graduated to Print rockets.
Once I learned what IF/THEN did when I was 12, I felt the world open up.
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