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Khan Academy Launches Computer Science Curriculum

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the make-with-the-learning dept.

Education 146

joabj writes "Expanding beyond math and the physical sciences, Khan Academy has added a set of computer science courses to its popular collection of learn-at-home instructional videos. For the project, Khan tapped jQuery creator John Resig, who chose JavaScript as the first language to teach students. The initial set of tutorials cover drawing, programming basics, animation and user interaction."

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Mighty broad definition of "language" there (-1, Flamebait)

crazyjj (2598719) | about 2 years ago | (#40989419)

Khan tapped jQuery creator John Resig, who chose JavaScript as the worst language to teach students.

FTFY

Re:Mighty broad definition of "language" there (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40989493)

Yeah, Javascript is the language that includes the unexpected behaviour of automatically adding missing semicolons [inimino.org]

Re:Mighty broad definition of "language" there (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40989575)

Khaaannnnnnnnnnn

Re:Mighty broad definition of "language" there (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40989583)

I thought it was the language that tries to automatically fix the programmer's omission of semicolons...

Re:Mighty broad definition of "language" there (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40989767)

Thus making for sloppy "programmers." It's fine if it's an experienced programmer, but it makes for a harsh reality check when these budding coders pick up something more substantial.

If the compiler/interpreter can add semicolons (0)

presidenteloco (659168) | about 2 years ago | (#40989879)

Why have the freaking semicolons in the language in those positions anyway? Clearly they add no information.

Violation of minimalism.

Re:If the compiler/interpreter can add semicolons (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40990681)

You need them if you put the sequence on the same line:

alert(1) alert(2)

will not work, but

alert(1)
alert(2)

will. The language does not require a semicolon there and it is not a mistake to omit it. This is a deviation from the "type of whitespace doesn't matter" style of C style languages, but since it allows the semicolon in these places, what's the problem? You can make the type of whitespace irrelevant if you always use semicolons, or you can make whitespace "semantic" by omitting them.

Re:Mighty broad definition of "language" there (4, Informative)

grumbel (592662) | about 2 years ago | (#40989573)

JavaScript can be an ugly language to work with, but the interactive editor [khanacademy.org] they have looks really good and nicely works around all the issue one frequently runs into when using raw JavaScript (catches missing semicolon, catches typos of function names, allows editing color values via GUI, automatically runs the code on each change, etc.).

Re:Mighty broad definition of "language" there (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40989891)

(catches missing semicolon, catches typos of function names, allows editing color values via GUI, automatically runs the code on each change, etc.).

Or you could acquire a little skill.

Re:Mighty broad definition of "language" there (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40990233)

Which part of "Academy" confuses you?

Re:Broad definition of "reading comprehension" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40990639)

Which part of "Academy" confuses you?

Which part of "could acquire" makes you think I expect them to already be skilled?

Re:Broad definition of "reading comprehension" (1)

Jarmihi (2589777) | about 2 years ago | (#40992025)

To be fair, the way you worded it disinclines me to agree with you. Perhaps "they could use a different language so as to teach those skills" would enable people to "comprehend" your post better.

Re:Mighty broad definition of "language" there (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40990293)

It failed pretty hard when I tested that functionality... left out a semicolon... A-OK! Added the semicolon... "YOU'RE MISSING A SEMICOLON!" Any number of free IDEs/editors will provide the same functionality... and generally in better form, too.

Re:Mighty broad definition of "language" there (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40990665)

They're using a javascript port of language processing. See: http://processingjs.org/

Re:Mighty broad definition of "language" there (4, Insightful)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 2 years ago | (#40990879)

This really doesn't sound like "computer science" when you read the description. Where are algorithms, data structures, computability, complexity theory, etc? Programming != computer science. Even if they really meant that they were teaching programming, teaching a fad language used at an application level (not same as high level language) is not really the best way to teach programming. And what does "drawing", "animation", and "user interaction" have to do with programming or computer science?

Way to go Khan to dumb down computing even more than it already is.

Re:Mighty broad definition of "language" there (3, Insightful)

hguorbray (967940) | about 2 years ago | (#40991661)

In a field that is essentially less than 75 years old it seems specious to call a language that has been around and in heavy use for nearly 20 years a fad.

moreover, as part of web 2.0 is seems to have kicked Silverlight and Flash's collective asses

and it's extensions into JSON seem to ensure that it will be around for another 20 years

Maybe javascript != computer science, but it is certainly a programming language that is widely used and probably an easier introduction thatn perl/php/c/java

getting a computer to do anything at all is major step for a beginner -why do you think logo with its drawing is such an attractive tool to teach kids?

-I'm just sayin'

get off your high horse (0)

circletimessquare (444983) | about 2 years ago | (#40991823)

'And what does "drawing", "animation", and "user interaction" have to do with programming or computer science?'

gee, i dunno. maybe to get KIDS INTERESTED?

maybe you can wait a few fucking days before they get introduced to factory methods?

from your sneering ivory tower, do you even remember what childhood is?

Re:get off your high horse (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 2 years ago | (#40992251)

What does childhood have to do with it? I thought Khan Academy tought serious academic subjects? This doesn't sound like a serious subject, it sounds like overly broad introduction to something not really at all like computer science.

Re:Mighty broad definition of "language" there (4, Insightful)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 2 years ago | (#40989629)

Every language has its ups and downs. Javascript has the advantage that it bears some similarities to non-scripting languages and will produce instant results without getting too heavily into theory.

Re:Mighty broad definition of "language" there (3, Insightful)

dgatwood (11270) | about 2 years ago | (#40989837)

It also has a number of rather large disadvantages: requiring an understanding of closures, no real notion of classes (objects are just glorified key-value stores), implicit variable scoping, implicit insertion of semicolons (in ways that can actually cause errors in some cases), and the confusing (ab)use of the plus operator for string concatenation... and that's just the language itself. As soon as you start adding in the brain damage that is the DOM, it quickly becomes one of the worst programming languages you can possibly use to teach young minds, posing a very real risk of turning them off to programming rather quickly as soon as they try to step outside the narrow confines of the lecture material.

Want to make someone swear off programming for good? Make them write any sort of complex web-based text editor using ContentEditable. It makes my i386 assembly days seem sane by comparison; you spend more than 99% of your time working around bugs in one browser or another, and less than 1% of your time actually writing code that actually does something useful.

Re:Mighty broad definition of "language" there (4, Interesting)

WankersRevenge (452399) | about 2 years ago | (#40991853)

Let me tell you where I'm coming from ... I hated JavaScript ... HATED IT ... for ten years, I endured it. A while back, I decided to finally wrap my head around it and actually study it the same way I studied languages like Java, C, and Objective C. Once I dropped the notion that it wasn't a class based language and that I needed to think differently in order to use it, I found it remarkably freeing.

In fact, I grew so accustomed to it that I actually find class based languages constricting.

Yes, it does have some dangerous gotchas, so the trick is to avoid those areas of the language, and then use static analyzer like JSLint for backup. It also helps to "use strict" on all your scripts

The true irony is once I've come to enjoy the old dog, I've decided to move out of development. Maybe next lifetime :)

Re:Mighty broad definition of "language" there (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40992037)

objects are just glorified key-value stores

That's because objects ARE just glorified key-value stores. Your favorite OO language is just a tool you use to shield you from that basic fact. If you want to be a good programmer, you have to be thinking below your current level of abstraction.

Re:Mighty broad definition of "language" there (2)

dgatwood (11270) | about 2 years ago | (#40992363)

That's because objects ARE just glorified key-value stores.

In principle, yes. In practice, it's a heck of a lot harder to properly document and verify the expected behavior of code if you have to write complex regular expressions just to get a complete list of all the different possible keys. I've fixed bugs in Perl code (which obeys that same design principle) where some subtle misbehavior was caused by a simple typo in the name of a key—an error that went undetected for months, yet would have been caught instantly in any programming language that requires you to actually define your classes.

If you want to be a good programmer, you have to be thinking below your current level of abstraction.

It is one thing to understand what's happening at lower layers of abstraction. It is quite another to provide no abstraction whatsoever, requiring the programmer to do significant portions of the work that the compiler should be doing for you. There's no good reason to take on that unnecessary cognitive load if you can prevent it by simply choosing a language that's a little bit more rigorous. Granted, a language can be too rigorous, but JavaScript is so far on the other side of that line that you can't even see the line from there....

Re:Mighty broad definition of "language" there (3, Insightful)

timothyf (615594) | about 2 years ago | (#40989675)

Name a language that is easier to get started in. You already have a browser that runs Javascript, regardless if you're on MacOS, *nix, or Windows (or whatever system you use most likely), now all you need is a text editor, which is built in on most systems. I don't know of any other language that doesn't require you to download and install some sort of compiler, interpreter, SDK, or whatever, all of which are barriers to entry. Plus, you have the advantage of using one of the most widely used languages on a platform that can distribute your code very easily and very portably.

You may not like Javascript--and granted, as a language, it's got plenty of warts. (Note that you can fix a great deal of these warts on modern browsers by simply including a "use strict" declaration at the top of your code). But it's a great language to start out in, if for no other reason than that the start-up cost is very close to negligible, and it's a useful language that enjoys a level of ubiquity that most other languages only dream of.

Re:Mighty broad definition of "language" there (1, Insightful)

vux984 (928602) | about 2 years ago | (#40990279)

Name a language that is easier to get started in

C

I don't know of any other language that doesn't require you to download and install some sort of compiler, interpreter, SDK, or whatever, all of which are barriers to entry.

You are allegedly learning "computer science" or at the very least "computer programming". Being able to perform rudimentary tasks, such as file download and software installation on a computer is a reasonable prerequisite.

Just as someone taking a course in "toaster repair" or "toaster design principles" should already be familiar with toaster operation.

Plus, you have the advantage of using one of the most widely used languages on a platform that can distribute your code very easily and very portably.

Because after a few course hours on Javascript your main concern is how to distribute your apps? That's pretty optimistic. ;)

The problem with javascript is 2 fold:

a) its a pretty warty language that's easy to hang yourself with, that's not a good teaching language.

b) the DOM is still pretty messy as a platform. Javascript on its own isn't the worst thing in the world, but the last thing you want for while your are teaching programming fundamentals is to get side tracked by some browser specific DOM issue.

The benefits of javascript that you highlighted are what make it a good language for consumer application development. But that is orthogonal to being a good language for learning how to program.

The fact that its everywhere really has no bearing on it being any good to learn with.

I'd honestly recommend anyone serious about learning to program start with something with a strong IDE (code formatting, syntax highlihgting) and an integrated debugger, good variable watch windows, good code stepping tools, accurate complilation error reporting, compilation warnings (unreachable code etc; assignment where equality testing is likely, etc), ability to set breakpoints/conditional breakpoints, and so forth.

Keep the focus on writing code, and watching it run.

A text editor and a browser and some "developer plugins"
  is simply NOT a good learning environment, nor a good development environment. It may be what a lot of us are stuck with in the real world, and it maybe everywhere but that's not important.

if for no other reason than that the start-up cost is very close to negligible

Any number of languages and environements are free Eclipse for Java; Visual Studio Express for C#.

Like many of us here I self taught myself programming with Turbo Pascal after graduating from BASIC. And I consider Turbo Pascal to have been pretty much an ideal teaching language and environment.

The university I went to taught its first year programming in Modula-2; which in hindsight was a fine teaching language. (The language itself was fine, the debugging tools we had access to were non-existent).

Looking at the curriculum now, it appears they've updated to Python. I don't personally care for python as a language due to my objection to semantic whitespace, but that aside, I'd say its a decent teaching language and environment.

Re:Mighty broad definition of "language" there (1)

rk (6314) | about 2 years ago | (#40990683)

I felt that same way about "semantic whitespace" 12 years ago when I first learned python. The idea just reminded me of too many crawling horrors like RPG and FORTRAN on punch-cards (#include <std_you_kids_get_off_my_lawn.h>) but seriously, an hour into it and you don't even notice it any more. It's really just enforcing what you should be and probably already are doing in C/Perl/C++/Java etc.

If you haven't really given python a go, I'd really encourage you to do so and don't let the "whitespace thing" stop you from trying it. I find it a fun language to work in. It works well on small projects and scales up fairly well. YMMV, of course.

Re:Mighty broad definition of "language" there (2)

vux984 (928602) | about 2 years ago | (#40991025)

My objection to semantic whitespace is that it frequently gets trashed when doing copy/paste type operations to and from other sources.

Its also more fragile when doing code maintenance, refactoring, editting, etc.

Re:Mighty broad definition of "language" there (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 2 years ago | (#40991085)

I had to use "semantic whitespace" pre-Python on Occam. It was very painful because I was using VI and it insisted on optimizing and sticking in tabs if I shifted lines, and I had to hunt down the settings to fix this (back then docs on vi were scarce to nonexistent). Emacs similarly wanted to put in tabs by default and I just didn't have the patience at the time to come up with an Occam mode for it. My overall impression was that the spacing was an interesting idea _experimentally_ but that actual practical use showed that it was impractical. The only apparent benefit was enforced indentation, for those very few people who had yet to learn to indent code.

Python overall is ok, but today seems dominated by style purists, plus I tend to avoid absolutely everything in life that is surrounded by rabid fans who proselytize.

Re:Mighty broad definition of "language" there (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40992329)

C? Seriously?

I love me my C but let's see. I want to take user input in a form in C? Oh, no standard way to do that. Pick one of 600 libraries and then futs with it for several hours. Yea, a beginner is going to figure that out.

Want to load an image? Find a library that compiles on your particular platform/compiler/memory model.

Want to draw something? It's different on every system

Networking in C? Ugh. Serialization in C? double ugh.

JavaScript is the perfect language to start with. It runs everywhere. It has a large effectively standard library so lots of things are easy. You can share the results with your friends just by sending them a URL even if they are on a different OS. Its dynamic typing means no having to start with verbose declarations (similar to python, perl, ruby, etc..)

Note: I write C and C++ all day long. As a programmer I love C. But I also love JavaScript. It's actually fun, instant gratification. Programming in JavaScript brings back the joy I felt in my 8bit days when you turn on the computer and code happened immediately. No compiler, no linker, just type some code and it runs. It's awesome!

Re:Mighty broad definition of "language" there (3, Insightful)

luis_a_espinal (1810296) | about 2 years ago | (#40990299)

Name a language that is easier to get started in.

CoffeeScript. Granted, it introduces an additional dependency (CoffeeScript) on what is otherwise the simplest and easiest development platform. Which leads me to the following:

You already have a browser that runs Javascript, regardless if you're on MacOS, *nix, or Windows (or whatever system you use most likely), now all you need is a text editor, which is built in on most systems. I don't know of any other language that doesn't require you to download and install some sort of compiler, interpreter, SDK, or whatever, all of which are barriers to entry. Plus, you have the advantage of using one of the most widely used languages on a platform that can distribute your code very easily and very portably.

You may not like Javascript--and granted, as a language, it's got plenty of warts. (Note that you can fix a great deal of these warts on modern browsers by simply including a "use strict" declaration at the top of your code). But it's a great language to start out in, if for no other reason than that the start-up cost is very close to negligible, and it's a useful language that enjoys a level of ubiquity that most other languages only dream of.

^^^ This. This is the reason (a really good reason) to use JavaScript as an introductory programming language with virtually zero barrier of entry (in terms of development env. setup.)

Obviously, people will complain - argh, real devlupers use <insert toolchain> with <insert IDE/editor/whatever>. And on a real CS-oriented, full-blown and complete programming course, this is true. But we need to notice that Khan's materials are not full-blown courses, but tutorials with the explicit aim of being as accessible to the masses as possible.

Whether this (and/or the choice of JavaScript) will turn people unsuitable for programming into legions of useless code monkeys is a non-issue. After all, the typical CS programs at brick-n-mortar universities have been producing useless code monkeys since the dot-com.

What a system of programming tutorials as implemented by Khan's academy will do, however, is to make the learning of programming more accessible to those that already have the potential of being good developers. Perhaps this could reach them early on before they finish their secondary education (or allow currently enrolled CS-students to use them as add-ons to their formal curriculum.)

JavaScript is a god-awful language, but its development setup makes it a decent first-language. Yes, it does not have true OO, but neither did BASIC. And good and bad developers will become so whether they use JavaScript, BASIC or Haskell (yes, there are atrocious Haskell programmers.)

Re:Mighty broad definition of "language" there (2)

ericcc65 (2663835) | about 2 years ago | (#40990381)

Ruby [tryruby.org] or Python [pythonanywhere.com] .

Re:Mighty broad definition of "language" there (1)

arth1 (260657) | about 2 years ago | (#40990651)

Name a language that is easier to get started in. You already have a browser that runs Javascript, regardless if you're on MacOS, *nix, or Windows (or whatever system you use most likely)

Not if you haven't installed a full UI, you don't.
Most non-GUI browsers don't do javascript.

I don't know of any other language that doesn't require you to download and install some sort of compiler, interpreter, SDK, or whatever, all of which are barriers to entry.

The shell you use is also a full language with an interpreter. No installation needed in linux/unix, because there will always be a shell. Even on embedded systems.
And I've seen programs written in shell that are quite large and advanced.
Why use shell? Ease of maintenance, more than anything.
If you have a bottleneck, singling out that part for a compiled program that can be called with parameters or piped from a shell is the Unix/Linux toolbox way. Embedding the framework too is not.

Re:Mighty broad definition of "language" there (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 2 years ago | (#40990973)

Why do you need one that's easy to get started in? Khan Academy labeling itself as "advanced topics simplified for busy people"? Does it teach physics and calculus the same why by skipping the hard stuff?

Re:Mighty broad definition of "language" there (4, Funny)

timeOday (582209) | about 2 years ago | (#40989681)

Heh, I noticed that too.

.

Real Programmers must spend their first year writing Pascal code to create hypothetical schedules for students at a university, followed by implementing every data type in a fat textbook from "Associative Array" to "Weight-Balanced Tree." Second year, the same thing - in Scheme. Final year, same thing - in assembler - and with runtime complexity proofs.

Congratulations, the both of you remaining are done.

What is this? Use of libraries? Graphics? User interaction? Heresy I say!

Re:Mighty broad definition of "language" there (0)

Desler (1608317) | about 2 years ago | (#40989811)

What is this? Use of libraries? Graphics? User interaction?

Clearly Javascript is the only language with such things. It's a good thing you were here to tell us all about how we should incorporate libraries, graphics and user interaction into other languages.

Re:Mighty broad definition of "language" there (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40990181)

Not everyone wants to be a professional or researcher in computer science. For those that just want to know how to program, Khan et. al. are empowering services that strengthen my hope in humanity.

That said, the purpose of University studies is a liberal education. Most interesting software out there -- including your libraries, graphics suites and UI frameworks -- requires a firm grounding in theory to understand and extend. See The Daily WTF for few thousand examples of what happens when you understand the interface but don't have the necessary background to extend the implementation. In lesser extremes, look at over-engineered java pattern-oriented code: most horrible code written by professionals is the result of an inadequate grounding in type theory. Of course, you can always pick up what you need as you go along. Work long enough on interesting problems and you'll end up on the wrong end of that time trade-off :)

So, hobbiest? Welcome to CS, it's a wonderful world and I hope you enjoy building neat stuff in your free time! Professional or researcher? Put a few years up front to learn the theory, or spend you career writing "yet another CRUD app" and/or playing catch-up.

Re:Mighty broad definition of "language" there (1)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#40989687)

Khan tapped jQuery creator John Resig, who chose JavaScript as the worst language to teach students.

FTFY

Oh please. Visual basic. Intercal. Assembly language / raw machine code. Cobol. Pascal. Awk !

Re:Mighty broad definition of "language" there (1)

craash420 (884493) | about 2 years ago | (#40989819)

"Oh please. Visual basic. Intercal. Assembly language / raw machine code. Cobol. Pascal. Awk !"

Nearly 20 years after the class I still cringe thinking about it.

Re:Mighty broad definition of "language" there (2)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 2 years ago | (#40991115)

You NEED to teach assembler at some point or you end up with graduates who are unable to understand the basic computing model. That doesn't mean they ever need to use it in a job but if they don't know it they will be impaired and possibly end up like the useless sorts of programmers who don't think efficiency is important or that you can solve it by getting faster computers.

Re:Mighty broad definition of "language" there (1)

Tatarize (682683) | about 2 years ago | (#40989821)

With the exception of COBOL those might be fine things to teach kids. They get the basics down without corrupting their ideas. It's pretty easy to go from basic to something like Java because you just relearn everything and the better structures mean you like it more and don't have to unlearn all the crap you learned. You just learn an entirely different form. You're not going to corrupt somebody's ideas by having them write out a factorial program in assembly.

Re:Mighty broad definition of "language" there (2)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about 2 years ago | (#40990831)

Assembly language

Actually, I have, in fact, taught students Assembly language as their first language.

It was a bit of a fluke of scheduling as they were first year engineers and had to cover C++, MATLAB and microcontrollers (i.e. assembler) in the first year. Due to the number of students and sizes of the labs, some of them happened to get assembler first.

It's actually not a bad way to start It depends very much on the student.

Some of them click with high level languages and can get going straight away. Some of them seem unable to grasp how the magic incantations on the screen correspond to anything tangible. Those ones tend to click with assembler much more, since it is much more direct. There's nothing hidden, nothing magic. Each instruction corresponds to flipping some gates in a predictable manner.

here's no awkward things like variables. Nothing like reference semantics which are really quite hard to grasp without understanding pointers. Instructions just move a fixed number of bits from one slot to another. In the case of something like a small PIC, the manual is thick, and but very complete and a person can have a grasp of the entire system (peripherals aside) in one go. And the apparently strange design decisions always have a good, solid reason behind them (always cost).

Once they have a grasp of ASM, you can explain the basic concepts of C by pointing out how you would translate a for-loop into a bunch of compares and jumps. For certain ways of thinking it then becomes much more obvious.

In other words, don't knock assembler as a first language. It's not for everyone, but then neither are high level languages.

Re:Mighty broad definition of "language" there (1)

Zaphod The 42nd (1205578) | about 2 years ago | (#40989733)

There's something to be said for being able to make changes and see the updates in real time. When you're first learning especially, and when its just the most basic of basics, that's huge.

Re:Mighty broad definition of "language" there (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 2 years ago | (#40989813)

Then why not something like Smalltalk? Javascript is unsuited to this task. In fact, I'm having a hard time thinking about a more unsuitable language. Maybe Brainfuck?

Re:Mighty broad definition of "language" there (1)

Zaphod The 42nd (1205578) | about 2 years ago | (#40989829)

Smalltalk? Are you kidding? GTFO! Smalltalk is the ugliest thing in the world, ugggggh. Please don't force messaging on newbies, that shit is awkward as hell. Smalltalk is what lead to this annoying world we live in where you have to write so much obj-c. Uggggh.

At least Javascript is just simple C scripts.

But really, I'd start on Python, Ruby, C, or BASIC, depending upon your inclination.

Re:Mighty broad definition of "language" there (1)

afidel (530433) | about 2 years ago | (#40989895)

LOGO, then BASIC then whatever you want but that's the way I'm planning to teach my son. LOGO gives instant gratification and BASIC is well, as easy to understand as a Turning complete language can probably be.

Re:Mighty broad definition of "language" there (1)

Zaphod The 42nd (1205578) | about 2 years ago | (#40989937)

Yeah, IMO the best method (more or less what I did):

BASIC -> python / ruby / javascript / shell script -> Visual Basic -> Java/C# -> C++ -> C

Then you're free to try crazy things like smalltalk, obj-c, haskell, brainfuck, etc. on your own.

Re:Mighty broad definition of "language" there (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | about 2 years ago | (#40989989)

I like Javascript, it offers some very elegant ways to solve complex problems, but it's definitely not a language for a beginning programmer.
Javascript makes it very easy for a programmer to hang himself and requires a lot of self-discipline and knowledge of what features to use and which to ignore.

I rarely use Perl or Python, but those would probably be far better languages to start with.
Java and C# are rather clean too, but perhaps a bit too complex to start out with.

Re:Mighty broad definition of "language" there (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40990053)

I like Javascript, it offers some very elegant ways to solve complex problems

Such as?

Re:Mighty broad definition of "language" there (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40990115)

For loops!

Re:Mighty broad definition of "language" there (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40990865)

Was Guido van Rossum too busy?

what is Khan for? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40989547)

If you want to learn stuff, get a good textbook. In the UK, the Open University has been writing excellent undergrad self-study books since 1969.

Is this just for the TV generation who think that undergrad experience = passive lectures rather than an opportunity to interact with peers and researchers?

Re:what is Khan for? (1)

swanzilla (1458281) | about 2 years ago | (#40989729)

Self-study hyperlinks and take a look at the (free) wealth of info Khan has out there. If interactivity is your thing, the forums are far busier than office hours were in my university STEM classes.

Bobby (0)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 2 years ago | (#40989559)

Alls I can think of when I hear stories of this web site is that Hank Hill's neighbor has finally hit his stride and is movin' on up. He's gotta be in a right proper mansion by now.

"Kahn Souphanousinphone, we would be honored if you would join our country club."

-1 Flamebait (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40989567)

Queue Javascript bashing in 3...2....1....

Re:-1 Flamebait (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40989789)

Fr1st P0s4r beat you to it....

Gotta refresh early, refresh often to get the prime spots under the bridge where trolls live.

KHAAAAAAN! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40989657)

*Shakes fist at sky*

Free market education (-1, Flamebait)

roman_mir (125474) | about 2 years ago | (#40989695)

like it or not, Khan academy is a more useful education resources than most public schools out there (if you care to learn).

Re:Free market education (1)

Zaphod The 42nd (1205578) | about 2 years ago | (#40989749)

Its definitely true. Can we just use government public education money to build facilities to enable kids to log on to Khan Academy? I think that'd be a huge improvement.

Re:Free market education (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40990063)

I think that'd be a huge improvement.

Because you are uneducated.

What the government needs to do is shut this scam down before we end up with a generation of uneducated people.

Re:Free market education (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40990691)

careful, you are stepping on some toes, saying that free market works. This doesn't fly here, on /.

Re:Free market education (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40990845)

Help! I'm being oppressed!

-roman_mir

you're a damned liar, roman_mir (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40989881)

your sock puppet claimed you could only post 3 times a day [slashdot.org] . will he come and support your argument in this discussion?

Re:you're a damned liar, roman_mir (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40989983)

No, you are a sock puppet.

Re:you're a damned liar, roman_mir (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40990131)

ya'll my cock puppets

hypocrite (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40990439)

like it or not, Khan academy is a more useful education resources than most public schools out there (if you care to learn).

so says someone who attended one of the largest public universities in north america....

Re:hypocrite (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40990981)

It's not a choice, it's a lack of options.

Re:hypocrite (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40991325)

lack of options

bull. shit. there are plenty of options in toronto. roman_mir could have even taken his own advice and not gone to university at all. instead he took advantage of public education and went to university of toronto. now the damned hypocrite wants to deny that option to nearly everyone else.

Resig === The Man (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40989739)

His book Secrets of the JavaScript Ninja got me to love JavaScript. He wrote the framework that made JavaScript a pleasure and now he is educating young people. I only have one man-crush and it is on John Resig.

Re:Resig === The Man (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40991035)

When John Resig runs a piece of Javascript, any missing semicolons materialize themselves spontaneously.

Fail (0)

gweihir (88907) | about 2 years ago | (#40989773)

JavaScript is completely unsuitable to teach CS. It may have some suitability for a scripting-language course, but doing algorithmics, interfaces, architecture, clean design, etc., can only fail with JavaScript.

Re:Fail (1)

timothyf (615594) | about 2 years ago | (#40989855)

Why, exactly is this the case? Why can't you teach algorithms or architecture or clean design in Javascript? Interfaces are tricky, sure; at best you have to resort to something like duck typing in asserts if you want to be sure that something implements an interface, but the rest seems completely doable in JS.

Re:Fail (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40989887)

> Why, exactly is this the case? Why can't you teach algorithms or architecture or clean design in Javascript?

I have never, ever, seen a good JS debugger. Nor good error messages for static errors.

It is far too easy to get stuck on trivialities with JS. The language gets in the way most of the time.

Re:Fail (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40991217)

JSLint + Chrome dev tools.

Re:Fail (1)

gweihir (88907) | about 2 years ago | (#40992119)

The problem is that novice programmers will struggle with the language most of the time and will not see the things actually taught. A language for teaching must stand in the way as little as possible, be clear, orthogonal, little clutter, etc. The best for teaching algorithms and data-structures I have seen so far was Haskell. After the students have actually understood the concepts, and have seen one language, move to C and teach them about the other side, but keep using the same data-structures and algorithms taught with Haskell. All those that survive this will be able to separate solution and tool used afterwards. They will be prepared to deal with atrocities like Java, because they will be able to design solutions in the abstract and only then map it to the concrete tool.

Teaching a language is a very small part of the problem. But even that can easily be messed up. The problem with my proposed approach is not the students, but the challenge to find an instructor actually competent enough to do it that way.
 

Let me be the first to say (1)

Zaphod The 42nd (1205578) | about 2 years ago | (#40989775)

Awesome. I'm going to make everyone I know watch these. Time to get rid of the "Programming is just typing!" school of thought. And maybe teach some people how to think in new ways.

Getting paid to listen to lectures (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | about 2 years ago | (#40989825)

I love my job. I love the internet & online teaching. Why spend money when you don't have to? :-) (I also love all the other free stuff online like magazines & audiobooks & music & news & .....)

Computer Science? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40989899)

I was excited until I saw the content.
You can call that a programming course. But definitively not CS!

Very nice programming course though.

Computer Science != Programming (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40989943)

Just saying.

No Discrete Math, No Algorithms (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40990065)

I've been looking for a good free online discrete math course and one in algorithms comparable to what you would get in a real CS program. I've checked Khan, Udacity, OCW, but haven't found anything yet. Any of you aware of a good source for learning discrete math and algorithms?

Re:No Discrete Math, No Algorithms (1)

Desler (1608317) | about 2 years ago | (#40990129)

iTunes U has a whole series of videos on Introduction to Algorithms from MIT OpenCourseWare. The videos can also be found from MIT here [mit.edu] .

Re:No Discrete Math, No Algorithms (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40990507)

Thank You!

Typical Slashdot elitism at work (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40990161)

Let me guess -- is this where a bunch of neck-bearded elitists start calling down from their high horses about how Javascript isn't a real language, and that anybody who wants to use these lessons should go off and let the 'real programmers' do their jobs?

This is Slashdot - so of course it is.

Hint: at least half of you seriously overestimate your software development talent. The other half of you stay logged into World of Warcraft or Eve Online too much to write any code.

Re:Typical Slashdot elitism at work (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40990215)

What about those of us who write code while you and your dad give us blowjobs? Shut the fuck up, cock jockey.

World's Most Misunderstood Language (1)

blamelager (1152861) | about 2 years ago | (#40990187)

Before you blindly dis' javascript, listen to Crockford

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gz7KL7ZirZc [youtube.com]

"Lisp in C's clothing"

"Lousy Implementations" to blame

And the prototype model is more pragmatic and less crazy than the object-fetishists will ever admit. You can do functional-style programming in javascript pretty well too.

Could it be that javascript is a language whose time has come, and the Khan academy have made a smart choice? Let's face it - it wouldn't harm to have more well-trained javascript programmers.

Re:World's Most Misunderstood Language (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40991027)

"Lisp in C's clothing"

Shit rolled in bacon is still shit.

"Lousy Implementations" to blame

Yes, because the design of your language sucked.

Needs some other name than Computer Science. (2)

xanthos (73578) | about 2 years ago | (#40990295)

I disagree with Kahn calling these Computer Science courses, but I have to admit that I am at a loss as to what to call them. Computer Fundamentals perhaps?

It is a disservice to those looking at these to think that Computer Science is making an iPhone app or game. It really trivializes how powerful computers are and the concepts they embody.

Re:Needs some other name than Computer Science. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40990535)

I totally agree. Computer Science is the study of computability and relies heavily on formal languages, automata, and algorithm analysis. These videos are about computer programming...... Why can't we just call them that?
 

Desktop / admin IT work needs a other name then CS (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 2 years ago | (#40992293)

Desktop / admin IT work needs a other name then CS.

As some people think that CS = ALL IT or sys admin / desktop work.

When you also have MIS / tech / trades schools (that have differnt over all names for there tracks for there courses)

Also there are a lot of NON degree classes out there as well that just go on there own.

Re:Needs some other name than Computer Science. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40990577)

yep. it looks like grade 11 computers which would be fine if the content there didn't create the impression that computer science is just learning how to do programming. most kids can't understand AP computer science however there should be an attempt to show what computer science is really about

Re:Needs some other name than Computer Science. (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 2 years ago | (#40991145)

I'm waiting for the Khan Academy course on how to use a hammer.

The S stands for Science (3, Interesting)

jmasha (2708237) | about 2 years ago | (#40990369)

Different educational institutions have different goals. If you want to go be a programmer and hack source code to make games, apps, real world things, etc. than traditional University education is probably not for you. Unless you are writing a physics engine from scratch, your use of math is probably limited and often CS degrees require a lot of math. Remember that the S in CS stands for science. This is where the University education plays a role. They want to mould students to become scientists, researchers, and professors. A good portion of the science and research material requires strong mathematical backgrounds and im my experience doesn't require the ability to be a super elite programmer. Hell, lots of great ideas are proven and tested with MATLAB scripts. This also applies to the concepts such as runtime analysis and algorithm complexity that are core to developing and proving new approaches and systems. I applaud Khan for it's attempt, but unless there is a heavy math focus later in the curriculum, then they should advertise it as a programming class, not a CS class.

What is this "real world" you speak of? (1)

luis_a_espinal (1810296) | about 2 years ago | (#40991321)

Different educational institutions have different goals. If you want to go be a programmer and hack source code to make games, apps, real world things, etc. than traditional University education is probably not for you.

Real world things? Like database engines, operating system kernels, compilers, enterprise distributed systems, parallel computing, algo-trading, animation/rendering engines that must run in uber-clusters? Yeah, sure, a CS education is not probably not for you &lt/rolls eyes>

Unless you are writing a physics engine from scratch, your use of math is probably limited and often CS degrees require a lot of math.

Been working on software (both commercial/enterprise, systems development and for the defense sector), and in each I've had to constantly use CS-related mathematics to do my work. Even on the commercial sector, I've had to use numerical analysis (Lagrance interpolation polynomials to approximate performance behavior as a function of incoming traffic), probability/statistics and what not. The careful selection of algorithms is something that you can do blindfolded if you have a good grasp of limits, convergence and divergence, and pretty much the bulk of discrete mathematics and combinatorics.

Barring the commonly trivial, like slapping a web page on front a db table, Unless the most complex thing you ever do is slapping web pages on front of a database table, you cannot simply do that in the real world without a grasp on CS mathematics. Heck, one doesn't even need a BS degree for that. I know that because I started my coding career with a AA (and worked my way towards a BS in CS and the grad school.)

Once the level of complexity or size (or system longevity) increases, a firm notion, however implicit, of CS-math is essential. And it is typically lacking "in the streets". And that is why we see so much underperforming crap in the so-called real world despite the facts that we have known for more than two decades how to do coding of a sufficient quality.

Oh nooo, we do not need mathematics to work in the real world. And then these code monkeys cannot understand why cartesian SQL queries are a no-no; or why using a retardedly synchronized java.util.HashTable is a goddamned stupid idea when a java.util.HashMap; or why their clustered applications flood the network with UDP packets (a combinatorial problem).

The nicest (or actually stupidest) comment I've seen is when people tell me that if they do unit testing on everything, then their code is bug-free, or better yet, that their code is bug free because testing didn't find any bugs. Or, wait, it gets even better when these same folks ensure others that they have a process that allows their code to be bug free. Which is fucking impossible, mathematically impossible.

And so on they go, coding crap, like code monkeys flinging shit at their monitors, and packaging/selling whatever sticks. Fixing that crap makes for a good living in terms of OT (because someone has to be hired to do the cleanup, and it's a good pay). But by God, it does makes working with software a living nightmare sometimes.

Remember that the S in CS stands for science. This is where the University education plays a role. They want to mould students to become scientists, researchers, and professors.

No, they want to mold people, be it Computer Scientists or Software Engineers (and/or both) who can code themselves out of invariant-executing for-loops.

A good portion of the science and research material requires strong mathematical backgrounds and im my experience doesn't require the ability to be a super elite programmer.

Barring the naturally gifted (most of us aren't), there is no such thing as a super-elite programmer who does not have an explicit or implicit mathematical background. There are people who can write a lot of code and get shit done, but only for the immediate need, with complete disregard to how the thing is to be maintained. There is a time for coding shit to get shit done when there is pressure, but it is not a general solution. Someone who operates like this all the time (and who gauges his performance by the amount or obscurancy of his code), I would not consider that person a super-elite programmer.

Hell, lots of great ideas are proven and tested with MATLAB scripts. This also applies to the concepts such as runtime analysis and algorithm complexity that are core to developing and proving new approaches and systems. I applaud Khan for it's attempt, but unless there is a heavy math focus later in the curriculum, then they should advertise it as a programming class, not a CS class.

This I agree.

SICP (4, Interesting)

Orgasmatron (8103) | about 2 years ago | (#40990513)

There is still no finer introduction to computer science than Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs [mit.edu] by Abelson and Sussman. Also, be sure to watch the videos [mit.edu] .

Computer science is about processes and structures, not computers, and not programs. LISP is still the ideal vehicle for learning about the important parts.

On a personal note, a friend of mine had a CS 101 intro course some years ago that was Javascript based. It was absolutely terrible. I know that it was terrible, because I ended up re-teaching him each of the concepts using random old textbooks that I had lying around. He had no problem learning concepts in other languages (Fortran, BASIC, C, even some MIX when I used Knuth) and then applying them to back to the Javascript that he had to do the problems in.

I know that Javascript wasn't entirely to blame there, but it sure didn't help. But why try to polish that particular turd?

Re:SICP (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40990857)

Pfft. SICP isn't that impressive. We got along just fine learning CS before it was ever written. Now get off my lawn.

Re:SICP (1)

rrohbeck (944847) | about 2 years ago | (#40992071)

We learned ALGOL68 back in the day. I still think its clarity is unsurpassed. Understanding that "REAL a;" means "REF REAL a=LOC REAL;" and that "REF REAL a=HEAP REAL;" is something very different makes you appreciate the difference between a constant and a variable with a storage location behind it. Coming from BASIC and FORTRAN that was a real eye opener.
No wonder most newer languages like the PASCAL and C families are derived from it.

Re:SICP (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | about 2 years ago | (#40991913)

it's for kids, relax. there has to be an element of fun in it

go with C (2)

KernelMuncher (989766) | about 2 years ago | (#40990741)

I'd definitely recommend C as a starting point for anybody serious about learning how to program. You can do high level stuff (pointers, functions). low level (bit manipulation) and everything in between. Also C is the starting point for so many other languages. The knowledge picked up could be extended to Java, C++, C# pretty quickly. If C is considered too cumbersome, Python would be an excellent choice. The clean coding style required definitely builds good habits. But, God Forbid, don't start with Javascript !

Not working (1)

rrohbeck (944847) | about 2 years ago | (#40991987)

Does anybody know what the player requirements are?
The presentation style courses hang at "Loading audio..." for me. Chrome, chromium or iceweasel on Debian wheezy.

Can we stop the Slashvertisements? (2)

Gothmolly (148874) | about 2 years ago | (#40991993)

This is the 2nd mention of the Khan "Academy" in the last week or so.

No One got to this?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40992345)

KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!

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