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Summer Programming Courses Before Heading Off To College?

timothy posted about a year ago | from the straight-to-the-army dept.

Education 183

First time accepted submitter LiteWait writes "My son is heading off to college next year and although he is bright kid with a great background in math and science, he has indicated that he'd like learn some introductory programming skills this summer. The courses at the local universities are pretty sparse and most of the CS101-type courses I've seen offered are too general to meet his needs. Even though he is a self-starter I think he would benefit from actual courses/code camps/etc rather than just slogging through online samples and tutorials. I'd like some advice on possible options for code camps, online courses, or developer training."

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Python (5, Insightful)

Kimomaru (2579489) | about a year ago | (#42823903)

Python is considered by many to be a great entry-level language and it's also very popular in the real world. There are many good books on the subject, so it might make for a great self-taught experience.

Re:Python (3, Informative)

spongebue (925835) | about a year ago | (#42823971)

If you go that route, I like Learn Python the Hard Way [learnpytho...ardway.org]. I used it to learn Python from my Java background, but it's also great for those that have never programmed in their life. The basic programming structures (loops, conditions, classes, etc) are all covered and can be transferred to other languages, and it's not too strenuous despite its name (while still learning stuff, of course). Everything is very well narrated.

Re:Python (1)

ixidor (996844) | about a year ago | (#42824291)

This. i came here to say this. pick up a few python books, read through some examples, pick a project and start. any book that covers basics will probably have a hello world in first chapter. cover loops, for,if,else,case,while,do ... variables, and variable types strings,arrays i started with this book http://www.lulu.com/us/en/shop/j-burton-browning/design-logic-and-programming-with-python-a-hands-on-approach-third-edition/hardcover/product-4519569.html [lulu.com]

Re:Python (2, Informative)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#42825029)

Python is considered by many to be a great entry-level language and it's also very popular in the real world.

I agree that Python is a good first language. But there may be a better language for him to learn: The language used in the introductory course of the college he will be attending this fall. In fact, this "ask Slashdot" question seems silly. His best option is to contact the college he will be attending, get their list of summer courses, and pick one. That way he will not only be learning to program, but he will be learning the right language, the right style of programming (where right == "what the professors want"), and he will get full college credit for the course, and have a head start over his classmates. This will also help his GPA because summer courses are graded on an easier curve since they have plenty of students that flunked or dropped out during the regular school year. He will also learn his way around the campus, and be more comfortable during the fall semester.

As a professional, I would say... (4, Interesting)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | about a year ago | (#42823915)

The best course he could take for computer programming is a touch typing course. And that's by a huge margin.

This cannot be underestimated (5, Insightful)

MikeRT (947531) | about a year ago | (#42824133)

When I got out of college, most of my older coworkers where shocked at how quickly I could type Java code because I learned how to touch type the non-alpha numeric characters pretty well. When you don't have to hunt and peck for those characters, you can actually type out code about as fast as you can think "I'd like to make this change..."

If you want to drive this point home, get your son into a Perl class or doing Perl work. He'll go nuts if he doesn't bother to learn how to do this skill well.

Re:As a professional, I would say... (1)

Bearhouse (1034238) | about a year ago | (#42824173)


I'd also second the remark on Python...

Get him a decent laptop, then spend some time with him setting it up to dual-boot into Windows 7 and BSD. OK,OK, just kidding, Mint then.
More seriously, getting him to play around with using *x as a server rather than just as an alternative desktop to Win is, I think, a good idea.
He'll never be out of a job later...

One could also mention Eclipse *ducks*

Re:As a professional, I would say... (1)

AwesomeMcgee (2437070) | about a year ago | (#42824529)

Decent.. ugh, just to learn some coding all you need is a 486 with vi or emacs, immediately at his fingertips without delay will then be Lisp, Python, Perl, Ruby, Tcl, C/C++, Java, Haskell.. I'm not suggesting anyone dig up a 486, but the point stands, hell get the kid an rPi... don't tell this guy to trouble over whether or not to spend money and how much when he just needs to spend pocket change if he wants his kid to be able to code.

Re:As a professional, I would say... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42824207)

I'd second that. It will help him in a lot of his other classes as well.

Re:As a professional, I would say... (1)

mcmonkey (96054) | about a year ago | (#42824327)

I'd second that. It will help him in a lot of his other classes as well.

I thought about suggesting getting him hooked on Mudding as a way to learn touch typing (nothing like a fast-paced, text based, hack-and-slash game to keep his eyes on the screen and fingers on the keyboard), but that would not help him in any of his other classes.

Re:As a professional, I would say... (1)

AwesomeMcgee (2437070) | about a year ago | (#42824557)

You know how much goes into thinking up mathematical strategies for structuring those things, I wouldn't say it doesn't help at all.. :)

Also dead right, this will have you touch typing and reading so fast. IRC/MUD is how I learned to touch type, and I hit 140wpm if I know what I want to say.

Re:As a professional, I would say... (4, Insightful)

seyfarth (323827) | about a year ago | (#42824309)

Having been a successful programmer for 35 years, I would discount the value of touch typing. It has been my experience that thinking is far more important than typing skills. Fast typing helps, but I think your son would find this boring. Taking whatever beginning programming course is handy will help. Well, I would dodge Cobol, Fortran and Perl. Perl is relevant but pretty ugly. Java, C, C++, Python, or Visual Basic would all be fun and useful. Just be sure that the course is for beginners.

Re:As a professional, I would say... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42824371)

Disagree with the Visual Basic recommendation.
Anyone coming from a VB background will have picked up way too many bad habits, necessarily.
Variants? Really?

Re:As a professional, I would say... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42824509)

1996 called. They want their variants back.

Honestly, you are clueless. The .Net version of Visual Basic is a modern, object-oriented language in every respect.

Re:As a professional, I would say... (4, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#42824823)

Having been a successful programmer for 35 years, I would discount the value of touch typing. It has been my experience that thinking is far more important than typing skills.

Your logic makes no sense. Learning to type faster is in no way going to diminish his ability to think.

Re:As a professional, I would say... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42825781)

Clearly, he has lost his ability to think.

Re:As a professional, I would say... (1)

Moses48 (1849872) | about a year ago | (#42825793)

Having been a successful programmer for 35 years, I would discount the value of touch typing. It has been my experience that thinking is far more important than typing skills.

Your logic makes no sense. Learning to type faster is in no way going to diminish his ability to think.

Your logic makes no sense. Discounting the value of something in no way means that it would diminish the ability of another.

Re:As a professional, I would say... (4, Insightful)

Zordak (123132) | about a year ago | (#42824851)

Having been a successful programmer for 35 years, I would discount the value of touch typing. It has been my experience that thinking is far more important than typing skills. Fast typing helps, but I think your son would find this boring.

Ah, see what you did here? A is useless. B is more important than A. (Which is orthogonal to whether A is useful in itself.) (And now the admission.) A helps, but is boring.

A person can't program without thinking, but between two people who have identical thinking skills, the one who can type is the better programmer. Which means that typing is a great skill for a programmer.

I used to think the way you do, that typing is a waste of time, that I could do without it. Then I took a typing class in high school because I needed to fill half a credit (this was 20 years ago). That's when I realized how much not knowing how to type had been getting in my way. It's like living in a country where you don't speak the language. Yeah, you may be able to get by, but it's a lot easier if you just learn to talk.

I was also surprised at how easy it was. It takes only a few weeks to get to basic competence on the keyboard. After that, it's all repetition (with plenty of opportunity for repetition). The only way I can encode my thoughts faster than typing is speaking, and until Dragon get a little better, even that's a tossup. It's dumb for a kid not to learn to type today. He'll probably use computers in every job he ever has has. No reason to do it with a handicap.

Re:As a professional, I would say... (2)

mwvdlee (775178) | about a year ago | (#42825489)

Just imagine all the extra thinking you can do when you no longer have to think about typing while typing. I'm sure you would have though this out yourself were it not for all the hunting and pecking you had to do while typing just then ;)

A basic touch typing course should be a requirement for programmers. Not necessarily at high speed, just enough so they won't lose their train of thought while typing.

Some people will say you have to think before you type it out. I agree. That's why I think about what I'm going to do next while typing out what I thought out before.

Re:As a professional, I would say... (1)

admdrew (782761) | about a year ago | (#42825925)

I would discount the value of touch typing.

I totally get where your intent behind this, but I would firmly disagree - the ability to type (and type well) is invaluable for kids these days, especially how many non-coding responsibilities developers have that require good writing skills (email/IM communication, maintaining documentation, etc), all of which are infinitely easier if you're a skilled typist.

Perl is relevant but pretty ugly. Java, C, C++, Python, or Visual Basic would all be fun and useful.


Re:As a professional, I would say... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42825563)

On an IBM Selectric. Bzzzzzzzz....

Learn X The Hard Way (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42823945)

A decent self-study course is the Learn X The Hard Way (originally X = Python, now Ruby and C are available as well):


Focuses heavily on code-as-language, so the early exercises may remind you of typical foreign-language study: "type these things, explain what they mean, etc".

Re:Learn X The Hard Way (1)

megamerican (1073936) | about a year ago | (#42824079)

I would recommend Udacity's CS 101 course [udacity.com] along with LPTHW .

The thing I liked about that Udacity course is it is study at your own pace. You can do as little or as much as you want. On top of that you are building a web crawler throughout all of the Units.

I'd also recommend code academy since they added a lot more python modules. It would be a good way to reinforce ideas he is learning whatever course he is going through.

The good thing about LPTHW over the others is you are also setting up a programming environment on your own computer rather than using someone elses interpreter.

Re:Learn X The Hard Way (1)

Githaron (2462596) | about a year ago | (#42824189)

I concur with this. Udacity is an awesome learning tool. I took the AI course and it was quite education and fun. Since he is going to college to get a degree anyway, he doesn't need to worry about getting a widely renown and accepted degree during his pre-studies. Udacity hasn't been around very long and so far they do not have any proctored exams.

Online samples are pretty good (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about a year ago | (#42823947)

No only do they provide good instruction, but it'll also prepare him to learn skills on his own which is more aligned with what professional developers do on a daily basis.

As for languages, I always recommend HTML for new programmers. It's simple, you get immediate results, you can quickly build practical applications, and it set up a foundation for further learning; scripting, networking, style sheets, etal.

Re:Online samples are pretty good (1)

HerculesMO (693085) | about a year ago | (#42824101)

Disagree as somebody who started on HTML, because you don't learn the concepts that allow you to grow into a full functional programming language (ie, OO).

The way I learned (and I'm still pretty young and learning programming from scratch now, coming around as a VB6 guy), is to take a simple idea and just work towards that goal. I'm currently migrating my knowledge from VB6 to .NET, and I'm finding that the online places are pretty good, and I really do like LearnVisualStudio.net myself, it's a pretty simple (and fun) set of courses that give you practical examples and ideas, and you work towards them while learning the concepts of OO and vocabulary.

My challenge is taking VB6 era syntax and migrating that knowledge over to C#... it's not pretty especially since I'm a stubborn guy :) But if your kid is a blank slate, and you're not afraid of MS stuff (tools are free, easy to get started, lots of support, and college acceptance), then I'd say give it a go. MSDN is an invaluable (and free) resource. I do not envy the pains of getting started with Eclipse :)

Re:Online samples are pretty good (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | about a year ago | (#42824427)

I second this. C# is a great language. There's a large community of programmers, the tools are free, the documentation is superb. Also, it's something that's used in industry which is always a plus. It's also extremely simple to get up and running. You can program console applications, GUI applications, web applications, and even games. Speaking of web applications, you can develop an entire web application without having to have any idea how to set up a web server. There's a lot of libraries built in so that you can do a whole bunch of stuff without going to look for third party libraries. It's really a great language to work in.

Re:Online samples are pretty good (2)

Cenan (1892902) | about a year ago | (#42824269)

HTML for new programmers? That's a horrible idea.

It's a document formatting specification, that nobody can seem to agree on, making it an unecessarily complex choice of "language" to begin with. And what would that teach anybody about encapsulation? Coupling and cohesion? Not to mention loops, recursion and simple stuff like flow of control?

Re:Online samples are pretty good (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42824571)

He wants to learn a programming language, not a markup language.

Start on the courses (3, Insightful)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about a year ago | (#42823961)

The best thing to get a jump start would be to find out what texts are going to be used for his courses and to start on them.

Let him play video games (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42823973)

Or send him to a summer school in Europe.

You only really learn to properly program when you're working on a project with other people. The rest is bollocks.

Boredom (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42823987)

Don't learn the material in too much detail before class; or else the actual class will be so boring that you'll never want to go.

Re:Boredom (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | about a year ago | (#42824401)

A good professor will work with a student who already knows the material to help them advance to the next level and to refine their code from functional to beautiful.

Of course, not all professors are good.

Re:Boredom (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42825401)

Generally you don't get stuck teaching a 100 level programming course because you're good.

Better to slog through online samples / tutorials (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42823995)

It's far more profitable to slog through online samples and tutorials. Being a self-starter, he'll benefit more from developing a passion for the art of programming rather than developing implausible software assignments in an entry-level programming course.

Calculators; Python (2)

KermMartian (707470) | about a year ago | (#42824035)

I've spoken to countless now-engineers and professional programmers who started learned programming by playing around with graphing calculators. They're ubiquitous, your audience is huge, and the built-in TI-BASIC language is surprisingly powerful. I'd definitely recommend he pursue that as a means to learn to think like a programmer, skills like structuring programs, prototyping with pseudocode, debugging, and all that. In fact, I wrote a book [manning.com] teaching those very skills. Alternatively, Python is a great beginner computer language in that the syntax is clear and cruft-free (yes, Java, I'm looking at public static void main()...) and crashes are generally graceful and easy-to-debug.

I Got It All Right Here (5, Funny)

eldavojohn (898314) | about a year ago | (#42824053)

Even though he is a self-starter ...

Okay, awesome! What you should do is get him a raspberry pi [newark.com] then pick up an HDMI cable, a cheap keyboard and cheap mouse (both of which should be wired as it lags to offload wireless processing to the pi) from monoprice [monoprice.com]. Right now, B&H Video has a deal where you get 2 x 16GB cards for $15 [bhphotovideo.com] if you add two of these to your cart with free shipping. Okay, I've actually already bought several sets of this stuff from these exact same suppliers and handed them off to a bunch of kids that are loving them right now. So that's all legit. You'll need to have a TV or monitor with an HDMI in and it helps if you have a cheap webcam (one of the tutorials I'm gonna mention uses it). You'll also need a second computer with a way to access SD flash cards (pick up a USB toaster for $5 if you don't have this)> Optional would be male-to-female wires like these [amazon.com] with any breadboard so he can tinker with making his own stuff -- you'll probably have to drop more cash on more electronic devices to interface with it if you go this route though.

Next, you might consider this book [amazon.com] but I prefer this one more [amazon.com]. Okay then you send your kid here [raspberrypi.org] to get the hard float raspbian wheezy and you tell him how to figure out how to get it on the flash card to boot on the pi. There's a wiki [elinux.org] for all this stuff. Then you send him here and make him do these tutorials [cam.ac.uk]. Then you make him read all the issues of the MagPi [themagpi.com]. And if he's smart enough, you buy him some more peripherals. There should be a lot more tutorials coming out for this device.

Once he has all that stuff, you go to the liquor store. Now, the liquor stores around my house sell a lot of types of vodkas and Absolut is great but I've found that Sobieski satiates me just as well. It's made from this Dankowski rye that makes great gimlets. Try to buy a case of handles and haggle him down to ~$13 a handle (that stuff is really cheap). Then you go to the store and you get some of that Real Lime lime juice. Not the key lime shit, the actual lime juice. You're gonna need a decent blender because this thing is gonna be working all summer long. Also, a bag of hazelnuts. Go home and fill a cup to the top with ice and put in about one finger of lime juice. Fill the rest with Sobieski. Blend that shit up, garnish with a couple crushed hazelnuts to really dry that shit out and kick back. Trust me, your kid is going to come and talk to you about python and apt-get and registers and you are not going to want to have to deal with that. So just get good and fucking faced in the sun all summer long. Your kid will thank you for staying out of his hair. A summer of riproarin' fall down drunk? You can thank me later.

Re:I Got It All Right Here (1)

burisch_research (1095299) | about a year ago | (#42824357)

Fantastic, lol!

I was about to berate you for overcomplexification, however your proactive stance toward inebriation clearly indicated a propensity toward humorous intent. Can't mod you cos I've already posted!


PS the recommendations in the first part of the post are not applicable to a beginner.

But I Am Dead Serious! (4, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | about a year ago | (#42824471)

PS the recommendations in the first part of the post are not applicable to a beginner.

Believe it or not, I am dead serious about the Pi. There's a 13 year old kid from Lithuania staying with my boss and I brought over the exact same setup I mentioned above and just showed him briefly how scratch works. This was his e-mail to me a mere one week later:

Sorry, that I didn't wrote a letter for you long time.
I was working on Raspberry Pi and I am still working on it.
I am learning to program some games, and I have made one already. It is just a simple game. Now it have some things that don't let it work, and I am trying to fix them.
I made a little movie in the Scratch too.
Raspberry Pi is a very good computer. Sometimes I am thinking how could it work being so small, and it's almost a real computer.
I have heard, that root terminal needs a pasword to work. In this Raspberry Pi, I don't need pasword. When the program starts, it put a letter that I don't need pasword to run a program.
Thank you for opportunity to work with this computer, it is so interesting and good.

I asked him if he needed the root password I setup Debian with, that's why he said it doesn't need a root password. The great thing about the Pi is that it's cheap and you can do as little or as much with it as you want! I'm 30 years old and I love it! Seriously, when I tally up all the stuff I listed in that post, it comes to under $60! That's like a PS3 game disc ... how can you afford not to buy this for your kid -- whatever the age or gender?

Go for math courses, not programming (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42824059)

College math is not the math he already knows. Math is much more important than programming and programming is much easier to pick up on your own. The difficult concepts are not in the basics. Programming is going to be taught from an introductory level onward anyway.

Codecademy (5, Informative)

djKing (1970) | about a year ago | (#42824063)

Our daughter signed up for Codeademy (http://codeademy.com/)to help her with a CS course she was taking at UBC. She's in Arts but needed a science and CS fit the bill. She found Codeademy very helpful. She got an A+ in the CS course.

Re:Codecademy (1)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | about a year ago | (#42824455)

Codecademy [codecademy.com] is o.k., but I think they start off on the wrong foot. It would be better if they went HTML->CSS->JavaScript instead of JavaScript->HTML->CSS. That way you could ease into things, and then incorporate JavaScript into your web pages from the get-go. For a beginner, they might not have any idea of what the point is behind learning JavaScript and how it is used in the real world.

Re:Codecademy (1)

TechieRefugee (2105386) | about a year ago | (#42825003)

For web development, I would absolutely agree. However, if they're not going into web development, then Javascript is a great place to start. I actually started out programming last January (2012) with Codecademy, and learned quite a bit about programming as a whole. I didn't bother with HTML, but with what I learned through Codecademy and Javascript, learning other languages isn't as hard as it would be otherwise.

Re:Codecademy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42824697)

The site is Codecademy (http://codecademy.com)

doing it wrong (4, Insightful)

LodCrappo (705968) | about a year ago | (#42824123)

Sending a kid to a CS-101 type introductory class will very likely bore him to tears and possibly give him a lasting negative impression of programming.

Why not help him pick a reasonable goal (somewhere in between "make a web page" and "write a new operating system) and then just let him code. Programming well isn't something you learn in a classroom, its learned by coding poorly a whole lot, and then learning how to do it better, and then learning how to do it even better, again a whole lot. At some point in that process a classroom might be involved and might even help, but not at the beginning.

Re:doing it wrong (1)

burisch_research (1095299) | about a year ago | (#42824295)

Can't mod cos I've already posted. But Crappo has this exactly right! I'd suggest writing a simple game. Too bad we don't have text mode screens any more ...

Re:doing it wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42824359)


Tell him to write a game. One per week would be a good start. It doesn't have to be releasable, just written. Something simple, like tic tac toe, or solitaire would be a start. Then progress to things that require collision detection and crude 2d physics and animation.

For good graphics, learn OpenGL.
There's a massive quantity of tutorials at NeHe Productions [gamedev.net].
With OpenGL being used on tablets and web interfaces, it's the way to get an edge.

For bad graphics, take a look at Dwarf Fortress.
Even with text-only graphics that game brings in tens of thousands per year.

Read Programming Pearls and Beautiful Code for unique ideas for approaching a problem. Take a look at the Fast Inverse Square Root [wikipedia.org] for a good example of combining bit-level hacking with Calculus.

Nvidia made the GPU Gems series [nvidia.com] available online. It has advanced concepts, but is currently down. Subsurface scattering is an amazing effect, as is Navier-Stokes simulations.

MIT has a course on algorithms [mit.edu] with video lectures.

If none of that piques his interest, then he shouldn't be a programmer.

Re:doing it wrong (1)

LtNacho (2712541) | about a year ago | (#42825051)

This is what I would do as well. I got all the way through college with a pretty mediocre understanding of programming. It was after college when I found a project that I was interested in building on my own that I really actually learned. Then when I went back for my graduate degree it was incredible how much more I got out of it. So if he could work on something interesting for a while he'd have a big head start on many of his classmates and might actually look forward to his programming classes because they'd start filling in some blanks for him.

Udacity (1)

CodeReign (2426810) | about a year ago | (#42824127)

Check out udacity courses. They are by far the best online courses I've seen covering many topics.

Re:Udacity (1)

davidannis (939047) | about a year ago | (#42825343)

I've taken only one Udacity course and not in programming, so I have a n of less than one but I found the course I took less than ideal.

On Udacity I took introductory statistics, as a refresher. I took classes in scientific stats, business stats and forecasting many years ago so I have some basis for comparison. I found that the course sometimes emphasized technique over understanding and broke lessons into small bite size chunks that were often so small that I questioned the utility since if a problem is broken into baby steps I can sometimes complete each step without understanding the approach to the whole.

Coursera, too (1)

Quirkz (1206400) | about a year ago | (#42825919)

Coursera, too ( at coursera.org ). I know they have several programming classes in rotation. Not sure which ones will be available during the summer window, but it would be pretty easy to find out or keep an eye on as they open up. I dabbled with a class that involved Python programming to create computer games, and it was both well presented and slightly more fun than the average non-games-programming class. (Proper link: https://www.coursera.org/course/interactivepython [coursera.org] - currently TBA.)

Depending on timing, there may also be related topics (databases, math, logic, mobile devices, etc.) if he wants to take a couple of classes at once. I'm currently taking a databases class from Stanford (previously also released once via Coursera) that's proving educational and quite challenging.

Come to Cambridge (1, Informative)

mcmonkey (96054) | about a year ago | (#42824147)

If you are in the Metro-Boston area, or trust your child in Cambridge for the summer, Harvard Summer School admits high school students and has 2 good courses this summer: "Great Ideas in Computer Science with Java" and "Intensive Introduction to Computer Science Using Java." The later sounds like a better match if you're worried about courses that are too simple or slow-paced. "Building Mobile Applications" may be more compelling than more traditional programming courses, but has a higher barrier in terms of prerequisite programming experience and required hardware.
http://www.summer.harvard.edu/courses/subject/computer-science [harvard.edu]
http://www.summer.harvard.edu/programs/secondary-school [harvard.edu]

Unfortunately, if he is not near or cannot get to Cambridge, MA, USA, there does not seem to be any good distance courses offered this summer.

Also, Harvard's CS50, Introduction to Computer Science, is available online. This includes lecture video, hand-outs, problem sets, and quizzes. This is a good option if he is truly a self-starter and will allow him to work at his own pace. This is not the usual online tutorial. This is the same lectures and materials presented to students of Harvard College and the University Extension.
http://cs50.tv/ [cs50.tv]

At one point the CS50 lectures were also available on iTunes. I don't know if this is still true.

Whatever you do (not completely related) (1)

theRunicBard (2662581) | about a year ago | (#42824167)

Tell him to consider re-taking some intro courses at college. For instance, if he's "qualified" for MAT 102, maybe tell him to take MAT 101. It sounds lazy and counterproductive (it also sounds like you're trying to inflate your GPA), but I'm being serious. Oftentimes, you will find that high schools skip certain parts of a course that colleges don't. Alternatively, they teach at a different level. You can teach electricity and magnetism in such a way that a middle schooler will understand it in minutes (I = V/R is something an elementary school student can do), or you can create problems that play on obscure resistance rules to the point where one needs to read the book for an hour to understand what's going on. When this happens, you can quickly get lost and earn a bad grade. I would advise your son to go back a level in such courses, or at least carefully look at the textbook and sample assignments/problem sets to make sure he isn't getting in over his head. Besides, sometimes intro courses are a lot of fun ;)

MS Office course (3, Insightful)

Billly Gates (198444) | about a year ago | (#42824185)

I know I am about to be modded down, but hear me out.

First off as a freshmen he wont even touch any programming course. More than likely he will take english for poets, speech, intro to worplace management, and Intro to computers 101.

Most universities require you to take that ridiculous intro to computers 101 as many assignments today are group projects done in blackboard which use Outlook, Word, Excel, and even Powerpoint. They do this to emulate work which is a good thing to learn. I learned the Powerpoint slide rule, no more than 3 bullets per slide, etc from my biology professor believe it or not.

In college excel is used in math, statistics, and computer science with datasets. Most bright kids today know how to type but do not know even how to set a margin in Word! They just tab all over the place and wonder why formatting errors occur etc. These can be bright kids but just are not used to doing office tasks on them.

Have your son learn this and get a certificate in it so he can exempt from that course and save himself/yourself $2,500 in student loans. He can probably get his WPM typing up too so can get done with papers quicker too.

Re:MS Office course (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42825461)

I took my first programming course my first semester, and it counted as a replacement for the gen-ed requirement of CS 101. /shrug

Don't Waste money on summer college course (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42824227)

Harvard and Stanford both offer many introductory programming classes online for free.

Z80 (2)

burisch_research (1095299) | about a year ago | (#42824233)

Give him a ZX81 or Spectrum 48k and manual. Plus, no internet or anything else! Lock him in a dark room for 6 months. Presto, open the door and you have an IT expert.

Re:Z80 (1)

Megane (129182) | about a year ago | (#42825187)

I would be nice and at least give him something with a half-decent keyboard. Like a TRS-80. (But not the later Model IV where they moved the arrow keys around.) FWIW, with a TRS-80 Model I and a Z-80 reference card, I learned a lot of Z-80 assembly language with a lot of good code examples. But that "no internet" thing is important. Maybe a DVD-R with PDFs of the first few years of Byte magazine, but absolutely no internet.

does he want to take a course? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42824253)

if he hasn't expressed interest in taking a summer course, i wouldn't try to force him to. when i was a kid i love programming, but nothing in the world would have made me take a summer course. he'll have around 4 years of college to learn stuff. how about taking a trip to another country with him instead?

Free online courses from Harvard, MIT, and Berkley (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42824301)

There are a lot of free resources on the web. My nephew did this http://cs50.tv/2011/fall/ class when he was fifteen with iTunes U. It is from Harvard. I was impressed with the class and he followed a long and completed the class, I had the "joy" of reviewing his assignments. For someone completely new to programming that wants to learn with a classrom like structure I thought it was a cool resource.


Apprentice (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42824393)

Find a real world coder and have him give you son some grunt work.

Re:Apprentice (1)

AwesomeMcgee (2437070) | about a year ago | (#42824961)

SERIOUSLY. Find someone who actually knows programming to get your kid writing code, this hands down has the highest transmission rate of The Bug. Someone who knows how getting him to do some piddly crap is more likely to give him The Bug than anything else hands down. Once he has The Bug, everything else will be taken care of. He'll plug himself into the internet and start downloading all on his own directly into his brain pan. CS and etc as very useful as they are, are no where near as valuable to someone who is "interested" as contracting The Bug.

Coursera (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42824397)

Look through some of the online course offerings on Coursera. There are a number on programming: https://www.coursera.org/category/cs-programming .

It is a new initiative for sharing university courses for free on the internet. A number of universities have done courses on it.

Not actually necessary (1)

maas15 (1357089) | about a year ago | (#42824421)

In my educational career (which involved a lot of wandering between schools), I found that *every single school* forces you to re-take cs101, even if you already know the language, even if you've already (literally) take 4 other cs101 courses. So your son should be aware that taking a programming course won't get him into higher level courses. Of course, programming is a whole lot of fun, so if he wants to take a course for it's entertainment value, he should go for it. Check your local community college - I've had great luck with community college courses (though I've never tried programming courses at one, more like networking and IT courses). Don't even think about a vocational school. If possible, try to find one that teaches C/C++, since most computer science courses in college are in Java, which isn't that useful of a language. Avoid C# courses, since C# teaches poor programming habits. Lastly, and slightly off topic, if your son wants to avoid a college career of nomadically wandering between schools, then make sure he realizes that the main objective of school is to learn things, including things that aren't as much fun to learn (like African History or Music Theory).

Re:Not actually necessary (1)

maas15 (1357089) | about a year ago | (#42824439)

After a moments retrospect, see if your son can take a humanities course over the summer that will transfer to the new school ;).

WHY? (2)

Dahamma (304068) | about a year ago | (#42824425)

He's going to college. Isn't the point of going to college to take courses?

If he really wants to learn more about programming before/outside of college, the best way IS to be a self-starter and use the near infinite resources of the Internet to do it. If he doesn't want to do that, why force him? In either case, if as you say the local programming classes aren't very good, why not just let him wait to take one when he starts in the fall?

Self-Starter (1)

furchin (240685) | about a year ago | (#42824495)

Sorry, he's not a self-starter. A formal education in computer science theory is one thing, but you say he wants to learn "some introductory programming skills". That's exactly the sort of thing he could pick up on his own, by following a tutorial or example online. There's no need for a course -- unless, of course, he's not a self-starter and needs to framework of a course for actually give him assignments that he does. There's nothing wrong with that, but you're not describing him correctly. If he is a self-starter, then you need to ask him what he's done to learn anything on his own.

Enjoy his last minutes of freedom!!! (5, Insightful)

sureshot007 (1406703) | about a year ago | (#42824545)

Tell him to stop worrying about college and just enjoy the summer. Once you go to college, it's all about studying and doing well, then summers are for working jobs to pay off some debt and have spending cash during the school year, then back to school....and once your graduate and get a job, all of your freedom is gone!

Have him enjoy his last moments of freedom from responsibility and have fun with his friends.

Besides, if I had a dime for every kid in Intro to CS that thought he knew how to program but couldn't grasp the idea of simple design patterns...I wouldn't have had to be a TA.

Re:Enjoy his last minutes of freedom!!! (1)

mrjatsun (543322) | about a year ago | (#42824657)

mod this one up. Enjoy the summer time before college. Enjoy life. He has 4 years in college and intern jobs to learn. And if he's any good, and want's to sling code, he will most likely be working lots of hours after college.

Udacity & Coursera (1)

bobdehnhardt (18286) | about a year ago | (#42824653)

Udacity [udacity.com] and Coursera [coursera.com] both offer free online college-level courses in programming. Udacity's focus is primarily on Python (at least in the courses I've taken), but it looks like Coursera's offerings include C++. Any of these should give him a good start in object-oriented programming.

Re:Udacity & Coursera (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42825459)

Yeh MOOCs are the way to go. IMO Udacity is the best for programming.

Re:Udacity & Coursera (1)

ChunderDownunder (709234) | about a year ago | (#42825859)

OOP is one paradigm but I'm thinking of enrolling in Martin Odersky's functional programming course [coursera.org] - a class taught by the guy who created the language isn't something you do everyday!

Purists might contend that lisp, ocaml or haskell are the only ways to grok functional programming. Nevertheless, a functional/OO hybrid that runs on the JVM might be a nice complement to the ubiquitous Java courses this kid may encounter. (Do they still use Java as a teaching language?!)

use math to learn code (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42824661)

If he's good at math, he can tie learning programming into mathematical concepts..he might
like codebymath.com....

sounds snotty! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42824705)

"although he is bright kid with a great background in math and science, he has indicated that he'd like learn some introductory programming skills this summer"

As written, this sounds like "although my son is a bright kid with a great background in math and science, he'd like to learn something that is not up to his capabilities!"

Dippy name, excellent program (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42824755)

The Summer Science Program [summerscience.org] is an astronomy summer-camp originally formed in the Cold War fears. Students observe Near Earth Objects, then use their observations to update the orbital determinations with Harvard-Smithsonian Small Bodies Institute. This means teaching programming, calculus, physics, and astronomy for direct application to a valuable real-world problem.

I went in the dawn of time (2001), and it was the first time in my life I ever had to work hard. But the very best bit? Going through the program means joining the most spectacularly diverse, creative, and helpful alumni network I've encountered in universities, professional organizations, or other short-term projects. I regularly donate half my vacation days each year to volunteer for the program, making sure the next group of students continues to have high-quality experiences. Alumni also pick in with sufficient donations to keep student fees below-cost, and offer substantial needs-based scholarships. You can read more reviews of the program here [greatnonprofits.org].

The program is open to international students who are rising juniors (entering their final year of high school).

online courses? (1)

hypergreatthing (254983) | about a year ago | (#42824821)

Aren't there a bunch of do it yourself introduction to programming and practical application courses online? That are you know, free? The language isn't important, it's critical thinking, logic, basic and general understanding of computers that is. Syntax and language logic is the last thing you'd want to teach, but actually it's the most helpful when trying to do something to show that you're learning.
If language is a consideration, i would recommend something that isn't painful (ADA), has object oriented programming in it (C++, C#, java, etc), can be used in a web based environment (all the rage), an understanding of xml and web apis.
But just programming is boring. Get him experience with computer hardware, low level instruction sets, how to fix/put together his own computer, databases (SQL based) and some low level i/o programming. That should be a pretty basic round-a-bout education for starters. Then see what he's really interested in and let it fly.
Just please don't get him excited about making video games, he'll be let down later in life or used and abused.

artofproblemsolving (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42824907)

artofproblemsolving.com offers some introductory programming courses that are probably great.

There are excellent summer math programs for high school students; probably similar programs exist for computer science but I don't know what they are.

C.A.R.E. (1)

Tannasgh (2835771) | about a year ago | (#42824911)

Love your children? Coding Abuse Resistance Education may offer you some help. Many young people who are experimenting with certain types of Code, that go by street names such as Sharp, Thon, Groovy, Alef, Ruby, HaXe or Dot among others can be stopped or rehabilitated to work productive, high paying jobs in such industries as rubber chicken farming, silly putty testing or hardwood log whittling. C.A.R.E helps parents keep kids healthy, keep them free from late night pizza and excessively high caffeine drinks, late night gaming and gives them a chance to meet members of the opposite sex. Come on, they deserve every opportunity!


Just Say NO to Code!

Get an internship. See if he likes it. (2)

pla (258480) | about a year ago | (#42824923)

[...] Even though he is a self-starter I think he would benefit from [...]
[...] he has indicated that he'd like learn some introductory programming skills this summer [...]
[...] the CS101-type courses I've seen offered are too general to meet his needs[...]


No offense, but one of those things doesn't jive. Either you want him to waste his last summer of freedom learning something his uni will already present at a painfully slow pace... Or you over-estimate his degree of self-starting.

In college, I had two very distinct types of peers in my CS classes (no, I don't plan to make this into a "people who know binary" joke). Half of us already knew a few programming languages and casually discussed our latest projects (both in the "toy" and "real employment" senses). And half of "us" switched majors to Tech Writing (the "philosophy major" of STEM) after failing the first semester of Analysis of Algorithms (assuming they even made it past Intro to Programming).

Perhaps he really does have an interest in programming, perhaps you want him to have an interest in a moderately in-demand and well-paid field. If you make him spend the summer grinding to get a leg up on the other freshmen, though, you can pretty much guarantee that if he graduates in 4-5 years, he'll have a degree in French Renaissance Literature. ;)

More seriously, if he wants to figure out if he really likes programming, and wants to get an edge over his peers - Have him look for an internship (probably unpaid if he can't actually program yet).

Try community colleges (1)

ryen (684684) | about a year ago | (#42824927)

I was in the same boat the summer before college. Wanted to learn more about programming but wasn't sure about it yet. I chose a course at the local community college which was affordable and no hassle to register for. It was C++ but focused on beginning programming which was probably not the best route to learn programming but it gave me a good start to everything. You might find more topical courses at community colleges if you're trying to stay away from the "general stuff".

Open Learning (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42824985)

Ive seen suggestions for other online courses, but not UNSW Computing 1 - The Art of Programming

It uses C and some custom assembler for 4/8 bit processors. Be forewarned: it's a computing course, not a programming course, so it won't teach you all the C syntax you'd ever want to know, but introduces you to how computers operate from a programming point of view.

18 years old and doesn't code? (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year ago | (#42825195)

Would you start a musical instrument at 18 and expect to compete with those that started 10 years earlier?

That ship has sailed. He will never be a good programmer. It's just too late.

Good programmers start coding as soon as they have the tools. These days they start as soon as they have the tools to get the tools. You can't stop them.

Perhaps you should get him a book on marketing?

C and Python (1)

Mullen (14656) | about a year ago | (#42825265)

If I had to choose, I would choose C and Python. C is the classic and it's operation is found in all of the other languages, plus it has memory management (While going out of style, people should still learn). I would also suggest Python, because it is an Objective Oriented and great language to learn Objective Oriented programming.

Algorithms instead of languages? (1)

smprather (941570) | about a year ago | (#42825289)

https://www.coursera.org/course/algo [coursera.org] About the Course In this course you will learn several fundamental principles of algorithm design. You'll learn the divide-and-conquer design paradigm, with applications to fast sorting, searching, and multiplication. You'll learn several blazingly fast primitives for computing on graphs, such as how to compute connectivity information and shortest paths. Finally, we'll study how allowing the computer to "flip coins" can lead to elegant and practical algorithms and data structures. Learn the answers to questions such as: How do data structures like heaps, hash tables, bloom filters, and balanced search trees actually work, anyway? How come QuickSort runs so fast? What can graph algorithms tell us about the structure of the Web and social networks? Did my 3rd-grade teacher explain only a suboptimal algorithm for multiplying two numbers?

Stanford ios Development course on iTunes U (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42825783)

Go ahead and hate all you want, Linux FOSS zealots. But the IOS/Objective C development series on iTunes U is spectacular. Watch the 20 hours of videos, do the assignments. Know how to write iPad/iPhone apps before you even get to college. If he's truly a "bright kid" he'll be interested in having a marketable skill set. Who knows, he might have a great app idea and sell enough apps to pay for college.

NOTE: It's wonderful that you could *also* learn how to write a Linux device driver, putz around with Python, etc. I've done that, do that too. But the moble app stores are a way for you to create a product and immediately get it to a massive, worldwide MARKET. The *Apple* store in particular is the best, fastest way to have a chance at immediate financial gain. But don't listen to me. I'm just a guy who runs a profitable software company with 80 employees.

I'd be concerned if he doesnt know one yet (1)

peter303 (12292) | about a year ago | (#42825891)

Most self-motivated hackers and science types learn something well before HS graduation. And often something is now taught in HS computer classes. Half my freshmen college class knew some programming. And that was before there were home computers.

Let the Boy Live! (1)

Irate Engineer (2814313) | about a year ago | (#42825933)

The kid is in the prime of his youth with testosterone pouring out of his ears. Give him a 24 pack of condoms and let him play in the sun with all the nice girls that distracted him in science class. If he wants to tinker with coding, let him follow his passions in the direction of his own choosing. Let him be bored now and again and allow him to daydream a bit. It may give him more focus and direction than you realize.

Learn Programming with Raspberry Pi (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42825935)

Get your son a Raspberry Pi $35

I work with college interns and use Pi to teach programming, networking, database and web servers.
Most of the students we hire have practical experience colleges rarely provide this.
Use magpi online magazine to learn all the programming you need.
Have him go through the Pi tutorials and Kahn Academy.

He will learn alot on the web. Most college programs do not cover much quickly.
I have a CS Grad degree and worked at Los Alamos on my thesis on Human Genome Project.
My son is using Pi for building interface projects he is in college as a high schooler.

Pi Database



Web Server



Learning the basics of wireless networks would be a first step.


Network monitoring is an important job requirement.


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