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Humanist Archives: Dec. 8, 2018, 6:57 a.m. Humanist 32.253 - teaching coding

                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 32, No. 253.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                   Hosted by King's Digital Lab
                Submit to: humanist@dhhumanist.org

        Date: 2018-12-08 02:45:59+00:00
        From: Henry Schaffer 
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.251: pubs: teaching coding

Francois, thanks for pointing out that really nice article by Joe Morgan.
While I pretty much agree with him, I think he misses the beginning of the
process in his description - perhaps the problem is dealing with "coding".

My motto in this area is, "The computer does what you tell it to do, not
what you want it to do." And so my start with children, or adults, is to
deal with giving complete and *unambiguous* directions. The computer
language is irrelevant, there is no concern with syntax as long as
complete/unambiguous is followed.

My start with college students was to take off my jacket, dump it on the
table and ask the students to give me instructions as to how to put it on.
The first instruction might be "Put your arm in the sleeve." So I'd stick
my hand into the cuff end of the sleeve. Then I'd ask for the next
instruction ... I'd never disobey an instruction, but I usually could
manage to satisfy incomplete/ambiguous instructions long enough to make my

Then, when it comes to teaching syntax, using parentheses to make order of
operations unambiguous made sense to the students.

Then, when students get past that, I think that Joe Morgan's article can be


P.S. I've used the approach with students in both the humanities and
science - they both need to be convinced of the need to be complete and

On Fri, Dec 7, 2018 at 1:32 AM Humanist  wrote:

>                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 32, No. 251.
>             Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>                        www.dhhumanist.org
>                 Submit to: humanist@dhhumanist.org
>         Date: 2018-12-06 21:03:05+00:00
>         From: Francois Lachance 
>         Subject: Teaching Coding, Inculcating Care for Craft
> Willard
> A short accessible piece by Joe Morgan on the question of whether to teach
> coding to children has appeared in Slate. One of its themes is about
> cultivating and appreciation for quality.
> Of course, getting something working is just the first step of building
> software. The next step is to make code clear, reusable, and neat. Once,
> early in my career, I wrote a feature and gave it to a senior developer
> for review. He took one look at my sloppy spacing, mismatched lines, and
> erratic naming conventions and just said, “Do it again.” It was working.
> The syntax was valid. It was still wrong. Good coders don’t just get
> something to work. They want it to be good.
> That feeling of quality is the hardest thing for many developers to
> master. Well-designed code feels good to work with, and ugly code will
> make developers involuntarily cringe. The best developers learn to fuse
> abstract logic with the sensitivity of an artist. Learning to trust that
> aesthetic feeling is as much a part of development as any algorithm or
> coding pattern.
> https://slate.com/human-interest/2018/12/against-teaching-kids-to-code-creativity-problem-solving.html
> --
> Francois Lachance
> Scholar-at-large
> http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~lachance
> https://berneval.blogspot.com

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