Friday, April 01, 2005

Problem solving: hook, line and sinker!

I often complain about how unimaginative we are when teaching children how to program. Clearly the problems for novice programmers have to be simple so that they are achievable for programmers with limited knowledge and understanding... but do they have to be boring? I despair whenever I see a loop introduced by telling pupils to print their name on the screen, followed by asking them to print their name ten times. Good grief! Is that really the best we can come up with?

A related issue in teaching programming is how easy do you make it? Programming is difficult and I don't see any way around that. If you take away all the challenge, all to often you take away all the fun too. People like being challenged, that's why things like crosswords are so popular. I have seen umpteen "programming courses" that simply teach children how to follow instructions instead of teaching them how to create programs.

It's not just a problem with teaching programming. We need to challenge pupils more, excite them and involve them or we'll end up turning them off learning altogether. I was pleased therefore to see two recent entries in the Creating Passionate Users blog dealing with just that issue. (Quite apart from the articles, it's worth visiting for the illustrations at the top of the entries alone!) Read Motivated to learn? and The importance of seduction and curiosity. Think about them, be challenged by them... and have fun!

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