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Thread: Teaching a Non-Programmer How to Program?

  1. #26
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    Default Re: Teaching a Non-Programmer How to Program?

    Quote Originally Posted by Melawe View Post
    I have read somewhere that is falls in the line of programs like Bluej, GreenFoot, etc. I don't know how it would work though. I'd think you would be using more of Robocodes packages rather than Java's packages, in turn only learning the syntax.
    Yeah, they're all IDEs. They contain features that help you manage classpath and other project settings, as well as auto-complete, syntax highlighting, etc. They're a handy tool for experienced developers, but I highly suggest novice users stick with something like notepad or JEdit along with the command line until they have a good handle on what's going on.

    And it would be more like having Robocode's classes available to you in the same way that classes you create are available to you. They've done the hard work, you just have to use what they created. You'd still use the standard Java packages as well as Robocode's, in addition to any you create. That might sound a little complicated, but really it's just like using your own classes, except somebody already wrote them for you.
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    Default Re: Teaching a Non-Programmer How to Program?

    Quote Originally Posted by KevinWorkman View Post
    Yeah, they're all IDEs. They contain features that help you manage classpath and other project settings, as well as auto-complete, syntax highlighting, etc. They're a handy tool for experienced developers, but I highly suggest novice users stick with something like notepad or JEdit along with the command line until they have a good handle on what's going on.

    And it would be more like having Robocode's classes available to you in the same way that classes you create are available to you. They've done the hard work, you just have to use what they created. You'd still use the standard Java packages as well as Robocode's, in addition to any you create. That might sound a little complicated, but really it's just like using your own classes, except somebody already wrote them for you.
    Hmm, i never thought of green foot as an IDE. I think IDE's are alright for beginners, I started learning Java using NetBeans, cause of some issues I switched to Eclipse. Other than that I've had no problems, although I still don't know how to use many of the features of these two IDE's(ant scripts, debugging etc) they never caused me trouble(even when I clicked debug to see what it would do lol). I do like using cmd(now that I know how to), errors are frustrating enough in IDE's though, I probably would quickly switch to Eclipse when I encounter one.

    -Mel

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    Default Re: Teaching a Non-Programmer How to Program?

    To be fair, I've never used Greenfoot, but their about page does call it an IDE: Greenfoot | About Greenfoot

    And the debate about whether beginners should use IDEs has been had too many times. All I know is that I used notepad for the first year I programmed (in high school), then I used JCreator through college (except for a few assignments that required eclipse or netbeans). I only started using eclipse when I started working as a programmer, and I can objectively say that I'm more familiar with the goings-on of Java than most of my peers who started out using an IDE. If/when I teach programming, I'll suggest that my students follow a similar schedule.
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    Default Re: Teaching a Non-Programmer How to Program?

    That's been my experience help beginning students that only know how to use their IDE. As soon as they try to do anything outside of the IDE they have no idea how the real world works.

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    Default Re: Teaching a Non-Programmer How to Program?

    Quote Originally Posted by Norm View Post
    That's been my experience help beginning students that only know how to use their IDE. As soon as they try to do anything outside of the IDE they have no idea how the real world works.
    Exactly. It's one thing to use an IDE to help improve your productivity. It's another thing altogether to rely on things like autcomplete, classpath management, deployment shortcuts, etc.

    During senior year of college, I witnessed a guy "program" entirely by copy-pasting into an IDE. He could not write something as simple as Hello World without copying something from somewhere else. Even variable declarations required IDE assistance. It was awful, because we were about to graduate together! That's the kind of programmer you risk becoming if you start using IDEs too early, imho.

    And since people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones (or something), I'll give you a real example- right now I'm learning how to do EE stuff (Tomcat, JSP, JavaDB, SQL), and I'm extremely out of my element. I know that using things like hibernate and IDE automation would make my job a lot easier in the short-term, but they won't help me learn what's actually happening in the long-term. So even though it's more painful for me for now, I'm going to keep doing things at the ground level instead of jumping into a world with which I'm unfamiliar. I think that's the best way to learn.
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    Default Re: Teaching a Non-Programmer How to Program?

    Quote Originally Posted by KevinWorkman View Post
    Warning: you will *never* be finished learning Java, no matter how long you've been doing it! So I wouldn't be too strict about setting milestones before jumping into something (as long as that something isn't too complicated).
    Never? Since they update Java or some other reason?

    Quote Originally Posted by KevinWorkman View Post
    And the debate about whether beginners should use IDEs has been had too many times. All I know is that I used notepad for the first year I programmed (in high school), then I used JCreator through college (except for a few assignments that required eclipse or netbeans). I only started using eclipse when I started working as a programmer, and I can objectively say that I'm more familiar with the goings-on of Java than most of my peers who started out using an IDE. If/when I teach programming, I'll suggest that my students follow a similar schedule.
    Based on thier JCreator has about the same features as Eclipse or Netbeans. What


    Quote Originally Posted by Norm View Post
    That's been my experience help beginning students that only know how to use their IDE. As soon as they try to do anything outside of the IDE they have no idea how the real world works.
    Quote Originally Posted by KevinWorkman View Post
    During senior year of college, I witnessed a guy "program" entirely by copy-pasting into an IDE. He could not write something as simple as Hello World without copying something from somewhere else. Even variable declarations required IDE assistance. It was awful, because we were about to graduate together! That's the kind of programmer you risk becoming if you start using IDEs too early, imho.

    And since people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones (or something), I'll give you a real example- right now I'm learning how to do EE stuff (Tomcat, JSP, JavaDB, SQL), and I'm extremely out of my element. I know that using things like hibernate and IDE automation would make my job a lot easier in the short-term, but they won't help me learn what's actually happening in the long-term. So even though it's more painful for me for now, I'm going to keep doing things at the ground level instead of jumping into a world with which I'm unfamiliar. I think that's the best way to learn.
    Then what would you suggest to someone like me? I'm almost done learning Java(as in I'm moving on to the API from my book and I can read almost any code written by someone else), and the only time I've manually compiled something was before I got my book, and the 2nd time a few days ago(just to see how it would go).

    -Mel

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    Default Re: Teaching a Non-Programmer How to Program?

    I'm almost done learning Java
    It must be wonderful to be almost done.

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    Default Re: Teaching a Non-Programmer How to Program?

    Quote Originally Posted by Melawe View Post
    Never? Since they update Java or some other reason?
    Never. I've been coding for 8 years now, and I learn something new every single day (today: in one Java release, main didn't have to be public). That's how it is for anything, really. But with programming, there are so many different facets. Even assuming you are done learning "standard" Java (which itself is not possible), what about the world of applets? Deployment? Servers? JSP? Threading? Advanced GUIs? What kinds of algorithms is Java suited for? What kinds is it not suited for? Those aren't challenges, and I'm not trying to discourage you (quite the opposite!), but I don't think anybody is ever "done" learning Java.



    Quote Originally Posted by Melawe View Post
    Based on thier JCreator has about the same features as Eclipse or Netbeans. What
    I suppose I should have specified *how* I used it. Just a syntax highlighter and a compiler. No auto-complete, none of that stuff. Now I'd probably recommend somebody use JEdit instead, so they still did compilation and classpath management on the command line.

    Quote Originally Posted by Melawe View Post
    Then what would you suggest to someone like me? I'm almost done learning Java(as in I'm moving on to the API from my book and I can read almost any code written by someone else), and the only time I've manually compiled something was before I got my book, and the 2nd time a few days ago(just to see how it would go).
    I'm not really sure, as I don't know what "level" you're at. What kinds of things have you written? What kinds of projects have you been involved with? Until you've written, from scratch, a pretty large project, I'd really recommend sticking with JEdit and the command prompt. But like I said, that's just my two cents.
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    Default Re: Teaching a Non-Programmer How to Program?

    Quote Originally Posted by Norm View Post
    It must be wonderful to be almost done.
    Quote Originally Posted by KevinWorkman View Post
    Even assuming you are done learning "standard" Java (which itself is not possible), what about the world of applets? Deployment? Servers? JSP? Threading? Advanced GUIs? What kinds of algorithms is Java suited for? What kinds is it not suited for? Those aren't challenges, and I'm not trying to discourage you (quite the opposite!), but I don't think anybody is ever "done" learning Java.
    When I say "almost done learning Java" I only mean I've learnt how to us the main parts of Java, primitive data types, conditionals, loops, Threads. I don't mean that I know every method of the Integer class, nor any other class. I know I still have much to learn, like using OO in a real project, I/O, Threads, etc. In other words I've learnt how to make a Java program, not Java it self.

    -Mel

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    Default Re: Teaching a Non-Programmer How to Program?

    Like driving across Kansas. You get to the top of a hill and think you're almost there and look ahead and see the Rockies another 200 miles ahead.

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    Default Re: Teaching a Non-Programmer How to Program?

    Quote Originally Posted by KevinWorkman View Post
    I'm not really sure, as I don't know what "level" you're at. What kinds of things have you written? What kinds of projects have you been involved with? Until you've written, from scratch, a pretty large project, I'd really recommend sticking with JEdit and the command prompt. But like I said, that's just my two cents.
    I haven't been involved with any projects yet, I plan on a few but haven't started any yet. I've been introduced to most of Java(threads, handling exceptions, GUI's), excluding I/O, which I'm learning next.

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    Default Re: Teaching a Non-Programmer How to Program?

    If the point of it all is to develop a conversational place of compassion, how about the "Tao of Programming", without actually writing some code it reveals some truths of programming without ever learning how to get your geek on.

    As far as a language, what I liked about the old days was that half a dozen commands would put you in the driver's seat with the compiler telling you you don't know how to code. My favorite would be something legacy like Turbo Pascal v.2.0. It includes a simple IDE; writes,compiles and runs code in the same place. If visual reward and ease of programming are more important than what you do, perhaps Scratch from our friends at MIT could provide some introduction before she makes a commitment to
    roll up her sleeves and write code.

    For project, a game loop could be useful in providing a context for doing something try to build onto without breaking, but also if there is anything she might really be interested in, you or she could do something she values. Scratch might also be good for a game as there are visual and program script components interconnected and the whole thing seems hard to crash.

    If the both of you are young single people, don't completely discount the possibility that she's planning to get into you even moreso than programming. :-)

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    Default Re: Teaching a Non-Programmer How to Program?

    Quote Originally Posted by KevinWorkman View Post
    A friend of mine (she graduated with a degree in psychology and is now going to grad school to learn how to teach kids how to read) recently asked that I teach her how to program ("teach me your nerds", is actually what she said). I think she pretty much just wants a conversational knowledge of programming, so that she can actually have a conversation with me about what I'm doing when I'm sitting in front of the computer for hours. I'm going to translate that and set a goal of teaching her the basics of setting up, writing, and running a program, as well as variables, if statements, and for loops. If she's still interested after that, I can think about more advanced topics.
    I would start by telling her that she is already a programmer of sorts.

    "I mean, as a psychologist, don't you program people's brains?"

    "ha, ha, ha, not really, we just learn about how people behave"

    "But you can use that to get people to behave in a particular way, right? The psychology of shopping for example..all those eye-catching snacks and little gadgets you never use, placed by the checkouts..isn't that a sort of behavioural programming?

    "you can't be serious! :-)"

    "no really. Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't we subconsciously adopt a kind language based on our culture that controls our behaviour"

    "In a way, yes"

    "And that language can be accessed and controlled, right?"

    "I can see where you are going with this.."

    "yeah, you are already a sort of programmer, except you deal with the human machine,,"

    etc. I would continue to draw parallels, but I wouldn't get technical unless she really digs ;-)

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    Default Re: Teaching a Non-Programmer How to Program?


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    Default Re: Teaching a Non-Programmer How to Program?

    Quote Originally Posted by meathead View Post
    If the point of it all is to develop a conversational place of compassion, how about the "Tao of Programming", without actually writing some code it reveals some truths of programming without ever learning how to get your geek on.
    Haha I actually have that book, but I didn't really like it. I think the point is mostly to see whether it's possible to show somebody our world, as most of the time if somebody asks "what are you doing", we can't give an understandable answer. I think the basic write-compile-run-debug loop is the gist of that.

    Quote Originally Posted by meathead View Post
    As far as a language, what I liked about the old days was that half a dozen commands would put you in the driver's seat with the compiler telling you you don't know how to code. My favorite would be something legacy like Turbo Pascal v.2.0. It includes a simple IDE; writes,compiles and runs code in the same place. If visual reward and ease of programming are more important than what you do, perhaps Scratch from our friends at MIT could provide some introduction before she makes a commitment to roll up her sleeves and write code.
    Actually, both of those reasonings are why I'm choosing Processing. It gives you a basic IDE with syntax highlighting and deployment options, and it also is very hands on and visual. I plan on having her create a basic applet and uploading it to my site (which means pressing one button in Processing and moving a directory to my webhost) to show her the very basics of deployment, after we get through the basics of writing code and running it. I hope I'm not being too ambitious for just a couple hours.

    Quote Originally Posted by meathead View Post
    For project, a game loop could be useful in providing a context for doing something try to build onto without breaking, but also if there is anything she might really be interested in, you or she could do something she values. Scratch might also be good for a game as there are visual and program script components interconnected and the whole thing seems hard to crash.
    Yeah, I'm thinking a simple educational game is the way to go. That should let us get through a fair amount of the basics.

    Quote Originally Posted by meathead View Post
    If the both of you are young single people, don't completely discount the possibility that she's planning to get into you even moreso than programming. :-)
    Hahaha I'll have to keep that in mind!
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    Default Re: Teaching a Non-Programmer How to Program?

    Quote Originally Posted by Melawe View Post
    That's a good resource, but I think I'm going to stray away from the traditional route, as we aren't really investing enough time in this to work through more than a few tutorials. I'm pretty set on Processing, since I'm pretty comfortable with it, and it gives you easy access to visual feedback without being too kid-like. I've had some disappointing experiences with the educational "languages", so I'm skeptical. that's just me though.
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    Default Re: Teaching a Non-Programmer How to Program?

    Quote Originally Posted by KevinWorkman View Post
    That's a good resource, but I think I'm going to stray away from the traditional route, as we aren't really investing enough time in this to work through more than a few tutorials. I'm pretty set on Processing, since I'm pretty comfortable with it, and it gives you easy access to visual feedback without being too kid-like. I've had some disappointing experiences with the educational "languages", so I'm skeptical. that's just me though.
    Yea, most don't look appealing to me too. Good luck.

    -Mel

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    Default Re: Teaching a Non-Programmer How to Program?

    I do a little bit of paid tutoring (not as much as I would like) and found that trying to teach young woman is different than other demographics (in general).

    Typically, I would start with a basic talked example; something that does not take long and covers either their classwork or area of interest. Make sure they have tools to work on their own (API, IDE, docs, google!!). Focus of first few lessons is usually on cause and effect so actual language is unimportant (let them decide or recommend your favorite) so long as syntax is simple. Try to cover fundamentals; loops, logic, class and object. Each time leave them thinking of how example could be better and other idea's for programs. Ask each time to see what they have done and quickly rehash last lesson. Progress through material based on their input (are you happy with x? show me how you would use it to do y)

    With young women can take a different approach. She has expertise in psychology? Why not brush up on few basic techniques and come up with an idea for a program. Figural Relations looks promising. Lesson plan would be combination of image creation (gimp, paintshop, mspaint, etc) and html / javascript (time responses, correct answer count, etc). Keep it simple but illustrate how various pieces can be used to create something big and useful. Instead of exercises, try cookbooks (code snippets, partial examples, etc). Instead of open ended questions about future improvements, ways to bring the project to completion.

    Hope this doesn't cause any offense. Just an observation I have made about how female brains tend to draw connections based of what they know and look for conclusions/solutions better than male. To conclude: male start small and work up to big, female start at solution and work backwards to problem. Men; consider thinking like women once in while.

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    Default Re: Teaching a Non-Programmer How to Program?

    Quote Originally Posted by ChristopherLowe View Post
    I do a little bit of paid tutoring (not as much as I would like) and found that trying to teach young woman is different than other demographics (in general).
    I don't disagree with you. I also used to tutor back in college. My college was mostly for people who wanted to be teachers, and they made the math majors (even the people going to school to teach elementary math) take the introductory programming course. So while tutoring, most of my job was to deal with elementary math education majors crying (literally) because they had received straight A's up until that point but were failing an introductory course.

    I know that part of my job as a "teacher" is to make it interesting for her, and I'm hoping to do that by sticking with a visual, instant-feedback-driven approach. This will probably happen next weekend, and in the meantime I'll try throwing together a couple tutorials for her, if only to keep my mind straight about how I want to go over things.
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    Default Re: Teaching a Non-Programmer How to Program?

    [highlight = Java]
    public class Parent
    {
    public static void main(String args[])
    {
    }
    }
    [/highlight = Java]
    // I remember starting with that statement. good luck with your project. Have fun

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    Default Re: Teaching a Non-Programmer How to Program?

    As a beginner to programming and particularly Java I have to say that I'm really enjoying learning from the command line and notepad.

    I've taken a Visual Basic class many years ago in high school that had us make a few predefined instant gratification type programs. I remember feeling like I didn't much care about what I was making because it wasn't really my program. I don't remember hardly any Visual Basic.

    On the other hand, I've been trying to teach myself Java for around a month and I really like my progress. I'm using the java learning path from the oracle website. The few programs I've made are stupid, but they're mine and I know them inside and out. They're not bicycle themed or Helloing anyone's World. Probably because of that I feel that I'm getting a great deal more satisfaction from doing things the way I am.

    That's my input for what it's worth. Learning from the command line has been much more fun for me. It could be due to using a different language or even just because I'm teaching myself. I haven't used an IDE yet so I suppose I can't really say if it's better or not, but I'm just saying that seeing visuals did not really impress me until I REALLY knew what it was like behind the scenes. The only thing I'm concerned about is teaching myself bad habits. Not sure how I can prevent that with no guidance. C'est la vie.

    Of course, it's very likely that your friend has differing triggers for what would impress and inspire her.
    Last edited by AlphaNoob; April 24th, 2012 at 07:56 PM.

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    Default Re: Teaching a Non-Programmer How to Program?

    Quote Originally Posted by AlphaNoob View Post
    As a beginner to programming and particularly Java I have to say that I'm really enjoying learning from the command line and notepad.
    That's awesome to hear. That's how every "real" programmer should start out, IMHO. But in my mind, the way I approach it is to have a buffer zone in between knowing nothing about programming and actually programming. So I'd use Processing to get the basics down in a way that's more fun than printing out prime numbers. Then if the person wants to continue, that's when Java, a basic text editor, and the command line come into play. That way there's not as steep a learning curve, and the results are a little cooler to look at.

    Quote Originally Posted by AlphaNoob View Post
    On the other hand, I've been trying to teach myself Java for around a month and I really like my progress. I'm using the java learning path from the oracle website. The few programs I've made are stupid, but they're mine and I know them inside and out. They're not bicycle themed or Helloing anyone's World. Probably because of that I feel that I'm getting a great deal more satisfaction from doing things the way I am.
    Cool, and I think that's how it should be done. In my opinion, one of the problems with traditional programming education is that none of the programs really matter to the students. I understand why printing out prime numbers is a good lesson, but I also understand why so many people just don't care about that. So by making the programs more interesting to the student, the process becomes a lot easier. I know that's not always possible in a classroom environment, but I think the most successful courses are going to be the ones that adapt to changing technology the fastest.

    Quote Originally Posted by AlphaNoob View Post
    The only thing I'm concerned about is teaching myself bad habits. Not sure how I can prevent that with no guidance. C'est la vie.
    I wouldn't worry too much about that. No matter how fantastic your habits are, the code you're writing now will look awful to you a year from now. The code you write a year from now will look awful to you in two years. The code you write in ten years will look awful to you in eleven years, because programmers are constantly improving. So I wouldn't waste too much time worrying about it at this point.

    Quote Originally Posted by AlphaNoob View Post
    Of course, it's very likely that your friend has differing triggers for what would impress and inspire her.
    Yeah, this is something that we talk about pretty often actually. She mentioned something about creating a vocab game for kids to play, so I think that might be a summer goal.
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    Default Re: Teaching a Non-Programmer How to Program?

    @Alpha I agree, cmd is prolly the most fun IDE. Yes it can get tiring at times, but still its fun.

    @Kevin How's it going so far? Did she like Processing?

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