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Helping Students Learning to Program #Education #Programming @CACMmag

Mark Guzdial writes about the seminar at Dagstuhl on Notional Machines and Programming Language Semantics in Education.

The big insight for me this week was about the diverse kinds of supports that we can and should provide to students learning to program. Programming is WAY too hard right now.

One of the reasons we have trouble getting teachers to try programming is that it frightens them off.

We can make it less scary and easier to learn with more supports. We in computer science often believe that we should not provide help to students because it will somehow hinder their learning, that they’ll learn it better if they struggle and figure it out for themselves. It’s simply not true.

Direct instruction works and is much more efficient than discovery learning (read here and here and here).

The article advocates for a notional machine view of learning – A notional machine is a teaching tool for helping the student develop a successful (predictive) mental model.

Read more on how students might learn languages such that they understand what their program does, simulating it via a notional machine model.


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