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View Full Version : Getting beginners to look at examples - HOW?


DrJim
09-05-2008, 06:44 PM
Just looked at the latest forum postings and it seems - as at the start of every school term - that there are a lot of extremely simple questions that the questioner would be able to figure out for themselves if they only worked through the examples - either in the standard texts or in Dick Baldwin's tutorials. Additionally, at least in all the Alice references I have, the sample problems are usually not just games or fancy videos, but are designed to teach a specific lesson.

I tend to answer a few of the basic question - but only when (IMO) the Alice approach is a bit obscure or quirky - and I'm sure many will disagree with my opinion even on this, since I often do myself a few days or weeks later. :o

I post this here in the hope that someone with more experience than I have in actually educating the target Alice audience will somehow be able to post a more general - and convincing - standard response to this type of question.

No one is going to learn much about programming unless they are willing to get their hands dirty and not just ask for help the first time they hit a problem.

DickBaldwin
09-05-2008, 09:36 PM
Just looked at the latest forum postings and it seems - as at the start of every school term - that there are a lot of extremely simple questions that the questioner would be able to figure out for themselves if they only worked through the examples - either in the standard texts or in Dick Baldwin's tutorials. Additionally, at least in all the Alice references I have, the sample problems are usually not just games or fancy videos, but are designed to teach a specific lesson.

I tend to answer a few of the basic question - but only when (IMO) the Alice approach is a bit obscure or quirky - and I'm sure many will disagree with my opinion even on this, since I often do myself a few days or weeks later. :o

I post this here in the hope that someone with more experience than I have in actually educating the target Alice audience will somehow be able to post a more general - and convincing - standard response to this type of question.

No one is going to learn much about programming unless they are willing to get their hands dirty and not just ask for help the first time they hit a problem.
Jim,

For a long time, I posted a standard response something like the following: Study the tutorials at http://www.dickbaldwin.com/tocalice.htm

Or sometimes something like: Go to Google and search for the following:

site:www.alice.org/community topicOfInterest

However, recently the frequency of students asking for someone else to do their homework for them has increased to the point that I usually don't even do that any more.

For example, on the recent question about a fish swimming in a circle, there is an example in my tutorials of a shark swimming in a circle around a drowning rabbit. All a student needs to do is exert a little study effort and they will find it.

As an educator, I certainly don't want someone on the web doing my student's homework for them but it probably happens all the time.

Dick Baldwin
Free Alice tutorials: http://www.dickbaldwin.com/tocalice.htm
Free Java/C#, etc. tutorials: http://www.dickbaldwin.com/toc.htm

hgs
09-08-2008, 04:39 AM
I don't see a solution to this any time soon. This problem has existed for a long time, see for example "How to ask questions the smart way" by Eric S Raymond and Rick Moen (to which I shall not link from here as it contains strong language), and the internet tradition of exhorting people to Read The Fabulous Manual, Search The Fantastic Web, etc. There are also articles on "Help vampires" who suck the life out of communities.

The only positive thing I can suggest is to make articles more structured, so it is easier for people to find the information they need quickly, and also that laziness of the right kind is a virtue for programmers (See Programming Perl, by Larry Wall). I've encountered a number of blogs that say people don't really like having to read much any more, some cite the book "Don't make me think" about web design, but I've not read that yet, so don't know if it applies. I don't know if "The Socratic Method" as I understand it, is a viable response: asking the question that causes the right ideas to connect, but that certainly takes some skill.

Some of this is the intent of the exercises being unclear, I suppose: students treat it as a job to be done, and in work asking someone can save time and is the right thing to do. But if the goal is for the student to figure something out themselves without looking it up, asking someone in the year above or on the net, then maybe that doesn't come across to them. I don't teach, so am no expert on the pitfalls. There does seem to be an increasing feeling among those who teach that I speak to that students don't want to learn so much as they want to pass the exam to get the certificate. This may be a factor if it is true.

Ch0pStickS
11-23-2008, 09:01 PM
Well, they don't even have to look at tutorials for most stuff. If they just tried to figure things out themselves, they could do it. I figured out everything just from playing around. My first project was a game, and within the 4th month of using Alice i was able to use recursions effectively. Coding questions are simple to figure out. Just use your head a little.

gunny
01-12-2009, 02:00 PM
Read http://blogs.msdn.com/alfredth/ latest blog. Some excellent comments on the subject. The article by Peter Norvig is very relevant.

gypsy fly
01-17-2009, 04:36 PM
Most CS courses I've taken were of the "Hello World" approach. Now that I'm teaching, I've adopted the "Programming By Example" approach.

We go through the examples in class and learn to READ good code before we WRITE.

RockyTheConcreteDonkey
01-17-2009, 04:51 PM
I remember when I first got alice (My friend went on a field trip to mohawk collage) he told me they learned about it there... But anyway, I didnt know what to do at some point until i took the tutorials, now it is my favorite thing to do. Now that I know how to use alice

BewbMan
02-10-2009, 11:53 AM
As an educator, I certainly don't want someone on the web doing my student's homework for them but it probably happens all the time.

So you'd rather they bother you instead? When you think about it helping someone online is in fact taking the role of a teacher most people don't write down what to do and let the kid copy it but they do give guidance that is something a teacher does, if a student goes online to search for possible solutions to a problem, I do believe that the student is using their mind and the intrawebz as a tool. Its completely legit as long as they aren't copying the things, plus at the end of the assignment you'll still graspo the basic concept if not as well but still somewhat from the solution, if the student didn't recieve any proper guidance they might end up with no grasp on the concept.