What schools don't teach

March 18th, 2013 11:18 AM
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Computers play an important role in education, be it in programming or game design. Retrocomputers like the Apple II can be especially valuable in any of these disciplines, especially programming. The finite, knowable universe of an 8-bit machine provides the perfect canvas on which budding programmers can craft their first algorithms.

But in many schools, the question isn't with what computers should programming be taught, but whether programming should be taught at all. Demand for programmers has never been higher, with the number of positions growing at twice the national rate. Yet ninety percent of schools offer no programming courses at all, leading to colleges graduating fewer computer science majors than they were a decade ago.

The non-profit Code.org is bringing attention to the need for more programming education in this country with a public service announcement (PSA). For this five-minute video, they have recruited the likes of Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and will.i.am, as well as some less likely suspects.

(There are also one-minute and nine-minute versions of this PSA.)

When I was in high school, a required course was geometry. I found it a challenging course, but reasonably so. The theorems and corollaries about alternate interior angles and their kin weren't intended to train me to be an architect; rather, they were lessons in logic, teaching me how to think and solve.

Programming is the modern geometry, offering similar value to students, whether or not they seek careers in computer programming. I do not consider myself a programmer, yet I have benefitted immensely from the languages I taught myself outside of school. I have occasionally tried to pass on these lessons to friends, showing them some (literally) BASIC concepts on the Apple II, such as variables and FOR loops. They remain completely mystified, with one going so far as to marvel at my own capacity to grasp programming: "You're a creative person, Ken, yet you can program. I've never met anyone whose mind can switch between those two modes so effortlessly."

But programming is creative. A relative who doesn't realize that basic tenet recently characterized programming to me as "Doing the same thing, over and over". How he confused programming with data entry is beyond me. But the fusion of creativity and logic is perhaps best found on this digital landscape, and students would benefit from being introduced to that sandbox — whether or not it's on an Apple II.

Tributes to Steve Jobs

October 10th, 2011 10:10 AM
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Between last week's video and a special episode of the Open Apple podcast, I've said all I can about Steve Jobs' passing. But many others have shared more eloquent thoughts than mine, and I'd like to share some of my favorites here.

The Open Apple shownotes link to several celebrities' social media tributes. Among those not mentioned are Richard Garriott, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg.

On the visual front, there have been many artistic interpretations, including from the New Yorker and XKCD.


No replacements found


There's always the hope that if you sit and watch for long enough, the beachball will vanish and the thing it interrupted will return.


New Yorker


Pailheads


BoingBoing.net temporarily reskinned their site with a familiar look.

Boing Boing

Several celebrities have offered video tributes, including liberal show hosts Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart.

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