You have arrived at the web home of Noah Brier. This is mostly an archive of over a decade of blogging and other writing. You can read more about me or get in touch. If you want more recent writing of mine, most of that is at my BrXnd marketing x AI newsletter and Why Is This Interesting?, a daily email for the intellectually omnivorous.

March, 2012

Programming vs Making Stuff

Teaching code by helping people make things, rather than focusing on programming details.
I've thought lots about the topic of teaching code since I taught myself a few years ago. My thesis, which still stands, is that the best way to teach people who want to make things to write code is not to teach them about the details, but instead to help them make things. Some of the points in this article about how nobody wants to learn to program pretty much nails it:
But for the casually interested or schoolchildren with several activities competing for their attention, programming concepts like variables and loops and data types aren’t interesting in themselves. They don’t want to learn how to program just for the sake of programming. They don’t want to learn about algorithm complexity or implicit casting. They want to make Super Mario or Twitter or Angry Birds.
I'm also particularly fond of this bit on how new coders are plagiarists:
It’s okay if they don’t completely understand how a program works after they’ve played with it a little. Very few ideas are completely original. The more material you give your students to plagiarize, the wider the range of derivative works they’ll make from them.
The only thing I'd add here is that I absolutely believe PHP is the best language to learn. While Python and Ruby may be more popular these days, nothing beats the speed from coding to deployment that PHP has (you hit save and refresh the page and you're ready). The only exception might be javascript, but I'm not sure yet how I'd teach people to build the things they want with it.
March 6, 2012
Noah Brier | Thanks for reading. | Don't fake the funk on a nasty dunk.