Friday, September 19, 2014

So Many Ways To Do The Same Thing

I updated my list of block programming languages and tools yesterday. Two more bringing the total list to 17. Seventeen? Yep. Also this week I learned about Gidget  (thanks to Mark Guzdial) which is a more text based programming environment for teaching programming. There are so many of these tools out there.
It seems like these sorts of tools for teaching beginning programming are appearing faster and faster all the time. A couple of years there were just a few of them with Alice and Scratch getting almost all of the attention. Next came Snap! in terms of attracting a large teacher base. Of course those were not the first around but they were the first to really jump into mainstream CS education. All of these have their fans and lots of people rave about them. Do we have research on how they work? Not much. Even less on the newer ones.
Recently I asked (Yet More Block Programming Languages) why these new languages were created and received a nice answer from one of the creators. (Thanks Jeff Gray) I suspect everyone who creates one of these tools has their own ideas about what should be done and how. I’m not going to tell anyone not to try something they feel good about.
In some cases, Spherly and App Inventor just to name two, a specific application domain is the target. Robots and phones in those two examples. In others a specific platform such as apps for iPads or Android devices. Or even different programming paradigms – TouchDevelop for small screens and a touch interface rather than a keyboard. They all touch some interest of study and some audience.
Students react to different tools differently. I have asked groups of students about several on different occasions. I’ll have some tell me they love Scratch and hate Alice. Others hate Scratch and love Alice. It seems to be a pretty personal thing.
Right now I am gathering a list of educational tools and projects that teachers are using to teach programming. Not just at the very beginner level up up to and even beyond Advanced Placement Computer Science. (Supported by I’m looking for volunteer teachers who are willing to help me review and rate them all. If you are interested and willing to help let me know. Email at Thanks

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