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Teaching Perl to Middle School Students

posted by jjohn on 2000.04.13 12:54   Printer-friendly
Read about the adventures of teaching middle school kids Perl. Who says Perl isn't a good first language?
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  • Almost 90% dropped out in the first 6 hours they got exposed to Perl. If this is supposed to say anything about Perl a first language, then it shouts out: No, no, nooooooooo!. The given handouts are sometimes plain wrong.

    -- Abigail

  • I would (Score:1, Interesting)

    Well, the attrition was high, but the teacher suggested that factors other than Perl were responsible. Factors like programming is hard. I saw high attrition rates in college for CS classes, although not 5/6 of a class.

    Please note that once some of the project was working, many dropouts became interested again.

    So, yeah, I do count this as a success. :-)

  • Re:I would[n't] (Score:1, Interesting)

    6 boys, no girls.

    But I think it is totally cool that someone is trying to teach kids how to program.

    My money is still on 'Perlhouse Rock' :)

    e.
  • Re:I would (Score:1, Interesting)

    Well, the attrition was high, but the teacher suggested that factors other than Perl were responsible. Factors like programming is hard. I saw high attrition rates in college for CS classes, although not 5/6 of a class.

    Actually, the drop out was 7 out of 8. There were 8 people taking the course, 6 of them students of the school, 2 of them teachers of the school. None of the adults survived. And if programming is hard was a factor, than the conclusion ought to be that Perl certainly didn't make it an

  • 6 boys, no girls.

    The gender of the two teachers taking the course was not disclosed.

    -- Abigail

  • I agree with Abigail. "Programming is hard" is a cop-out.

    If you're looking for reasons why so many of the students dropped out, consider how you introduce Perl to them:

    • In the first lesson, you map certain concepts from high-school English class onto Perl. First, you don't need this to be able to use Perl. Second, the students who hate their English classes would only think less of Perl through the association. Third, the model of "subject / verb / direct object / punctuation" maps very poorly onto P
  • When I replaced my creaky old performa575 with a shiny, new beige G3, I gave the 575 to my son, along with my copy of MacPerl:Power and Ease. He has, on and off been going over the examples, poking at things, trying things. I haven't been 'teaching' in a classroom sense, but he is getting it. He has never been exposed to programming in school, so I felt perl was the best language to start with. He'll be able to use it on any computer he ends up using later in life and it's his old man's favorite, so we'll h
  • I wish I had written the Wolf. Sorry, "Mastering Algorithms with Perl" is by Jon Orwant, Jarkko Hietaniemi, and John MacDonald. I can only claim credit for cowriting the Perl Cookbook.

    Nat

  • I can only claim credit for cowriting the Perl Cookbook

    For which I offer many thanks, to you and TomC. I am about to buy my 3rd copy, as they seem to grow legs and wander off to other cubicles.

  • I have updated the information [svs.com] about teaching perl to middle school students to reflect this year's experiences.

    For the Middle School in Fall 1999, we had about 18 kids initially dropping to 14 steady state, made up of 4 girls/10 boys. For the Middle School in Winter 1999-2000, there were 8 kids - all boys. For the Middle School in Spring 2000, there were 2 to 4 kids. The ones who attended regularly were 2 girls.

  • I would agree with Abigail that from a hard nosed point of view of how many kids actually learned Perl and how much did they learn, it wasn't a success.

    From the point of view of simply getting the institution of the school to offer the experience, though, it was a considerable success. It is a good school but it still takes a lot of work to get perl to be allowed on the computers, to get a teacher willing to be involved, and then finally to have some kids who are interested.

    The other element of success

  • The gender of the two teachers taking the course was not disclosed.

    During that session (Spring 1998) the two adults were made up of one man and one woman. The woman lasted the longest.

  • Yes, sethg is right on the money in analyzing many of the reasons why my first attempt at teaching Perl to middle school students had such a high attrition rate.

    The suggestion of "one liners" (though I didn't try to do regular expressions until about lesson six of my revised approach) was essentially what I learned worked.

    In the most successful of the Middle School efforts last year, by the end of the computer club unit (which lasted from about October through January) the 13 or 14 students each wrote t

  • As a follow up, I wanted to mention that my current direction is to switch the course over to Javascript from Perl. Don't get me wrong--I like Perl but there are a number of reasons from a teaching and institutional deployment perspective that make Javascript more attractive.

    Some of them are:

    1. that the Javascript "compiler" is integrated with the browser,
    2. that practically every student both at home and at school has a Javascript-capable browser and, like Perl, Javascript is fairly platform and browser-in