[erlang-questions] Erlang for youngsters

Mahesh Paolini-Subramanya mahesh@REDACTED
Mon Jun 16 13:36:16 CEST 2014

> The most important thing here I believe is to have a nice collection of
> simple tasks/problems that are appealing to the target audience and best
> (easiest/nicest) solved in Erlang.

The least relevant part of teaching kids programming is the syntax, or the
choice of language - they don't, and won't, give a s**t about it.
As a simple thought experiment, just look at how you raised your kids in a
multi-lingual environment (yes my American brethren, this is hard. Pretend
:-)  )  Notice how they - fluidly - bounce across languages, massacring
every grammar rule ever, but quite happily making sure that you understand
that "I amn't going to eat pea, ನಾನು ತಿನ್ನಲ್ಲ, ನಾನು ತಿನ್ನಲ್ಲ, odio odio
odio la piselli, i don't wanna, where is my red truck?"
Mind you, they will pick up the rules over time, but the key here is the
importance of the problem at hand ("How To Avoid Eating Peas") - the more
immediately relevant it is to the young 'uns, the more rapidly they will
pick up the tools, the specifics of the language be damned.


On Mon, Jun 16, 2014 at 6:55 AM, Ferenc Holzhauser <
ferenc.holzhauser@REDACTED> wrote:

> The most important thing here I believe is to have a nice collection of
> simple tasks/problems that are appealing to the target audience and best
> (easiest/nicest) solved in Erlang. That's a bit of a challenge considering
> that Erlang is created to solve problems that are rather "industrial" and
> most people "from outside" can't really relate to. If the audience is not
> comfortable with understanding the problem itself then it is tricky to make
> them understand/like the solution too.
> This we can see with many new people getting into Erlang: The problems
> they are given are new and difficult to understand. So they often just go
> off and eagerly try to solve all sort of issues they are familiar with
> (even when they are not relevant in the particular case) before even trying
> to understand what the real challenge is. Then they start complaining that
> Erlang is not very good for some/many of those issues they are busy with.
> And other way around: people coming to Erlang with the right understanding
> of the problem area it is made for find it amazingly simple to learn.
> Coming from the wrong (or right ?) background my imagination fails to come
> up with these appealing challenges for the youngster target group, but I'm
> sure many of you can do much better.
> Ferenc
> On 16 June 2014 11:31, Miles Fidelman <mfidelman@REDACTED> wrote:
>> Garrett Smith wrote:
>>> On Mon, Jun 16, 2014 at 9:51 AM, Torben Hoffmann
>>> <torben.hoffmann@REDACTED> wrote:
>>> -snip-
>>>  I think that a learning resource focused on teaching people the Erlang
>>>> model from the
>>>> ground up would be a great improvement. A clear narrative around how do
>>>> we solve a
>>>> problem the Erlang way. Teaching the basic constructs is not the
>>>> problem.
>>>> My initial target for such a learning resources would be young people
>>>> in the higher
>>>> grades of elementary school, say 12-15 years. Why? Because I want to
>>>> influence them
>>>> before their minds are totally corrupted by other programming models.
>>>> I don't think we would have to dumb anything down in particular for
>>>> this group - we
>>>> just have to find a cool example and organise the learning around how
>>>> to become so
>>>> good that one can solve such a problem.
>>>> Some sort of game will probably be the best candidate, say, some sort
>>>> of Transport
>>>> Tycoon clone?!?!
>>> I don't have enough experience teaching programming to this age group
>>> to provide anything more than a hunch. But I suspect that the Erlang
>>> way, which is hard enough for very seasoned programmers to grok, might
>>> be a bit ambitious for these young learners.
>>> I'm speaking in particular about the model that emerges when you
>>> isolate processes. It changes everything: your approach to building
>>> software (move from state oriented to activity oriented), error
>>> handling (move from defensive measures to assertive/let-it-crash),
>>> program structure (from monolith to system), and so on. The benefits
>>> of this shift are hard to get across, in my experience anyway. I wish
>>> it wasn't, or I wish I was better at communicating.
>> I'm with the folks who suggest that this group has fewer pre-conceptions
>> to unlearn.
>> It strikes me that the actor model is far more natural for certain
>> classes of problems - network code, simulation, and gaming come to mind.
>>  It's simply conceptually easier to think in terms of LOTS of independent
>> processes.
>> Miles Fidelman
>> --
>> In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice.
>> In practice, there is.   .... Yogi Berra
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