[erlang-questions] Erlang for youngsters

Ivan Uemlianin ivan@REDACTED
Mon Jun 16 14:03:05 CEST 2014

I don't know how graphic and snazzy things have to be for this age group 
("kids these days, etc.").  Sending messages from one node to another 
can be quite cool and easy, and very erlangy.  Extra cool when the other 
node is someone else's computer in the classroom.

For something like that, *not* having fancy graphics might even add to 
the effect.


On 16/06/2014 12:55, Mark Nijhof wrote:
> +1 on this, this rings very true to home. But I also believe that it
> needs to return results quickly. I.e. building a game is great, but if
> they have to "code" for days before they see something happen then they
> loose interest (assumption). So preparing "building blocks" might be a
> good approach and have them first implement higher level stuff and then
> step by step dig deeper and implement the building blocks you prepared.
> An other exercise I planned is to program a drone (not sure about the
> language there yet) to fly an obstacle course. So they see it is not
> just something that happens on their iPads ;)
> -Mark
> On Mon, Jun 16, 2014 at 1:36 PM, Mahesh Paolini-Subramanya
> <mahesh@REDACTED <mailto:mahesh@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.
>     Amen!
>     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.
>     Cheers
>     On Mon, Jun 16, 2014 at 6:55 AM, Ferenc Holzhauser
>     <ferenc.holzhauser@REDACTED <mailto: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 <mailto:mfidelman@REDACTED>>
>         wrote:
>             Garrett Smith wrote:
>                 On Mon, Jun 16, 2014 at 9:51 AM, Torben Hoffmann
>                 <torben.hoffmann@REDACTED
>                 <mailto: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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>     *
>     *Mahesh Paolini-Subramanya
>     <http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/204a87f81a0d9764c1f3364f53e8facf.png>*
>     That tall bald Indian guy..
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Ivan A. Uemlianin PhD
Speech Technology Research and Development


                         festina lente

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