[erlang-questions] Erlang for youngsters

Torben Hoffmann torben.hoffmann@REDACTED
Fri Jun 20 00:11:17 CEST 2014

+1 one on the nice collection of simple tasks that builds up to something bigger.

That was how I structured the Java course I taught at the Technical University of
Denmark. Lots of small game related tasks and finally a project period about doing a
game. Lots of happy students.


Ferenc Holzhauser writes:

> 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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Torben Hoffmann
Erlang Solutions Ltd.
Tel: +45 25 14 05 38

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