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As a follow-up to my post about programming languages, [personal profile] liv asked me: "can you talk about whether you're planning to teach your children programming, and if so how?"

I'd very much like to teach my children programming, yes, for a variety of reasons. One is that it's a thing I'm personally enthusiastic about that I want to share with them. Another is that it's an increasingly useful secondary skill in all kinds of other academic disciplines, whether that's for data analysis or driving complex machinery or whatever, and I'd like them to have that be accessible to them if at all possible. And of course I think it's a worthwhile skill in its own right, as computers become more and more a part of everyday life.

On the other hand, I don't want to teach them just single bespoke skills, such as just one programming language: what I really want to impart is the mental discipline of ordering your thoughts in order to instruct a computer accurately in how to do them, which I think is an aptitude that transfers itself well to all kinds of other things, even though doing that clearly involves learning the nuts and bolts of programming (preferably in more than one languages) and especially for children it needs to involve having fun along the way. There's no point trying to teach programming to children if they find it boring, or if it's too early in their development. (I tried to teach B how to program some years ago, but honestly I hadn't prepared well enough, it fell rather flat, and by the time we revisited it he wasn't really interested, so I definitely want to prepare better this time round.)

[livejournal.com profile] ghoti has been planning to start with a plan she'd previously started on while TAing at primary level, namely to start with Scratch (hmm, appropriately the top featured project there is currently a dreidel game) and move on to Rhodri James's Python course. I've generally been of the opinion that it will work better if we wait until J's reading is a fair bit more fluent, and so to be honest I hadn't yet thought much about the details yet; Scratch is more visual than a lot of languages but it still has a very significant textual component.

I think this is still an area where I very much don't think I have the answers and am listening for suggestions. My criteria are that I want them to be able to progress quickly to doing things that will interest them, I don't want them to get bogged down in syntactic vinegar, but I also want them to be using (if not necessarily as the very first step) a language that isn't a toy and that they can write real non-trivial programs in, and preferably one that won't get them stuck in particularly bad habits. Python seems like a pretty good thing to aim for with the support of some decent code libraries and teaching materials, so [livejournal.com profile] ghoti's plan generally seems sound here, but I sort of feel the need to work through it ourselves first to make sure we aren't caught by surprise along the way.

Does anyone else reading this have experience with teaching children (other than themselves!) to program? I'd be interested in hearing about what you did.

This post is part of my December days series. Please prompt me!
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[livejournal.com profile] ghoti asked me: "if you had total free choice, money/time no object for a holiday, where would you go and what would you do?"

we're all going on a summer holiday )

This post is part of my December days series. Please prompt me!
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[personal profile] angelofthenorth asked me to write about languages. I've already written about programming languages this month, so while I do believe that natural languages and programming languages have important common properties and that it's worthwhile for PL designers to think about concepts from natural linguistics, I'll stick to natural languages here.

tá m'árthach foluaineach lán d'eascann )

This post is part of my December days series. Please prompt me!
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I've had several days of prompts that involved really quite complex and thoughtful answers, so it's helpful that today I have a completely frivolous one: [personal profile] emperor said "I think you should write about trouts". Given the unusual plural, and the fact that I don't really know much about the fish beyond that they're tasty with butter and samphire, I'm going to assume that he in fact meant the silly IRC kind.

chatbots )

This post is part of my December days series. Please prompt me!
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[livejournal.com profile] pentamer asked me to write about music. I briefly covered this in my post on art earlier in the month, but let's expand on that a bit.

do re mi )

This post is part of my December days series. Please prompt me!
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[livejournal.com profile] ghoti prompted me with "Filioque. Go!", because clearly my darling wife wants to give me nice easy prompts that don't require much research or thought, or for that matter that don't cause me to play the priest-on-Trinity-Sunday game of "let's see how long I can talk for before accidentally committing heresy".

so, there was this Cerularius, right, and he spilled our Humbert's pint )

This post is part of my December days series. Please prompt me!
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[personal profile] liv asked me for "something that you've learned or discovered about yourself that surprised you", which is quite a tricky one and it looks as though I'm going to answer it at a bit of a tangent.

hmm )

This post is part of my December days series. Please prompt me!
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[livejournal.com profile] sphyg asked me to write about good films/books.

Read more... )

This post is part of my December days series. Please prompt me!
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[livejournal.com profile] ewx prompted me to write about programming languages, and said "be as specific or general as feels appropriate".

clicky clicky )

This post is part of my December days series. Please prompt me!
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[livejournal.com profile] sphyg asked me for parenting tips. Um, in general I'm not very confident in my abilities as a parent so take all this with a very large pinch of salt to the effect that I don't always do this stuff very well!

remembering how to keep tiny people alive )

This post is part of my December days series. Please prompt me!
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A while back I asked around for recommendations for mobile phone repair shops in Cambridge who could fix a cracked screen on [livejournal.com profile] ghoti's Nexus 4. At the time we didn't really get many good recommendations; we'd already tried Cambridge Laptop Repair on Arbury Road and been dissatisfied for various reasons; so I went into town on my day off on Monday and had a look around. Carphone Warehouse would have had to send it off somewhere else and quoted 14 days, but when I asked them for recommendations they said that Timpson on Petty Cury have started doing mobile phone repairs. I went there, they seemed helpful and competent, managed to get in touch with their supplies department to ensure they had the part despite it being just before 5pm, and we got it back today apparently now working fine. Not perhaps the cheapest possible (£140), but I'll take that for getting it done reasonably quickly and well.
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[personal profile] jack asked me to write about food.

yum yum )

This post is part of my December days series. Please prompt me!
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Children's literature and television is distressingly full of kings and queens and princesses and princes, and Judith (6) has picked up rather too much of that for my liking. So, when she asked me something about that on the way home from astronomy tonight, I decided to seize the teachable moment and explain to her how most countries don't have kings and queens any more, and that this is because when you have just one person in charge then what happens if that person isn't very nice?

J: But the Queen is nice. She fixes cars.
Me: Right, but not all kings and queens of this country have been nice.
J (incredulous voice): Reeeeeally?
Me: Really.
J: Some of them didn't fix cars?
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[personal profile] emperor asked me to say something about working from home.

balance )

This post is part of my December days series. Please prompt me!
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[personal profile] jack asked me to talk about bridge. I'll assume people largely know what it is and talk more about my experiences of it, but I'm happy to write up a basic primer as well if people would like.

any card not in a standard pack of 52 is a spare nine of diamonds )

This post is part of my December days series. Please prompt me!
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[livejournal.com profile] miriammoules asked me about "hope", which is, wow, quite a broad prompt.

but the greatest of these is love )

This post is part of my December days series. Please prompt me!
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[livejournal.com profile] miriammoules asked me about faith. I don't talk about this often, so ...

gosh, where do I start )

This post is part of my December days series. Please prompt me!
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[livejournal.com profile] ghoti asked me to tell a joke.

see what you've done )

I'll get my coat. This post is part of my December days series. Please prompt me or I might have to tell more jokes.
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[personal profile] ceb asked me about my favourite museum.

Like Matthew, I don't really have a favourite as such and I don't spend huge amounts of time in museums; but one that particularly stands out in my memory is one that [livejournal.com profile] ghoti and I went to after [livejournal.com profile] antinomy and [livejournal.com profile] p_a_r_a's wedding back in 2005, The World of Mechanical Music near Cheltenham. They have a fantastic array of weird and wonderful self-playing instruments and do lots of their own restoration work. I bought [livejournal.com profile] ghoti a paper organ there as a first wedding anniversary present, and one of these days we may even manage to unearth and assemble it ...

This post is part of my December days series. Please prompt me!