Human-Machine Interaction Design

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Programming Language for Children

A conceptual gap exists between the representations that people use in their minds when thinking about a problem and the representations that Computers will accept when they are programmed. For most people, this gap is as wide as the Grand Canyon.

People who are not trained programmers have great difficulty in “moving closer to the system.” -The biggest problem is that even if they learn the techniques, they don’t like the result. They don’t want to think like computers; they want to control computers. During the past 30 years there have been many attempts to enable ordinary people,
people who are not professional programmers - to program computers. Researchers have invented languages such as Logo, Smalltalk, BASIC, Pascal, and HyperTalk. They have developed techniques such as structured programming. They have approached programming from a pedagogical perspective with technology, such as the goal-plan editor, and from an engineering perspective, with CASE tools. Each of these is a brilliant advance in its own right. Today, however, only a small percentage of people program computers, probably less than 1 percent. A single digit percentile is not success. We believe that there are at least two reasons for this low rate. First, traditional programming forces someone to learn a new language. Learning another language is difficult for most people. Consider the years of effort that it takes to master a foreign language. Second, programming languages are artificial languages rather than natural languages. They have a different epistemology. They deal with the unfamiliar world of computer data structures and algorithms.

The solution is to make programming more like thinking. A research project at Apple Computer has attempted to do this for children’s programming. The key ideas are to use representations in the computer that are analogous to the objects being represented and to allow those representations to be directly manipulated in the process of programming.

I have gone through a lot of research papers from Piaget to Papert on various subjects like children cognitive development, their thinking & learning process, computers & children. There are some words coined by different people like visual programming, programming by example, programming by demonstration. I would like to work in the field & explore them. I found some books also like Mind storms: Children, Computers and Powerful Ideas by S. Papert, Cocoa documentation from apple computers & started reading them. I am very fascinated about programming languages & actually am an experience programmer too.

Nowadays computers are compulsory in the school. The programming languages like LOGO are there in their course structure. I learnt BASIC in my 3rd standard. My Daddy taught me. As my project I want to do something in the field. Want to study my users. I will search for some possible solution to make them ready for the future of programming. The project will explore the fields of HCI, Contextual Inquiry, Communication theory, Visual Design and Interface design. I would like to have your suggestions on the subject.


  • The idea of a Programming language for kids sounds gr8.

    I find the following advantages of the same...
    1) It would be a simple way to help kids think over in a systematic way to solve problems.

    2)It would help create master programmers in future. Kids can assimilate new things quite fast as they have an enormous grasping power, so it would be easier for them to learn it in the formative stages.

    As a personal suggestion, I wud like such a language to support "visual aids"...somethings that the kids can identify with, and that may help them solve their problems.It should help them to solve very easy problems (that seem difficult to them) and should have the extensibilty for harder problems too (as children of different ages find different problems challenging!!)

    Bottom line...the idea is great...If the challenges for developing such a language can be overcome...there would be nothing greater than that...


    By Blogger sailee, at July 27, 2004 at 11:45 AM  

  • I know this is not what you are looking for but I found it easy to teach my 9 year -old daughter about programming. See the scratch project in squeak (smalltalk):



    By Anonymous Anonymous, at July 18, 2007 at 1:09 PM  

  • Wow great thought,I am so happy but i think understanding with programming for kids very typical.

    By Anonymous Rotary Tools, at January 19, 2009 at 11:07 PM  

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