[IAEP] learning programming from a book (was: Sugar Digest 2015-04-28)

Carlos Rabassa carnen at mac.com
Wed May 6 06:47:15 EDT 2015

> On May 5, 2015, at 22:09, Jecel Assumpcao Jr. <jecel at merlintec.com <mailto:jecel at merlintec.com>> wrote:
> Last week, Walter Bender wrote:
>> [...] Perhaps the succinct way I can express my doubts is to assert that
>> no one has ever learned to program from reading a book (or attending
>> a MOOC). You can only learn to program by programming.

I have been silent for a few years but,  this time you mention MOOCs a subject I know very well;  I am currently taking a MOOC on programming.

The big difference with Sugar is the computer I use to follow the MOOC works perfectly. When trying to learn / teach using Sugar and the XO,  most of the time and effort was spent figuring out which was the correct updated version of Sugar and how to get it and install it rather than learning to program.

I am following a MOOC that teaches Java.  I can hear several of you claiming that Java is not free software.  However,  I didn’t pay a cent for the MOOC course and no one asked me if I am rich or poor.  After I learn Java,  my horizon will be unlimited as far as useful projects I will be able to tackle;  I will be really free. The University offering the course,  Universidad Carlos III in Madrid probably made the necessary requests and obtained permissions.  We use Codeboard.  From the very first week we started writing programs in Java and running them in our commercial laptops.  None of our 58,000 classmates is complaining about machine problems or problems with Codeboard.  In the MOOC,  we are all "learning to program by programming".

In Uruguay,  with plenty of XOs with Sugar since 2008(??), the most popular programs among young adults in college are still Word and Excel.  Why? Because they work.  No one seems to care these programs are decades old and earned a reputation that frequently associates them with the “Devil’s Empire”. The policy of our government,  through their agency Agesic <http://www.agesic.gub.uy/>   in areas like finance, tax collection and public administration where it has had the most visible advances,  is to use free software whenever possible but,  in cases where it is clearly inferior to private software,  use private.  In education,  the policy is public software whether or not it works.  The results in education are among the main problems faced by political candidates in office when facing reelection.

The MOOC I am taking and recommend is:

Introduction to Programming with Java <https://courses.edx.org/dashboard> - Part 1: Starting to Program in Java
UC3Mx - IT.1.1x
Started - Apr 28, 2015

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