Re: [dev] Programming as a hobby - which language?

From: Jonathon Fernyhough <>
Date: Tue, 7 May 2019 18:53:47 +0100

On 07/05/2019 14:10, Maciej Janicki wrote:
> I think teaching toy languages like Scratch is generally a bad idea. It might
> be easy to learn, but it fails to show that programming is actually useful.

It depends what you're teaching.

If you're teaching a programming language, then Scratch is not a
programming language.

If you're teaching programmatic thinking, Scratch is a perfectly good
starting point.

Not everyone learns best by reading text. Scratch provides a visual
programming environment with immediate feedback which allows "hacking"
and "feeling through" the problem. It's incredibly easy to create a
basic clone of many computer games (e.g. Asteroids, Flappy Bird,
Frogger) and that's something many children will immediately engage
with. The only "real languages" which provide anything similar to that
close feedback loop are those with REPLs (and if you want immediate
graphics support that essentially means Racket).

Anyway, I'm not going to try to persuade people about the best way to
teach. It's up to you to experience that yourself and find a pedagogy
which works for you. Teaching theory doesn't survive teaching practice
("no plan survives contact with the enemy", etc.). So, I'll reiterate:
unless you are teaching a programming language, the language you choose
doesn't matter as long as you know it and can explain it.

(Unless, of course, someone can provide even anecdotal evidence to the
contrary... though geeks remembering using CLIs with one-to-one help
doesn't really count ;)

Received on Tue May 07 2019 - 19:53:47 CEST

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