timothy falconer's semantic weblog
Big Fractal Tangle

go fly a kite

In the last two days, I’ve been teaching twenty-year-old Nicole to use Squeak Etoys. She’s never done any programming before, nor does she really know why she’d want to be a programmer, which puts her in the majority. I’m teaching her as warm-up for some video tutorials I’m making for the general public, the first of which is rendering right now.

Teaching a novice to program is a humbling task, particularly for an expert. I’m mindful of the pacing of my presentation. Too much and eyes glaze over, too little and boredom sets in. Constructionism is a great fit to the task, since pacing is about keeping the student engaged, which happens more easily when they feel connected to the topic. Making and keeping that connection is the tough part.

It’s a little like flying a kite. You start pulling in a direction and hope the wind takes hold. If you pull too hard, the kite won’t fly. Once flying, the kite moves to its own muse, with only subtle guidance from below. When the string goes slack, give a little tug and suggest something new to try.

This is the way to teach Etoys.

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