Is the Teaching of Coding Broken?

    As ever more college classes migrate online, as well as much tech skills training, Bret Victor, a former interface designer for Apple, slams online sites that teach coding as mostly useless.

    I’ve written before about the idea that coding has become a basic essential skill — particularly for startup entrepreneurs.

    Writes Victor:

    Learning about “for” loops is not learning to program, any more than learning about pencils is learning to draw.

    It would seem that students learning to program from a book would face the same obstacles.

    Beyond asserting that learning to program with Khan’s online tutorials is like learning to cook by making random stabs at an unmarked microwave, he says programming itself is broken.

    Victor told Technology Review that the essential problem is that “the programmer has to imagine the execution of the program and never sees the data.” That and that the programmer has to think like a machine, rather than the machine imitating humans.

    According to the article:

    Chefs aren’t forced to perfectly simulate everything between “ingredients” and “new souffle” in their heads before touching any of the food; nor would they expect everything that happens in between “assembling the ingredients” and “pulling the souffle out of the oven” to be concealed from them. But this is how a lot of the work of programming actually happens, according to Victor.

    The questions, then, are how to transform the teaching of coding and who will do it.


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