PROMOTING COMPUTER LITERACY THROUGH PROGRAMMING PYTHON
John Alexander Miller
A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Education) in The University of Michigan 2004
Doctoral Committee: Professor Frederick Goodman, Chair Emeritus Professor Carl Berger Professor Jay Lemke Professor John Swales
Copyright 2004 by John Alexander Miller
The Joys of the Craft Why is programming fun? What delights may its practitioner expect as his reward? First is the sheer joy of making things. As the child delights in his mud pie, so the adult enjoys building things, especially things of his own design. I think this delight must be an image of God's delight in making things, a delight shown in the distinctness and newness of each leaf and each snowflake. Second is the pleasure of making things that are useful to other people. Deep within, we want others to use our work and to find it helpful. In this respect the programming system is not essentially different from the child's first clay pencil holder “for Daddy's office.” Third is the fascination of fashioning complex puzzle-like objects of interlocking moving parts and watching them work in subtle cycles, playing out the consequences of principles built in from the beginning. The programmed computer has all the fascination of the pinball machine or the jukebox mechanism, carried to the ultimate. Fourth is the joy of always learning, which springs from the nonrepeating nature of the task. In one way or another the problem is ever new, and its solver learns something: sometimes practical, sometimes theoretical, and sometimes both. Finally, there is the delight of working in such a tractable medium. The programmer, like the poet, works only slightly removed from pure thoughtstuff. He builds his castles in the air, from air, creating by exertion of the imagination. Few media of creation are so flexible, so easy to polish and rework, so readily capable of realizing grand conceptual structures. … Yet the program construct, unlike the poet's words, is real in the sense that it moves and works, producing visible outputs separate from the construct itself. It prints results, draws pictures, produces sounds, moves arms. The magic of myth and legend has come true in our time. One types the correct incantation on a keyboard, and a display screen comes to life, showing things that never were nor could be. Programming then is fun because it gratifies creative longings built deep within us and delights sensibilities we have in common with all men. (p. 7) Frederic Brooks, Jr. The Mythical Man-Month, 1975
Dedicated to my wife, Jane, and our children, Jessa and Jason.
There were many people who encouraged me while I worked on this dissertation. First, I’d like to thank my parents, Mervil and Barbara Miller, who provided a loving, supportive and stable family environment conducive to intellectual pursuits. “A good beginning is half the battle.” I’d also like to thank Charles and Genevieve Peterson, who extended an essential educational career opportunity to me, and continue to bless me with caring support to my family as it grows. I would also like to thank the numerous students I had in my ESL classroom: their kindness, generosity and respect revealed to me the true joy of teaching. Next, I’d like to thank my advisor, Frederick Goodman, for his practical wisdom and guidance. With our every conversation, I come away enriched and refreshed from the depths of his memory and experiences. He is an educator’s educator, and I am honored to have had the opportunity to work so closely with him. I would also like to thank the other committee members,
Carl Berger, Jay Lemke, and John Swales, for their suggestions and recommendations as the dissertation evolved. I would like to thank my colleagues at the Interactive Communications and Simulations group: Jeff Stanzler, Jeff...
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