Using BBC BASIC to teach programming concepts in 2017

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richmond62
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Using BBC BASIC to teach programming concepts in 2017

Post by richmond62 » Sat Sep 09, 2017 12:34 pm

Right here: https://helloworld.raspberrypi.org/

Issue 3

page 71

Richmond Mathewson puffs his pompous stuff . . .

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Re: Using BBC BASIC to teach programming concepts in 2017

Post by flaxcottage » Sat Sep 09, 2017 7:42 pm

Pompous it may be but it is accurate pomposity! :lol:

BBC BASIC is a fabulous language to learn programming and is far better than that over-hyped Python that has been inflicted upon schools. From years of experience I have found that students learn programming easier and quicker using BBC BASIC than any other language. Once they have mastered programming concepts in BBC BASIC they can go on to use any language with facility.
- John

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Re: Using BBC BASIC to teach programming concepts in 2017

Post by BigEd » Sat Sep 09, 2017 7:43 pm

Some interesting reading in that magazine - thanks for the pointer!

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Re: Using BBC BASIC to teach programming concepts in 2017

Post by Commie_User » Sat Sep 09, 2017 8:07 pm

Is that the same as saying these Beebed-up kids will grasp the fundaments of exploiting the BBC Micro itself?

Probably could sure do with some 'round here. If only just to answer my own dopey questions!

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Re: Using BBC BASIC to teach programming concepts in 2017

Post by daveejhitchins » Sun Sep 10, 2017 7:20 am

Excellent article . . . =D> Have you had any feedback?

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Re: Using BBC BASIC to teach programming concepts in 2017

Post by Commie_User » Sun Sep 10, 2017 9:11 am

Ah, I can download it now and answer my own question...

There’s no copy and paste option, so children really have
to pay attention to what they are doing, unless they want to
keep retyping lines of code.
No. No copy button on whatever they're using now.

Thanks for the 'reply'! :D

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Re: Using BBC BASIC to teach programming concepts in 2017

Post by richmond62 » Sun Sep 10, 2017 10:29 am

Have you had any feedback?
No: not even a dull thud.

My feeling about most members of the CAS thing is that they are such slaves to the British exam obsession and
draconian school regulations they are unable to stand back and look both at that (and see it for what it is:
something exerting a stranglehold on getting kids to learn how to get computers to do things for them) and
the fundamentals of programming, which can be demonstrated and learnt using BBC BASIC very quickly and
very effectively.
CAS.png
New CACK about the CRAP (POO section 34j)

Is it a wonder that kids are dropping Computing classes at school, and teachers are going off to do other things?

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Re: Using BBC BASIC to teach programming concepts in 2017

Post by BigEd » Sun Sep 10, 2017 10:49 am

I notice you recommend using an emulator: how about RTR's free-as-in-beer SDL version of BBC Basic?

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Re: Using BBC BASIC to teach programming concepts in 2017

Post by richmond62 » Sun Sep 10, 2017 11:42 am

I have stuck with emulators that imitate the whole BBC computer experience as I believe (as I stated in that thing of mine)
that the black screen serves a very useful purpose.

This: http://bbcbasic.co.uk/bbcsdl/

offers BBC BASIC with jazzy syntax colouring, search & replace and so forth.

I want(ed) to bring kids right back to basics (pun intended) to make them concentrate 100% on the programming Ding an Sich
rather than be distracted by all sorts of twiddly things and start to rely on "crutches" rather themselves, and themselves alone, to
get something done.

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Re: Using BBC BASIC to teach programming concepts in 2017

Post by richmond62 » Sun Sep 10, 2017 11:54 am

I would like to point out that I had some 15/16 year olds who had been studying C++ for 9 for one academic
year at the specialist Maths High School here in Plovdiv (Bulgaria). They became extremely upset when
they worked out within a period of about 4 hours how to do things with BBC BASIC their teacher had not
got them to in 30-odd weeks of classes in C++.

There would seem to be a number of reasons for this:

1. Both in Britain and Bulgaria the school programming curricula seem to spend ages and ages on theoretical stuff
which I certainly didn't study in my "minor" in programming at Durham (1984-5), nor my MSc at Abertay (2004-5).
I can see no reason to teach children about abstraction layers and guff such as NAND gates when they are
supposed to be learning a programming language.

2. Obviously the people in government who decide on what constitutes a programming curriculum have lost sight of
a few simple facts:

2.1. Teaching teenagers theoretical stuff about abstraction layers, how compilers work and so on is going to
turn those kids off computer programming so fast it would be better not to have those classes in the first place.

2.2. People who run "programming farms" (we have a fair number of outsourcing setups doing good stuff here in Plovdiv)
want programmers who can get computers to do things by communicating with those computers using a computer language,
and don't care bu**ery what those programmers know about what happens "under the hood": after all, that's what they have
computer engineers for.

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Re: Using BBC BASIC to teach programming concepts in 2017

Post by Commie_User » Sun Sep 10, 2017 2:19 pm

I think it's the same with education across the board. Do citizenship lessons teach you how to pay gas bills or lay mousetraps - things you'd need in the real world? I don't quite recall it when I was there.

I think computer programming is the least of our worries because so long as kids have been deterred from being plumbers and builders or just having to go on foundation skill courses just to get through university - not to mention teaching strikes when any changes are proposed - there's a wider mass of youth to give a leg-up to first.

That's my view as an outsider.

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Re: Using BBC BASIC to teach programming concepts in 2017

Post by Commie_User » Sun Sep 10, 2017 2:23 pm

richmond62 wrote:
2.1. Teaching teenagers theoretical stuff about abstraction layers, how compilers work and so on is going to
turn those kids off computer programming so fast it would be better not to have those classes in the first place.

2.2. People who run "programming farms" (we have a fair number of outsourcing setups doing good stuff here in Plovdiv)
want programmers who can get computers to do things by communicating with those computers using a computer language,
and don't care bu**ery what those programmers know about what happens "under the hood": after all, that's what they have
computer engineers for.
I suppose abstraction layers and stuff is still important? I know I'd be put off - hell, I'm put off trying to get half as far as I once did in Sonic The Hedgehog - but how do you give tomorrow's brainboxes a grounding if even they get bored?

Also, I suppose computing's become so monstrous that the days are gone when just the one bloke could look after both your micro and the software within it. Again, how do you get today's kids fully connected with all sides of the bloated universe of modern computing?

Like you say, a more flexible and approachable language like BBC BASIC may need a comeback, especially as system slowdown with a high-level language is no longer a strict concern. But then, the more I ask, the more mystifying it seems.

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Re: Using BBC BASIC to teach programming concepts in 2017

Post by richmond62 » Sun Sep 10, 2017 2:46 pm

Abstraction layers and so on are important, in much the same way what goes on inside my Toyota Auris is important.

However, I am perfectly capable of driving my car around the place without understanding how to replace the radiator, or, for
that matter how the pistons work (does it have pistons?).

Oddly enough, when I took driving tests in America, Saudi Arabia and Scotland there was no exam about how internal combustion
engines and their associated electronics work . . . [in fact in Saudi Arabia all I did was give the guy in the fancy uniform a bottle
of fake Chanel No. 5, drink coffee with him for 20 minutes, and got my licence . . . good thing I'd already learnt to drive in the USA].

This is called the "Mustafa is your Uncle principle."

When my car starts misbehaving I take it to a mechanic who (one hopes) knows what s/he's doing to sort the thing out.
-----------------------------------
Now a child of 7 can be taught how to drive a tractor . . . but whether they will manage to get their head round all
the complexities of tractor engines is quite another, unnecessary thing: after all, all you want is for kiddo to haul
the muckspreader round the field!
----------------------------------
When kiddo reaches the ripe old age of 18/19 s/he may decide that s/he wants to be a tractor mechanic and high-ho
off to a tractor maintenance course.
---------------------------------
But of course kiddo can go on driving tractors until s/he is gathered to his/her/its/undefined gender personality's
forefathers and sleeps beneath the sod s/he previously ploughed.

AND so with computer programming versus being a computer engineer.

Oh, and, by-the-way, I can heartily recommend a few years driving tractors round the biggin before learning how
to drive a car; just as I can recommend messing around with a BBC computer/emulator before getting "all fancy"
with modern programming environments.

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Re: Using BBC BASIC to teach programming concepts in 2017

Post by jgharston » Sun Sep 10, 2017 2:59 pm

Commie_User wrote:I think it's the same with education across the board. Do citizenship lessons teach you how to pay gas bills or lay mousetraps - things you'd need in the real world? I don't quite recall it when I was there.
During my 'O' level years we had "Design For Living" which taught us exactly that. How to use a bank account, what mortgages were, how to avoid getting a "social disease", basic household skills such as not pouring grease down the drain and how to prepare food without poisoning yourself.

Code: Select all

$ bbcbasic
PDP11 BBC BASIC IV Version 0.25
(C) Copyright J.G.Harston 1989,2005-2015
>_

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Re: Using BBC BASIC to teach programming concepts in 2017

Post by jgharston » Sun Sep 10, 2017 3:02 pm

richmond62 wrote:Oddly enough, when I took driving tests in America, Saudi Arabia and Scotland there was no exam about how internal combustion engines and their associated electronics work . . .
When my car starts misbehaving I take it to a mechanic who (one hopes) knows what s/he's doing to sort the thing out.
he. When I was having driving lessons I was coached through the verbal test. One of the questions was "how do you tell what the oil level is?" I said that the honest truthful answer would be "I would go to a garage and say: excuse me sir, please check my oil levels". That would have been the wrong answer. ;)

Code: Select all

$ bbcbasic
PDP11 BBC BASIC IV Version 0.25
(C) Copyright J.G.Harston 1989,2005-2015
>_

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Re: Using BBC BASIC to teach programming concepts in 2017

Post by paulb » Sun Sep 10, 2017 3:18 pm

jgharston wrote:During my 'O' level years we had "Design For Living" which taught us exactly that. How to use a bank account, what mortgages were, how to avoid getting a "social disease", basic household skills such as not pouring grease down the drain and how to prepare food without poisoning yourself.
Sounds like stuff that got axed in the Thatcher era, meaning that probably only the mortgage calculation part remained. That's all I remember from the ad-hoc, timetable-padding lessons of that sort.

Around here, every Christmas, they have billboard adverts telling people not to pour grease down the drain, indicating that it attracts rats. When I told my father about the adverts but not the thrust of the message, naturally his immediate response concerned the more obvious consideration: "You'll block the drain!" But maybe people are more worried about rats than their plumbing.

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Re: Using BBC BASIC to teach programming concepts in 2017

Post by Commie_User » Sun Sep 10, 2017 4:13 pm

They probably have had reason to. Refuse collection reform and related have caused many press stories about extra vermin.

We also saw, or at least I did, programmes about blocked sewers caused by fats and other wastage. We did have home economics when I was at secondary school (early 90s), but I gather today's lack of even basic housework classes means more information films on our screens.

Just like good history documentaries have me lamenting on some great things they didn't teach at school.

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Re: Using BBC BASIC to teach programming concepts in 2017

Post by jgharston » Sun Sep 10, 2017 7:29 pm

You can probably guarrantee that whenever there's some news item with somebody saying "Schools should teach X", my immediate response is: "what, you mean they don't? as in don't any more? they did when I was at school".

Code: Select all

$ bbcbasic
PDP11 BBC BASIC IV Version 0.25
(C) Copyright J.G.Harston 1989,2005-2015
>_

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Re: Using BBC BASIC to teach programming concepts in 2017

Post by paulb » Sun Sep 10, 2017 8:40 pm

jgharston wrote:You can probably guarrantee that whenever there's some news item with somebody saying "Schools should teach X", my immediate response is: "what, you mean they don't? as in don't any more? they did when I was at school".
With this observation we travel full circle to the topic of the thread. Schools did try and teach programming in the early 1980s but presumably encountered many of the problems experienced today, even though there were far fewer technological distractions and far lower technological expectations. Why they stopped teaching programming had a lot to do with what the students were supposed to get out of it.

Some students will only ever want (and maybe need) a superficial understanding of programming, instead just needing to "get things done on the computer". I imagine that claims that this applied to almost everyone led to "secretarial" information technology courses being introduced with far fewer demands being placed on students and teachers. That "solved" one problem but then created another that would reappear in the long term.

Other students will want to "get the computer to do things". Whether they will be interested in how the computer does those things is another matter. It seems to me, however, that the system can deal with these conflicting demands: you let the least interested start off, cover the necessary material, and then get out and do whatever it is they'd rather be doing; you let the most interested continue to do the more specialised stuff.

Whether you cover theory before university is another matter. Twenty-five years ago, it seemed that universities would rather have had entrants with good maths backgrounds than a bunch of people who had done "computer studies" feeling that they knew everything about programming. There's probably nothing fundamentally preventing school students covering the theory, but there are probably good arguments that they should have a reasonable maths background to tackle the topics, especially since people struggle with the theory at university level as it is.

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Re: Using BBC BASIC to teach programming concepts in 2017

Post by Lardo Boffin » Sun Sep 10, 2017 10:21 pm

Commie_User wrote:Like you say, a more flexible and approachable language like BBC BASIC may need a comeback, especially as system slowdown with a high-level language is no longer a strict concern.
As a slight aside many developers I have worked with seem to have taken the idea that system slow down is not a concern to heart. With modern computers seeming to have endless resource and power, writing for program performance takes a back seat (presumably unless you write games). Even basic performance concepts such as minimising the work done in loops is alien.
Getting to the point - writing programs that do something and perform well on a limited resource machine such as a Beeb can only help programmers focus on performance and minimising memory footprint. All that and BBC Basic as well! Being back the Beeb in education!
Last edited by Lardo Boffin on Sun Sep 10, 2017 10:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Using BBC BASIC to teach programming concepts in 2017

Post by jgharston » Sun Sep 10, 2017 10:21 pm

paulb wrote:Some students will only ever want (and maybe need) a superficial understanding of programming, instead just needing to "get things done on the computer". ...
Other students will want to "get the computer to do things". ...
In teaching at all levels there seems to be a confusion as to what is meant by IT/ICT/programming/"computer skills"/etc. It's as though somebody has said "people need to be able to drive, so we must teach automotive engineering in schools".

Yes, teach ICT as a compulsary subject, as in how to type, how to drive a mouse, how to naviagate a file system. That is today's version of "how to use a pen and paper". But teaching compulsary coding is like teaching compulsary car mechanics. You introduce it as something some people may be interested in and let those who are interested in it follow it.

Code: Select all

$ bbcbasic
PDP11 BBC BASIC IV Version 0.25
(C) Copyright J.G.Harston 1989,2005-2015
>_

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Re: Using BBC BASIC to teach programming concepts in 2017

Post by Commie_User » Sun Sep 10, 2017 11:26 pm

Do you guys think Britain could ever lead the world in computer tech, as once we apparently did?

W probably could if we grabbed a nice again but it would probably have to be just one part of the whole puzzle these days.

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Re: Using BBC BASIC to teach programming concepts in 2017

Post by vanpeebles » Mon Sep 11, 2017 9:41 am

Commie_User wrote:Do you guys think Britain could ever lead the world in computer tech, as once we apparently did?

W probably could if we grabbed a nice again but it would probably have to be just one part of the whole puzzle these days.
That horse has long bolted! Grown up, died, etc etc. :D

The whole forced teaching of coding in schools has been a total disaster. ICT should of been kept as a mainstream subject and Coding as an option for those who are interested. At the current rate of decline there will be less students doing Coding, than there was doing ICT and the downward spiral is set to continue.

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Re: Using BBC BASIC to teach programming concepts in 2017

Post by Commie_User » Mon Sep 11, 2017 10:50 am

Commie_User wrote: W probably could if we grabbed a nice again but it would probably have to be just one part of the whole puzzle these days.
Did I write that?

We probably could if we grabbed a niche again.

That's what I meant.

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Re: Using BBC BASIC to teach programming concepts in 2017

Post by Elminster » Sat Jun 16, 2018 12:48 pm

vanpeebles wrote:
Mon Sep 11, 2017 9:41 am
Commie_User wrote:Do you guys think Britain could ever lead the world in computer tech, as once we apparently did?

W probably could if we grabbed a nice again but it would probably have to be just one part of the whole puzzle these days.
That horse has long bolted! Grown up, died, etc etc. :D

The whole forced teaching of coding in schools has been a total disaster. ICT should of been kept as a mainstream subject and Coding as an option for those who are interested. At the current rate of decline there will be less students doing Coding, than there was doing ICT and the downward spiral is set to continue.
Old thread, sorry, blame BigEd for directing me to it.

Remember the idea of teaching coding in schools is not to churn out coders. Any more than teaching English or maths is to churn out novelists or mathematicians. It is more about learning the principles behind it, really more of an extension to maths.

And scratch is easy to pickup, and if that is hard there is scratch junior.

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Re: Using BBC BASIC to teach programming concepts in 2017

Post by Coeus » Sat Jun 16, 2018 2:03 pm

richmond62 wrote:
Sun Sep 10, 2017 2:46 pm
...and sleeps beneath the sod s/he previously ploughed.
Was that a reference to Is My Team Ploughing by A E Houseman?
richmond62 wrote:
Sun Sep 10, 2017 2:46 pm
AND so with computer programming versus being a computer engineer.
Maybe I'm just picking holes in the analogy but it seems to me that the computing equivalent of driving the tractor, rather than designing, building or maintaining a tractor, is the ICT that should have included such things as JGH mentioned - typing, using a mouse, navigating around the filing system as well as using a word processor, maybe some basic spreadsheet work etc.

Other areas don't have the same hardware/software split as in computing. Instead the split is between those who know what's in the box and those that don't know and don't care; those that buy and use a product without knowing how it works vs. those who are involved in designing, developing, maintaining etc. I think the reason we may tend to think differently is that you can enter code into the computer via a keyboard, code that wasn't there when you purchased it, but very few people do that. Most people e-mail, shop, browse, use social media, maybe edit photos, music or video, write a newsletter or the minutes of the parish council meeting or whatever. The closest many people get to programming is using formulae in cells in a spreadsheet and that's isn't because of lack of training, just that their interests lie elsewhere.

So, I would class people who program as computing specialists. I was going to say I can also see your point in that programmer would typically treat the hardware as a black box but some people do cross the divide.

It also seems to me that you can approach programming from two angles:

1. From abstraction, i.e. in the same way that algebra is an abstraction away from concrete number, a program is just something than means the right thing. That's probably more natural for a declarative language than an imperative language but can be applied to both and obviously has much synergy with mathematics.
2. From execution, i.e. the idea that the result is obtained by the computer executing certain steps. That has synergies with normal human task and procedure planning and involves such concepts as the fewest number of steps and swapping slow steps for fast ones etc. and also being aware of when things need to happen compared to when they will happen, critical paths etc.

I suspect most people find one approach easier than the other but I wonder if a blend of the two is actually ideal.

Now it is possible that programming could reinforce concepts in other areas because of the links above but I am not sure that justifies making it compulsory. The debate, surely, is about when you offer it as a specialist subject rather than part of a student's general education. It seems to me, based on my time at school, that general education is the whole of primary school and the first three years of secondary school and then the specialism begins. What is not clear to me is whether this is an area where an early start makes a big difference. It is very noticeable that in fields such as music and dancing those that reach the top almost always start young, often pre-school, show early promise and receive early encouragement. Of course, most people don't become musicians and dancers and those that do have the energy to pursue it regardless of how much these things are taught in schools. I think part of the debate is that no-one is sure if the big education efforts in the 1980s and the home computer revolution constituted just such as early start for many of us that are in the IT industry today.
Last edited by Coeus on Sat Jun 16, 2018 2:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Using BBC BASIC to teach programming concepts in 2017

Post by Elminster » Sat Jun 16, 2018 2:11 pm

Now it is possible that programming could reinforce concepts in other areas because of the links above but I am not sure that justifies making it compulsory.
Phew long post.

The compulsory bit is pretty light touch, and may not even involve a computer. It is more about learning concepts. And a lot can easily be merged into maths lessons.

ICT is more the life skills, I remember the learning to use a cheque book things that JPH referee to, was actually pretty useful at the time.

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Re: Using BBC BASIC to teach programming concepts in 2017

Post by BigEd » Sat Jun 16, 2018 2:20 pm

The phrase I've picked up is "computational thinking" - the aim being that kids should be prepared to live in a world where so much is mediated by software. It helps to have some idea about what kinds of things software can do, and can't do. How to use it, and how it fails. That's related to knowing how to program - how to decompose a task into sequences, how to iterate, how to count, how to manage state - but it's not quite the same thing.

There's training, and there's education, and there's preparation for life.

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Re: Using BBC BASIC to teach programming concepts in 2017

Post by Elminster » Sat Jun 16, 2018 2:20 pm

I am sure most have read it but the link to the circumlum is

https://www.gov.uk/government/publicati ... s-of-study

I only do optional codeclub for ks2, so I just do fun stuff and don’t have to worry too much about it :)

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Re: Using BBC BASIC to teach programming concepts in 2017

Post by Elminster » Sat Jun 16, 2018 2:21 pm

BigEd wrote:
Sat Jun 16, 2018 2:20 pm

There's training, and there's education, and there's preparation for life.
=D> =D> =D> =D> =D> =D> =D> =D>

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