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"Richard L. Conn" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Richard L. Conn
Wed, 1 Dec 1999 15:01:38 -0500
text/plain (93 lines)

I really have to disagree with your statement about
VB.  We are talking about teaching Freshmen, not
Juniors or Seniors.  In a very practical sense, if you
try to tell Freshmen how great generics, inheritance,
etc., are, it's likely that those who don't quit after
the first two weeks will have not done so because they
fell asleep and did not wake up in time ;-).  I used
to think Ada for Freshmen was the way to go as well
until I actually started teaching Freshmen (all my
previous courses were graduate level or industry).
Now that I've dealt on this level, being able to teach
a fun, visual language where they can have a running
program at the end of a three-hour lecture/lab on the
first day that displays full-color glossey pictures
and has push buttons and dialog boxes is a whole
different level than just having a program that prints
"Hello, World."  Then, having later discussions about
how it is not cool to have Windows crash while your
airplane it flying with it rings home.  And when
objects and classes become so natural that when they
look at other languages and don't immediately see them,
they ask why the objects aren't there, I think we have
a good thing.

Different languages for different purposes is a theme
from day one.  In the meantime, programming at least
starts out by being fun, and that's the hook you want
for these people.

So, no, you did not convince me.  VB is for the


Richard Conn, ASE and PAL Manager

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Team Ada: Ada Advocacy Issues (83 & 95)
> [mailto:[log in to unmask]]On Behalf Of Borgia, William M.
> Sent: Wednesday, December 01, 1999 1:46 PM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: What the competition looks like
>         Rick Conn wrote:
>         > You raise some very good concerns.  I'm glad to say
>         > that VB is not the only language the CS dept uses.
>         > The approach I'm taking with my Freshmen is that VB
>         > is fun, easy to learn, and there is a lot of object
>         > orientation there.  You can see my course slides
>         > on my University website for the objects and classes
>         > part of the course.  VB is kind of like a hook in
>         > this case.  I also talk about Ada, by the way, in the
>         > VB class.
>         > I'm a firm believer in building in the students an
>         > infrastructure they can use to move in any direction,
>         > regardless of language or technology change.
>         [Borgia:]
>         Of those three languages (VB, Ada and C++), VB is perhaps
> the worst
> choice for an introductory course.  Sure, your statement about
> infrastructure is correct, but consider the stronger
> infrastructure that the
> students would likely develop with Ada as the introductory language.
>         We don't need to start the whole argument again, but VB (and often
> C++ and usually Java too) lacks some important characteristics inherent in
> Ada.  These include strong enumerations, subtyping and ranging, generics,
> meaningful parameter modes, tasking and a safe and elegant
> implementation of
> pointers, to name a few.
>         VB shines in how well Microsoft has integrated it into its Office
> suite.  By the way, have they improved on error handling since the days of
> "on error goto?"
>         VB and C++ often teach introductory students bad habits.  An
> instructor who exploits the best features of Ada will help ward off these
> bad habits in the future.  Having this "infrastructure," the
> students would
> be more likely to develop better applications in C++, Java, VB or whatever
> when the time comes.  The converse is much less likely to happen.
>         Bill Borgia