Well, if a student starts with a code-focus course
first. Then the following courses will not easily
eliminate the preconception already existing in his
The first language course can be Java, not necessary
Ada. Especially in these days, Java is better than Ada
for those students seeking jobs. But the teaching
should be engineering-focus, not code-focus. When I
first began research on Ada in 1995, I thought C++ is
better than Ada since I had used C++ for two years and
C++ has so many "Ugly"(from engineering aspect)
tricks. It took me nearly two years to switch to an
Ada fan and an engineering guy.
It is not easy to find the difference between
code-focus and engineering-focus students when they
are still at schools. But when they start their jobs,
the difference will be huge. So we can't simply use
the performance at school to testify the success of a
transfer from Ada to Java as the intro course.
--- Michael Feldman <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> Well, one hopes that the students who survive those
> new intro courses
> are the better ones, so you can shape them up in the
> We can (and do) debate endlessly what to teach, in
> what part of the
> curriculum. Obviously Ada-first folks emphasize
> quality from the get-go,
> but we have 4 years to educate the students, and if
> the intro folks
> (and the high-school APCS teachers!) insist on
> teaching mostly code,
> we still have a chance to improve the situation in
> the later courses.
> Time for an admission: this year, we changed our
> intro courses from
> Ada to Java. I saw the change was inevitable for a
> number of reasons.
> So rather than resist it, I got out in front of it,
> proposed it myself,
> and kept control of the intro courses. Currently,
> I'm teaching a
> freshman course that focuses on quality - it's the
> same course I've
> taught for years, just using a different coding
> Yeah, I miss Ada and think the switch was too bad,
> but it had to
> happen. On the other hand, I'm doing my damndest to
> make sure the
> emphasis on quality doesn't suffer.
> So far the news is pretty good. The course is just
> about over.
> We started with about 40 students, of whom most are
> freshmen. A few weak students are repeating, and a
> few are
> transferring into CS beyond their first year.
> Roughly half have
> zero prior programming experience.
> Overall, this is the best freshman group I've seen
> in a long time,
> maybe the best ever. As was the case with the Ada
> version of the
> course, both the experienced (from high school) and
> the novice
> students are hitting the same grade curve. Two
> students quit the
> course in the 2nd week; they decided early that CS
> wasn't their
> cuppa tea. The weak students are still weak. Other
> than that,
> my grades are going to be quite high, and I know of
> at least
> 32 who are continuing into the second course, which
> I will
> teach in the spring.
> None of my nearly-20 colleagues have complained
> about my approach
> to the intro courses; they're happy about the switch
> to Java but
> have no problems with my quality-first approach.
> Interestingly enough, several students who did
> C++-based courses
> in high school told me that with no prodding or
> suggestion from
> me, they sent the course URL to their high school CS
> as an example of how an intro course ought to be
> done. Naturally,
> that made my day.:-)
> If anyone is curious, you can compare the Ada and
> Java versions
> of the course. For info on the Ada one, see
> and for the new Java one, see
> > John
> Mike Feldman
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