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Should Students Be Taught With or Without an IDE? 848

Posted by Cliff
from the why-the-zero-sum dept.
bblazer asks: "Beginning this next school year, there is a strong possibility I will be teaching an intro to Java and an intro to Python course at the local community college. I was wondering what the prevailing wisdom is when it comes to teaching languages - should students be taught with or without an IDE? I am a bit old school and wouldn't mind having them all use vi or emacs, but using a good IDE does have some advantages as well. I should note that the students I will be teaching will have had at least 1 semester of programming in VB or C++." Even though there is limited time in a semester, could a curriculum be constructed to accommodate both methods?
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Should Students Be Taught With or Without an IDE?

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  • I would say IDEs (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Navreet (703315)
    They'll help students avoid silly mistakes, e.g. if they're trying to use a variable that is out of scope it might not autocomplete, etc. So, they might catch some mistakes and learn to avoid them before they hit compile.
    I would let the students chose... Ofcourse, you might have to teach them how to create a project with an IDE, too.. [instead of just supplying the make files].
    • by acroyear (5882) <jws-slashdot@javaclientcookbook.net> on Sunday May 21, 2006 @12:06AM (#15374295) Homepage Journal
      no.

      as long as they trust the editor to catch their mistakes, they'll never actually learn to avoid them; they'll simply let the IDE be their guide and never learn it.

      similarly, as long as they can debug in the IDE, they'll never learn real debugging techniques that the "cold metal", or even just debugging a running server they can't get an IDE into.

      They should learn to program as close to the raw as possible. notepad, command line, debugging through prints.

      They should learn software development separately, with an IDE, with integrated debugging and complex build systems. Learning to program, and learning to be a good software developer are two separate things.
      • Re:I would say IDEs (Score:5, Informative)

        by rossifer (581396) on Sunday May 21, 2006 @01:06AM (#15374518) Journal
        no.

        as long as they trust the editor to catch their mistakes, they'll never actually learn to avoid them; they'll simply let the IDE be their guide and never learn it.


        Exactly. I've been developing software for 12 years and I still go back to emacs whenever I want to learn a new technique, technology, or toolkit. The dev work may take a little bit longer, but I learn so much more when I have to search through directories or look up an interface in the documentation that you just don't get with an IDE.

        I strongly recommend staying close to the metal as possible when learning, then gradually getting more abstracted as your grasp of the underlying skill develops.

        (The AC is probably one of that group of programmers whose code I have to rewrite, but I guess we'll never know for certain... :-)

        Regards,
        Ross
        • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 21, 2006 @02:05AM (#15374679)
          Exactly. I've been developing software for 12 years and I still go back to emacs whenever I want to learn a new technique, technology, or toolkit. The dev work may take a little bit longer, but I learn so much more when I have to search through directories or look up an interface in the documentation that you just don't get with an IDE.

          Whenever I'm trying to learn something new I get out the hard drive and move the bits around myself. IDEs like emacs just get in the way.
        • by moonbender (547943) <moonbender@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Sunday May 21, 2006 @07:28AM (#15375319)
          I couldn't disagree more. Searching through directories is time you wasted, not time you spent learning a language. You learn a language by using it and by reading about it - both of these tasks are made easier by a good IDE. Javadoc integration makes APIs discoverable, just like well designed user interfaces are discoverable. You don't ever need to leave the IDE to read the documentation, because it's right there. Of course auto-complete helps when you're in doubt, but there's nothing wrong with that. There isn't much merit to knowing a billion function prototypes by heart, those are details you shouldn't worry about, bigger things are much more important. And stuff like for example the highlighting of other instances of a selected variable is just crucial when you need to understand a large piece of code written by somebody else.

          IDEs make programming easier to learn and more efficient. I still don't think he should spend a lot of time integrating it into his class. Tell them about the existance of IDEs and let them figure it out themselves.
        • Re:I would say IDEs (Score:3, Interesting)

          by nblender (741424)
          I've been developing software for 25 years. I hate to break it to you but Emacs is an IDE. I don't get all you emacs kids. I've been using 'vi' for most of my conscious life. I use 'grep' and 'man' to look up types and API's. Recently my corporate overlords forced fed an IDE down my throat but my productivity returned once I determined that it was calling gcc, g++, gdb and gprof.

        • by TrekCycling (468080) on Sunday May 21, 2006 @09:19AM (#15375544) Homepage
          I think that's a tougher call, really. I learned every language I currently use (and HTML) doing bare to the metal programming in Pico or JEdit, etc. I think it served me well. I personally think there are two ways to look at it.

          IDE Way - The students will probably be able to develop faster and thus you can progress more quickly through more ideas and thus you can perhaps get more accomplished. Plus they can gain experience with the ins and outs of classpaths, IDE installation, things like that that they'll need to learn eventually anyway for real world Java development.

          Non IDE Way - They might get through 4/5ths of the above lesson plan, but on the flip side they'll be closer to the metal, as someone already said and they'll learn to develop good style habits from the start and to debug even when they have no tool to lean on, just the JDK.

          I personally would go with #2, but it depends on what you want to set out to accomplish. If you want to get deep into the language, #1 might be the way to go. But if you want to make sure they can truly walk before running, definitely #2.
      • by ronanm (92344) on Sunday May 21, 2006 @03:13AM (#15374852)
        debugging through prints.
        Now I remember why I hated programming.

        I'm going to disagree with the parent and say IDEs. Although I think his point about software development and programming being two separate things has merit.

        They should - although you shouldn't assume - have already been taught how to programme. Are they're going to use an IDE when they leave college? You are supposed to be training them for the work place.

        First and foremost - teach them good practice, tight simple modules with good comments.

        Introduce them to an IDE, show them a couple if you've got time. Assign them tasks using the IDE. Go through the source code line by line. (starting at the end?) Write some really crappy code and get them to fix it using the IDE. Chuck out the IDE and get them to fix more crappy code using whatever masochistic tool you like. Have them debug each others work.

        What I'm saying is try to replicate your experiences of the real world as much as possible. Just because IDEs weren't available when a lot of us were being taught doesn't mean we have to perpetuate a crappy situation.

        Teach them to be efficient and fast - show them how to use what's available to them so they're not reinventing the wheel.

        Ok, now that I've written efficient, we're going to have people argue that IDEs don't produce efficient code. One word... Java?

        Ronan
        • Hmmm... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Morosoph (693565) on Sunday May 21, 2006 @10:41AM (#15375785) Homepage Journal
          You are supposed to be training them for the work place.
          Not yet. If you do that from the beginning, they'll never learn fundementals.

          Also, the lack of a need to get a product out of the door means that you can spend time on things that give a foundation. That educational requirements are different is an advantage. Which firms, for example, would spend three years teaching someone a maths degree? Yet those same firms would gladly hire a mathematician!

      • Re:I would say IDEs (Score:3, Interesting)

        by krunk4ever (856261)
        not saying what you said isn't insightful, but what you said is like saying people should type essays without a spell checker. honestly, you won't be able to use an IDE if you didn't know how to program. IDEs make it simpler by catching simple and common mistakes like forgetting to close your braces or missing an ending parenthesis. forgot which method it was called, no need to open the source code again, just have it display all the method names of the given class. it's not like the IDE will magically writ
        • by acroyear (5882)
          not saying what you said isn't insightful, but what you said is like saying people should type essays without a spell checker.

          Every English teacher in the world would love it if spell checkers went away. Why? because then kids would have to actually learn how to f'in' spell!!!!

          The spell checker has already created the handicapp. Especially as the spell checker doesn't get them to read for the correct they're/their/there etc., because they're all *spelled* correctly. (Yeah, Word supposedly has grammer ch
      • by swillden (191260) * <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Sunday May 21, 2006 @03:54AM (#15374937) Homepage Journal

        Several years ago (early 90s), I was hired as an adjunct faculty member to teach some night classes at my local university. The first class I taught was "Advanced C++", which was a fourth-year CS class, and presumed that the student had previously taken "C++", and before that had taken a variety of other programming and theory classes, working in Pascal, assembler and C, at the least.

        During the first week of class, I gave them a quick review of C++ syntax. One evening I touched briefly on the 'static' keyword and gave a quick rundown of its meanings in various contexts. When I mentioned what it does in a global scope (make the symbol local to the current compilation unit), I could see glazed eyes and baffled expressions so I started asking some questions.

        Well, they didn't know what a compilation unit was, so I explained that, but they were still confused. After digging further it dawned on me that the root of the problem was that these students had never even heard of a linker, had only the vaguest idea what a compiler was, and weren't sure how the editor was different from the compiler. They were quite certain that single-stepping through code made use of the compiler, though.

        These were Computer Science seniors, most of them one semester away from a Bachelor's Degree. I was shocked and dismayed to think they they could have gotten that far without ever understanding these pretty basic concepts. I'm still confused as to how they could have passed their compiler design course without figuring out what a compiler is.

        The reason the students all lacked this basic understanding was, of course, the fact that they had used nothing but IDEs (specifically Turbo Pascal and Borland C++), except in their assembler class, and that had been done entirely on paper, so they never actually had to use an editor or an assembler.

        I didn't have time to teach them these things, of course; I'd also discovered that most of these students had also managed to pass their previous C++ course without learning hardly anything at all about C++, so we had a great deal of material to cover. My solution was very simple, and probably somewhat cruel: I announced that I would compile and run all of their programming assignments on a Sparcstation, using the GNU compiler. I required all assignments to be e-mailed to me in a .tar.gz file that included source, makefile and any necessary supporting files. I informed the students that they were welcome to do their development on any platform they wanted (everyone had PCs and Borland C++, of course), but that any assignment that failed to build and run on the Sun would get a maximum of 50% credit, and probably far less, so testing on the Sparcstation was highly recommended. There were plenty of X-Window terminals in the lab, so there was no problem getting access to the equipment.

        Nearly a quarter of the class dropped that week. The rest learned something, though, so I don't think that was such a bad outcome.

        • by jsebrech (525647) on Sunday May 21, 2006 @07:45AM (#15375351)
          I work at a small software development company, and am often involved in the hiring of new programmers (for Delphi-based software projects). You can roughly divide them into two categories: the ones who know their stuff, and the drag-and-droppers.

          The drag-and-droppers solve every problem with ready-made components. They depend on the components provided to them by the IDE to such a degree that they generally are not able to design an actual algorithm. Yes, they know how to make a function, and a loop, or use an if structure, but they can't build a sorting algorithm, or build a data structure in memory and perform calculations across it. For what we do these people are useless.

          Here's the rub: most of them have programming degrees of one form or another, and almost all of them have years of experience as a programmer, with adequate references.

          We've learned the hard way to make everyone that comes to apply for a job with us take a basic programming knowledge test, where they have to design and implement an algorithm to solve a relatively easy problem that can not be solved with ready-made components (we place no requirements on the solution, other than that it should work), but can be solved by a competent programmer in less than an hour, and we give them four hours to do it. Most of the people that apply are incapable of even getting close to a solution. Some people with years of experience can't even produce one line of code towards the solution (after four hours they literally have nothing at all).

          This is why I'm distrustful of teaching programming with IDE's. Sure, use IDE's, but please give them tasks that require them to understand about data structures, algorithms, and actual programming. It doesn't even have to be OOP (from my experience you can teach that afterwards). Just teach them programming beyond ifs, loops and functions. Make them build data storage facilities that use self-balancing trees for quick lookup. Make them implement various sorting algorithms and test their relative performance. Just make them do stuff that demonstrates actual competence.
        • Wow that is scary. No wonder I can't find programmers that know how to do anything in an embedded environment without a button marked 'run'.

          By the time I graduated 10 years ago, we had to (among other things):
          - write a real time multi-tasking OS with a non trivial application for a Motorola 68K processor in C/asm
          - write a compiler for a given language (their own unique language)
          - write a real time multi-process application to control a PBX in C
          - write a real time application to control a physical robot

        • by DrNoNo (976214) on Sunday May 21, 2006 @08:21AM (#15375420)
          After digging further it dawned on me that the root of the problem was that these students had never even heard of a linker, had only the vaguest idea what a compiler was, and weren't sure how the editor was different from the compiler. They were quite certain that single-stepping through code made use of the compiler, though.

          Yes, all too familiar. When I teach C, lesson 1 is Preprocess, Compile, Assemble, Link. Then we do 'Hello World' with notepad, compiling by stages from the CLI, looking at all of the intermediate files. Only after that do we talk about C programming.

          The benefit is that from the outset, everyone understands the process, and from the outset, if something doesn't work, you can talk about did the compiler fail or the linker - which you have no meaningful basis to do without explaining the process.

          The problem wth doing 'Hello World' first is that learning a programming language is like climbing glass mountain. There is so much to learn before you can do anything useful, so conventionally, teachers are very tempted to miss things out. The thing you can afford to miss out is the IDE, going through the Preprocess Compile Assemble and Link process is far more essential. By setting that scene, your students have a context against which to understand everything else.

          Trust me it works. With groups of 3 on a 3 day course, after 1.5 days we do a Yourdon analysis of the mastermind game [see this if you don't know what it is [irt.org] - we don't do graphics, we do it with numbers on the CLI], then we split it into 3 modules and each student codes a module. Then they share their object modules NOT the C code, they link them and we always get a working program either first time or after 20 mins.

        • My father was a community college professor in a technical subject. In his case, diesel engine service. The particular course in which this incident took place required students to tear down and rebuild a variety of fuel injectors, then hook them up to a test stand to prove they operated correctly and held under pressure, then adjust them on the stand to the proper flow rates.

          One particular kid just could not tune his injector right. He could tear it down, rebuild it, and hook it up to the stand, but when i
    • by IgLou (732042)
      I would say they need to be taught both. The IDE conceals certain activities (checkin/checkout/version control/branching) that students should become familiar with and the also need to function without these. I work in Configuration Management and I've seen people come in fresh into the field that have no understanding of even version control (or builds, shudder)... that's a bit rough.

      I think to survive programming in the industry you need to know how to function with the IDE for larger shops with detai
  • Since you mentioned that they already have experience with VB or C++ (and I'm assuming when you say C++, you mean Visual Studio), just go with what they already know. If it were me, I'd stick them with an appropriate IDE for whatever language(s) you end up teaching. Speaking as a community college student myself, you should realize that unless you live in a predominantly technical area, most of your students students are going to be more comfortable learning with an IDE than with a blank vi screen. If yo
    • by Anonymous Coward
      "Since you mentioned that they already have experience with VB or C++ (and I'm assuming when you say C++, you mean Visual Studio), just go with what they already know."

      I would suggest the oppsite. Go with something new. If they have already seen various IDE's in the past then go with a stright text editor. The worst you could possibly do for a student is lead them to believe there is only one way. There is nothing like the experience of being confronted with that blank screen, it builds competence.
      • Our university introduced students who are otherwise not programmers and will not be programmers - Java with Vi (or Pico - most students preferred that due to the learning curve). After the black unix terminal screen, now the students think programming is a black art. Those that started programming with Access and VB atleast are not afraid of programming and can create some simple data tools for their work (They however over estimate their skill but I prefer this outcome for our specific course). Since, rea
      • by Itchy Rich (818896) on Sunday May 21, 2006 @07:45AM (#15375352)

        I would suggest the oppsite. Go with something new.

        I'd suggest you both fell into the trap posed by an incomplete question. Teaching someone to use an IDE and teaching them not to use an IDE are not mutually exclusive.

        A good programmer should know the basics without distraction, and also know when to save time by using an IDE.

  • Not at first (Score:5, Interesting)

    by trewornan (608722) on Sunday May 21, 2006 @12:01AM (#15374272)
    I'd have to go with a non-IDE approach initially and introduce an IDE later on so as to avoid teaching dependence on something which shouldn't be required. Incidentally - vi would be a bad idea, it's got to much of a learning curve when they're really supposed to be learning programming - gedit or notepad might be better.
    • Re:Not at first (Score:2, Interesting)

      by kunakida (886654)
      I agree about not starting with an IDE.

      IDE's are a crutch, and the make/build files they create are not amenable to automation.

      If you are teaching on Windows, Notepad is OK, but Notepad++ is a good open source editor with color syntax highlighting for various languages.

      Unfortunately on Linux, the Editor should be vi (maybe not as a first editor). It is available on almost any Unix like platform (even Windows)

      I would also suggest not letting them use a debugger at first.

      Use printf, System.out.prinl

      • Re:Not at first (Score:5, Insightful)

        by wwwillem (253720) on Sunday May 21, 2006 @06:29AM (#15375225) Homepage
        Unfortunately on Linux, the Editor should be vi...

        If you go the non-IDE route, I still think vi is not the way to go. I (have to) use it all the time when sys-admin-ing systems, but for developers there is no reason not to use something like gedit, nedit, etc. Giving them vi is a guarantee for your students to hate sw development.

        And personally I would spend one lesson on CLI based compiling and linking of 'hello world', to show what happens under the water of an IDE and then I would quickly move on to something like Netbeans.

        • Re:Not at first (Score:4, Insightful)

          by EchoNiner (930773) on Sunday May 21, 2006 @12:29PM (#15376191)
          Don't jump out and mark this as Troll, but...

          I think emacs is a better editor to start off with than any of the others suggested so far. Here's why:

          Easy to use basically in X mode since it has menus, etc. You can save and quit without knowing c-x c-s c-x c-x at first and other useful functions are available via the menus.

          Indenting! Emacs teaches us what good code looks like because hitting the tab key puts the line in the right spot. If we're talking python, this is a little different, but C, Java, etc. you need to be bashed in the head with good code style when starting off.

          Why jump into a different editor that is just as easy to use as emacs in seperate window mode (or even just XEmacs) when you get all this with the integrated debugger, split windows, indenting, etc?

          I am not trying to start up a vi vs. emacs debate because I myself use both editors (I know, blasphemy) when it suits the purpose (vi is good for quick edits, macros; emacs is good for development, debugging; I can go on and on). I am just saying that emacs is totally scalable in terms of ease of use and it is a good editor to start with.
    • Re:Not at first (Score:4, Insightful)

      by dubl-u (51156) * <2523987012.pota@to> on Sunday May 21, 2006 @02:18AM (#15374711)
      I'd have to go with a non-IDE approach initially and introduce an IDE later on so as to avoid teaching dependence on something which shouldn't be required.

      I would agree with this. I think you can't be a professional programmer without knowing what goes on under the hood. On the other hand, you can't be a professional programmer in a language like Java without mastering one of the better IDEs.

      Modern IDEs like Eclipse and IntelliJ IDEA, by making it easy to follow the relationships and jump around the code, permit a more modular, granular style of development than you get using a text editor and opening up one file at a time. And these days I won't even hire somebody who doesn't know and use the automated refactoring tools if their language supports them.

      Of course, I also won't hire somebody who can't write reasonably correct code on paper. So yes, do both!
  • ... Yes and no (Score:5, Interesting)

    by GWBasic (900357) <slashdot@NOsPAm.andrewrondeau.com> on Sunday May 21, 2006 @12:03AM (#15374283) Homepage
    No, students should not: Not using the IDE shows students everything that goes on "under the hood" during compilation.

    Yes, students should: Part of teaching programming is showing students how to best use all tools at their disposal. IDEs have some valuable features that are vital to professional programmers.

    IMO, the best time to go without the IDE is around the same time that you teach assembly. The non-IDE experience is mainly valuable to students who are going to be professional programmers. For into-type classes where there will most likely be non-major students, keeping them in the IDE will help them be more effective if/when they ever need to program in the future. Likewise, once you reach very advanced CS classes, your students will have better things to worry about then command-line switches, and thus will be able to make good use of the IDE's features.

    Again, the above statements are just my opinion.

    • Re:... Yes and no (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DaveAtFraud (460127) on Sunday May 21, 2006 @12:33AM (#15374407) Homepage Journal
      BTW, given the way the original question was asked, I would have just answered "yes".

      I taught college level math (trig through intro to calculus) back in the '80s and the same debate raged with regard to using calculators. If I was teaching arithemtic, I would argue against using calculators since the whole idea is the class is supposed to be about learning simple skills like add, subtract, multiply and divide. If I'm teaching a higher level subject like trig or calculus, I'd say using calculators is great because it allows the students to concentrate on the concepts and not get bogged down in the arithmetic. Hell, when I was working on my MS I used an IBM 5100 running APL to do a bunch of the matrix manipulations for my abstract algebra class and the prof thought it was great since I wasn't spending hours row reducing matrices to get eigenvectors and eigenvalues.

      I would argue that the same principle applies here. Higher level classes should encourage the students to use an IDE and higher level languages since the idea is to teach them concepts like data structures, complexity theory, numerical algorithms, etc. Introductory classes really benefit from having the students flail at things like compiler errors and trivial logic errors that a good IDE flags so they understand how little a computer can do until someone programs it. In between, the students need to be exposed to an IDE in a way that makes the transition itself a learning experience and ties in with software engineering, tools and the whole mess that Fred Brooks charaterized as accident vs. essence.

      I'd also like to see a class that has students solve a problem using a programming language that's appropriate for the task and one that isn't (e.g., COBOL for a CGI problem) just so they also get some understanding of how using the right tool for the job makes a difference and the problem domain for a given tool is limited. This is probably beyond the scope of the original question.

      Cheers,
      Dave
      • Re:... Yes and no (Score:3, Insightful)

        by grahammm (9083) *
        Yes but.. What you say about tools like calculators and using APL for matrix manipulation is true. However, the student should be taught the 'manual' way first. When I was taught maths in the '70s (before the days of calculators, simple 4 function calculators were becoming affordable at about the time I left school), we were taught trig and calculus from first principles. Only when we had learnt that were we told "You will probably never have to do that again, you use books of tables etc where someone else
        • Re:... Yes and no (Score:3, Insightful)

          by zootm (850416)

          Definately. Although I don't agree with people who say you should be taught assembly language before normal programming (languages are a fairly full conceptual abstraction of machine code, learning it can be an impediment some of the time, other than perhaps languages with direct memory management, but even then I'm not sold on the idea), you should definately learn your languages first. If you learn the language, then the IDE, it eases your work, and it's easy to learn, because you understand why its featu

  • Without (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hegh (788050) on Sunday May 21, 2006 @12:03AM (#15374284)

    I generally prefer without. My intro CS course (in Java) five years ago was taught using emacs (which I actually didn't like at the time), and part of the beginning of the course was graded on knowing emacs shortcuts. A later course that I was a TA for used BlueJay, and again grading was done dependent on using that IDE.

    I am more a fan of letting students choose their own environment. I've been using UltraEdit for a long long time, and I'm very happy with it. My suggestion would be to give students a list of good editor options, but not require them to use any single one. Maybe a later lesson could focus on the debugging potential of one IDE or another (I hate to say it, but Microsoft has some great debuggers). My experience, though, is that the main issue for students is what they're writing, not how they write it.

    • IDEs are such a matter of personal preference. I know people that hate IDEs because they feel the friggin program is more a roadblock of suggestions and conventions. I know folks who insist that by the 12th straight hour at a computer, your mind just isn't up to the task of diagnosing what's wrong with code.

      There is a point in coding where your eyes just glaze over and you cannot quite fathom where the hell the tiny little mistake is because everything reads right.

      Your head eventually clicks: oh, it's a

    • Why hate MS? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Kawahee (901497)
      I hate to say it, but Microsoft has some great debuggers

      Why hate Microsoft? They should have some great debuggers - they're in the business of writing tens of thousands of lines of source per day, some of which isn't going to be perfect. They've got the knowledge and expertise, and most of the people working there are a lot like you and I, it's just that their business ideology is to mostly focus on the desktop market, and Windows etc reflects an operating system for a normal person to use.

      You can also t
    • "Maybe a later lesson could focus on the debugging potential of one IDE or another..."

      You'll give your students an lesson in frustration if you wait until later to teach them how to debug their programs.

      I recently took a college course on C, and I was one of the few students who knew how to use a debugger (which wasn't taught in the course). Most of the other students had a really hard time with the course because they were basically expected to get their programs right the first time.

      So I'd say tea

  • by yagu (721525) * <yayagu@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Sunday May 21, 2006 @12:03AM (#15374285) Journal

    It depends on what your goal is for teaching, but by your words, "I will be teaching an intro to Java and an intro to Python course", using an IDE will mask much of what could be valuable in learning, to the extent students don't even "get" some of the important underlying principles.

    I've seen kids of friends who ostensibly have taken "programming" classes, and virtually all of them are IDE based curricula. And every one of these kids lacked the most basic understanding of programming. They could cobble together a simple form, but lacked skills to extend much beyond.

    Sometimes it's the school/teacher's fault. I know of one example where a teacher had to teach java, and had never used java before. The kid I know who took the class constantly complained about how stupid the teacher was (he mentioned she had a "Java for Dummies" book for herself). She not only didn't know and understand java, but picked an inferior IDE (I won't start any flame wars by naming it, but it was lesser known, and lacking in features).

    Admittedly I'm from old school, I started with a 3Gl (PL/I) as an introduction, and my second course was assembly. Things are obviously different today, but I'm glad I understand technology at the level I was required to learn it. I don't think I'd have insights for solutions today without that background.

    Since you're asking for opinions: If you want students who'll come back later and thank you, try to emphasize the language and its semantics in your curriculum, and sprinkle in a little exposure to IDE late in the course (that indeed will server a useful purpose).

    Good luck.

    YMMV.

    • You can fail to teach/learn the basics of programing with or without and IDE. I don't think the fact that an IDE was used in a class is the cause for not knowing the programing basics. I assume the original poster was not talking about using a drag an drop IDE like Visual Studio for VB, but something more on the lines of JCreator, JEdit or Eclipse (sorry for the Java centricity). Knowing the basics of programing is very important yet most developers under the age of 30 have no clue what those are. But si
      • Likely they will not have take any programming basics/fundamentals classes (Pascal, Turing, etc.) as Java is now being used in most high-schools at least as the introductary programming language. As far as teaching it, I would start with notepad and the command line for the first few weeks (i.e. "Hello World"), then go ahead and use something like JEdit because its basically notepad with syntax highlighting (when I used it last it was like that, but that was years ago).

        If you learn with notepad, you can alw
    • There's a big difference in IDEs. I've taught and intro to Java class that had no programming prerequistes, and so was not intended for CS majors. I had a choice - there were people who could barely use computers at all. What was I going to do, point them at the JDK, and expect them to learn how to use a command-line compiler and Notepad? We'd spent a month getting "Hello World" compile, and they'd wind up knowing nothing more about Java or programming at the end of it. Learning how a command-line works
  • There's good reason for any developer to be familiar with a good IDE and with tools like vi and Emacs, but do you really want to spend valuable classroom time teaching them about editing tools instead of the language?

    You probably should spend some time during one class to discuss the choices available and what your own preferences and biases are, but they'll probably have to use whatever their employer uses when they get into the workplace. Better to spend your time teaching them to be carefull and thought
    • I think the terminal and command line are interesting and all, an IDE is going to behave closer to what they understand with other text management software, such as a word processor. Character mode software, especially vi or emacs, is going to seem pretty backwards to anyone that has been exclusively using a GUI for computers. You'd need to make a pretty solid case as to why they are useful for a student to agree with the idea of using them.
  • My experience in the as an long time employed developer would tell me that you should use an IDE. In the last ten years I have not held a job where anyone in the staff, under the age of 40, used anything but a well known IDE. This is even more true regarding Java, and I can't really comment on python, havening never used it profesionally. In general I have always felt that school should be educating people towards practical skills, and even the old school developers (I'm an old school assembler myself) u
  • With. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Telastyn (206146)
    Part of practical language experience [since you're not actually teaching programming] is learning to use a/the common IDE.
  • Why bother? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by illuminatedwax (537131) <<ude.ogacihcu.inmula> <ta> <egnardts>> on Sunday May 21, 2006 @12:09AM (#15374304) Journal
    Why have one at all? Unless your class is on the specific IDE or "Software Development Techiniques", why chain them to a specific technology? Let your students figure out how to run the damn editor. If it wasn't so tedious, I'd say have your students turn in assignments on paper. You are teaching programming, not a program, no matter how community college you are. Give your students a chance to figure something out for themselves and they will become smarter.
  • by hazem (472289) on Sunday May 21, 2006 @12:10AM (#15374307) Journal
    There are lots of factors that will probably make this decision for you:

    - what do you want to spend your time teaching? Every class minute you spend teaching vi or emacs is a minute you're not teaching the programming. Every assignment you assign to practice vi and emacs is an assignment that can't focus as much on the programming

    - what does the college expect someone who passes your class to know? Are they expected to know how to use an IDE for the class that has yours as a pre-req?

    - which gives more value to your students? while learning an archaic text editor might be handy, learning to make the most of an IDE might serve them better - knowing how to set breakpoints, watches, stepping through code, etc.

    I would suggest you pick the method that will let your students spend more time and energy learning to write good code -- and let them use the system that serves them best.

    • I'd think the first point is more a slam at IDEs than text editors. IDEs require a lot of knowledge to use- teaching the debugger, how to create projects, etc. Meanwhile, everyone has used a text editor. They can just use notepad if they want. If you want to focus in on the programming (the right choice, IMO) just tell them to use a text editor and let them figure out IDEs if they want to.
      • Or you could just forget all the "project" and "debugger" options in the IDE and just use lots of system.println statements in all your dozens of if statements to do your debugging for you. Yes, its horribly innefficient, but it teaches programming concepts. They are universal, debuggers are likely not going to be of very much use anyways if its beginners programming. You going to use a debugger on Hello World?
  • Free is good (Score:2, Informative)

    by LihTox (754597)
    I'm completely naive as far as IDEs are concerned, but is there a freeware IDE available for these languages? It won't matter while they're in school, maybe, but if they become comfortable with a program, and then leave school and find out the program runs $900, they will be in a (minor) bind if they want to do some programming on their own. (I'm thinking of the parallel case of people working with Matlab and Mathematica; yes they are great programs to work with, but as an unemployed physicist I can't aff
  • If they are just going to be coding scripts or simple small programs, a normal editor like Vi/Emacs might work quite well, or a similar text editor. but if it may be on a slightly larger scale, an IDE might be better, since it allows greater organization.
  • I say no IDE (Score:3, Insightful)

    by donaldGuy (969269) on Sunday May 21, 2006 @12:17AM (#15374345) Homepage
    I am a high school student.. I'm currently taking (and often teaching more than the teacher ) an AP Computer Science course which, while actualy about the concepts (OO Principles, Algorithims, Data Structures (well they _should_ be included), etc.), is taught in Java.

    The course is taught using an IDE which did make it easier for most of the students, but as a result no body even knew javac existed.. as far as they were concerned they clicked a button and it magicaly was compiled.. while some would call this good decoupling, what it showed for me is that people ended up completly ignorant of the underlying implementation... they dont know what the command line options are for the compiler or VM, or that javadoc or jar exist (or the related concepts). It left me playing tech support in class so much that I had to do all my actual coding at home.

    This point would be even more important in the case of python given that it can run as an interactive interpreted language and all (I haven't atually finished learning python yet).

    The point is that learning without an IDE gives the student better background on how the language works. If you use an editor with syntax higlighting then other than some ease of use there is no real advantage to the IDE.

    You mention emacs and vi.. if you are running under a POSIX enviornment then you should really teach without an IDE because it better teaches the principles of the UNIX system ideal (small programs with one purpose). Even if you run Windows it wouldn't hurt the students (and future programmers) to be introduced to the UNIX way of doing things.

    hope that helps.
    • Re:I say no IDE (Score:2, Interesting)

      by coshx (687751)
      Going by this logic, should we not let them use a shell, but rather force them to launch the compiler through execve calls (how one would write the launcher program itself and run it is beyond the scope of this comment).

      Or should they start off coding in assembly or even machine code?

      At some point, it makes sense to abstract away details so that students can understand important concepts. Now, if your assignments or understanding of the concepts you were taught required knowledge of javadoc or jar, th
      • Re:I say no IDE (Score:3, Insightful)

        by pchan- (118053)
        Are you sure you don't want the students building their own transistors and generating their own electricity? How will they learn? Welcome to reductio ad absurdum.

        javac, javadoc, and jar are fundamental tools of java programming. Understanding execve() and assembly programming are not. Using javac is the minimum you need to program java in any environment. It is in fact all you need, unless you want additional tools. An IDE is nice to have, if you're into that kind of thing, but it is far from a requi
  • For simplicity sake, you can introduce them to an IDE on day one, but it's important to cover what is happening.

    Case in point, I had a friend who is taking some programming classes and was absolutely baffled on compiling from multiple files. Their instructor apparently likes them to "dig" in and then teach from what I gather. It's a simple matter in the end, to create some header files and segment logical code and make sure they are included under that project hierarchy. However, certain compiler flags and
  • A big IDE like Eclipse would not be a great idea, but vi and emacs would also get in the way of teaching the students about the language. I'd suggest something simple like jedit.

  • by MarkusQ (450076) on Sunday May 21, 2006 @12:20AM (#15374360) Journal

    Teach them without computers.

    No, seriously.

    If you really want to teach programming (instead of teaching "using a computer"), start them out on paper and make them actually think about what they're trying to do instead of getting caught up in using the interface. Then have them work in groups using a whiteboard, and don't let them test their code until they've all agreed that it's correct. Teach them to look out for their own mistakes, and the mistakes of others, rather than counting on the computer to do their thinking for them.

    There was a definite advantage to the old submit-a-deck-of-cards system, in that mistakes were annoying and you worked hard to avoid them. To do this, you had to really think about what you were trying to accomplish, how you planed to do it, and what might go wrong. In other words, you were really learning to program.

    On the other hand, with highly interactive environments (which are extremely useful once you know what you are doing) beginners are all to tempted to fall into a trial and error loop until they get something that "works"--which is to say, it happens to produce reasonable results for whatever limited test case they are using--without ever really thinking about the program.

    Suppose you were teaching flying. Would you start your students out in an advanced aircraft with an autopilot that could take off and land unassisted, and all sorts of doodads to make flying easy--or would you sit them down with a pad of paper and make them work out things like stall speed and fuel requirement problems until they really understood the issues?

    -- MarkusQ

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Some people (like me) learn by reverse engineering everyhting, and that requires trial and error, we need to see what works and what doesn't, only then can we understand why. Your suggestion excludes those people. Yes it's true that most students have to be taught the way you describe, but you are excluding the most skilled ones, those who have the highest chances of scoring high in the real world without cheating.

      Your analogy is also wrong: you can experiment with software as much as you wish as the chan
    • Remember, submitter is planning to teach _intro_ courses to Java and Python.

      One of the most important things when you are starting out (and, actually, when you are experienced as well, but that's less obvious) is to get feedback on what you are doing wrong as quickly as possible. Don't throw this away lightly.

      It's quite easy for students to work very long and hard doing something _completely and utterly wrong._ This does _not_ make them better programmers than if they got immediate feedback on what was wrong; it just frustrates them.

      (I spent over a year teaching 100-300 level CS classes, and we actually started with paper-based flowcharting in one intro class, so I'm not speaking hypothetically here.)

      --
      Carnage Blender [carnageblender.com]: Meet interesting people. Kill them.

    • by cgenman (325138) on Sunday May 21, 2006 @02:21AM (#15374721) Homepage
      The two problems with this is that it is difficult to catch errors and discourages test-based development methods.

      I used to do this in high-school, though. I would write applications down in a notebook one line at a time, then type them all in when I got to my calculator. It could be valuable, but there were many programs that had to be scrapped and re-written because there was an error somewhere in the code and it was impossible to figure out where the problem had arisen.

      A tight success / failure loop does help teach people to seek out and find problem areas quickly and painlessly, before more and more code gets committed on top of the bugs, burying them in layers if misdirection.

      Suppose you were teaching flying. Would you start your students out in an advanced aircraft with an autopilot that could take off and land unassisted, and all sorts of doodads to make flying easy--or would you sit them down with a pad of paper and make them work out things like stall speed and fuel requirement problems until they really understood the issues?

      I'd drop them in front of MS flight simulator so that they would get a feel for what they were going to do. "The maths" generally don't teach a pilot how to recover from a downdraft.
    • by David Rolfe (38) on Sunday May 21, 2006 @03:16AM (#15374863) Homepage Journal
      When I was in CS in the mid-90s we took Theory of Computing (no computers) before we took Intro to C, Algorithms, Data Structures, etc for exactly this reason. Professors could presume we knew some actual fundementals (and unlearned all the BASIC and Pascal we'd done in grade- and highschool). We wrote software at terminals in a computer lab or via SLIP from home (with pico, vi or emacs). We turned in from the shell prompt. Same for Assembly and later, Unix Administration with Perl (first edition Camel book was the text :-p). It wasn't until Intro to Computer Graphics (description: "This course isn't how to use PhotoShop, it's how to write PhotoShop") that we where using IDEs.

      parent: On the other hand, with highly interactive environments (which are extremely useful once you know what you are doing) beginners are all to tempted to fall into a trial and error loop until they get something that "works"--which is to say, it happens to produce reasonable results for whatever limited test case they are using--without ever really thinking about the program.

      I concur, the trial and error method of "write a line of code, try to compile it, fix the compiler error, repeat until program runs, then test an input, if it's wrong make a change, recompile, test an input... etc" isn't really learning how to program (and at worst it's only teaching how to choose good tests). I mean it's kind of like the slowest most terrible implementation of evolutionary programming (highschoolers get a head start, google Lawrence J. Fogel) or a slightly better optimized "one million monkeys" scenario. Maybe it is learning how to program, but it isn't really learning how to be a programmer. Maybe that's a distinction worth discussing.

      Not that I'm especially qualified, but this is how I'd teach a programming course: Present the concept, explain the concept, train the concept (this is all face time, auditory, visual learning); assign reading and homework on the concept, test/quiz the concept (student opportunity to take ownership and get special attention, hands-on learning); assign implementation of the concept and then grade the implementation (hands-on practice); repeat until finals week. Homework over short breaks m-w, w-f and t-r with imlementation over long breaks r-t, and f-m assuming two and three per week meetings. Kids love weekends in the lab! (Do they even program in the lab anymore?)

      Whether or not the implementation phase involves an IDE or just a text editor shouldn't really have a huge impact on the students' understanding unless one has to spend time teaching the environment -- taking away time that students need spent on teaching and learning the concept. :-D Just my two cents.
  • yes and no (Score:3, Insightful)

    by coshx (687751) on Sunday May 21, 2006 @12:20AM (#15374361)
    No to Visual Studio, but yes to an IDE. Well, emacs and vi can be thought of as IDE's that is.

    My first course in programming was at UMass Boston, which is basically a community college, and we started off learning emacs, then went on to our first cup of java.

    It was pretty gruelling.

    But now I still know emacs and use it every day, while the java technology (1.0) has changed a great deal.

    My point is that if you're going to teach them a tool, use one that will still be useful and helpful later on in their academic and professional careers. Visual Studio may not even be around in 5 years, but most likely, it'll still be around and will use a different interface that they'll have to relearn. Instead, focus on the fundamentals of any IDE, such as compiling, linking, testing, debugging, so that they'll have no problem learning whatever IDE their company uses. In this sense, I think it makes more sense to learn that to compile a program into bytecode or machine code, you have to launch another program that does this (gcc program.c or javac Program.java) rather than just click a Run button and have everything magically happen for you.

    This goes along with teaching the fundamentals of programming languages and operating systems rather than preparing them to work in a single specific language or OS and have them out of work in 10 years.
  • Then by all means, teach with an IDE. Otherwise, the KISS rule would say "give them a choice of text editors and teach the basics."

    IDEs are insanely useful when working on large projects, and should be introduced towards the end of the class, but IMHO if you use an IDE from the start you're going to end up with a bunch of students who understand the IDE instead of the core concepts they need to know.

  • Emacs and Ant (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jonabbey (2498) * <jonabbey@ganymeta.org> on Sunday May 21, 2006 @12:33AM (#15374406) Homepage

    I'd recommend emacs. You'd be giving them a tool powerful enough to let them get work done, but not yet a tool that would remove the burden of thinking from them. They'd have to spend time learning a couple of handfuls of command key sequences, but all in the service of competently manipulating the source text, not in the service of learning how a given IDE wants to frame the software development process for them. If you wanted to help them put their code together, you could give out handouts for Jakarta Ant.. that way they'd get to directly touch and view the construction process for their programs.

    Emacs and Ant are also available on all platforms your students might conceivably be using, whether it be Windows, Mac, or Linux.

  • I think students definitely need to be introduced to coding without an IDE. I have a good friend who graduated a couple of semesters before me. I sent him some code to look at that I had been working on, and he had absolutely no idea how to compile it without using an IDE (and it wasn't some horribly complex application in 12 different languages or anything, it was around 4 .java files, and had no weird dependencies or anything). This was someone who graduated with a degree in CIS and already had a degre
  • I like vi(vim) and while it does have syntax high-lighting it also has a learning curve to it. The goal here is to teach the students a language, not an editor. If you don't want to go for a full IDE I'd suggest using JEdit [jedit.org], it's free and has syntax highlighting for just about every language. It'll also help match up curly braces but that's about it without any plugins.

    The thing I like about using JEdit instead of an IDE is that it does NOT do auto-completion by default. It makes the students memorize Java
  • Im a bit old school myself. What I see in people that turn how to program with an IDE is they are tied to that IDE, they dont want to use another. Its like pulling teeth to get them to switch. The other problem they have is they know nothing about the compiler. The same people taught on an IDE would have no idea how to compile by command, now this is not a problem if they always use an IDE but when you get into optimization and such it makes things easier. Now many people here have mentioned that it will he
    • What I see in people that turn how to program with an IDE is they are tied to that IDE, they dont want to use another. Its like pulling teeth to get them to switch. The other problem they have is they know nothing about the compiler.

      Same is true of a lot of people who use Emacs too much. It becomes impossible to get them to even try another program. Introduce them to some new concept like, say, an N-dimensional sparse matrix manipulation system with typed data cells, and they say "So, is there an emacs

  • When first learning, force them to use a plain text editor and force them to use ANT. In this way, they have to learn the syntax, and they have to learn how to set up the project so that ANT can package it appropriately to run under Tomcat or what have you.

    After they have learned the basics and are comfortable with the mechanics of writing/compiling code, introduce them to an IDE (Eclipse and NetBeans are both free, as id Sun's Java Creator Studio) since that's the environment they will likely use in th

  • The question is whether you want to teach people to program, or teach them to use an IDE.

    On the left hand, the ide simplifies some the 'magic' to get the beginner going and writing code as quickly as possible. On the right hand, the ide does so much for you that you might not learn the underlying structures.

    I am right handed on this one. While IDE's are an excellent tool, without knowing how a program is actually assembled (both literally and figurativley speaking,) then what the IDE is doing is just magi
  • If the primary objective to to introduce programming in general via these languages, I'd say skip the IDE; it's counterproductive to learning the basics of coding. I'd even go so far as to require the non-use of an IDE, unless your class covers automated test cases.

    If the primary objective is to introduce the specific languages, the IDE will be a useful tool; however, I'd recommend that they be made to work in more than one IDE (or with just a text editor for some assignments, if economics preclude multip

  • by patio11 (857072) on Sunday May 21, 2006 @02:19AM (#15374718)
    ... seems to me a lot like trying to teach your hardware guys circuit design without using VHDL, Xilinx, and the other automated tools that make this a heck of a lot easier. "Back in the day, I drew out all my circuits on an easel! If I wanted a multiplexor, I had to understand how the multiplexor worked and write it out directly in NAND gates rather than just picking it from a box of commonly used components! And I walked uphill both ways to school through the driving snow! Whippersnappers like you don't know how stupid you really are and how much your tools are a crutch!" Which is great, except the complexity of actual hardware design nowadays mandates the use of VHDL/Xilinx/etc and if you want to persue it professionally you will need to know how to work these. Software is similar -- even if you *could* do everything in Notepad and a command line there's no reason to do so when the guy in the next cubicle doing the same stuff in in an IDE produces better stuff quicker than you do.

    It seems to me that there are two purposes to CS classes: theory and skills aquisition. You'll get plenty of the theory of computer science in your algorithms/data structures/whatever classes. For the CS101s of the world, if you get out of the class without being able to produce a simple program in the language you were using, thats a failure. In the real world, you will probably end up using an IDE, because its a tool which increases your productivity by an order of magnitude and makes managing the complexity of non-trivial programming assignments *possible*. When you've got three classes and two of them were provided by the instructor, sure, Notepad will work for you. When you get to your job and are tasked with adding a simple feature to one file which calls functions from 45 classes, then you'd best have an IDE or a lot of time on your hands to waste. Things like autocomplete, syntax checking (we all make typos or have brain farts, having a little squiggle beneath "if (x = 0)" or "if (!x.contains(y)) x.add(y);y.addContainer(x));" as soon as you type it can save minutes or hours of lost productivity), and integrated debuggers (I use and love print statements, but when you're trying to figure out why a hash function is failing for *one* input halfway through a list of ten-thousand a debugger is worth its weight in gold) are all tools that engineers should be introduced to as soon as possible.
  • Don't teach vi. That's a waste of time if the class is about programming. Let the students use whatever they want and figure that out on their own.

    Visual C++ really sucks. You've got all these weird autogenerated project files. With C++ it's simpler to just not use an IDE at first. Python IDEs are much easier since python programs don't need a build system or any of that.

    Teach whatever will let you focus most on Python or Java and the IDE.

  • by Vellmont (569020) on Sunday May 21, 2006 @05:22AM (#15375107)
    I think any advanced programmer should learn a language with all the tools available to him/her. But it sounds like you're teaching beginning students who've only done a semester of VB or C++. I think at this stage a complex IDE will only get in the way.

    A lot of people seem to be of the opinion that IDEs are somehow "soft" on students, and they won't learn anything with them. I think this is pure nonsense. It reminds me of the people who argue against letting kids who already know how to add, subtract, multiply and divide use calculators. (It's actually worse than this since an IDE doesn't actually program for you, while a calculator actually does do mathematical operations).

    IDEs tend to be extremely complicated pieces of software, so students will end up using a lot of time learning the IDE. When to introduce them to everyone is a judgement call, but I'd still say for 2nd semester students it's more of a hinderance than a help. If you could somehow find a very limited scope IDE that only did things like finding syntax errors and didn't take more than a few minutes to learn, I'd say introduce that IDE right away, even in a first programming course. After a third or forth semester of programming it should actively encouraged to use a more complicated IDE.
  • by dcollins (135727) on Sunday May 21, 2006 @09:37AM (#15375591) Homepage
    I also teach at a community college for the past 4 years. The students need a LOT of help (you'll be flabbergasted) -- enrollment is down 50% in the last few years all over the country, administrators tell me students are "scared" of programming, etc.

    Here's what I do. Get the best book you can find and work lockstep with that book. Do the same in class as they'll be seeing in the book. They don't have the capacity to learn multiple environments and compare & contrast mentally.

    For me, I fell in love with Lewis & Loftus "Java Software Solutions". It comes with a CD with all the code, SDK, and free jGRASP IDE (and very good supplemental materials). So that's what I use; students just install everything on the CD and they're good to go.

    Having my materials all strongly synchronized is more important than any particular ideology to me. If the book emphasized command-line work I'd do that. (I do have a single handout describing command-line development which more advanced students might wish to pursue.)
  • IDE? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Chris Mattern (191822) on Sunday May 21, 2006 @10:58AM (#15375850)
    Nope, SCSI all the way!

    Chris Mattern
  • please don't! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lord Ender (156273) on Sunday May 21, 2006 @11:03AM (#15375874) Homepage
    By today's standards, Emacs is the UI from hell. My shool used it to teach CS, and many otherwise smart people were severly hampered by it. They spent more time messing with the editor than with their code! And you don't want a person's first experience with unix to be one as frustrating as emacs.

    The focus should be 100% on the code. The editor should be completely transparent to the student.
  • Eclipse (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Stalus (646102) on Sunday May 21, 2006 @11:06AM (#15375883)
    I was a TA a couple of years ago for the intro java course at a Big 10 university, and I'd recommend using Eclipse - at least for the Java part. Honestly, you can show them the non-IDE approach in a day, and cover your bases. The only thing of value you're teaching them there is that javac makes byte code, and how to run the virtual machine/set up a class path. For students with a year under their belt, it shouldn't take them too long to figure this out.

    We used to use a poor IDE, but a number of the grad students convinced the university to switch to Eclipse. There are a lot of benefits, but here's two:

    First, code completion, and tool-tip documentation helps the students learn the API. Students with C++ experience will be trying to overcome the fact that everything's a reference, default virtual methods, garbage collection, and basic java syntax. Forcing them to memorize the API and its associated documentation is a waste of time when good tools exist to feed them this information as they need it. It also does some import statements for you, which is so very nice.

    Second, error detection and suggestions teach the students as they go. If they type up a bunch of code and compile it, they'll get some error on the first thing they worked on, and their head will be on something else, so it just confuses them. Eclipse highlights syntax errors as you type, so you catch and correct these errors while your thought process is still in the right context. In addition, Eclipse will suggest corrections for common errors, typos, etc. Error messages may seem intuitive to the experienced programmer, but to a novice, it's just greek. I think I spent most of my lab time trying to convey to students what the error messages really meant, and how they could use them to fix their code.

    Bottom line is, learning is a process where you learn one thing at a time, and feedback at any step of the process is good. By using a good IDE, you are able to focus on more general concepts, which are transferable to other languages. Otherwise, they just learn the API and what the error messages mean, and lose a lot of valuable time.

    Just my two cents.
  • by Junks Jerzey (54586) on Sunday May 21, 2006 @11:40AM (#15375996)
    All this anti-IDE angst, so let me give the opposite view. Beginning students should be focused on *programming.* A good IDE makes some key things standard and invisible: jumping to errors, debugging, etc. Then the students can just worry about programming, and not vi configuration problems and make files and so on.

    Using an IDE in school is nothing new. Back in the late 80s most of the college programming courses I took used Pascal, and Turbo Pascal 4 and 5, with integrated editors and compilers, were godsends. The alternative was to use a command line compiler on a VAX, which was horrible in comparison.
  • by clambake (37702) on Sunday May 21, 2006 @09:02PM (#15377754) Homepage
    As the accouting professor if he teaches people accounting first on paper or using Excel. Whatever he answers is what you should do as well.
  • by fzammett (255288) on Monday May 22, 2006 @12:48AM (#15378369) Homepage
    ...TEACH THEM WITHOUT AN IDE!!!

    I cannot tell you how many people I deal with all the time that simply cannot function without an IDE. An IDE is a tool, not a crutch, and I see too many people using it a a crutch. Until you are 100% sure they know the underlying concepts, DO NOT let them use a tool that might save them a few seconds of actual thought. I can't stress is enough. I've seen the results of people that can't perform without the computer thinking for them.

    The business world will eventually learn that hacks throwing together craplets costs them far more time and money then a few talented developers doing it right the first time. Or they will continue to throw money at the problem, expecting that just getting 30 warm bodies that know how to press the right buttons in the right IDE will be a good strategic plan. Chances are the truth won't be realized until they go out of business.

    Also, I should point out that I hear so many stories on a nearly daily basis on how the IDE didn't do what it was supposed to and someone spent four hours figuring out why it was munging a classpath, or not generating the XML config files for framework X properly, or some such mess. They spend more time fighting the tool than they do getting work done. It's a joke! How exactly is that IDE making them more efficient?!?

    I don't mind if people want to use an IDE. I personally don't, and I frankly work more efficiently than a great deal of people I know who swear by IDEs (I'm a bit of an extreme case though... after 20+ years of programming, my technique is pretty refined). But if your going to use an IDE, you damned well better know what's going on underneath. If you don't then you have no business developing in the first place.

    Related to this is my lamentations about people not knowing low-level programming any more... hell, even I haven't written real code in Assembly in a few years, but I *did* for a while, and I understand all the basic concepts... just being able to "think like a computer", which you'll never learn using tools that hide the details from you, is a lost skill IMO, and is the reason so many crap developers are floating around these days. It's all about thought process, not about what real skills you have. Anyone can memorize this algorithm or that domain model, but the people that can derive them themselves (or something roughly equivalent anyway) are the ones that are worth something. If you aren't "in sync" with the computer, at both a low and high level, your not an especially good developer IMO. IDEs make it easier for those that don't understand to *appear* to be in sync, but they really aren't.

    Eh, whatever. The "best" development environment is an age old debate. If you have the basic skills, its a moot point: use whatever your most comfortable with and can be most efficient with. For some it's Eclipse with all sorts of plugins, for some it's vi and a command prompt. If your learning though, and if your teaching, do yourself and your students a favor and don't allow them to become crap developers who can only push buttons to get the desired output like trained monkeys. Force them to think, force them to become as intimate as possible with the machine (which is already difficult in Java, but still), and only *after* you are sure they are, *then* introduce them to the tools that will theoretically make them more efficient.

    It's just my opinion, but it happens to be right ;)
  • Both (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Etriaph (16235) on Monday May 22, 2006 @02:09AM (#15378556) Homepage
    First of all, you should teach formal logic on a blackboard. I wouldn't let someone touch a computer unless they knew the difference between a scalar and a list.

    Secondly, they should learn how to implement this knowledge in the most simple language possible. BASIC, Pascal, etc. Don't confuse them with an advanced tool when it's the code that matters at this point.

    After that, keep raising the bar and exposing them to more and more of the language, then introduce the IDE. How code translates to the machine, to the project, to the enterprise is irrelevant if they would-be software developer doesn't understand a control statement. Keep the focus on the code before you introduce a way to make it easier. The learning curve is steep enough for some.

    That's my two cents.
  • Old School (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Sven Tuerpe (265795) <sven@gaosPASCAL.org minus language> on Monday May 22, 2006 @05:24AM (#15378889) Homepage

    You might want to read this short article: Musings of an "Old-School" Programmer [erudil.com] by Stephen B. Jenkins. I just found it in the May issue of Communications of the ACM. He describes how he works without an IDE and whay he thinks it is the best way of working for him.

Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. -- Thomas Alva Edison

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