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Communications of the ACM

Teaching “about programming”


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This paper presents the goals and organization of a course about programming designed to provide entering students in a graduate program with a cultural enrichment in their professional lives. The students are expected to have taken at least two programming courses prior to this one and, therefore, to be familiar with at least two programming languages, both as students and users. Teaching someone how to program is similar to teaching him to play a musical instrument: neither skill can be taught—they must be learned. However, the teacher still serves several vital purposes: to present a set of rules for producing well-formed utterances; to offer numerous demonstrations of his own skill; and to function as an involved critic. Finally, the teacher is the source of information about the process in which the student is involved.

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