Yes, Students Can Learn to Love Computer Programming
as a computer science and tech- nology teacher at Gracemount High School in Edinburgh,
Scotland, I am always in search of the
best tools to engage my students and
help them grasp the value and relevance of programming.
Computer science courses tend to
incorporate complex development
COMAL, which use commands and
syntax that students find challenging
to understand. When students are
discouraged from pushing forward or
frustrated on day one because of the
programming language, it’s difficult to
regain their attention and interest.
Not long ago, the computing staff
at Gracemount learned about a development environment called LiveCode, created by an Edinburgh-based company named RunRev.
LiveCode is based on English with
easy-to-understand syntax and without the complex symbols at the center
of most computer languages. A modern descendent of natural-language
technologies, such as Apple’s Hyper-Card, LiveCode requires 90% less
code than the more traditional languages and can work across platforms
so students can create applications
for mobile devices, the web, PC, Mac,
Linux, or a server.
Our faculty was eager to test LiveCode and found that although it
compared to other languages, the
code was far more intuitive. For
example, if student developers want
the word Hello to appear when they
open the app they’re working on, they
write the following in LiveCode:
put theText begins with “Hello”
dent would have to write the following:
liveCode is based on english with easy-to-understand syntax and without the complex symbols at the center of most computer languages.
length).match(“Hello”) !=null; “
Interest in Programming Grows
The computing department has seen
firsthand how using the right development language and platform can bring
programming back to life for high
Immediately, I saw a marked change
in student interest and enthusiasm
for computer science and programming. Within two years, we doubled
the size of the program. In fact, students responded so well to the initial
LiveCode course that we have now
incorporated the language into our
standard grade, intermediate, higher,
and advanced higher courses as mandatory parts of the curriculum. We
have approximately 60 students in the
13–15 age group and around 40 at the
higher level taking LiveCode courses.
We are also in the middle of develop-
ing courses for the new set of Scottish
National Qualifications under a Cur-
riculum for Excellence, and RunRev is
working closely with us to develop a set
of assessment and moderation materials
for educators who wish to teach their
students programming using LiveCode.
Building Apps Easier with LiveCode
When I introduced LiveCode to
students in the classroom, they were
instantly engaged and eager to learn.
I no longer need to spend class time
helping students decipher symbols or
spot their mistakes in programming
because LiveCode allows them to
identify errors and make corrections
as they work. The result is instant-gratification programming, a concept
students are eager to experience.
Given the current curriculum, my
students primarily use LiveCode to