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Re: [The-Denver-Boulder-Linux-Meetup-Group] Beta Testers Wanted To Learn How To Program

From: Robert H.
Sent on: Saturday, March 10, 2012 11:10 AM
Thanks very much Kevin!  Sorry for the length of this message, but I wanted to give all the relevant info in one message for anyone who is interested in our C++ learning software.  I'm Robert Holder and my wife Janice Dugger and I are the ones working on this software, called FeetWetCoding.  It is free, open source software.  Our first priority is to try to make it FUN to learn programming!  Our second priority is to not do anything obviously stupid, like teaching bad programming habits.  We do things in the early exercises like use magic numbers in the code, but we feel the beginners need things simple and straightforward early on.  We intend to teach good programming habits as quickly as practically possible in the exercise sequence.

FeetWetCoding (FWC) is still in development and is incomplete so... it will be awhile before we have the basics of C++ covered.  Less than half of the basic exercises are done at this time.    Note that we are (trying to) work on this project daily, so the code is changing.  If you play with FWC and enjoy it, you might want to download it again in a few weeks to get new exercises, but realize that the progress you made in exercises you have already worked on will obviously not be present when you unzip the new download.

I wanted to add that we do need inexperienced testers because they are our target audience, but we would also welcome any feedback from experienced coders as well.  I'm going to individually contact the people who responded after I send this message, but for anyone who might be interested, here are links to information about our project:

http://goo.gl/D3JbY
Our Google+ project page, probably the most straightforward (and briefest!) intro summary.

https://github.com/FeetWetCoding/FeetWetCoding
Our software repository.  Click the ZIP button on the left side of that page to download our source .zip file.  For the latest source, switch from "master" to "threadtest" branch before clicking the ZIP button, which has our new threaded exercise framework.  Just click on "master" next to the ZIP button to switch branches.  The master branch is a few weeks old now i think.  We do development in branches other than the master branch so we don't accidentally hose up the default distro .zip downloadable.  I just pushed up to threadtest on github a few minutes ago, so that is our latest stuff.  The exercises numbered above 400 in Section05 Loops_Logic are works in progress... they're kinda hosed up right now.  But the other exercises are in reasonable shape I think.  Once we've debugged threadtest we will merge it into the dev branch where it belongs.  We hope to get this done this week, and merge the dev changes to the master branch for our next "official" release which we hope to complete before April.

http://feetwetcoding.com
has our online documentation, the same as the docs that are included in the master branch distro.

http://code.google.com/p/feetwetcoding/ google code page for our development issues.
http://groups.google.com/group/feetwetcoding a google groups forum (currently empty)

We've tried to design it so that someone can download our .zip from github, unzip it, click the README.html and have the basic info they need to get started. So we are mainly looking for feedback on three things:

1) Is the documentation clear?  We know it is very incomplete, but anything that is confusing or incorrect, we want to hear about.

2) The exercises are supposed to build on each other, sequentially.  We're trying to give our users small cognitive tools that build up over the course of the exercises.  The Types_Variables and Expressions_Syntax exercise sections are not what we would like, but it's difficult to do more than what we have there when the user doesn't yet know loops and conditionals.  So the pace and flow of the exercises, in terms of learning and building up mental tools to move forward, we would like any feedback on that.  Do the exercises progress too fast?  Too slow?  Also any errors or missing info in exercises are things we want to hear about.  All comments and suggestions are welcome!

3) We intend to make a short video or other tutorial explaining how to use the features of the Qt Creator IDE that our beginner users will need, or at least a documentation page with screenshots, but we don't have that yet.  Please *let us know* about anything you find confusing about Qt Creator so we can put that in our docs or a video.

...also, we develop on windows, but of course, we'd love to have people test this running on linux, or even Mac OS X.  So far the only problem we had running it on linux was something I can't quite remember at the moment, but I do remember it was really due to some goofiness in how windows handles filenames, or CRLF or something.  Any problems that show up running our software on linux that don't show up on Windows, we absolutely want to hear about.

We recommend checking the "Always save all files when building" box to speed up workflow in the Qt Creator IDE.  This option pops up the first time you try to run without saving your changes.  Also some handy Qt Creator IDE shortcuts:

CTRL-S -- Save current file changes
CTRL-SHIFT-S -- Save ALL open files with changes
CTRL-I -- Auto Indent current line, or selected lines

We recognize that it is a lot to throw an IDE at a total beginner.  We *hope* that we can simplify this down to just the few key concepts and knowledge that the beginner needs to get started using the Qt Creator IDE.  Qt has a lot of great videos at http://qt-project.org/videos but these are not suited for the beginner which is why we are going to try to create a few videos that are simple and easier for the beginner to digest.  Qt is a powerful toolkit, but the beginner not only doesn't need that power, we feel it is overwhelming to the beginner--heck it's often overwhelming to me too! :-)  Luckily, Janice understands Qt reasonably well.

You can reply to me through this email which is the one I am registered with on meetup.com, but you can also reach me at [address removed]

I will try to be available as +Robert Holder on my Google+ "hangout" (Google videoconferencing with screen-sharing) this week, so anyone can pop in with questions or just to say Hi! :-)  Just add me to your circles on Google+ and you will be able to see when I am in the video "hangout" or hit me up on google chat.

Thanks!  Anyone who is interested, please feel free to contact me with any questions, problems or feedback.  Janice and I both really appreciate the helping hand that has been extended to us from Kevin Fries and others at Denver Boulder Linux Meetup Group!  :-)  Thank you for your time and attention!

Regards,
Robert

On 3/9/2012 2:42 PM, Kevin wrote:

Last night one of our members demonstrated a really cool new tool that will allow a complete novice to learn how to program.  Here is a brief description of the tool:

  • It is graphics based, so many of the lessons use graphics to teach its concepts (loops, branching, etc)
  • It uses the QT graphics engine to provide the graphics,  this allows the tool to work on any machine that can support QT, which include Windows, Mac, and LInux
  • All the lessons that I saw used live code to produce something on the screen, then gave you another screen and asked you to alter the code to change the output... This allows the student to move slowly without having to start with "Hello World"
  • Runs locally on the machine

Last night, they mentioned that they would love to find 2-3 beta testers.  But... VERY important... the testers need to have no experience in programming, but is highly motivated to learn.

If you know of anybody that fits that criteria, please let me know so that I can forward their information to the beta program.  Having looked briefly at the program, I for one was impressed.  The lessons are being put together by a real, working, programmer.  So, there is an emphasis on teaching proper techniques, not shortcuts.

Kevin





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