With the release of the raspberry pi, a lot of words have been flying around the information super high tubes about why getting children to learn to program computers is so important.
BBC’s click informs us that the first users of cars became enthusiasts and learned how they worked. We are told that using programs is akin to reading but that programming is akin to writing. The guardian tells us that children will learn to control computers rather than being controlled by them.
However, I think that all of these explanations fall far short of Dijkstras view that computers are “radically novel.” Meaning that no metaphor to previous technology can explain their relevance. Unlike the car, the VCR, the mp3 player, the word processor, the computer itself is a mathematical machine capable of “realising any mechanism that can be imagined.”
Until one understands the difference between pressing a button and seeing a light turn on as compared to the immense void of a blinking prompt that asks us to “imagine any possible mechanism” then our educational process is, ultimately, in vain.