Posted by: Barinas | September 21, 2012

The Power of PHP

I was thinking about how we can make use of all three CAI (Computer-Assisted Instruction) frameworks: Tutor, Tutee, and Tool.  Of the three, Tool is the most popular, whereas Tutee is often regarded as the most challenging, since in this one requires the student to teach the computer to do something by way of (ugh!)… programming.

Clearly, Tutee CAI entails that both instructors and students have the technical know-how to do at least basic programming.   That’s clearly no walk in the park for many.  We are for the most part familiar with social media and popular computer peripherals (printers, scanners, pc cameras, etc), but that doesn’t necessarily mean we are drawn to command lines (remember DOS?) or sifting through hundreds lines of mind-numbing computer code.  However, Tutee-based CAI does not need to be the exclusive realm of Computer Science professors and students.  The reason why is described in three letters: PHP.  As stated in its home site, “PHP is a widely-used general-purpose scripting language that is especially suited for Web development and can be embedded into HTML”.

If that came across like a lot of technical mumbo-jumbo, then fear not.  What it basically means is that PHP is a computer language that people use to write websites.   I came across PHP after dabbling with web design for a while.  I no longer spend too much time writing PHP, but I gravitated towards it, because I found it easier to grasp and proofread than the other computer languages.

As a quick example.  If you want a webpage to say “Hello, I am Pedro”.  You would write:

<?php 

print ‘Hello, I am Pedro’;

?>

Easy, right?  Surely it gets more complex (just think of all the lines of PHP code that it takes to write the functionality and all the cool bells and whistles that you see in Facebook or even yet, here at WordPress.com).  But higher-level code is not what we are interested in.  We just need to write basic PHP for Tutee CAI.

I think that for math students in particular, using PHP would be extremely helpful under Tutee CAI.    Say a student wants to tell the computer “hey, if a+b=c, a=2 and b=3, then if you see c=5 say ‘that is correct!’.  Otherwise, say ‘that is incorrect’)”.

A student would therefore write a “if-this-happens-then-do-that” type of statement like:

<?php

$a = 3;  $b = 2;  $c = a+b;

if ($c == 5) {

print ‘That is correct!’;

} else {

print ‘That is incorrect!’;

}

?>

I think this is a great way to teach students how to think logically and organize their thinking while applying what they learn in math.  What do you think?  I know that the dollar symbol ($) is rather confusing, but it’s just part of the PHP grammar.  Do you think PHP-based Tutee CAI would be a good idea for at least pupils above eighth grade level?  I certainly think so!

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Responses

  1. Reblogged this on Sutoprise Avenue, A SutoCom Source.

  2. The logic of programming is important at any age. You share a great example with PHP, but there are some programming languages and interfaces that are much less intimidating, user-friendly, and immediately embraceable… Seymour Papert who was mentioned in that reading you are referencing, while at MIT developed the language LOGO – a language easy enough for elementary students to pick up. This language has become the backbone of Turtle Art and Microworlds – two applications that are specifically geared to both the young and old learner alike. Other applications like Scratch allow kids to create interesting things and learn to think logically, test hypothesis, debug/problem-solve, and create really interesting things. Today, we have applications that allow entry level folks to create apps for iOS or Android. Programming isn’t the “beast” that it used to be and we’d benefit from rethinking our previous experiences with it and notions of it. Even new web-based games like have many elements of programming (ie. Minecraft)I think it is primarily adults that hold kids back in many arenas, with this one in particular being a prime example.

    Check out Scratch. It’s free to download.

  3. I remember DOS. I also remember Basic programming on my Commodore Vic-20. I was amazed when i could make my name flash upon the screen. At one point i even created a video game (a very lame video game, but a game nonetheless). For me, learning and implementing Basic was no different than bringing out the paints and pencils and creating art. Looking back and knowing what i know now about left/right brain, Basic Programming was a perfect tool where both “brains” were being utilized at the same time. While the codes might have changed the process is still very similar, and is a great exercise in left/right brain activity.


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