The ep5 Educational Broadcasting Foundation

educational content for public radio and television

The premise

Java has become, according to many sources, the world's foremost programming language. Oracle, the owner of Java, notes that several billion devices of all kinds, sizes, and degrees of complexity run Java. While software developers bicker endlessly about which language best suits one task or another, Java clearly does qualify as both a highly useful tool and one that can be learned with reasonable effort.

Java coffee cup logo

Mastering Java to the extent of correctly and appropriately utilizing all of its features requires a long-term commitment and a huge amount of hands-on experience over many years. Our objective is to enable the beginner with the interest but no experience to write fairly simple Java applications that actually accomplish useful work.

Our proposal comprises a first-iteration outline of a sequence of thirty-nine episodes in the public television educational series, The Art of Programming (working title), using the Java language. It will be subject to on-going revision as the project progresses. Questions, comments, and suggestions should be sent to java@ep5.org for consideration; all submissions will be acknowledged. Some of them cheerfully.

Public television originated as a means of education as well as a source of entertainment. It is certain folly to attempt a television series that fails to provide any entertainment value, but it’s equally wrong to assume that entertainment and education must be mutually exclusive.

In recent years, the number of people interested in computer programming has grown, and public broadcasting has thus far failed to keep up. That there exists a void waiting to be filled may be inferred from the number of programming-related tutorial videos made by amateurs and ex-hibited on YouTube.

Public television now offers how-to and instructional programs dealing with painting, wood-working, music, pre-school education, arts & crafts, kids’ moral growth, stained glass, the yuppie lifestyle, metal spinning, photography, cultural diversity, ethnic tolerance, stringing beads (no, we didn't make that up), hunting and fishing, gardening, home economics, home improvement, travel, psychology, knitting, crocheting, sewing, quilting and the ever-popular art of scrapbooking.

Along with an endless stream of new cooking programs.

Doubtless, there are numerous other fields which have been and will be acknowledged by public TV, yet the absence of educational and documentary content on the creation of software becomes increasingly conspicuous with each passing year.

We believe that the time has come to remedy this deficiency. And, we are hardly alone in believing in the necessity for and value of teaching programming more widely. To quote from a BBC news article , “...the Hong Kong government aims to make computer programming a required subject for students as young as 11 years old.”

Further, we believe that success in such an undertaking requires understanding the audience extremely well. At ep5, we draw on our own experiences in self-taught Java, C#, and other languages in making the promise that public television has something of genuine value to offer the millions of Americans with a degree of interest in coding.

In this proposal, we explain why a public television series on software development with Java should be made, offer some insight into how this can be accomplished, and add a few words on why we should be the organization to do it.

We propose having the entire series of episodes stress the simple and beautiful fact that a piece of software has the capability of accomplishing something of value, precisely according to the intent and wishes of its creator.

We explain how the premise of teaching computer programming on public television is trans-formed from an iffy and debatable idea into a sound and defensible proposal by the incorporation of a series web-site for which the television program in effect serves as the front end. Moreover, we propose an unusual, if not unique, bit of experimental research into how television can teach programming.

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The question may occur to you, what can we offer in this series that is not available anywhere else?

An examination of the dynamic of learning a programming language, taken to its logical extreme, reveals that everything in the process is fixed and known, save for one critical core component of the process: the mechanism by which the ability to use language-specific complexity is conferred upon the student. The beguiling simplicity of this premise explains why it is routinely and predictably ignored by those who take it upon themselves to provide the resources available to and usable by students.

computer student

In conventional schools, teachers assume that the qualifications which enabled them to secure employment sufficiently establish their bona fides, while, elsewhere, amateur teachers do not even question their own ability to teach: they assume it as self-evident. In this document, we challenge this latter assumption and offer a better way.

In addition to the thousands embarking on a Computer Science program at university and additional thousands taking formal training courses, an uncountable number of people with an interest in programming undertake to learn it on their own. Is it not time that the resources available to them rose above the level of the haphazard and the amateurish and attained some degree of parity with those enjoyed by full-time students?

In this project, The ep5 Educational Broadcasting Foundation will partner with a university specialist to conduct a brief research effort to develop a simple and replicable methodology of effective self-learning of software development. Specific teaching practices will be developed through experimentation and then subjected to test and validation. We will then demonstrate these techniques in practice, in the form of this public television series.

In the full version of our proposal, we explain how this series can be built upon and expanded through the development of a Java-coded building automation system. In so doing, we make a substantial contribution to the greater good of the nation’s economy through the creation of a new industry with many jobs, as well as an equally meaningful contribution to solving the energy crisis.

A closing thought

exultant woman at computer

The average public television program is broadcast once and then, if it’s fortunate, repeated a few times before being consigned to dead storage. The entire investment in its cost of production has to be recouped in just a tiny number of forays out into the real world. The Art of Programming, by virtue of its intrinsic nature and because of how we propose to structure and present it, will continue to provide substantial public benefit for years. Please keep this in mind when considering both its merits and its price.

While only a few technical topics will prove to be a good fit for broadcast on public television, the educational resource represented by the web-site extends far beyond this limitation. The free availability of thorough, extensive, high quality training in skills having considerable vocational potential can leverage the funding spent on the production of this series into an asset of substantial value to the nation’s economy.

To the extent that the nation’s economic future depends upon mastery of high technology skills by those willing and able to learn, there will always be an on-going need for well thought-out and well-implemented tutorial content, delivered via a medium accessible by the greatest possible number of people aspiring to better themselves through education.

For this reason, while the underwriting requested for The Art of Programming will pay for this one 39-episode series, it will also create the foundation atop which can be built a long-term, on-going, singularly useful educational asset of real value to the American public.

There already exists an abundance of avenues, including public television, by which the public can be told about high technology. There already exists a structure of institutions which provide formal education and training to those able to commit to the time and the extraordinary expense of a university curriculum. Isn’t it time to create a means of giving hands-on, practical, usable training to those who want much more than to watch others using technology, yet cannot afford to devote four years and enormous expenditure to a degree program?

Please give this proposal the attention that the idea of a television series on computer programming warrants, and feel free to direct any questions, comments, and concerns to us.

Thank you.

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