Universiteit Leiden

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Programming is easy to learn

The easy-to-learn programming language Hedy has been used more than 100,000 times in no more than 9 months. Felienne Hermans was a guest in the broadcast of the radio program Science071 to tell more about it.

Programming education as teaching a language

Programming is becoming more and more important and we would like to teach elementary school children how to program. ‘But,’ says Hermans, ‘research at an American university shows that half of the programs students between 18 and 20 years old write still contain a syntax error.’ Hermans concludes that if even they have problems learning a programming language, it will be really difficult for elementary school children to learn. That is why she decides to look at the way children learn to write a normal language. She sees that this goes in steps: first the lower case letters, then the upper case letters, then the punctuation. According to this principle she builds Hedy, a simple programming language that should serve as a stepping stone to a real programming language. In different levels of increasing difficulty children will learn more and more rules and get closer to the real programming language. 

Global success

Partly because of COVID-19, the program quickly became popular. Hermans says that it has also become a worldwide success because other programmers translated Hedy into Spanish, Portuguese and French. In the meantime, more than 100,000 programs have been created, a milestone. Hermans sees this as a good development: ‘In the world we live in now, it is important that children understand something of what is happening on the internet. So that they understand what it took to get a program like Zoom on your computer screen, for example.’

Listen the whole interview with Felienne Hermans on SleutelstadFM (in Dutch).

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