John Resig’s thoughts on Javascript as a First Language

Friday, December 23rd, 2011 | Business | by

John Resig posted on his site today, Javascript as a First Language.

His thoughts on why Javascript is a good fundamental programming language are interesting.  This is in reference to using it at Khan Academy to introduce computer programming.  For those who don’t know, Khan Academy is an amazing tool (Bill Gates is a fan of Khan Academy’s approach) for educating students.  There are many examples of students learning at significantly increased rates.

Watch the video John Resig (of jQuery fame) posted, and my notes and thoughts are below.

I had a traditional Computer Science background.  My first computer language was Basic on the Apple IIGS (thanks Apple for including Basic on your computers).  I learned HTML on my own very early on (back when LYNX was the typical browser).  It is weird to think of Javascript as a first language.

Javascript is an excellent, although controversial, choice to teach introductory computer programming in.

The positives are obvious.  It is a language that is widely used, and is widely available.   You don’t have to explain how to use gcc, or require someone to log on at a computer lab to do homework.  The browser is on every computer, and powers the web sites that students use (Facebook, Twitter, etc).  It is also commercially relevant.  There are more jobs asking for Javascript expertise, than Scheme (yet in college, I learned LISP, a predecessor of Scheme, before even hearing about JavaScript).

It is controversial though.  Javascript is a poor platform for introducing some of the fundamentals in other languages, such as typing, includes, the build process, and inheritance.  The “anal” academics will be upset with this decision.  Javascript is far from an idyllic programming language, and will likely cause some deep voids between opposing schools.

I’m looking forward to hearing updates on the progress with this.

Best of luck to Khan Academy and John Resig.


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