Tools for Teaching Adults to Program

We seem to be developing tools to teach younger and younger people to program. Kodu in theory is for students 8 and older but I know that some 6 and 7 years olds do very well with it. Last week I read about Scratch Jr which will be aimed at teaching programming to children from  preK to grade 3 (basically ages 4 to 8). I admit that the first question I asked myself is “is that too young?” Are children that age ready for programming? Maybe maybe not. But the second question that came to me was “what would programming tools designed for adults (say 25 plus) look like? Honestly I have no clue.

Now I have taught older students. In fact I recently wrote about teaching middle and high school students in the same class as adult learners. ( Young people and adults learn this stuff differently. The younger learners have less fear and are more likely to boldly try new things and accept things being “broken.” I’m not sure if the issue is the tool or the teaching style though. Or are there just basic differences in teaching adults that are not as much a factor of the tool as they are the nature of the students?

Could we come up with a better teaching tool for adults than what we have now? Or do we just want to adapt something of the way we teach with existing tools of the sort we use with young adults (16 to 25)? I’m open to suggestions here. Is anyone looking at this (or doing it regularly)? What works well with adult learners who have no prior programming experience? What do people recommend? Is what works in college just as good for people in their 30s, 40’s 50s, and up?

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