Graphical Programming is…. Not New
On my flight to Pittsburgh for Fred Forward I had the good luck to be seated next to Bob Duet, an electrical engineer for Westinghouse who expressed interest in my well-scribbled copy of the Pew Researcher Center’s Digital Life in 2025 (highly recommended reading for anyone interested in… well… humans and/or information).
Bob and I talked about what each of us does for living, and I explained that I work with kids & iPads in libraries, how literacy is changing, how there are visual programming interfaces for young children now (Scratch Jr– coming to an iPad near you this summer!), and that programming has become a basic literacy skill. I needn’t have explained what that meant, because it turns out that my new friend Bob uses LabView, a graphical programming language, to test equipment for use in nuclear reactors. This last fact was which was especially interesting to me because my Dad built nuclear reactors on three continents before retiring to the wilds of Vancouver Island to commune with nature (Hi Mom and Dad! How’s the goose doing?)
Bob fired up his computer and did a demo for me (pictured above), and explained how pictorial representation of programming functions are much easier for non-programming experts to interact with, and that the transition from text-based coding to graphical coding has made his job faster, easier and less prone to human error. I learned also that LabView is the language used in Lego Mindstorms, which I’ve been thinking about trying at home with my 4 year old son.
Bob says that “graphical programming languages are more intuitive than text based languages, and would probably hold a child’s interest more, and be more accessible at an earlier age.” A picture is worth a thousand words, indeed!
I asked if LabView could be used to write or tell stories with children, and the answer was a resounding yes. Bob did this with his daughter a decade ago (she’s now 19), so apparently this idea is only new to me. By these new definitions of literacy, I am not only mostly illiterate, I’m also woefully behind the times.
Oh, and here’s a pic with the goose.