An automated domain name renewal tripped today, reminding me of yet another project I had intended to work on, but haven't had the time to start abandoned.

program_a_problem.jpgThe idea started - and forgive me if I've written about this before, but I can't find it in the archives - when thinking about my old Bytes Brothers books.  The Bytes Brothers mysteries were a series of books with short "mysteries" that the brothers solve using the family computer and some BASIC programming.  The stories present a problem (usually quite fabricated) and usually a short program listing as part of the solution.  By following along with the story, readers get interested in solving the mystery and can try to solve them on their own by writing their own versions of the programs, or expanding on the ones provided.

What interests me about the book is that while it's geared toward kids who are beginners, it requires a minimal knowledge of BASIC to get going.  You can probably figure out the code if you read through it, and it's explained well in the examples, but you need to know how to, for example, run BASIC programs in advance of applying any of this knowledge.  So what is this book?

It's directed practice.  Each story presents an interesting puzzle that can be solved by practicing programming.  The fun part of these books is that the exercises are not pointless drills.  This is unlike most classroom learning, where a concept is discussed, a set of meaningless data is provided, and the solution must be found.  It's practice, but it's not compelling.

But this is just an example of one practice domain.  I think it would be useful to have a self-directed library of practice materials for many domains.  If you wanted to learn woodworking, for example, a set of practice routines could be available that would give you mastery over specific woodworking techniques while also completing useful projects.  This way, you may end up with a birdhouse (or hopefully something more useful) or two, rather than just a bunch of wood with dovetail joints cut into them.

Anyway, this was the plan for the domain that renewed today.  A website to allow people to produce and access these practice materials.  I'm not sure where the materials would come from, although my initial plans had something to do with getting the kids off the couch for the summer to have fun and/or make money while gaining some practical skills.  But that's yet another plan for yet another day...