Ruby programming has received much attention in the past decade or so, especially with the advent of Ruby on Rails in 2005. While the blogosphere is abuzz with the latest on Ruby, let’s ask ourselves how, exactly, Ruby programming is conducive to an educational environment.
Of course, we could go into the relevance of Ruby programming, since if you’re receiving training in an educational environment to become a computer programmer, and you don’t know Ruby, then you are increasingly being left out of the loop so to speak. However, programming languages come and go, and education isn’t about trends; it’s about ideas that maintain value because they last.
Let’s then look at the philosophy behind Ruby programming and see how it is conducive to learning. For one, Ruby is flexible. It doesn’t have the rigidity of Java or PHP. In an environment that maximizes learning, flexibility is key. And Ruby is as flexible as they come. Yukihiro Matsumoto, the first creator of Ruby, noted what he was thinking about when he first began working on the programming language: “It’s kind of funny; when I used to develop in PHP or the stuff I did in Java, I was always looking for something else.”
Another great thing about Ruby is the enhanced capacity for creativity. As many Ruby users have noted, Ruby is more closely aligned with human thought. In this way, it’s much easier to use. And precisely because it’s easier to use, it’s more versatile when it comes to being creative.
A Ruby Programming slide show explains how Ruby enables creativity. It asserts that human beings lose productivity when they are stressed by “repetitive tasks, unnecessarily complex tasks, and by resolving problems that are not within the application domain.” Since Ruby effectively rids itself of these repetitive, machine-like tasks, there is more space opened up to be creative. With students especially, creative production is the key to learning effectively.
An aspect of the learning process that is absolutely critical to educational effectiveness is fun. We usually don’t think about fun when we think about education. But think back to your own school years. If you think carefully, you’ll know that the subjects that you learned the most and retained the most were those in which you were having fun. This fun of course, stems in part from creativity. When you are being productive, you are enjoying yourself.
Unlike other programming languages, you can do a lot with Ruby even if you are just in the initial learning stages. For students, the learning process is frustrating and hampered when little mistakes get in the way of picking up on bigger concepts. Whereas using programming languages like C++ can trip up the student easily because small mistakes in code cause the entire process to malfunction, Ruby doesn’t have these little first-time learner bumps.
Of course, these are just basic ways in which Ruby is the best learning tool for those interested in computer programming, especially beginners. However, just as in education as a whole, in which basic conceptual changes to the learning process lead students to better practices in learning, so too, does Ruby offer the possibility of easy, fun, creative learning by simple virtue of how the language itself is set up to work. In the final analysis, Ruby was made for students, both young and old, beginner and more advanced.