[R] GUI's for teaching

Richard Rowe Richard.Rowe at jcu.edu.au
Thu Jun 27 01:25:10 CEST 2002

At 15:03 26/06/02 -0400, Mike Prager wrote:
>At 6/25/2002 at 08:26 AM, Jonathan Baron wrote:
>>The reference card is in the contributed documents section of CRAN and 
>>below.  Students do use it.  But a GUI would make them happier (but not 
>>enough for me to spend time trying to make one).
>A reference card would be great, and I'd love to see an *electronic* 
>reference card that could be popped up easily without wading through many 
>branches of a help system.  A big plus in such an electronic reference 
>card would be room for the user's own notes.

Borland's turbo pascal used to have something in this line (w'out user 
notes!) - but I expect producing such a tool would drain far too much 
programmer time away from core interests

>Unless a GUI somehow records the steps of analysis that has been 
>performed, it negates the value of a program as a teaching and learning 
>tool.  How can one critique an analysis without knowing how it was 
>performed?  This is the same problem one has in trying to debug an 
>analysis done in a spreadsheet. With no source code for the mathematical 
>manipulations, how can they be reviewed, unless one goes cell by cell by 

polemic: ten years ago we used to take a class of biologists and teach them 
sufficient fortran in a weekend to have them moderately competent 
programmers.  Now we 'teach' the equivalent classes using GUI packages and 
for the most part the students hunt, peck, click and hope through the 
options menus ... this modus operandi seems to underlie much of the GUI 
philosophy as applied to wordprocessors etc, etc and it gets carried over 
to wherever else they encounter the interface including data analysis.
meiosis isn't mitosis, psychical isn't physical ...
You can tell I'm marking exam scripts ... ,

Richard Rowe
Senior Lecturer
Department of Zoology and Tropical Ecology, James Cook University
Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia
fax (61)7 47 25 1570
phone (61)7 47 81 4851
e-mail: Richard.Rowe at jcu.edu.au

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