> On 6 Apr 2016, at 07:04, Linda McIver <linda.mci...@gmail.com> wrote:
> The main thing is that I want to teach them real skills that they can 
> continue to lose.


Nice to hear from you Linda! We have been thinking hard about error messages in 
Sonic Pi, which I guess has some similarity to your situation: 1) It is a 
domain specific language; 2) We’re very concerned that students should move 
past errors quickly, rather than becoming demotivated or having learning 
obstructed by irrelevant questions.

Our main approach has been to observe, based on lots of practical classroom 
usage, what kinds of error situation frequently arise out of the things 
students try to do, and then intercept and replace the standard (Ruby) compiler 
message with a piece of domain-specific advice. There have also been some cases 
where we were able to make particular kinds of error impossible, by 
preprocessing the student’s text before compiling to effectively provide more 
natural point-replacements for Ruby syntax.

For errors that drop through these, students still get the standard Ruby 
errors, which may not be very useful (though of course we provided the best 
support we could to try and direct students to a likely location of the problem 
in their source code). However, the cases that we did manage to trap probably 
accounted for 80 or 90% of the typical student problems, so there are probably 
some easy wins.

Alan Blackwell
Professor of Interdisciplinary Design, University of Cambridge
Further details from www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~afb21/

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