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Learning Ruby… going about learning a new programming language

I teach computer science at a small state college to pay the bills. One course that I regularly teach is “Objected-Oriented Programming and Design”. Our program is very C++ focused and this course is the class where we pound the more advanced aspects of C++ into our students and try to give them a flavor of other ways of doing OOP by introducing them to other object-oriented languages.

So… what other languages? In the past, I’ve taught the course by talking advanced C++, hitting Java pretty heavy, and doing a quick overview of Smalltalk to show students the “pure object” way of thinking. Teaching Smalltalk has been problematic… that language is so different from anything most of my students have seen that they go into vapor lock. Most of these folks are community college graduates looking to complete their four-year degrees (more on that in a future post) and haven’t had the deep dive background that you get in other programs. This has meant that I’ve had to go looking for a language that I can use to demonstrate the “pure object” idea without causing heads to go spinning out in the classroom.

That leads us to Ruby. I like the way that Dave Thomas described the language in one of his books:

Take a true object-oriented language, such as Smalltalk. Drop the unfamiliar syntax and move to more conventional, file-based source code. Now add in a good measure of the flexibility and convenience of languages such as Python and Perl.

So it appears that it will meet the needs of my course. However, it’s not a language that I’ve ever used for production development. I like to develop some ninja-level skills with a language before I have to try to teach it to other people.

So, oh Noble Readers, I intend to subject you to a series of posts that describe my experiences on learning Ruby. These posts will be the basis of my lecture materials for my class and will hopefully give you a feel about how someone like myself who has had the “fortune” of having learn many different programming language over time learns a new one.


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