I have been following an interesting discussion in BBC’s iPMblog/programme, around Susan Greenfield’s comments on how internet useand computer gaming is affecting the learning abilities of young’uns.Several of her assertions seem dodgy (particularly her comparison withreading) but, as she says, worth debating.A more positive outlook is given in a response by Julian Baggini, thebasic idea being that this new generation learns by experimentinginstead of by reading:[This audiocast may not work with old versions of Flash.]Baggini’s theories are in line with some of the issues I face inteaching: it seems that many students are not interested in goingthrough first principles and grasp the concepts before applying them,but start from a more intuitive level and then try to understand why theintuition fails. This is particularly relevant for the module oncompiler design, which is theory-heavy but on the other hand verypractical, but generally true for computer science, where it is easy toexperiment with many of the concepts. Students often ask for apractical component building a compiler, but unfortunately it is verydifficult to fit this in while covering other important bits within a 15CATs slot. In general it seems like learning by doing is a great idea -it’s just that it doesn’t fit within the constraints of the educationalsystem.I don’t know how much the differences that people are talking about inthe discussion are an effect of computers and how much it is actuallythe difference between young and not-so-young people. But from theresponses to Greenfield’s comments it is clear that IT has opened manynew opportunities for many people.