May 7-10, 2017 Asilomar, California

Teaching Programming Languages by Experimental and Adversarial Thinking

Justin Pombrio, Shriram Krishnamurthi and Kathi Fisler

We present a new approach to teaching programming languages. Its essence is to view programming language learning as a natural science activity, where students probe languages experimentally to understand both the normal and extreme behaviors of their features. This has natural parallels to the “security mindset” of computer security, with languages taking the place of servers and other systems. The approach is modular (with minimal dependencies), incremental (it can be introduced slowly into existing classes), interoperable (it does not need to push out other, existing methods), and complementary (since it introduces a new mode of thinking).