4.5.7 The interactive interpreter

The interactive interpreter is a very powerful tool for debugging and interactive graphical work. However, it seemed that very few students used it for anything but the first exercise, in which they were explicitly told to do so; 78% agreed with the statement ``I did not use the interactive interpreter much after the first couple of exercises''(see Figure 3.10). This may change if the course is run on students who have never programmed before, who have no pre-disposition to typing a list of statements into a text file and having the interpreter run through them one-by-one.

Interestingly, there did seem to be a correlation between programming ability and use of the interactive interpreter; 30% of the most able students disagreed with the statement. This might be because the more experienced students are likely to be comfortable in command line environments, or they more quickly see the possibilities offered by interactive work. One or two even identified it's similarity with the BASIC interpreter, with which they had experience.

Perhaps the handbook should have been a little more directive in its use of the interactive environment; it is very useful as a debugging tool.