Monday, October 16, 2006

Difference between Reading and Writing

OK, folks.. the few readers I have...

I'm going to ask a favor.

what is the difference in learning how to read versus learning how to write?

I am trying to figure out how to teach my students to read a different language, and my bosses are telling me I have to do so without teaching them how to write the same language.

I can't see any real difference. Syntax is syntax. Diction is diction. It doesn't matter whether you're reading or writing it... the rules don't change. Indeed, the rules cannot change!

Input is appreciated, even if I do get testy in my responses.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

My wife has a Masters' in Applied English Linguistics. I'll ask her.


Monday, October 16, 2006 at 12:21:00 PM CDT  
Anonymous The Dude said...

I'm like you on this one Wino. I don't see how you could learn to read without also at least understanding the writing part (even if you aren't a master of the mechanics part of writing).

It seems to me that the mind would have to associate the physical appearance of a letter/word with some meaning. So once the person learns to read a language, the writing part would only be limited by the person's mechanical ability to recreate the letters/words, which would be only a matter of practice as opposed to comprehension. I don't know if I'm expressing myself clearly here, but you probably get the gist of what I'm trying to say.

I guess a computer could be an example of reading without writing. It can execute lines of code (reading) without the ability to write those same lines of code. But the human brain isn't a computer. We infer things from past experiences. I don't believe computers (even with advances in AI) are anywhere close to the power of the human mind. Then again, I routinely get my butt whipped at chess by my computer, so what do I know? I'll stop rambling now before I muddy the water even more. But I do have one question for you Wino...


Monday, October 16, 2006 at 12:22:00 PM CDT  
Blogger Don said...

Good points, Dude, and Jaime (why not register? It's free and burden-free as well.)

Monday, October 16, 2006 at 12:31:00 PM CDT  
Blogger Don said...


You and I can both code computers. We see reading and writing as different from language. We have to, because computers don't think, they respond. If you give a computer a bad cue or bad instructions, it will do the wrong thing as easily as it will do the right thing, were the code to be different.

I've been tasked to teach people how to read PLC code, but not how to write it. I don't really see a difference. And if there is a difference, how do I gauge the difference among individuals, if such individuals are not supposed to be able to submit corrected code?

Monday, October 16, 2006 at 12:33:00 PM CDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I already have too many orphan registrations all over the place.

Someone who learns to read PLC diagrams, if he becomnes proficient enough in reading the diagrams, over time, with more exposure to vocabulary (switches, etc) will be able to code in PLC.

Knowledge of the target language is what determines how well someone can convert thought into written form.

Have you ever been at the harware store, knowing what you need but not knowing what it is called? Communication can occur with difficulty. But if you knew what the object is called then you can progress to another level of communications.


PS: I, also, am I computer guy. And a long long time ago I did work developing a PLC emulator. Which it could also, if connected to real inputs, make a PC work as a PLC.

Monday, October 16, 2006 at 12:43:00 PM CDT  
Anonymous The Dude said...

Now that definitely adds complexity to the problem. How can a person debug without knowing how to write in the language in the first place? So I'm guessing then that the goal is to be able to have your field people troubleshoot and correct PLC problems without also having the ability to completely tweak the code as they see fit.

The best I can come up with is to have some sort of redline markup procedure in place to where they submit changes for your approval before said changes are actually implemented. At any rate though, they would still have to have the ability to write the code in the first place to be able to understand it enough to debug it, at least that's my opinion.

I come at this from the electronics (hardware) side of things. Even though I may not have the authorization to make engineering changes without the approval of others, I have to have sufficient understanding of electronics engineering to be able to troubleshoot their creations. Such understanding (to me at least) infers the ability to design those same systems that I troubleshoot. Otherwise, how could I troubleshoot and/or fix them with any measure of effectiveness?

Monday, October 16, 2006 at 1:04:00 PM CDT  
Blogger Don said...

Hence my question:

Is there a difference between learning to write, and learning to read?

Note that I've changed the original hypothesis. Originally, this question read: Is there a difference between learning to read and learning to write?

Monday, October 16, 2006 at 1:08:00 PM CDT  
Anonymous The Dude said...

I hate to throw in the towel here, but I don't think it's 100% possible to do what they're asking of you. You'll have to teach them at least a rudimentary understanding of how to write before you can teach them debugging.

The best you could do would be to control access to the source code so that the modified code goes through an engineering approval process before it gets released. That's basically how we handle our documentation.

There's an ECN (engineering change notice) process in place to make sure that proposed changes go past several sets of eyes before they're implemented. Even at that, there are some who try to circumvent the process. As frustrating as the check and balance type system is sometimes, it does prevent some really stupid stuff from happening.

Monday, October 16, 2006 at 1:26:00 PM CDT  
Blogger Don said...

Thanks for your input, the Dude. I wonder what others have to say about it... Is it possible to teach someone to read, reliably and verifiably wihtout teaching them how to write?

Monday, October 16, 2006 at 1:29:00 PM CDT  
Blogger Duhmoose said...

Being a former Computer Science techer, I can tell you from my opinion, you can teach some one to write code without teaching them to read it, but not vice verse. What I mean is reading the code is more dificult since you have to follow another persons logic and be better versed in the language. However, when writing code, there are often times when you can do the same thing multiple ways, so you just do what you're most comfortable with.

Monday, October 16, 2006 at 1:35:00 PM CDT  
Blogger Smukke said...

I'll disagree with everybody... I can reliably read German, French & Spanish but I can't speak it and wouldn't dream of trying to write it. The difference is that I recognize the vocabulary words when I see them, but I haven't stored them into the part of my brain that lets me recall them for output. Similarly, I understand the words, but I don't remember the grammar I would need to produce sentences myself. (Think of a foreigner who completely understands spoken/written English but speak not goodly when because not knowing of how makes the sentencing.)

Similarly, I'm guessing a logical person could 'read' code without being able to write it properly. I can edit manuals and technical papers about subjects in which I have no expertise, simply by following their logic. I couldn't write the paper, but I can find errors in logic all day long.

Monday, October 16, 2006 at 2:46:00 PM CDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Talking about my experience.

Whether Spanish or English I cannot remember the rules of grammar if my life depended on it.

But I am fluent on both: reading, writing and spoken.

My Spanish is stuck at a native speaker's high school level.

In English I write like I read.

I used to read the Encyclopedia Britanica, National Geographic, my Dad's engineering/architectural magazines, etc.

Since 1978 I read in English just about 99.99% of the time. And that is the reason that I can write in English properly.

My vocabulary is well above average and my wife, who has taught English at the College level, says I am a good writer.

Monday, October 16, 2006 at 3:33:00 PM CDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The above was me, Jaime

Monday, October 16, 2006 at 3:34:00 PM CDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I got home and my oldest son just critiqued my post. Sigh

This is the son that might end up with a PhD in English, literature, or something along those lines.

Monday, October 16, 2006 at 3:37:00 PM CDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I sent my wife the text of your question and below is her response.

Where was this posted? What is the purpose of teaching the people how to read a second language? Do they speak and understand the target language? Are they literate in their native language? Does their native language have a written form? The teacher must consider the answers to these questions before determining whether the learners need to be able to write the target language.

That being said, there is a difference in the four major language skills: listening & understanding, speaking, reading, and writing. Both listening and reading are considered "passive." (Relatively speaking). Speaking and writing are active skills. However, listening, understanding, and speaking a language proceed naturally from living with other speaking human beings. Learning to read and write requires higher order processes and specific training in the symbols of a language.

Writing can be an effective tool for teaching reading. An entire curriculum is based on that notion: The Writing Road to Reading.

That help or make things worse?

Monday, October 16, 2006 at 3:42:00 PM CDT  
Blogger gtotracker said...

I'll drop this conversation down a few pay grades to my level. I routinely draw wire schematics or hand copies of the engineers' cad drawings to electricians. They may not understand motor control logic, or even speak English, but can read the drawing and complete the task. A system like this only works when someone who can trouble shoot and write changes to a schematic are on site, if problems arise.

the Dude nailed it on this point. How can you teach someone to read PLC logic without teaching them to write the PLC's proprietary language. You can't. Somebody who is bright enough understand the first will figure out the second anyway.

The scope of this project is probably defined by the end result, standardization. I can give five guys a motor schematic. If there is a mistake in the schematic and they can write changes, I get five motors wired five different ways. If they wire per the schematic I get five motors with a common mistake. A red-line flag or tag idea of id'ing problems so all fixes applied are the same makes sense.

Jaime, I assume pronounced 'H'aime, I tried to check out your site but the graphics are almost impossible for my 45 yo eyes to read. The font is too small, the background pic washes out the text, everybody is a critic, no? Your comments here and on LST today are well worth the while to read and will look for more. Please make the site old fart friendly.

Monday, October 16, 2006 at 8:38:00 PM CDT  
Blogger Don said...

Thanks, everyone, for your input. I guess we're still looking at this two different ways.

First off, there is no spoken PLC language, and therefore no listening skills are required.

What we're talking about is computer code. It has grammar, syntax, and diction, just like a standard written language.

So, logically, as was pointed out, there are nearly infinite possibilities on how to make a lamp come on when someone pushes a button, but each of those possibilities must follow the rules set forth by the language.

Secondly, there are five different ways to represent PLC code (see IEEE 1131 or IEC 31131 for examples and explanations). So, I need to teach them, at a minimum, how to read ladder logic (the basic skill) as well as how to read Statement List, which is more flexible than ladder, as well as smaller, and therefore preferred for all reasons other than legibility.

So, I need to teach them grammar, diction, and syntax for PLC's. I don't see how this can give them other than both reading and writing ability.

As far as changes, that's OK... I'm more concerned with them being able to read the code to see what sensors are involved in the logic, and, therefore, the most likely candidate for the fault. I'm not expecting them to fix code, but to identify proper wiring (loop checks or P&ID checks) as well as working or non-working field devices.

I assume that the code has worked or is working, but with errors. Bad code would require changes, but would only be authorized for proven field techs and proven field engineers. That's from experience, not from class. I'm only trying to get them able to figure out field devices from both types of code.

I know this is a lot, but maybe it helps to know that I'm NOT talking about a human language, here. It won't work if the grammar is wrong, or the wrong diction (word choice) is used. Error codes will pop up for many problems, so much of the tedium is done by computers, but the student will be expected to be able to open and read an existing program enough to be able to find which area is experiencing difficulties.

Monday, October 16, 2006 at 10:26:00 PM CDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To gtotracker: I'll see what I can do to improve readability. In the mean time highlight the text to be able to read it.

And thanks for visiting A Coqui Among the Magnolias.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006 at 9:36:00 AM CDT  
Blogger Don said...

IEC 61131, that is, for those keeping track.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006 at 1:21:00 AM CDT  

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