I was interested to read Mark Guzdial's discussion of spatial ability as a potential predictor for ability in math and computing. I've often pondered this with regard to my own teaching of computing, as well as for myself; however, my thoughts run the opposite way, as I am someone with severe spatial challenges who is also strong at computing and programming. Mark writes:
The "Geek Gene" question is, "Why is it that 20% of the kids in CS1 learn programming even if you threw them in a closet with a manual, and 20% of the kids never seem to get it? Do some kids just have a 'Geek Gene'?"
One of the really interesting findings I learned this week was that high spatial ability is a predictor for a major in mathematics and computer science at least in a study of mathematically precocious youth.
Reading the comments as well, I see Alan C. Kay responding thus:
And at a deeper level, it would be astounding if every child had the same propensities for grokking cause and effect relationships and chains of reasoning. I think a better ploy for general education is to embrace variation by having different strategies for different propensities. For subject x, it's a lucky child who has a lot of pre-wiring for it. But there's no shame for those who don't, to do enough extra skill learning to artificially build scaffolding that wasn't there. I think pedagogy is largely about how to help those who aren't blessed with supreme talents.
Speaking from my own experience, I firmly believe that my background in literature, languages, language theory, and philosophy have done more for my ability as a programmer than any programming course I ever took. That's not to say that what I did is what one should do. I took a circuitous route to get where I am now. But I find myself relying on lessons of grammar, narrative, logic, etc. more than I do on spatial models learned while studying comp sci. A model of language as language vs. spatial mappings is what I carry as my primary computing tool.
That's just me, a poor example and extreme edge case. But then, I wouldn't want others to think that lack of the 'Geek Gene' means you shouldn't try too.