> This is the second statement I want to support with all emphasis. The
> /concepts/ are more important than any specific language skill at the end of
> the day. There is no need to teach every possible way (as mentioned somewhere
> else in this thread): the skillful will find the way, the less skillfull will
> work with what has been given to them.

I am currently in finals week for two courses I am teaching using Ruby  
at the Art Institute of Phoenix and I can attest whole heartedly to  
this sentiment.  With the caveat that I a have students that are  
either 50% programming / 50% art students or 100% art students and are  
taking a required course, my experience has been that the concepts are  
where people are getting hung up, not the syntax/language constructs.   
As a result I am changing my curriculum for next quarter to be MUCH  
heavier on non-computer related exercises that promote a healthy dose  
of critical thinking and problem solving abilities.  I?m not sue  
exactly what kind of students you are going to get but I find that  
critical thinking is a skill that needs to be developed a bit before  
going anywhere near an IDE.

As for a Ruby vs Scheme I have also found a fair amount of people have  
dabbled at least a little in programming related topics.  Perhaps it?s  
adding a Javascript do-dad to their website or (since these are  
artists) a simple Flash game.  The more familiar syntax of Ruby was a  
big win there.  It was especially rewarding to ask the students to  
?write? a program by just calling out some pseudocode which I could  
baby sit on the whiteboard as we came to a solution.  When it was all  
done I told them to type that into their editor and run it.  The Ruby  
syntax and the problem I had chosen went together very well and it  
really was a case of executable pseudocode which I think helped with  
some of the fears about the ?strangeness? of programming.

Now I only have 11 weeks while you have half a year so obviously your  
course can be a bit more full that mine bit I find that I can get up  
to objects but not cover them in any particular depth.  For our final  
projects we did a lot involving the File and Directory classes as many  
people wanted to write helper utilities to clean up files or rearrange  
them.  This practical application seems to have gone over pretty well  
as the students can see how this skill can benefit them on a day to  
day basis.  I?m not sure I could have gotten to the same point using  
something like Scheme (and yes, I did consider it for this course).

Hopefully this will be useful to you in some degree.  I plan on  
putting up all my course material and posting a link once I have  
incorporated the changes from this quarter.

David Koontz