[Texas] brainstorming new ways to teach Python 101
bradallen137 at gmail.com
Fri Aug 6 05:33:19 CEST 2010
A couple of days ago we learned that our PyTexas 2010 volunteer teach
Python 101 had to drop out. Since the event is on Aug 28, we don't
have much time to find an instructor, or for that instructor to
prepare. We know students and other beginners are coming, so how can
we avert disaster?
Maybe it's time to come up with a different approach. Having an
instructor speak in front of a class has never sensationally
effective, anyway. Students often have trouble paying attention and
retaining lecture material, even when starting class with the best of
intentions. So why not risk trying something different?
I'd like to call for some new ideas, and to offer one for
consideration. Here goes:
Instead of burdening one volunteer to be the single teacher, let's
schedule one or two hours at the beginning of the day for *all
attendees* to be involved in the Python introduction for beginners.
The entire lot of experienced PyTexas attendees could act as tutors
simultaneously in an ad-hoc arrangement. Sound crazy, a recipe for
chaos? Maybe...but if we could figure out the right structure to make
it effective, everyone would be challenged and have fun.
According to our survey, over half of the respondents are experienced
Python developers, most of whom I think are capable of teaching, if
asked to explain a particular topic or faced with a chance to answer
specific student questions. Those who can't be bothered to volunteer
can just show up late, but I would expect most of the attendees to
step up to the challenge.
One idea for making this work would be to develop a strategy for
pairing up the students with the teachers who can explain what the
student needs to know. Here's how it might go:
0. We define a loose curricula in advance, listing all the core
fundamentals a student needs to understand. We can reference the
wealth of existing tutorials to build this curriculum.
1. This curriculum could be divided up into variously colored paper
tickets, each representing important learning milestones (red tickets
for installation basics, green tickets for how to run scripts, white
tickets for language fundamentals, blue tickets for collections,
2. At the beginning of class, each student would pick up a ticket of
each color for the part they needed to learn.
3. During class, students raise their hands waving a colored ticket in
the air to attract a tutor to come by and help them learn that
specific curriculum item.
4. When a student is satisfied they understand that item well enough,
the ticket is given to the tutor to keep, like a trophy.
5. At the end of class, success is gauged by how many tickets the
students still have. If any are left over, maybe time later in the day
can be found to resolve the remaining tickets.
This plan assumes that all the students bring a laptop, but I am not
sure that is going to be possible. We might have to ask tutors to use
their own laptops for teaching students who don't have one.
More information about the Texas