[Chicago] Python in local school systems?

Michael Tobis mtobis at gmail.com
Thu Feb 1 03:20:27 CET 2007

On 1/31/07, Cosmin Stejerean <cstejerean at gmail.com> wrote:
> While I agree with Michael on the value of Python for teaching
> thinking skills and programming concepts, the problem will be
> convincing enough kids to sign up for the class. At the high school
> level most of the kids not interested in programming won't care about
> programming skills if they can't do something fun (build a board game,
> etc) and the few people that are interested in programming most likely
> already know enough to be bored to death by a class that covers
> thinking skills and for loops.

This is absolutely true. One thing you can do is set it up as a game.

see http://www.pythonchallenge.com/ for a good example. We would want to
make the path a bit smoother, but the idea is good. Lesson N+1 should be
invisible until Lesson N is complete. I call this Super Mario Nature. I have
believed for a long time that rigorous curriculum should be perceived as
more interesting than a Nintendo game, becuase, after all, it actually is.

We should emulate how the real world works and set up a social rather than a
solitary practice of computing. This may make life more difficult at first
for the introverted genius type kids,but it's a good model of how the real
world works.

We should definitely seek applications that are of interest to teenagers. I
think Mark Guzdial's (of Ga. Tech) approach of teaching programming as a
tool for art and music is especially promising. Unfortunately his curriculum
relied on Jython, which seems to be fading from the scene, so he has moved
his curriculum to Java.

I think more students will find Java boring and baffling than will find an
equivalent Python curriculum boring and baffling. So Guzdial's retreat to
Java is an unfortunate turn. Still, what he is doing is very promising.
(Look for his books on amazon.)

     The key to teaching folks thinking skills is to capture their
      imagination and make them want to learn more.


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