[Edu-sig] Creating worlds -- graphical interfaces

Jim Harrison jhrsn@pop.pitt.edu
Sat, 05 Feb 2000 16:58:17 -0500

re Stephen Figgins' and John Maxwell's discussion:

>> On the subject of providing worlds, not providing worlds, etc.  Don't
>> we already live in a world with interesting problems to solve?  I
>> would rather see something grounded in the real world - or at least,
>> the real internet world.

The point is that you need to select problems that the students will find
motivating. The nature of the most motivating problems will vary among
different groups of students of different age and background. The
manipulation of graphical objects on screen is a useful task for younger
students because it is highly motivating and it provides immediate feedback
about the correctness of a program's logic.

To be successful with younger students, Python needs both a straightforward
development IDE and tight integration with a cross-platform GUI library that
covers Mac, Windows and Linux. I've not done GUI development with Python
yet, but my impression is that Tkinter is a bit unwieldy, particularly on
the Mac where there are residual problems with menubar swapping. wxWindows
and wxPython looked pretty good at the Python conference. Though a Mac
version of wxPython isn't available yet, Mac wxWindows 2 is out and I
understand that wxPython for Mac should be straightforward.

Would it make sense to explicitly choose a GUI package (like wxWindows) to
integrate with Python for educational work? If that were done, perhaps some
standard tools could be developed in the forthcoming IDE that would allow
young students to add a subset of GUI features to their programs in a
straightforward way.

Jim Harrison
Univ. of Pittsburgh