[Edu-sig] a modest proposal II

Jason L. Asbahr jason@crash.org
Sun, 06 Feb 2000 16:13:01 -0600

At 06:03 PM 2/4/00 -0500, Paul Fernhout wrote:
>A Smalltalk teaching product called LearningWorks
>http://learningworks.neometron.com/ includes specially designed starter
>browsers (and even limited debuggers!) where for example a student
>learns programming by sending Smalltalk messages to a square in a window
>connected to the browser. Please look at the pictures here for some
>ideas: <snip>

That's the subject of the video I mentioned in a previous post, 
LearningWorks.  Thanks for posting that, Paul!

The CP4E goal of enabling people to get under the hood and hack is
very exciting.  That is the attraction of Python for a lot of developers,
the "glue" aspect.  But calling it glue doesn't give Python enough 
credit -- Python is an elegant tool which allows one to focus more on
the problem domain, on the ends rather than on the means.  And since
there is a constantly expanding set of subsystems harnessed by Python
(sockets, OpenGL, XML, Numerical, CORBA, databases), Python becomes a 
natural and common facility for building and customizing solutions 
which combine and utilize other functional systems.  [1]

I find myself running into limitations on the systems I use every day
(Eudora, Palm Pilot, Visual Studio, my alarm clock, my stereo) and
thinking, "if this system was exposed to me in Python, *I could fix 

In addition to being an elegant language, Python is a very practical
language, which extremely valuable for a project like CP4E.  I hope
to see Python evolve to be a better language over time (P3k), but certainly 
for our purposes, it's pretty much there.   Assuming the ultimate point 
of CP4E is to empower individuals in an increasingly technological
society, any discussion of the educational aspects of teaching programming
should keep in mind that value is that the young programmers can actual
*do something* with what they are learning.  Hence the value of the
virtual world approach, the numeracy approach, the 3D graphics approach.
IMHO, anything else is secondary.

So, anyway, the forum here is new, but very dynamic, lots of signal, 
relatively little noise.  It may be necessary to split the discussion
eventually into more focused email groups, but if it happens, I for one 
expect to subscribe to all of them.  :-)


Jason Asbahr
Origin Systems, Inc.

[1]  The open source nature of Python and the Python community also has
     significant value.  It's not just free (as in beer), but it's all
     open.  The community creates a network effect, each new system
     developed or harnessed becomes available to the general group, 
     which finds new ways to use, extend, and combine.  This is
     extremely powerful, and (again IMHO) the driving force behind
     Python and, potentially, CP4E.