[Edu-sig] My experience teaching Python
Wed, 23 Feb 2000 12:18:22 +0100
Kirby Urner wrote:
> >I've taken a look at Learning Python and it doesn't seem to have the right
> >structure if you're completely new to programming. My friend bought it
> >and hasn't been too much use to her so far, though I expect it probably
> >will be later on.
> I like your approach Michael.
That's Martijn -- Michael is the guy whose thread I hijacked; my
apologies to Michael!
> Play in the interactive mode, show how
> this can be used to test your understanding of the various operators
> (sometimes I call them "toys" -- not in a deprecatory sense at all),
> then go right into combining statements into function defs (programs).
> This is a great segue from Logo (which many kids learn), which likewise
> has the interactive command line, plus the short, atomic procedures.
> A few comments:
> * Those who can use IDLE will probably find it a lot easier than Emacs.
> The newest IDLE even prompts for correct syntax, plus the stepwise
> debugger (still rudimentary) gives beginners a fun way to watch simple
> programs in action.
Probably true -- I myself am pretty unfamiliar with IDLE so far, though
(was just toying with it again yesterday), so I went with Emacs. For basic
editing both are fine, and I wasn't beyond that yet.
> * You can do a lot in interactive mode. I like to show students that
> it's more fun to calculate at the command line than on a TI. In
> part because calculators don't have any savvy about alpha operations,
> like 3*"CAT" = "CATCATCAT". Yet modern mathematics is a lot about
> symbolic manipulation beyond what we do with numbers.
Yes, I showed things like this. You can do some amusing things there, which
will keep the students happy.
> * Keep in mind that you, as a teacher, can pre-write simple modules
> which, when loaded, do interesting things at the command line.
That's a good idea -- I'll try that approach.
> Then invite students to look at your code.
[learning by studying other programs]
I did some of this, but it's probably good to put some more emphasis on this.
> If you haven't taken a peak, I invite you to check out my 3 part essay
> integrating learning Python within in a math class context.
These links don't seem to work, unfortunately!
> My approach dovetails with yours, in that I'm focussing on the
> interactive command line at the start. What's not explicit in these
> pages is a lot of nuts and bolts about "types" (int, float, string),
> which you get into, nor even data structures (list, tuple, dictionary).
> This isn't because I'd want to skip any of this. But first I want
> to get students to "buy in" by seeing Python do a lot of relevant
> work. Then we start dissecting the code, and phasing in the nuts
> and bolts stuff using a more "and by the way" approach. Start by
> showing relevance, then get into the guts of programming.
The problem in my case is that there's no 'relevance' as such yet; your
students are in a math class, mine are in a 'what's programming all about'
class and don't have clear goals yet.
[recursion versus procedural]
I hadn't gotten far enough yet to introduce those concepts. :)
Thanks for the feedback!