[Edu-sig] Not well supported on the Mac?

Paul Fernhout pdfernhout@kurtz-fernhout.com
Sun, 28 May 2000 15:24:21 -0400


This is the reason I raised the issue of cross-platform support on this
list on Feb 4, 2000 ("Common Graphical Framework for Python
Tutorials?"). From what I read in comp.lang.python, TK support on the
Mac has historically been questionable (although the base command line
system otherwise works well).

My personal feeling is that widespread acceptance of CP4E absolutely
requires addressing seamless cross-platform support at the GUI level
(like Squeak or LearningWorks), as well as incorporating numerous
advanced features found to varying degrees in other systems (like
Squeak, LearningWorks, or Dr. Scheme).

Some discussion on edu-sig of needed features in Python to support CP4E
has been discouraged as "vaporware". There is much truth to comments
made here that people posting suggestions may have no plans or desire to
implement them any time soon. But I feel that it is equally true that it
is useful at the beginning to have some level of collaborative
discussion of system needs and features (and prior art) before it make
sense for anyone to make a big commitment to CP4E-specific
implementation. Many people who are not implementers can contribute to
such discussions based on their previous experience in education or with
educational software (in a sense, as "requirements analysts").

There is also much value in just discussing what one can do easily on
the PC with the existing implementation. I have greatly enjoyed your
posts on your personal experiences and examples doing so.

In many open ended systems with a body of useful scripts there are three
categories of participants.
Users: 90% use what is there (and complain/suggest and tell their
Authors: 9% write simple things and make minor improvements in existing
scripts. They know what the important/feasible issues are, and do much
of the support of the 90% in answering common questions, and making
simple fixes and changes.
Gurus: 1% understand the system through and through and do the bulk of
the implementation, and do much of the support of the 9%.

All three types of participants contribute in their own ways to making a
system a success. Each level recruits from the previous level
(World->User, User->Author, Author->Guru).

In the case of CP4E, this would imply:
Users: 90% of educators would use Python based materials that already
exist (scripts, tutorials, and exercises). This group explains to the
rest of the world why Python makes sense for education and where to get
materials. They make creative suggestions they can't implement (like
"Python should have a cross-platform GUI"), but in effect, these
suggestions and complaints are producing "requirements".
Authors: 9% of educators might write simple new materials, or improve a
script or extend an exercise. This group helps support the 90% with
minor customizations, and encourages some users to become authors.
Gurus: 1% of educators are going to make significant changes or
additions to Python and related educational materials to support CP4E.
Much of these improvements are driven by observation of the 90% and more
direct interaction with the 9%. This group encourages some authors to do
bigger projects (especially if they complain or suggest too much :-) and
take over aspects of system maintenance (becoming gurus).

In the case of the Mac issue, which is a deep issue, only 1% of
educators could do something about this, and only a fraction will be
interested. So, this means we probably need about 1000 educators
involved with CP4E to get this Mac support issue resolved (900 users, 90
authors, and 10 gurus, of which one guru will be a Mac enthusiast and
also interested in resolving cross-platform issues).

-Paul Fernhout
Kurtz-Fernhout Software 
Developers of custom software and educational simulations
Creators of the Garden with Insight(TM) garden simulator

Kirby Urner wrote:
> In a thread starting at:
> http://forum.swarthmore.edu/epigone/geometry-research/pefrorsken
> Clifford J. Nelson advises me to forsake a Python-based
> approach for another language called Clean, because
> "Python is not supported well for the Mac."
> I thought I'd run that by comp.lang.python, as well as
> the Python edu-sig.  Given the importance of Mac technology
> in the schools, limitations re Python on that platform
> are of some relevance to the "Computer Programming for
> Everyone" (CP4E) thread.
> [snip]
> Kirby