[Edu-sig] Python @ Education: What are your problems?

Dr. David J. Ritchie djrassoc01@mindspring.com
Thu, 30 May 2002 08:58:20 -0500

Ingo Linkweiler wrote:

> Hello,
> are you using python for teaching programing?

Yes, I have used it over the last year for two middle school
computer clubs (6th graders - 8th graders) that meet once
per week for an hour after school. I have written a handout
(~60 pages) which the club sessions have let me classroom test
and I am in the process now of revising it based on the year's
experience for use with next year's computer clubs.

> I am just writing a diploma paper about python and want to know your
> experiences with python.
> What do you like when teaching python?

My main attraction for trying Python this year instead of Perl
(which I had done for several years previously) was the clarity of the
object-oriented approach that presents itself in Python as compared to
that in Perl where it is more buried and requires more of a stretch to
understand clearly what is going on.  I thought it was important to
give the kids more experience with object-oriented programming since
they are likely to see so much of that later if they go on in computing.

> What are your problems with python?

No particular problems.  The integration with Tk (as exemplified
by the bundle that includes both on the CD that comes with the
O'Reilly Learning Perl book is particularly helpful.  It isn't that I
am a fan of Tk -- any gui is fine -- it's that it is a smooth install to
get both so that there is less complication in getting staff to install it
on the school's computers.

> Are pupils/students having any
> problems or often asked questions?

No, they seem to have done fine.  One girl extended the adventure
game template I wrote for them to try to adapt so that it let the
characters move Northwest, Southwest, Northeast, and Southeast
in addition to NESW.  Mainly, she did a cut and paste job but she was
at it--including introducing bugs and figuring out what the problem was
and fixing them.  Of course, she was pretty experienced having taken
Perl from me two years earlier when she was in sixth grade.

> What do you dislike at python?

Nothing particularly.  It's fine. Perl's fine. They all have their uses.
The great thing about teaching either to 6th, 7th, and 8th graders is
that they have no context in which to interpret things so they don't
buy into religious wars about Perl vs. Python vs. Visual Basic vs.
C++ vs. Unix vs. Windows. So, I try to avoid communicating my
hang-ups to them in an effort to stave off yet another generation of
religious wars about those subjects.  For them, it's all about making the
computer do something and it doesn't matter to them much which it is.

> I hope you have many suggestions.

Good luck with your studies and survey.


Dr. David J. Ritchie, Sr.