[Edu-sig] re: Python Programming: An Introduction to ComputerScience

Laura Creighton lac at strakt.com
Sat Dec 13 18:21:11 EST 2003

In a message of Sat, 13 Dec 2003 13:09:10 PST, "Kirby Urner" writes:
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: edu-sig-bounces at python.org [mailto:edu-sig-bounces at python.org] On
>> Behalf Of Jeffrey Elkner
>> Sent: Saturday, December 13, 2003 12:28 PM
>> To: Edu-sig
>> Cc: Toby Donaldson
>> Subject: Re: [Edu-sig] re: Python Programming: An Introduction to
>> ComputerScience
>> I completely agree with Toby on this.  I've already managed to make
>> Python the CS1 language at Yorktown High, but it hasn't reached beyond
>> the hard core geek community.  If we really want to popularize it to a
>> broader audience, it needs to fill the space taken by VB (at the high
>> school) or what Logo used to do (at the middle school).
>I guess I don't see how Logo makes a good case.  It never went anywhere m
>beyond middle school.  No Hubble stuff is done in Logo.
>I guess my question is, what's being used outside the "hard core geek
>community" that CS1 doesn't reach?  VB?  Or is it just that programming
>itself is still not a very widespread activity, using any language?

I think the second.

>In my view, we need more programming in the mathematics curriculum, which
>means recognizing that writing programs is likewise a way of writing
>mathematics. Or, more accurately, I'd say both kinds of writing are similar
>kinds of symbolic activity which deserve a prime spot in K-12 education.
>In the math curriculum, the real competition is not some other language, 
>calculators (I guess the TI programming language might count -- but my
>impression is more HS math teachers than students actually bother with th
>programming part).
>Numeracy, the equivalent of literacy with regard to prose and poetry,
>involves programming, mathematics, data visualizations, puzzle solving,
>logic, simulations, and other such.  Numeracy and literacy connect at many

I think that a problem we have is that programming is seen to be tied to
math, and numeracy, (as is problem solving in general) rather that
literacy, and the arts and humanities in general.  I think that we
could make a tremendous push for the number of people who are programming
at all if we made courses on 'data mining for the humanities' and the
like.  How to write programs to take the information from some website
and do something useful with it.  The problem I see when teaching 
non-technical people how to program, is how little their expectation
of 'what programming would be good for' has to do with the sort of
problems that they have in their lives.  But I have a small following
of 'grandmothers who have taught themselves some python'.  They needed
a computer program to take a list of their friends and then make
mime attatchments of the digital pictures they had made of their
grandchildren, and mail them to everybody on their mailing list
without having to mouse click and do things by hand, which takes hours.
But not too many non-nerds know that programming is good for repetative
tasks like this.  


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