[Edu-sig] Intro to Python course - followup

Kent Johnson kent37 at tds.net
Mon Nov 1 22:24:56 CET 2004

I am teaching "Introduction to Programming with Python" with a local 
adult ed program. Here is a status report:

There are seven students in the course, five women and two men, ranging 
in age from (my guess) late 20's to early 60's. Most of them have some 
previous programming experience, mostly long ago and far away. One of 
them is a refugee from a C++ class.

I am using "Python Programming for the absolute beginner" as the text. I 
think this was a good choice. The students seem to like and understand 
the book and they are able to do the exercises. I like the level of 
detail in the book; it is enough to do real work but not overwhelming.

I have been following the presentation in the book pretty closely, 
partly because it is a lot less work for me, but also because the book 
is well thought out and consistently builds on what has gone before. We 
cover one chapter a week.

I have taught five two-hour classes so far. We have covered through 
chapter 5, Lists and Dictionaries. The last class was great! I had quite 
a few notes from the chapter and was worried that I wouldn't get through 
them, but the class got it quickly and we went into some more advanced 
material. I did a lot of work with list comprehensions and even showed 
them compound data structures (lists of tuples, dicts mapping string to 
list) and decorate-sort-undecorate.

The best part of the class for me was to see the students catch on to 
how cool Python is. They were smiling and getting it. I honestly don't 
know how much they will retain of the more advanced material but for 
them to get a hint of how easy it is to work with data structures in 
Python was great.

The best student has written a real program already (a program that does 
something he cares about). It reads a CSV file and makes a consolidated 
index. It's pretty simple stuff but he figured out the file part and a 
simple CSV parser on his own. I showed him the csv module and he thought 
that would be very useful for other programs.

At the end of the class last week, after I demonstrated some 
particularly over-the-top bit of Python coolness, this student was 
thunderstruck. I wasn't sure if I had finally lost him, or if he was 
just blown away by how cool it was, so I asked him. He was blown away 
:-)) We're talking slack-jawed, slumped-back-in-the-seat amazement, folks!

I'm having a great time, too. I definitely want to do this again, maybe 
I will try a course for experienced programmers next time.


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