[Edu-sig] teaching Python

John Zelle john.zelle at wartburg.edu
Wed Nov 24 16:10:29 CET 2004


Just a very quick note here. This is interesting background to your 
post, much appreciated.

Darren Payne wrote:

>Thanks for taking the time to reply to my post.
>I am very (very) fortunate - I teach in one of our

>gets in the way for about 3 months! After this I
>turned to Python and have used your book along with
>Michael Dawson's book. These classes progress very
>slowly - so we have only reached doing somehting with
>your graphics.py by the end of a 10 week term.
This is a problem with the published form of  my book. During the review 
process, there is a tendency  to add material to make some sections 
"more complete." There is tremendous pressure here, due fear that if you 
leave out something mentioned by any reviewer, you are losing potential 
adoptions. The end result is that what starts as a nice focused book 
turns into a bloated paper doorstop. While my book is less bloated than 
the average intro book, it's still not as slim as I'd like.

When I teach the class, I try to get to graphics very quickly. I do that 
by skipping or skimming large chunks of material in the beginning of the 
book. I don't dwell on chapters 1 and 2, since those topics will recurr 
over and over again. I simply skip much of Chapter 4, just covering the 
basic string operations. In fact, you could easily skip the entire 
chapter and just jump to graphics. I think the younger my audience, the 
quicker I would go to Chapter 5.

> I keep
>arguing with myself trying to work out how to get the
>students doing more rather than me having to work it
>out and then show them every step - but if  i don't do
>the latter they just sit there and play on the
>So now I have turned to gamemaker. You are
>corect with regards algorithms and data representation
>etc .... however I am making great use of the
>tutorials from the gamemaker. Students are given these
>to work through and "DO" using different sprites,
>sounds etc. The good thing is the really keen kids are
>asking questions that "require" them to learn what you
>talk of. In short Python / Java - whole bunch of stuff
>to learn and be quite good at before we can "DO"
>something interesting. Gamemaker - "DO" interesting
>stuff straight up ... but if you want to tweak it in
>any way ... then you have to learn data structures,
>variables, OO, data representation etc.
This and Kirby's post have convinved me that, at least for your better 
students, Gamemaker is giving them something of lasting value. If it 
piques their curiousity about programming, maybe you can at least get 
some of them pointed to computing studies later in their academic careers.


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