[Edu-sig] Beyond CP4E

Kirby Urner urnerk at qwest.net
Thu Apr 14 21:20:48 CEST 2005

> Like Arthur, I'm not wholly in favor of computers in schools.  I don't
> think teachers are very well prepared to present computers, and there
> is plenty for kids to learn in schools already.  On the other hand, if
> kids are being exposed to computers, I think they should learn to
> program them, not use them as incomprehensible black boxes, and I think
> Python is the best way forward for that.
> In my daughter's school I see both poor uses of computers, and
> innovative uses (the language learning lab in particular).

A tentative plan in my daughter's school is for me to teach a Python class
next year over a period of several weeks (parents are allowed to do that at
this public school, strangely enough, and it works well (we don't compete
with the union, because we're unpaid) -- my wife is doing a class in
mandalas that meets again today as a matter of fact).  

However, this Python class will be preceded by another class in Scheme,
taught by the director of the computer lab.  He's going to take the
TeachScheme class this summer.  If time permits, I'd like to sit in on at
least some of his classes, to get a sense of that curriculum in action as
well.  Scheme is also taught at a nearby public high school.  But in most of
the state, the focus is still on Java (if programming is taught at all

However, we're not talking eight year olds here.  More like middle school.
And this is at a school that bills itself as technology-oriented (and it is
-- the computer lab director is very good).  Nor will this be the first
Python class they've had at Winterhaven.

On the other hand, we do get a complement of eight year olds and older who
have a strong interest in programming and who need opportunities.  So even
if the mainstream curriculum is focused on somewhat older kids, I find it
important to accommodate younger ones as well.

Just last night at our Python Meetup (about 7 of us showed), I met a pair of
coders with plenty of C++ experience, as well as Python, both doing
sophisticated work on multiple platforms.  Neither was old enough to legally
drink beer (Lucky Lab has other beverages).


> What are the best things we can imagine?
> --Dethe

I think we need to imagine Python-related things to keep a focus.  But that
still leaves plenty of latitude, as fab equipment might have Python
bindings, why not?  I'd like to see what fab equipment APIs look like.  Got
any examples on the web?

My dream is to put master teachers on the road, inside a fleet of cybervans,
and have them show up at schools to give inspiring presentations.  It's a
disruptive technology and curriculum, but in doses I think schools will be
able to handle, and to their long term benefit.  This might have to be a
government program, though private industry would get lots of contracts to
make it happen.


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