[Edu-sig] Shuttleworth Summit

Radenski, Atanas radenski at chapman.edu
Wed Apr 26 01:35:47 CEST 2006

> -----Original Message-----
> From: edu-sig-bounces at python.org [mailto:edu-sig-bounces at python.org]
> Behalf Of Winston Wolff
[ ... del ... ]
> But I think that we are often focusing in on little pieces
> whereas we need to get a big picture first.  Furthermore, I know as
> computer scientist I naturally look at details and enjoy technical
> solutions, whereas the system we are discussing is a human system: a
> student, her environment, her peers, teachers, parents, principals.
> The distinction is important but I often miss it because I love
> concentrating on source code for long stretches at a time and lose my
> perspective of the people involved.  The critical thing is that any
> software solution will be a tool to help one of these people do their
> thing better.  

Very nicely said indeed. 

> Students [ ... del ... ]

>      - Students get excited about something and want to study it.  --

1. It seems to me that most people study because they have to, not
because  they are excited about it. For example, students are supposed
to go to school and get education to end up with good jobs. Even when
people get excited, most would procrastinate. Successful learning
usually happens when the learner is bound by required activities,
deadlines, and grading. (I am not saying that required activities
guarantee good learning but they help.) Unfortunately, independent
learning is a difficult process because most people do not seem to have
the necessary self-discipline. We tend to procrastinate and postpone. I
really want to learn Spanish so that I can go backpacking in Chile, I am
very excited about this (I have been excited for years) and even bought
texts and recordings; I started studying but cannot maintain the process
because I am not pressed to (no schedule, no deadlines, no required
activities, no grades). 

2. Even when students study because they are required to, students are
still *willing and ready to learn*. Getting them excited about the
subject matter helps. However, what is crucial to keep them going is
*success in what they are doing*. Who likes to fail? Normally nobody. We
all like to succeed in what we are doing, no matter what we are doing.
Thus, our students need to be given a chance to succeed. 

Making it through and succeeding is what really makes people excited. "I
made it! I made it!" What can be more motivational than this feeling? It
does not matter that much what exactly you are doing, what matters is
that you succeed rather than fail. Do you like failing? Most people hate
to fail. Students hate to fail - not necessarily in terms of grades (in
a narrow sense) but in managing required activities in general.

3. Even when students succeed, they need to understand how they
succeeded. (Imagine a student who made his GUI work but who does not
actually understand event handling, for example.) To keep students
motivated success in not enough. They need to *feel they are in

We try to entertain students too much sometimes. Games are entertaining,
graphics is entertaining, GUIs are entertaining, etc. What is in fact
entertaining and motivating is:

(1) succeeding in what you are doing, and 

(2) being in control while succeeding.

If students succeed and understand games, GUIs, or graphics, or anything
else for that matter, they will be happy. It they make it through the
required activities but are not sure if they understand it, they may not
be as happy. If they fail, they will hate it, graphics, games, whatever.

[ ... del ... ]

What is it that makes Python a better educational language in comparison
to other languages? 

It is not necessarily the possibility to program graphics or games or
GUIs. What gives Python a real edge is the opportunity to design courses
in which students (1) succeed in what you are doing and (2) understand
what they are doing(i.e., are in control while succeeding). For some
reasons, Python is better suited to achieve this than many other

At least this is what I believe in.


Atanas Radenski      
mailto:radenski at chapman.edu      http://www.chapman.edu/~radenski/
If you think you are boring your audience, go slower not faster --
Gustav Mahler

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