[Edu-sig] Starting Python

Andy Judkis ajudkis at verizon.net
Wed Jan 18 01:13:36 CET 2006

Hi Andrew,

I would have a look at RUR-PLE, at Livewires, and also the book Python Programming for the Absolute Beginner by Michael Dawson.

RUR-PLE is great for a little while, it's a little robot on the screen that can be programmed to  move around mazes and so forth using a very limited set of instructions.  It's quite an eye-opener to kids to see how a few simple constructs can lead to all kinds of unexpected behavior. Go to http://rur-ple.sourceforge.net/

I think that the Livewires stuff (http://www.ibiblio.org/obp/pyBiblio/livewires/course/) is a good follow-on to RUR-PLE.  It's very well organized as a Python module built on top of pygame plus a set of instructional material and game-oriented challenges.  I found that even these simple challenges are too hard for my kids (15 and 16 years old) to understand without a lot of additional hand-holding.

Beware of assuming that things that are obvious to those of us who are experienced programmers are going to be obvious to kids who've never programmed at all. The idea that someone with no previous exposure will find Python "readable" seems pretty optimistic to me -- I'm sure there are kids like that but I haven't had any in my classes.  Something as trivial as

        for val in range(10,0,-1):
                print val
        print "Blastoff!"

is not self-explanatory to normal people!

We're about to start a Python club of our own here at my school, perhaps we can trade notes, maybe have our kids email one another?  A bunch of the kids here are excited by the prospect of a regional programming competition for high-schoolers at New Jersey Institute of Technology (http://cs.njit.edu/contest/)  It's limited to Java and C++ this year but they said they'd consider expanding that list for next year. . . 


Andy Judkis
Academy of Allied Health and Science
Neptune, NJ
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