[Edu-sig] Edu-sig Digest, Vol 31, Issue 16

kirby urner kirby.urner at gmail.com
Wed Mar 1 18:31:29 CET 2006

On 2/28/06, Toby Donaldson <tjd at sfu.ca> wrote:
> As I pointed out in my message, the reason we use turtle graphics is
> to introduce the idea of functional decomposition and bottom-up
> development. I have little interest in graphics, personally.

Not sure what this means exactly, but I'm sure there're lots of ways to do

def g:...
def f:...
def h:...


It worked very well for our students, and the fact that turtle
> graphics is a toy is important: there's less anxiety playing with

By "toy" I meant something more like "broken toy" -- thinking specifically
of turtle.py on Windows.  One could argue that it's Window's that's the
broken toy in this picture.  I'd probably smile and nod.  I'm not
anti-turtle and certainly not anti-Python.  I tolerate Windows because I
love .NET (so far anyway -- my goal is to be teaching IronPython someday
soon, on Linux boxes as well).  Maybe at some future SIGCSE (if they stop
meeting in Texas -- I'm boycotting that state for the forseeable future,
won't go to any events there (Texas has screwed up the Oregon electrical
power scene big time, adding to my bill, messing with my quality of

> toys. I see many, many students who have zero experience with
> programming in high school, and exhibit more anxiety in the
> first-programming course than in a math course (which at they least
> have a decade of experience with, even if they dislike the topic).
> Toby

The Shuttleworth Foundation in South Africa is looking at Logo | Squeak |
Python as a preferred pipeline.  The curriculum is designed for
self-teachers, home scholars, i.e. no cadre of "qualified teachers" need
apply.  In this model, we'll have gotten the turtle stuff out of the way (on
a first pass anyway) with Logo.  Python will be under no pressure to star as
a turtle graphics platform (it's not known for this now and it's an uphill
battle to win recognition for it in this niche).  Kids coming into Python
will already be highly familiar with turtle stuff, so we can allude to it
(in the curriculum, maybe a Moodle -- I've pointed them to two of mine), but
we don't introduce either programming or turtles using Python.

I'm brainstorming towards the day when high schoolers with no previous
programming experience will be the exception more than the rule.  That's
already the case here in Portland, in some schools anyway.  I hope South
Africa will get there shortly (you might think they have a long way to go,
but actually South Africa is poised for a great leap forward, in the Chinese
sense, but we hope without the same stumbling).

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