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

Gregor Lingl glingl at aon.at
Wed Mar 1 19:49:48 CET 2006

kirby urner schrieb:
> On 2/28/06, *Toby Donaldson* <tjd at sfu.ca <mailto: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 this.
> def g:...
> def f:...
> def h:...
> h(g(f(x)))
> f(h(g(x)))
> h(h(g(f(h(g(x)))))
> whatever.

I suppose, that this is a misunderstanding. In the logo world of 
computing with beginners, this means to decompose somewhat complex
tastks in tiny peaces and write functions for those, wich then
can be assembled to solve the complex task. This is the ordinary
meaning of bottum-up development.
>     It worked very well for our students, and the fact that turtle
>     graphics is a toy is important: there's less anxiety playing with

Right! But that doesn't meen that the toy should be poor. IMO it should
offer a rich set of means to solve different tasks. Or - as another
example, concerning turtle graphics - it should have good means for
animationa as are, for example, possibilities to set the speed of the
turtle movements or to set different turtle-shapes, maybe even gifs.
This makes programming much more interesting for learners.

> By "toy" I meant something more like "broken toy" -- thinking 
> specifically of turtle.py on Windows.  

There are easy ways to overcome this  and they are still mentioned
several times on this list. (It's not necessary to blame 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 living)).
>     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

There are a few important arguments why not to underestimate the
importance of a good turtle module in the Python distribution
(out of the box as vern ceder says).

1. Many of us are trying to further the use of Python as a first
programming language. For them and for their students this would
make a great advantage.

2. At least in  Europe there ar many teachers who have a good
Logo-experience. But now Logo seems to be largely out of date
and many are searching for a substitute.
As Python has an outstanding clear syntax (imho much clearer than
Logo, when it comes to programs beyond turtle-graphics), Python
would be a great cadidate. Had it a good turtle module, Python were
an even more seductive offer to all those teachers.

3. Compared to its presence in the software world *and* compared
to its adequacy as a teaching language, the presence of Python
in the educational area is relative is reatively weak.

So (many different) things should be done to improve the situation.
One of these could definitely be the construction of a better turtle 
module, which has apparently been started by now. That's a good thing.

Everybody hwo wants  (and has time to do so ;-( ), should support it. 
Those who prefer different ways, will (an already do) support those, 


> 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).
> Kirby
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Gregor Lingl
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Website: python4kids.net

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