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

kirby urner kirby.urner at gmail.com
Wed Mar 1 21:12:38 CET 2006

> 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.

OK, so like test-driven development.  Write a test.  Write a function that
passes the test.  Get a bunch of little pieces that work well.  Then (and
only then) start using these pieces to pass other tests (more complicated

In the world of structured programming, this meant:

def f:
def g:
def h:

def main:
   f; g; h

But today it might be more in terms of subclassing generic classes i.e. in
place of main call sequences, we have more specialized forms of composed and
inherited object.

> >     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.

Those weren't my words you were agreeing with, but I guess you knew.

I guess I don't see Python as currently very strong in the turtle graphics
department.  Maybe someday.  Maybe even soon.

I like spatial turtles, i.e. turtles that swim in XYZ, not just in XY.  I
played with doing that using Python + POV-Ray a long time ago, i.e. do your
movements, then publish a rendering of where you've been.  But that's all
pretty esoteric.  Too advanced for most beginners.

http://www.4dsolutions.net/ocn/numeracy3.html  (see 'mywalk.pov' --
ironically planar)

> > 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)

You mean with the -n switch?  Why not just use some other language that's
better at Turtles than Python? is my main question.  If you're going to use
Turtles as your primary pedagogy, I suggest Logo or some more sophisticated
3D turtle implementation (there's a 3D Logo no?).

Python doesn't have a strong literature.  Logo does.  This may change in
future, but for now, that's just the way it is.  If you forced me to use
Turtles today, I'd use Logo.

> 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.

Again, I don't think turtle graphics is an essential first step.  But IF it
is, then why not use something other than Python?  Like Logo?

> 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.

Why is Logo out of date?  Use it for 3 classes (?) to set the stage, get
through with the turtle stuff, then turn to Python or something else.  This
idea that we should pick just one language and use it for everything,
regardless, is to be avoided.  That's not the real world.

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.

I don't disagree with this.  I just don't see it as a high priority.  I'm
fine with the idea of using Logo for awhile, moving to Python when the
students are more sophisticated and don't need a turtle to motivate their
interest.  Many students I work with wouldn't agree to use a turtle.  That's
something for little kids.  They're more hungry to become adults.

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.

Which doesn't concern me, per above.   If Python *never* had a strong turtle
graphics capability, I would shed no tears.  But if it does, so much the
better.  I have *no* reason to get in your way on improving Python's turtle
abilities.  I'm just not seeing these efforts as critical to my own plans
i.e. as we say in idiomatic language "I'm not holding my breath".

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,
> fortunately.
> Regards,
> Gregor

Yes, I think we're in agreement.  I plan to stop saying anything on this
topic, as I'm afraid I will be cast as "anti- turtle".  For political
reasons, I want Seymour Papert to like me.  Alan Kay too.  I hope that's OK
with Arthur (whom I like a great deal).

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