[Edu-sig] Populating the lesson plans database: Squeak -> Python (reformatted)

kirby urner kirby.urner at gmail.com
Mon Feb 12 08:37:38 CET 2007

So I'm trying to figure out how much Smalltalk we want
to try teaching in the Squeak and eToys units pre Python.
My concern is the former may be harder to learn, but some
precocious youngsters are going to want to anyway, but
then will this make Python "harder" for them, simply
because it's "close but different" which could be confusing?

I might just be overgeneralizing from my own experience, of
living in Italy, picking up some Italian, while taking French
in a British then Americanish school, and later Spanish.
I found it hard to keep all these Romance languages from
fusing in my head.  Arabic came later (probably a lost cause
in my case).

My leaning is towards developing a "Python for Smalltalkers"
set of units, which assumes some familiarity with Smalltalk
jargon and concepts, such as messages to receivers, complete
encapsulation of data, a 'self' keyword, and compares these
with Python's, where data is not necessarily so private, and
'self', though used as a placeholder, is *not* a keyword per
se (I've seen some Japanese using 'ghost' (smile)).

For most middle schoolers, the previous paragraph might read
as gibberish, as they're still in Immersion Phase and just
like floating around in a fish tank or whatever Alice in
Wonderland dream world, interacting with the many exhibits,
learning Physics or whatever.  They're not yet into the cold
hard world of 100% lexical coding where "left brain" is king
(just kidding about the king part).  But those few who are,
like their adult counterparts, might appreciate the bridge
literature (screencasts included).

Such a literature already exists bridging Python and Scheme for
example, down to a Scheme interpreter written in Python (wasn't
that Danny Yoo's project?), plus discussions of Scheme's hyper
powerful lambda, versus Python's "little lambda" (as in "Mary
had a"), not intended for much more than an anonymous inline
expression (name your anonymous function Anon if you want it

And of course Python for C programmers was more the original
context of the language in the first place (Guido's target
demographic was never "children" per se) -- that literature
is pretty much complete.

Perl coders tend to see Python as a dialect (so similar, yet
alien enough to still be considered "a different language"),
while Java coders tend to see it as their possible salvation,
from a lot of mindless overhead (Bruce Eckel in this category**).

But I'm taking my cues from the many Logo -> Squeak -> Python
cave paintings I've been exposed to, a well documented sequence,
complete with lesson plans database, for ages 8 to 18.  So it's
the Logo (which Logo?) -> Squeak and Squeak -> Python bridges
which most interest me, in terms of collecting citations and/or
developing new content.  My impression is there're still lots of
holes in the Squeak -> Python literature, ready to be filled
with new lesson plan filings.


**  http://www.mindview.net/Books/Python/ThinkingInPython.html
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