[Edu-sig] minimum age to learn python (a.k.a graphical vs text languages)
bblais at bryant.edu
Sat Mar 10 16:33:24 CET 2007
I was wondering what the approximate minimum age to learn python is. Has anyone had
experience teaching middle school students, or elementary school students Python?
What brought this up for me is thinking about starting a Lego robots group in a local
middle school. I only teach college, and have little experience with middle school
students, so I find it hard to guess what they could actually do. I started
programming when I was about 5th grade, on a Commodore VIC 20 (3.5k RAM!) in basic,
but I don't think I am typical. (Of course, now, you can probably infer my age to
within 2 years! :) ).
I've written something so that students can program in Python syntax to run the Lego
Mindstorms robots. The most commonly used language for these robotos, in the middle
school, is Robolab which is entirely graphical. Although a good program, I find
there are some drawbacks:
1) Robolab is commercial, and not all schools can afford this above and beyond the
price of the lego mindstorms
2) Robolab only runs on Mac/Windows, and not Linux, so those schools that have tried
to save money on the operating system get whacked there too
3) Robolab can *only* do Lego robots.
Although you learn the basic language structures (loops, branching, etc...), because
it is graphical, Robolab doesn't translate directly. Perhaps this is enough for kids
to start, but perhaps one can do better.
On the other hand, my pynqc tool (which uses the freely available nqc language for
the Lego Mindstorms) is:
1) free (in both senses)
2) runs on Mac/Linux/Windows
3) because you use python syntax, it is easier to go and do other python projects not
In my mind, this opens up more doors, but it is not graphical.
I wanted to hear responses from people who have experience teaching programming in
elementary/middle (or even high) school. Do graphical languages make a big
difference? Do text-based languages put up barriers to young learners? Is it no big
deal either way?
bblais at bryant.edu
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