[Edu-sig] python for kids...

Dethe Elza delza at livingcode.org
Thu Oct 11 18:34:29 CEST 2007

Hi Bryan,

I'm not trying to water down Python too much, but I want them to have
a great experience right out of the box.  They have both been
programming in Scratch (http://scratch.mit.edu/) now, so their
expectations are that they can get up and running with some graphics
moving around and doing things, under their control, pretty quickly.
I'm trying to build a lightweight library on top of Pygame to provide
that experience.  I've tried showing my seven-year-old straight
Python, getting it to read his name from the command-line and say
hello to him, but he doesn't really get why you would want to do that.
 To him, a program involves graphics, and since he's used to making
programs with graphics already, it's hard to argue with that.

On the other hand, Scratch sets up a pretty constrained environment:
No strings, variables can only be numbers, no return values
(asynchronous message sends only), no file access, no network access,
can only draw on the background, not on sprites (programatically: it
includes a drawing tool for editing sprites), no runtime
instantiation, no subroutines, etc.  It's actually amazing what you
can do in such a constrained environment, and the tools it does give
you are inspiring, but think kids who hit the limits of Scratch and
turn to Python will be disappointed and frustrated unless there is a
path for them to get productive quickly.

Of course, you mileage may vary.  My goal and yours are the same: Get
them up to speed with Python, not a dumbed-down mini-language or
environment.  But on the other hand, *I* feel more productive in
Scratch (until I hit the wall of its limitations), so I don't really
think providing a nice graphical starter kit for Python is a bad


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