[Edu-sig] python for kids...

Michelle Friend Hutton mfh at pobox.com
Fri Oct 12 18:48:37 CEST 2007

I've only glanced at the book, but I love the writing style - a huge  
problem I have is in finding books appropriate for younger students.  
Regular books like Python Programming for Absolute Beginners are  
accessible for high schoolers but not younger, in my experience.

I agree with the goals of not watering down Python AND getting  
graphics in as soon as possible. I have had a similar experience to  
Dethe with my students - they are simply not compelled by "Hello  
World" and similar text-based approaches. We need graphics as soon as  
possible to keep the reluctant programmers interested.

I believe there's a lightweight good-for-teaching interface for  
pygame called livewires. It is used in the PPfAB book.

One question is the goal - are we trying to inspire kids to love  
programming, trying to indoctrinate them into the world of open  
source, trying to teach some basic computer science concepts, trying  
to make them good digitial citizens of the 21st century... the  
approach depends on the kids and on the goal.


On Oct 11, 2007, at 9:34 AM, Dethe Elza wrote:

> 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
> thing.
> --Dethe
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