[Edu-sig] after-school python, age 11+

Albert Sweigart asweigart at gmail.com
Wed Aug 20 22:45:51 CEST 2008


I've skimmed the site, and it looks good. I'll pitch in some effort to it in
the future.

I'd like to also recommend a book I wrote (and released for free under a
Creative Commons license), entitled Invent Your Own Computer Games with
Python. It is available here:


It is a book designed for kids and non-programmers (though I left out cute
pictures and "kiddie" elements.) The method of teaching I used is to
demonstrate complete source code for games (which use simple console IO) and
then teach programming principles from the examples. I based it off of a
similar book I learned BASIC programming when I was a kid.

I've tried to keep the book as terse and simple as possible. Each chapter
goes through the same formula: describe the game, show the game source code,
explain what each line in the source code does while explaining concepts
those lines use.

Although it is complete, I am still putting some editing effort into it. I'd
appreciate any feedback you have. Also, the complete PDF is not as up to
date as the individual web pages.

I hope you find it useful!

-Al Sweigart

On Wed, Aug 20, 2008 at 3:00 AM, <edu-sig-request at python.org> wrote:

> Hi all,
> This is my first post to edu-sig, and its sort of long. In a nutshell:
> a) I have developed and posted a few new material for kids getting started
> with programming, e.g., for an after-school club, at
> http://afterschoolpython.pbwiki.com/  Its free (no advertising ever,
> open-source recommended), and will be so forever.
> b) I am interested in collaborating with or sharing notes with others, to
> make it even better.
> Being new to this interesting forum, I'll introduce myself briefly. I'm a
> dad (two kids, age 11 and 5), and have always been a geek at heart. I do
> science for a living (human brain imaging and psychology, using computers
> for everything), and have interests in education (including National
> Science
> Foundation grants related to education research). I'm not an elementary-age
> educator, although have family members who are educators. So it seems
> inevitable that I'd end up lurking on python edu-sig :o) I've seen some
> fairly long posts, so I'll take the plunge with a longish one myself.
> Apologies if that's frowned on.
> Basically, I want to teach my 6th grader how to program this coming year.
> We've fooled around with logo / turtle graphics and like it, and are ready
> for a real language. I was quickly sold on python as the way to go, despite
> never having used it myself (or any OO language ... or maybe in part
> because
> of that--I want to learn something too!). I looked around for existing
> materials, and am really impressed by how much is out there for python (one
> of several selling points). yet I did not find anything I was that
> completely happy with. I looked carefully at the following, and learned a
> lot, and like a great many things about them:
> - Snake Wrangling for Kids
> - LiveWires summer program
> - other resources linked on Beginner's Guide to Python for non-programmers
> - A byte of python
> - J. Miller's 2004 PhD dissertation. his analysis of posts on what the
> community thinks about desirable features in using python in education is
> really helpful. one point that caught my eye was the dearth of intro
> curriculum materials.
> So, I took the plunge and have started to write something up myself. Its
> well underway, but is a work in progress, at
>    http://afterschoolpython.pbwiki.com/
> My goal is to have it be an experience in learning how a computer can
> enhance your mind, using a real language, aimed at a young audience without
> talking down to them. (Young but able to read, type using a text editor,
> and
> do some elementary-school math). I tried to follow Miller's guidelines on
> desirable features, but have not followed them all (not yet at least,
> graphics is a glaring example).
> The key thing that motivated me to put effort into
> yet-another-free-resource
> for learning python was to try to focus on problem solving as enhanced by a
> computer, for this age group. Plus sneaking in some geek tidbits here and
> there, like a few linux command-line tools (e.g., top), so that they are
> not
> seen as exotic or weird or hard. A few of the activities are basically
> cognitive science, and a few are more or less math.
> I'm posting for two main reasons.
> 1. The first is just to say:  Hi, there is a little bit more curriculum
> "raw
> material" out there, I hope someone else can use it too. Who might be
> interested? My guess is that it will be most appropriate for a
> self-selected
> audience, rather than cp4e. I envision it being used in an after-school
> group (hence the name), probably at the middle-school level but maybe some
> things would work for advanced elementary (I'm not an educator, just
> guessing). Maybe some could be rewritten for an older audience.
> Some of the activities are tried and true ("hello world!"), and some are
> ones I thought up, like counting to a million to give kids a gut sense for
> how fast computers are, described as turning yourself into a cyborg,
> counting to a million in one second, and then changing back. I want kids to
> see themselves as the agent that makes things happen, not the computer. At
> first its a little freaky that way, but I hope its ultimately more
> empowering as well. And I think it better reflects reality: a computer is a
> tool, a prosthesis for thinking. Like a bicycle is for transportation.
> I describe it as currently in "beta", meaning that, while there are some
> rough edges, the ideas and activities might be useful to others even so.
> Feedback would be very useful to have now to make it better. Again, it will
> never have advertising.
> Its currently set up as a wiki, under a Creative Commons
> Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License 2.0, which I used because _A
> byte of python_ used it. I have it as wiki to emphasize that I'd love to
> include others as hands-on contributors (see #2).
> 2. The second reason for this post is to say:  I know it can be way better.
> I think its good enough that I can wing it through the fall, but it would
> be
> cool to partner with a) people who have elementary & middle-school
> education
> experience with programming (esp python), and b) know OO and good projects
> for introducing it. I know the website is currently just the start of what
> it could be. It currently reads like notes for either self-guided
> exploration by kids, but given various gaps in the description (hopefully
> filled soon) its probably best thought of as structured notes for an
> informed adult to use when leading a small group of kids. Its not complete
> yet, and I will be revising after seeing how kids interact with it. Its not
> lesson plans, although I could see some of the material being used in that
> way, with more work.
> - feedback of any kind would be terrific, don't hold back just to be
> polite.
> (As a scientist, all my day-job work gets peer reviewed, at times
> "tersely",
> shall we say. it took some getting used to but now I love getting frank
> feedback because ultimately it makes for a better product.) So if anything
> moves you one way or another, I'd love to know and won't be offended. This
> is not to say I'll change things to reflect every comment, of course, but I
> definitely promise to read and consider them all closely. More importantly,
> if you have a lot to add, I'd love to have collaborators as well.
> - I've set it up as a wiki with the idea that eventually there may be
> several editors, developers, and caretakers (a few, not the whole world).
> Please email me to talk about possibilities. For example, currently,
> there's
> nothing that uses graphics, which of course are very engaging, especially
> for this age group. currently, there's nothing that uses or explains OO,
> despite python being strongly OO. getting to games would be good. And I'm
> not convinced that being hosted on pbwiki is best, either. So there's room
> to grow as well.
> to comment on anything, you can either email me personally (
> jrgray at gmail.com,
> which is the same email for the wiki owner) or just leave a comment at the
> end of a particular wiki page (I think they make you sign up for an account
> an login to leave a comment).
> Anyway, its nice to be joining this community.
> best regards,
> --Jeremy
> /*-------------------------------------------------------------
>      Jeremy R. Gray, PhD
>      Assistant Professor, Yale University
>      Dept. of Psychology & Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program
>      web        http://www.yale.edu/scan/
> -------------------------------------------------------------*/
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