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

Jeremy Gray jrgray at gmail.com
Thu Aug 21 15:42:26 CEST 2008

thanks Gregor, this is very good to know!

I plan to get into using turtle graphics down the road, as I like it so
much. I'll definitely plan to work with the version to be released with 2.6


On Wed, Aug 20, 2008 at 5:37 PM, Gregor Lingl <gregor.lingl at aon.at> wrote:

> Jeremy Gray schrieb:
>> 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.
> Hi Jeremy,
> I just wanted to point out that Python also has a turtle graphics module:
> turtle.py
> While turtle.py in Python 2.5 did a good job, it has somewhat limited
> capabilities. It will be replaced by an enhanced one from Python 2.6 on.
> This enhanced module (fomerly known to some of us as xturtle.py) is already
> part of Python 2.6 beta2 and I'll do a more elaborated posting on it as soon
> as beta3 is out, which should happen these days.
> The new turtle module has - as one of it's new features - enhanced
> animation which is intended to serve as a visual feedback facility for young
> programmers. (Moreover they can - if they wish - choose the shape for their
> turtles, for instance they can use turtle-shaped turtles or design their own
> shapes ...)
> The new module will also run unaltered - as is - under Python 2.5
> You can download it from here:
> http://svn.python.org/view/python/trunk/Lib/lib-tk/
> The docs can be found here:
> http://docs.python.org/dev/library/turtle.html#module-turtle
> Regards,
> Gregor
>  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 <mailto: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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