[Edu-sig] python lessons | piano lessons: learning to keyboard

kirby urner kirby.urner at gmail.com
Sat Aug 22 21:41:21 CEST 2009

I'm thinking more could be made of this piano teacher business as
what's needed are cultural templates (design patterns) that're already
debugged, plus register as familiar.

People have this picture of the geek squad or geek troubleshooter
coming to your house to clean off the viruses, give a few pointers.

Then there's the "fix my computer" store, sometimes a hobbyists
basement or garage.  In one case, the geek comes to you, in the other,
you go to the geek.

The piano teacher I'm thinking of has a rotating clientele and the
students come to her for individualized instruction.  The students are
sometimes young, dropped off and picked up.  If the parent wants to
wait in the living room, while the 45 minutes tick by, that's maybe no

The thing about a piano teacher or lets convert that to Python
teacher, is there's often this specific lineage or philosophy or
school of thought i.e. not all piano teachers have the same approach
to teaching.  One piano teacher I know puts a great deal of emphasis
on posture, including with conscious attention to the skeleton and
muscles -- wants the student to share this appreciation, ergo lots of
models of bones and joints laying around in the studio:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/17157315@N00/3405834921/  (tools of the trade)

Not all piano teachers are like Susan though, Python teachers either,
though I am, given my focus on __ribs__. :)

Guitar teaching is similar in that we'll find multiple approaches,
some designed encourage autonomy i.e. some "learn guitar" books are
for just teaching yourself, no teacher, no "guitar lessons" per se.

But I'm thinking we're maybe entering an era where one-on-one Python
tutoring or "Python lessons" is greeted as a way of learning "the new
music" aka "the new literacy" ala CP4E (& R0ml).

Speaking of CP4E, I'm curious about these web slides, some of the
claims (e.g. edu-sig fell apart because Python is too important as a
commercial tool to merit much dev time with the pre-employed as a

http://webpages.cs.luc.edu/~mt/Python-First/Py1.html  ( by Michael
Tobis of Ducks-in-a-Row )

More generally, I have a beef with player pianos and other turn of
last century breakthroughs in automated music making, not having
enough profile in CS lore, i.e. there's a lot of bleeping over to key
bridges twixt programming and the arts:  music and theater.

When you enter a theater, they give you "a program", and "a script" is
a program players (actors) follow.  The computer programmer often
treats the GUI or interface as a "stage" (end user as audience,
passive consumer of code) whereas the coding is like "back stage"
(ropes, scenery, inventory).

Music is a notated execution language, complete with looping and even
conditional branching, has the idea of a flow of control, as distinct
from the static rendering in notation (as sheet music).  A musical
instrument is clearly "event driven".

This excerpt from Wikipedia sounds a lot like a contemporary open
standards agreement:

A new full-scale roll format, playing all 88 notes, was agreed at an
industry conference in Buffalo in 1908, the so called Buffalo
Convention. This kept the 11¼ inch roll, but now had smaller holes
spaced at 9 to the inch. Any player made anywhere in the world could
now play any make of roll. Understanding the need for compatibility
was the defining moment of the player industry. The consensus was key
to avoiding a costly format war, which plagued almost every other form
of entertainment media that followed roll music.

The music world isn't just a source of teaching models, it's a source
of design patterns more generally.

Breaking down barriers between CS and the arts is something Vpython
has helped with, PyGeo a good example (or should we say "math and


The lightning talk and open mic formats have a lot in common, leading
to a recent diversity at python.org suggestion for more Python Open Mics.
 Musicians also travel in groups -- could be a dev team (reminds me of
Alan, taking Plone on the road, often solo -- met up in Victoria for a
sprint that time...).


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