[Edu-sig] PyWhip ???

kirby urner kirby.urner at gmail.com
Wed Mar 4 22:35:53 CET 2009

On Wed, Mar 4, 2009 at 12:23 PM, David MacQuigg
<macquigg at ece.arizona.edu> wrote:
> At 04:58 PM 3/3/2009 -0800, kirby urner wrote:
>>I also invite visitors to my Oregon Curriculum Network site:
>>The Pythonic Math at this site is better than anything else on the Web
>>as of March, 2009, bar none.
> We're looking for something more interactive.  The storyboard stuff is cool.  Videos take too much bandwidth.

Yeah, might not be suitable for all audiences.

Bandwidth not a problem where I teach, interactivity is provided by
one desktop per student, Python + VPython, Python + POV-Ray etc., many
write-ups in my blogs (the most advanced Pythonic Math course anywhere
in the nation, bar none -- yay Saturday Academy -- partly because of
the new kind of geometry we're doing (per math-thinking-l etc.)):


> I've always thought lectures are a terrible way to teach technical subjects, but I can see the advantage of having audio to supplement a sequence of slides, and avoid taking your eyes off where they should be focused.  Bruce Eckel's  Thinking in (Java, C++, Python) series is excellent, but he never finished the Python version http://www.mindview.net/Books/TIPython.  There is a great opportunity here for a good teacher.

The distance learning resources provided via Oregon Curriculum Network
may not be what we use in class, e.g. we use physical models
sometimes, given the emphasis on Geometry.

Doing Python without geometry (e.g. VPython) is probably a waste of
time if this is really intro mathematics and not just some low level
computer science class from like the FORTRAN era (boring).

Given we compete in the open market, we're not allowed to be boring.
No "required courses" like some universities have (easy to cheat when
you have a captive audience eh?).

> Some thoughts on how we might expand on this:
> We need a complete online course in Python, including PyWhip, Lectures in Python (slides with audio), and a forum where students could get questions answered, like comp.lang.python, but something more private, where students won't feel shy about asking dumb questions, and more focused, where we can have a lot of discussion on a narrow topic.  The topic this week is strings.

I think various institutions have different solutions for this.

>From what I've seen so far, Saturday Academy does a better job in
terms of teaching *mathematics* than anything else on the web using
Python, thanks in part to Silicon Forest and our Oregon Curriculum

That's why I'm going to Chicago to stage 'Python for Teachers', to
show off how we do things.  Others could learn from us.

We're waaaaay ahead of the pack (especially given our sophisticate
geometry based on an MVC approach -- most colleges can't hold a
candle, yet these are high school kids!).

> This could be a "service course" for non-CS technical professionals or students who could take it as a pre-requisite for engineering and science classes.  The costs of production and delivery would be very low, mainly paying teachers to participate in regularly scheduled online "classes".  I can imagine a class of 200 students with two or three teachers, so questions could be answered typically within a few hours.

Looking forward to competing.  Our source code is also available, so
in terms of interactivity, it's all there.

This idea of "running Python over the web" doesn't seem necessary to
me, not sure why people think that's so important.

You've got an interpreter right there in front of your nose, no?

What you need is scaffolding, running source code like stickworks.py,
rbf.py etc.

> I tried to do this with a class in C, but we had to use the University's cumbersome, officially-approved teacher-support software - no email notifications when a question is posted.  That was a real problem leading to sometimes a day of delay before I could check to see if there were any questions.  The login procedure was a pain.  Google forums are all we need.
> -- Dave

Yeah, most universities are trapped in stultifying bureaucracy, have
no nimbleness or dexterity, kind of like Shrek after a few cases of
beer.  Makes it easy to out-perform them.

Lower 48 is mostly offering no competition whatsoever, especially when
it comes to using VPython to do some serious geometry (we also have a
GIS component, have used generators for sequences for many years, per
my Winterhaven write-up (geek hogwarts, Portland Public)).

I'm glad the Obama administration is looking to Portland (FOSS
capital) for leadership.  We're simply better prepared, have a track
record to prove it.

That's why (some) Alaska charters are looking to us, not U. Mich or
someplace more behind the times (lots more on Math Forum -- mostly
don't compete with math teachers on edu-sig as this has mostly been a
list for computer science teachers, not math teachers, with me 'n
Arthur two obvious exceptions).

I've been urging ISEPP president T. Bristol to get in touch with those
in charge of IB math with our suggestions about phasing in more SQL,
also a focus on RSA.  I'm representing ISEPP in Chicago (what'll be on
my nametag).

The precalc-calc "math track" (so-called) isn't that productive a use
of students' time in most cases.  All that kow-towing to Texas
Instruments, all that bait and switch (promising "technology in the
classroom" but not delivering with beans).

As geeks, we'd like to rescue our younger peers from such a
stultifying and worthless pipeline, which everyone seems to agree is a
huge turn-off, part of the problem, not part of the solution.  Python,
on the other hand, is part of the solution.

Anyway, best wishes on catching up in Arizona.  Someday you'll be in
the same league as Oregon!  Something to look forward to.


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