[Edu-sig] edu-sig in Pythonia

kirby urner kirby.urner at gmail.com
Mon Apr 2 18:52:01 CEST 2012

A few of us at Pycon were nodding heads (+1ing)
over the idea that our subculture / ethnicity could
evolve these "canned talks" that different people
deliver in their personalized style.  More than that,
they demonstrate new "teaching techniques" such
that the audience might appreciate how advances
in pedagogy -- and in andragogy -- still occur.

Consider the O'Reilly 'Head First Into...' series.
Like 'for Dummies', it explains up front that there's
psychology at work, smart cookies have baked a
new mix of graphic art, sound bites, who knows
what's coming, and you, the reader / student are
in for a treat.  But then books, like videos, are a
somewhat passive medium.  Once you jump on
that gym equipment, that treadmill, that weight
pump, you know there's more to the educational
experience than having your butt in a chair.

Among the canned topics would be ArgsKwargs.
Everyone learning Python needs to keep spiraling
through the ArgsKwargs literature, wherein we do
what in other languages might be called gathering
and scattering.  The star and double star, which
C-language readers are used to seeing anyway
in function headers etc., have become scavengers,
accepting / liberal "all may pass" type guards at the
gate (function entrance), and yet still there are rules
(positionals before keyword).  Used when passing
arguments, the star and double-star are "exploders"
(scatterers), setting free their tuples and dicts to
mingle as individuals.

>>> def baby(skin="soft", noise_might_be = "crying", **blahblah):
    print ("Hey baby, I notice the {} skin, and the {} noise you're
making".format(skin, noise_might_be))

>>> random_keys = {"safe":"12-15-44", "skin":"purple", "tomorrow":"wash
>>> baby(**random_keys)
Hey baby, I notice the purple skin, and the crying noise you're making
{'safe': '12-15-44', 'tomorrow': 'wash car'}

Another canned talk -- could be lightning format --
is IterStuff, beginning with the difference between
an iterator and an iterable, climbing through
generators (with plenty of send use) to iterator
defining classes, to itertools more generally, and
a discussion of "just in time" versus pre-stocking
memory with impossibly huge inventories.

Here I'd suggest a lore-based approach wherein
we go over how Python itself has become ever more
fascinated with iterators.  How is it that a range class
object is a sequence (indexable) whereas the
dict_items object is not (not indexable)?

>>> dict(a=1,b=2).items()[0]
Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "<pyshell#0>", line 1, in <module>
TypeError: 'dict_items' object does not support indexing
>>> range(2)[0]

Then there'd be the protocol talks i.e. lets talk about
interfaces in the abstract.  The iterator is our first example,
in being about having __iter__ and __next__.  Then
comes the descriptor and its interface / protocol.

The point being:  we should always have these talks.

There will always be people new to Python (in this
model), or people wanting a refresher and (here's
the kicker) people needing practice in their teaching
techniques in front of an audience that's already very
much in the ballpark (already at a Pycon, not just
casually dropping by to see what this might be about).

Also:  the people most interested in teaching Python,
such as here on edu-sig, should be most involved in
organizing this track.

The track of standard topics, things we all need to
know -- but how best to share?  That track and that
question are one of our angles / self-chosen
responsibilities, along with the poster session.

I would extend this philosophy to say edu-sig types
should also take some 3rd party modules under their
collective wing, by which I mean to include such worthies
as:  Visual Python, I-Python, matplotlib, numpy, Blender
and web frameworks (including Google App Engine).

OK, now that's starting to sound like a complete Pycon,
not just a track.  Fair enough.

The edu-sig "base" is around a track of core topics.
Then each topic is conceived to "branch off" into
various "worlds" or "namespaces".  E.g the IterStuff
branches off into Twisted and asynchronous techniques
such as David Beazely has specialized in inventing and
teaching.  We'd need more diagrams, roadmaps, to
show the "lay of the land" (Pythonia).  Seeing it one
way doesn't preclude also seeing it in other ways too.

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