[IPython-dev] using the notebook for teaching?

Emmanuelle Gouillart emmanuelle.gouillart at nsup.org
Wed Dec 5 17:24:17 EST 2012


	from next year on in France, Python will be taught as the first
programming language for scientific computing in an important fraction of
French undergraduate schools (the scientific "preparatory classes" in the
French educational system). I'm trying to set up a course on scientific
Python for the future French professors that will teach Scientific
Python, and I'm wondering whether I should promote the use of the Ipython
notebook as the main educational tool for classes, or whether I should
stick to more traditional tools.

	My main concern is about stability. As I see it, a professor
could have a set of different notebook files corresponding to the
different sessions, and encourage the students to do the same. However,
when I have tried to open existing .ipynb files, I've run across an
incompatibility between ipython 0.12 and notebooks in version 3 format
(error message "Unreadable JSON notebook"). I have not tried whether
backward compatibility works, ie whether ipython 0.13 can read version 2
format. Is it planned that the notebook format will still change a lot or
not? Indeed, I do not expect the undergraduate schools to update ipython
very frequently, and it would be quite a problem if a professor cannot
grade a student's notebook because it was written on a more recent
Ipython... On the other hand, the notebook is really cool and has a lot
of advantages for teaching, so I really have mixed feelings... Stability
is paramount for earning the trust of professors, since a fraction of
them is used to Matlab/Scilab and a bit wary of Python (they will have
the choice between Scilab and Python, although Python is recommended by
the French "official program"): I cannot afford to take too many risks.
What do you think? Any insights on using the notebook for teaching are
very welcome.


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