Teaching python (programming) to children

Dr. David J. Ritchie, Sr. djrassoc01 at mindspring.com
Mon Nov 12 07:51:40 CET 2001

Laura Creighton wrote:

> ...
> David Ritchie and I both teach programming, as a hobby, and we
> have independently come up with the principle that it works better
> if you have the students code adventure stories.  So we do this.
> If it turns out we are misguided idiots, are students can always
> leave and do something else.  It is quite possible that we have
> only demonstrated that you should teach students that have joined
> a club where you code adventure stories, by teaching them to
> code adventure stories.  This is a problem with a self selected set.
> David Ritchie was teaching people to program in Perl.  I don't
> approve of that, and am pleased that he is now using python.  But
> I think that it was an _unfortunate_ choice.  But if David Ritchie
> was a professional middle school teacher, I would have a much
> stronger choice of words to describe what I think of the acceptability
> of Perl as a first programming language.
> ...

Ah, yes, it's going to be really interesting in a couple of months
to have a first hand understanding of doing adventure stories
in Computer Club with Perl and with Python for Middle Schoolers.

As with Perl, the kids taught me how to teach it in a club setting, I am
expecting to be taught by the kids how to approach Python.

A club approach is really nice in that the kids that show up want
to be there.  My goals, besides seeing that the kids are having
fun doing serious bits of programming is to give them a
realistic experience of what it is like to spend your time writing
software.  This is a time when the students
are forming the beginnings of career choices so that have a realistic
idea of what a programming activity involves hopefully helps them
to make better choices for careers.

I want to mention that the November 2001 American Journal of
Physics has an interesting article "Physics Education Research--The
Key to Student Learning" by Lillian Christie McDermott
who won the Oersted Medal from the American Association of
Physics Teachers (AAPT) for her research into the teaching of

She discusses the success of the PbI (Physics by Inquiry) approach to
teaching physics. Some of what I have been doing seems to be similar
in approach of--you pick--(Programming, Perl, Python) by Inquiry.

I think that considering whether it makes sense to try to transplant
her experiences into the programming realm is an interesting idea.


Dr. David J. Ritchie, Sr.
djrassoc01 at mindspring.com

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