Python and Schools

Kyler Laird Kyler at news.Lairds.org
Fri Apr 11 21:23:15 CEST 2003


Harald Massa <cpl.19.ghum at spamgourmet.com> writes:

>- if you learn programming with Python and later have to use Java or 
>Visual Basic, it will be the most frustrating experience for the young 
>fellows.

After reading this thread, I am not sure that we're all making
what I consider a vital distinction.  When we talk about
"teaching Python" are we talking about "teaching students how
to program with Python as the primary language" or are we
"teaching students how to solve problems with Python as the
primary tool"?

If we're just teaching the use of Python as a way to solve
problems (my particular interest), it doesn't matter that the
student will be frustrated when going to another language -
heck, it's a mark of how appropriate Python is that it's more
difficult to achieve the same results with another language.

OTOH, if we're teaching programming (I have a Scheme course
going now.) it's a whole different ballgame.  There I feel it
is vital to understand the basics and be able to build them
from scratch.

(I recently used Python matrix operations to solve some GIS
problems.  I know terrifyingly little about either but I was
able to stumble through and get the job done with surprising
ease.  Do I really understand what I did?  No.  Could I code
it in C?  Probably not.  Was it adequate to solve my needs?
Yes!  What a great tool!)

I recall sub teaching "Computer Science" at a middle school a
few years ago.  The task for the day was to follow step-by-
step instructions on running MS Word to edit and print a file
on a floppy disk.  We don't all define "Computer Science" the
same. 

So...I think you probably all understand the difference
between Python as a tool and Python as a base language for
teaching programming.  I'd just like to see a more deliberate
distinction so that we don't confuse the goal of "Python and
Schools".

Thank you.

--kyler




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