Richard Jones' Log: Python presentation to teachers

Wed, 21 Nov 2007

Yesterday I presented a 60-minute teaser introduction to Python to a room of ICT teachers. The response was quite positive. At the same conference they're also being told about Squeak/eToys, Scratch, etc.

I emphasised that Python had it all: simple turtle (and turtle-like) modules for introducing basic concepts, but then a fully-featured, OO programming language for developing real-world, industrial-strength applications in. I think that had some resonance, since all the other solutions they were being presented with either were unfriendly to beginners (eg. C#, Java, etc) or had limited or no real-world application.

Unfortunately the presentation ran into a problem: I was demonstrating using a terminal-based interactive session, and the teachers were following along using IDLE (I was unaware they'd be doing that when I planned the presentation). So when it came to try out some block structures, they all got very confused because of the way IDLE indents code in the interactive mode. That would have left a bad impression :(

I then demoed VPython which left a good impression. The overall feedback was that the participants would be following up on Python.

This is where I think we're going to run into problems: the lack of overt support for ICT teachers in the form of sample curriculum. I cobbled together a handout (original Python-Flyer.odt) which will hopefully help them out when the come to later investigate things. I can't believe that no such thing exists for download on the Python website now (or at least I couldn't find it - nor could I upload my flyer to the wiki)

I'm hoping that there will be some follow-up training with teachers down the track...

I also had some good discussions with groups of teachers about how programming can be introduced to kids, and in particular how to present it to girls so it's interesting. On a bright note, one of the teachers said he's got a gender-balanced classroom! Clearly something's working :)

Comment by Paul Boddie on Wed, 21 Nov 2007

It's quite possible that someone has switched off attachments on the Wiki, or they've added extra authorisation requirements, mostly because the Wiki was getting a lot of attachment uploads from idiot spammers. It gets tiresome having to delete tens of files and to revert pages to previous revisions because someone is living out one of the dirtier variants of the American dream.

I'm sure if you ask the right people (and you do know the right people), they'll give you the necessary privileges for the Wiki, however.

Comment by Bob Blanchett on Wed, 02 Apr 2008

Hi Richard,

the two biggest things hurting python are profile and lack of suitable textbooks.

I'm doing some sessional work ar RMIT Business tafe ICT in bourke st. and would much rather have taught python instead of php. (better object model, ipython as a pedagogical tool lots of other reasons..)

The few books that are coming out now "python power" and one other pearson title I cant remember right now just dont cover "web" well from a newbies point of view.

You're a melbournite as well arent you?
alas I didnt see your talks at limuxconf had to cover some other stuff.


PS thanks for roundup :)