Monday, March 26, 2007

I: Pedagogical Advantages of Python

What experience do you have teaching coding to beginners using Python as the target language? Using other languages? Especially welcome are comparison/contrast of teaching with language X vs teaching with Python from a pedagogical point of view.

II: Pythonic Teaching Tools

What experience do you have using Pythonic tools (environments, libraries) as part of your teaching environment, regardless of the language that the students are learning? What advantages does python present you as an educational tool developer and/or deployer?

III: Attractiveness of Competing First Languages

What advantages do other languages have over Python in increasing the attractiveness of the language to self-directed learners? e.g., JavaScript's universal accessibility, PHP's ease of use and extensive documentation. Can these disadvantages be overcome, and if so, how so and how quickly?

IV: Institutional Competition

What advantages do other languages have over Python in their attractiveness to educational institutions? e.g., Java being the language of the Advanced Placement Test in the US, VBasic being perceived as the appropriate medium for vocational preparation. Can these disadvantages be overcome, and if so, how so and how quickly?

V: Pythonic tools

What existing libraries, tools and resources should the instructor proposing to use Python in education be aware of? What are the most important Pythonic libraries, tools, and resources are under development?

Why Pencil Science?

This is a blog about the nuts and bolts of computer literacy from a Pythonic perspective.

I would like not merely to defend the position that computer programming is "for everybody" but also to examine the proposition that Python is the appropriate vehicle for it.

Of course, "computer science is not about computers" but about formally expressing processes using symbols. The misnomer is consequential in how most people think about the question of the role of programming in education.

We don't teach children how to write because we expect them all to be professional writers. Professional writers are not opposed to literacy on the grounds that they will lose readership. We do not call the ability to write "pencil science".

Perhaps we should start, though. Maybe it would make the absurdity of how we misrepresent beginning software education as a vocational track more clear.

I am focusing my explorations on an opportunity to write an article for the Python Papers in the very near future. I'd like to use this blog, at least at first, as a gathering place for ideas from others. If you have anything you'd like to add, read on.

Many thanks
Michael Tobis