Richard Jones' Log: Python presentation to teachers
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 :)