minimum age to learn python (a.k.a graphical vs text languages)

Discussion in 'Python' started by Brian Blais, Mar 10, 2007.

  1. Brian Blais

    Brian Blais Guest

    Hello,

    I was wondering what the approximate minimum age to learn python is. Has anyone had
    experience teaching middle school students, or elementary school students Python?
    What brought this up for me is thinking about starting a Lego robots group in a local
    middle school. I only teach college, and have little experience with middle school
    students, so I find it hard to guess what they could actually do. I started
    programming when I was about 5th grade, on a Commodore VIC 20 (3.5k RAM!) in basic,
    but I don't think I am typical. (Of course, now, you can probably infer my age to
    within 2 years! :) ).


    I've written something so that students can program in Python syntax to run the Lego
    Mindstorms robots. The most commonly used language for these robotos, in the middle
    school, is Robolab which is entirely graphical. Although a good program, I find
    there are some drawbacks:
    1) Robolab is commercial, and not all schools can afford this above and beyond the
    price of the lego mindstorms
    2) Robolab only runs on Mac/Windows, and not Linux, so those schools that have tried
    to save money on the operating system get whacked there too
    3) Robolab can *only* do Lego robots.

    Although you learn the basic language structures (loops, branching, etc...), because
    it is graphical, Robolab doesn't translate directly. Perhaps this is enough for kids
    to start, but perhaps one can do better.

    On the other hand, my pynqc tool (which uses the freely available nqc language for
    the Lego Mindstorms) is:
    1) free (in both senses)
    2) runs on Mac/Linux/Windows
    3) because you use python syntax, it is easier to go and do other python projects not
    involving robots

    In my mind, this opens up more doors, but it is not graphical.

    I wanted to hear responses from people who have experience teaching programming in
    elementary/middle (or even high) school. Do graphical languages make a big
    difference? Do text-based languages put up barriers to young learners? Is it no big
    deal either way?


    thanks,

    Brian Blais

    --
    -----------------


    http://web.bryant.edu/~bblais
     
    Brian Blais, Mar 10, 2007
    #1
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  2. Brian Blais

    Guest

    Brian Blais wrote:
    > Hello,
    >
    > I was wondering what the approximate minimum age to learn python is. Has anyone had
    > experience teaching middle school students, or elementary school students Python?
    > What brought this up for me is thinking about starting a Lego robots group in a local
    > middle school. I only teach college, and have little experience with middle school
    > students, so I find it hard to guess what they could actually do. I started
    > programming when I was about 5th grade, on a Commodore VIC 20 (3.5k RAM!) in basic,
    > but I don't think I am typical.


    Our elementary school taught LOGO on the Apple II in either 3rd or 4th
    grade, and the more advance math students got some BASIC by 5th
    grade. It was just a regular school, so it seems to me like kids in
    the age range you're discussing are fully capable of learning at least
    some programming.
     
    , Mar 10, 2007
    #2
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  3. Hi!

    Personally, I was yet in the belly of my mom, whom I already thought in
    Python…







    --
    @-salutations

    Michel Claveau
     
    Michel Claveau, Mar 10, 2007
    #3
  4. Brian Blais

    James Stroud Guest

    Brian Blais wrote:
    > Hello,
    >
    > I was wondering what the approximate minimum age to learn python is.
    > Has anyone had experience teaching middle school students, or elementary
    > school students Python? What brought this up for me is thinking about
    > starting a Lego robots group in a local middle school. I only teach
    > college, and have little experience with middle school students, so I
    > find it hard to guess what they could actually do. I started
    > programming when I was about 5th grade, on a Commodore VIC 20 (3.5k
    > RAM!) in basic, but I don't think I am typical. (Of course, now, you
    > can probably infer my age to within 2 years! :) ).
    >
    >
    > I've written something so that students can program in Python syntax to
    > run the Lego Mindstorms robots. The most commonly used language for
    > these robotos, in the middle school, is Robolab which is entirely
    > graphical. Although a good program, I find there are some drawbacks:
    > 1) Robolab is commercial, and not all schools can afford this above and
    > beyond the price of the lego mindstorms
    > 2) Robolab only runs on Mac/Windows, and not Linux, so those schools
    > that have tried to save money on the operating system get whacked there too
    > 3) Robolab can *only* do Lego robots.
    >
    > Although you learn the basic language structures (loops, branching,
    > etc...), because it is graphical, Robolab doesn't translate directly.
    > Perhaps this is enough for kids to start, but perhaps one can do better.
    >
    > On the other hand, my pynqc tool (which uses the freely available nqc
    > language for the Lego Mindstorms) is:
    > 1) free (in both senses)
    > 2) runs on Mac/Linux/Windows
    > 3) because you use python syntax, it is easier to go and do other python
    > projects not involving robots
    >
    > In my mind, this opens up more doors, but it is not graphical.
    >
    > I wanted to hear responses from people who have experience teaching
    > programming in elementary/middle (or even high) school. Do graphical
    > languages make a big difference? Do text-based languages put up
    > barriers to young learners? Is it no big deal either way?
    >
    >
    > thanks,
    >
    > Brian Blais
    >


    Probably, its not so much that graphical is easy to learn, but, for
    kids, I'm guessing that its less boring than text-based. They already
    understand a lot about programming by customizing their video games on
    the Wii, or whatever Sony playbox X.

    Really, What you need is a "first person shooter" programming language.
    Perhaps, make them program their own guns or "power moves". Have
    competitions at the end of the week using the guns they create. There's
    nothing like learning to program by programming a bullet to follow a
    quadratic spline through a maze of corridors, nailing an opponent whose
    position was calculated by triangulation.

    You'll see who the good programmers are then. Probably, you'll see some
    of the best programming of your life.

    James
     
    James Stroud, Mar 11, 2007
    #4
  5. Brian Blais

    MonkeeSage Guest

    " "first person shooter" programming language "

    OMG! Thank's freakin awsome, lol!!!
     
    MonkeeSage, Mar 11, 2007
    #5
  6. Brian Blais

    Paddy Guest

    On Mar 10, 3:33 pm, Brian Blais <> wrote:
    > Hello,
    >
    > I was wondering what the approximate minimum age to learn python is.

    <SNIP>>
    >
    > I wanted to hear responses from people who have experience teaching programming in
    > elementary/middle (or even high) school. Do graphical languages make a big
    > difference? Do text-based languages put up barriers to young learners? Is it no big
    > deal either way?
    >
    > thanks,
    >
    > Brian Blais


    My two year old son is well on the way to becoming a great
    programmer ;-)
    He is learning to use the mouse and can navigate his way through the
    menus to
    the games and songs he likes when left on the cbeebies home page at
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/ and is currently trying to get
    coordinated
    enough to play a tobogganing game.
    Teaching method used was to spend too much time yourself on the laptop
    with
    son in lap watching Hi-5 or a Wombles video, on screen-2.

    Currently Dominic and I are potty training. After that we'll start on
    decorators and maybe weakref.

    - Paddy.
     
    Paddy, Mar 11, 2007
    #6
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