Sunday, April 01, 2007

from guido van rossum

A couple of interesting quotes from Guido van Rossum's (the creator of Python) blog reporting on the Python 2007 Conference.

About the OLPC (one laptop per child) software:
The software is far from finished. An early version of the GUI and window manager are available, and a few small demo applications: chat, video, two games, and a web browser, and that's about it! The plan is to write all applications in Python (except for the web browser), and a "view source" button should show the Python source for the currently running application. In the tradition of Smalltalk (Alan Kay is on the OLPC board, and has endorsed the project's use of Python) the user should be able to edit any part of a "live" aplication and see the effects of the change immediately in the application's behavior. (A versioned document store will make it possible to roll back disastrous changes.) This is where Krstic wants my help: he hopes I can work magic and implement this feature for Python ...
The fact that python has become the main language being used to develop OLPC software (and not alan kay's squeak / smalltalk) is an incredibly powerful reason to teach Python in the schools of developed countries

For more discussion on python in education see the Edu-sig archive, which is "the starting point for a community around the Computer Programming for Everybody (CP4E) project, and a general meeting place for educators interested in teaching Python. " (about and subscribe page). There are some great discussions on this list.

About educational political gridlock:
The keynotes had a strong educational theme: on Saturday morning Adele Goldberg gave a passionate plea for improvements to the USA's educational system. 40 years ago, US education was #1 in the world; today it is #19. The public school system is stuck in a complete political gridlock; changes are nearly impossible to make due to the many constraints imposed on schools by federal regulations, fearful and litigious parents, bullying, lack of funds, and many other depressing factors. It also seems that most uses of computers in the classroom have turned into disasters: the well-meaning geeks behind many school computer experiments don't understand the situation in the average classroom. For example, computers show up without sufficient power, are likely to be stolen, or locked up in a safe rather than being used! Schools are in total fear of the internet, which is seen as a source of pornography and influences of the devil
Pretty much the same situation has developed in the Australian public school system

My hope is that within a few years there will be millions of OLPC in the world used in a way which demonstates to the moribund education system in developed countries that there is a better way. That is clearly the educational philosophy supported by the developers of the OLPC as outlined previously in this blog, see "we are impatient..." and seymour papert interview


Doug Holton said...

Python isn't designed with beginners or children in mind, however.

Students will dislike programming (possibly for the rest of their life) if you start with python:

And if they wanted to allow people to edit applications on the fly while the application is running, they probably should have used smalltalk, not that I am saying it is any better or worse than python.

Since it is open source, perhaps eventually they could make smalltalk-based apps for the $100 laptop, including perhaps croquet.

Bill Kerr said...

the excellent link from douglas is goodbye 'hello world'

Douglas is correct

For now, how about:
(1) Scratch
(2) Python, for targetted students interested in programming, not for everyone