Friday, March 21, 2014

Planning for Go Code Girl 2014: Python and Pis

Last year's Go Code Girl was a great success.  This year, we wanted to build on that as well as try something a bit different.  Keeping the same overall format, we're hosting two days of coding fun: the first at University of Ottawa and the second at Carleton University.

Instead of teaching the girls Processing again, we'll use the turtle module to draw fun pictures in Python, LOGO-style! Then, on day two, we're going to see what we can do with the Raspberry Pi.

I'm a big believer in teaching programming to beginners in a visual way.  Not only is it more exciting than printing text out onto a console, but it can help understand commands in a more concrete context.  In can even allow for an embodied understanding of concepts, for example by imagining yourself as the turtle moving around the screen, leaving a pen trail behind you.

It's no surprise that I'd favour using something visual to introduce Python.  But as you may know, I tend to favour Processing over Python as a first language.  Why use Python? Partly to get more first-hand experience in teaching it as a first language, and partly because it seems to be the language of choice for the Raspberry Pi.

I know that in the three hours we have on the second day, we won't be able to do that much with the Pis.  I want to try to give the girls enough knowledge and confidence to continue exploring on their own, should they wish to purchase a Pi of their own.  Thus, it's important that they know a bit of Python.

As an added bonus, I can experiment with the turtle approach for teaching programming to my arts and social science students next year.  I imagine it would be a big improvement over how I did it last fall.

I'll report back on how things went and provide a link to the workshop materials when it's all over.


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