Turtle in the Classroom. Again.

Okay, so I expressed earlier this semester that I’m worried we have overused Turtle in Python as a teaching tool in CSE 231 this semester (discussed here, here, and here). At that point, I really thought we were finished with it… But nope. During a particularly crazy week (for the instructors and TAs), a last-minute Turtle lab was pulled from a previous year and released as the week’s lesson on classes. Now, classes are a huge topic in computing and there are a ton of different ways we could have approached them. I’m not sure that using Turtle for the first real exposure to classes was a good move on our part as instructors. I much preferred the lessons that followed, Lab 9 and Lab 10, which did not incorporate Turtle.

The Lesson

The lab assignment was to draw a picture (any picture) using classes that students wrote for Rectangle, Triangle, and Circle. Note, the first two classes had to inherit from an instructor’s Polygon class.

The Results

So, my students were really unimaginative (and lazy, unfortunately) with this assignment. They were no longer excited to use Turtle, cause we’ve used it so many times before. And they ended up giving me incomplete, unimaginative, or uncolored drawings. Once they had their classes working and could demonstrate their use, they wanted to be allowed to leave the lab. Granted, it is an evening class, and students usually want to get out of there as fast as possible. But I was still really disappointed in the student involvement in the lesson. I did have one good excuse for the underdeveloped output pictures – the students claimed they were making abstract art.

I also covered another TA’s section of the class. Her students meet bright and early at 8:30 AM. I’m not sure if it was because they are a more attentive morning class, because I was a guest/sub TA, because I gave explicit drawing requirements after I learned from the subpar experience in my own section, or for some other reason, but the students from the second session gave me much more advanced pictures.


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