PyCon Education Summit

Notes from the day…

(1) Welcome

Naomi Cedar welcomed us all to the Edu Summit. Looks like we have about 90 people in the room, with at least one woman at every table I can see (so, at least 1 in 8 women!).

Bad habits: Drink too much coffee and write too much Python.

(2) Keynote

Walter Bender is the Keynote Speaker. He is from Sugar Labs (a company he started) and a member on the project of the Software Freedom Conservancy. His talk is entitled “Learning to Change the World.” He started the One Laptop Per Child project that attempts to get all children a low-cost laptop for learning purposes:

We aim to provide each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop. To this end, we have designed hardware, content and software for collaborative, joyful, and self-empowered learning. With access to this type of tool, children are engaged in their own education, and learn, share, and create together. They become connected to each other, to the world and to a brighter future.

In his talk, he has been arguing that “a great learning experience is about engaging in problem solving on a project you are interested in.” He articulated a very real problem in educational research. Often when you ask educators to design a learning intervention tool; people forget what they know about their own learning experiences that were most effective and transformative (almost always active learning scenarios) and reinvent the static classroom.

He has also been talking about learning as a culture. Specifically, he says, “We are after changing the culture of school through interventions and tools. The culture of free software has great implications for learning.” He cites kids using Sugar and One Laptop Per Child in Uruguay to show that Sugar encourages students to use computers to be expressive, to solve problems, and to make things.

Another interesting point. He articulated that the goal in education should not be to teach people to use a computer. Instead, it should be to teach them to use a computer for learning.

What motivates people? In America especially, we have a carrot-and-stick model that teaches children how not to make mistakes, how not to take risks, how not to make change. We are suppressing learning in these children by doing so. But in Finnish schools, they don’t have the carrot-and-stick model. And their test scores are the highest for the single standardized test they do give. Why? Because they value learning and they value student-centered teaching. The Finnish educational model is like an improv jazz band, while other countries are like a strict orchestra.

STEM versus STEAM. If we need more STEM, we have to take out art – right? No. Instead, we should have STEAM – with arts included. Arts can motivate. Further, *only* in art class do you engage in open-ended problem solving.

Now on to talking about Sugar. It’s written in Python, first of all. It attempts to give kids a path of least resistance to get them to engage in activities that promote critical thinking and collaborative projects. It also gives kids a “lab notebook” where you can document and reflect on your process.

“Debugging is the greatest learning opportunity of the 21st century.” -Cynthia Soloman

(2) Panel: Curriculum with Python

Random notes:

  • Interestingly, one of our panelists is a 13-year-old  (whose dad is also a panelist)
  • projectboiler.net
  • There is no “best way” to teach Python because it’s student-dependent. We need a battery of ways/problems/techniques to engage students.
  • codingbat.com small exercises and tutorials
  • http://www.vpython.org/ for visual stuff

(2) Panel: Teaching with Python

Random notes:

  • Turtle module, Turtle blocks, Scratch, IPython Notebook, IPython Blocks for visual algorithms and data structures
  • Produce graphic arts in a programmatic way
  • Teaching Python using pygame
  • What NOT to teach?
  • Answer the question WHY? How did the language get this way? What problem was this language feature trying to solve?
  • Computer science is a wacky way to look at programming. You can pick up programming while you’re doing cool stuff. You don’t have to start with “What is a hash?” You can start with cool stuff and they will learn hashing along the way.
  • Describes her work as teaching teacher how to get out of the way of the learning process. Getting a degree in engineering education
  • newcomer intro to python – boston python workshop
  • intermediate python workshop

(3) Panel: Engagement in Python

Random notes:

  • How do we bring students in to open source software?
  • olin university
  • open hatch
  • teaching open source
  • be welcome to newcomers. thank them for coming. say that you look forward to seeing them again
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