Python for Kids by Jason Briggs

pythinForKidsA fine little book. I was rather curi­ous to be hon­est how one might approach teach­ing a pro­gram­ming lan­guage to chil­dren in this day and age. My curi­os­ity stems from memor­ies of attend­ing Pas­cal work­shops in the 1970s at the Uni­ver­sity of Water­loo a curi­ous child myself. We even­tu­ally ended up play­ing text-based Star Trek on the black and white terminals…but boy it sure was cool to be at Uni­ver­sity in front on CRT’s where if any expos­ure we might have exper­i­enced punch cards. So where are we today? Well, this ‘Play­ful Intro­duc­tion to Pro­gram­ming’ offers a simple, straight­for­ward and great intro to Python for all ages. In fact, I am quite reminded of the old work­shops in Pas­cal. But then, the tried and true has been proven and in the case of this book refined.

The manual is well illus­trated with help­ful screen­shots, and cute little car­toons. Not intrus­ively though. Exer­cises are hands-on col­our­ful, eas­ily accom­plished in small doses and logic­ally build on one another. I liked the Turtle exer­cise and was very reminded of Logo and why it was so pop­u­lar as a learners pro­gram­ming lan­guage. There’s actu­ally a lot in this book that is very use­ful and valu­able to a Python learner. In addi­tion to the com­pli­ments above, I add that it is a rather sat­is­fy­ing jour­ney. Things move at a fast pace and there are a pro­fu­sion of examples — more than most manu­als aimed at an older audi­ence than kids. In fact this where I am with it. How do you appeal to a younger audi­ence? And more import­antly keep them hooked?

As text­book for use in classrooms in grade school to high school I think this is a superb manual. More broadly I would prob­ably repos­i­tion it as well as a very gentle intro­duc­tion to the lan­guage for all ages (prob­ably sans the little com­ics). The struc­ture of exer­cises and a great sum­mary at the end of the bite sized chapters is good ped­agogy. It move through at a great self-directed style. And in not­ing my earlier exper­i­ence with the pro­ced­ural Pas­cal, one of the toughest things I have faced ever since those early days has been to retrain my mind to think in terms of OOP. Chapter 8 of this lovely book does a remark­ably good job of break­ing this habit for me. It is a won­der­fully clear and well expressed look at classes and objects that again tran­scends generations ;-)

I am not sure that this book will hook and keep kids engaged. As that being a nar­row tar­get audi­ence, I am not sure that it will suc­ceed with that tar­get without hav­ing a bit of a firm hand for­cing its use. At the same time, I can’t really say enough good about this book being a superb gentle intro­duc­tion for all audi­ences. I’d recom­mend this book as a per­fect intro­duc­tion to Python for any learner with no prior exper­i­ence. Its clear, straight­for­ward and a great learn­ing tool.

 

 

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