CP4E in a third world country

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CP4E in a third world country

Miguel Turner-2
Hello to all,

I'm posting here because I am planning on teaching a programming class
to kids in a small town in Honduras. I am a Peace Corps volunteer
currently living in a town of about 2,500 people. I studied CS in
college and originally joined the Peace Corps when I learned that they
have been seeking volunteers with technical backgrounds for some years
now in order to develop the use of technology in third world countries.
Needless to say, I am facing a number of challenges and I thought it
would be helpful to seek out some advice, and maybe see if there was
anyone who has been or is in a similar situation.

I've been a huge fan of Python since I taught it to myself over 3 years
ago, and I've used it often, since. I enjoy working in C and Assembly,
but Python was like a breath of fresh air. So, I'm already sold on the
idea of Python as a first language and basically everything about CP4E.
I recently read John Miller's excellent dissertation on computer
literacy, which is what motivated me to post here.

The colegio (middle/high school) in my town has maybe 150 students, and
8 working, donated computers. There is currently a computer teacher who
gives very basic lessons in Windows and Microsoft Office to the 20 or so
high schoolers. The town has 1 public internet connection at an internet
cafe with 3 computers and a satellite dish. Very few families have
personal computers and far fewer can afford to connect to the internet
via mobile phone, which is the cheapest option available. In short,
there is very little exposure to computers here. It is not unusual to
find kids who struggle with using a mouse. But there are also some kids
who like to spend their time at the internet cafe chatting and
downloading music to their cellphones (plenty of those here).

The lack of computers and internet is the first challenge, though not
one I can do much about. Another is language. I speak Spanish well
enough, though I do anticipate difficulties when trying to explain
programming concepts in ways that make sense in this culture. There is
also the fact that most documentation, code, and the language itself,
are all in English. I'm aware of some books that have been translated,
but I'm mainly concerned with how frustrating it will be for the
students to debug their programs when all of the error messages are in
English.

Another major challenge is the educational system, and indeed, the
educational culture here. It's a bit complicated, so I will just say
that only about 8% of kids make it through high school and most of those
will graduate without ever seeing algebra. The worst of it is that it's
hard to find people who actually want to learn, or even think. When I
showed the computer teacher here Guido van Robot she said, "doesn't all
that thinking make your head hurt?" This is reflected in the lack of
self-confidence a lot of the kids have that they're smart enough to
learn difficult things. It's very frustrating, but it makes me think
that a programming course would be all the more worthwhile, assuming I
can get past enough of that sort of thinking to get started.

Practicality is also very important here. Given that, and the generally
low level of education, I am interested in integrating other subjects
into the class, such as algebra, reading material, and whatever I can
include that might be more directly related to local life. I don't
intend programming to be an end, so much as the means to an end.

I have considered, in some depth, using another method for teaching
programming, such as Alice or Guido van Robot. Perhaps in another post I
can give my reasons for deciding against those and going with Python.
I've looked at the OLPC project too, but, unfortunately, it doesn't look
like that will be making it to Honduras for a while.

My biggest concern, it must be said, is that I have no real teaching
experience - I'm a programmer. I'm sure I can muddle through until I can
get the hang of it, but given all the other challenges I have to face,
I'm not sure the kids (or the teachers) will have the patience to stick
with me until I do. So, I'd appreciate recommendations for good teaching
resources, as well.

I could say much more, but I only wanted to introduce myself. Hopefully
someone can give me some idea how far up the creek I am, though I'd be
happy to hear comments on anything that I've brought up. I'm open to
criticism as well, if anyone has any compelling reasons for why this
might not be a good idea. I know most, or all, of these kids will never
become programmers, but that's not the point, is it?

Thanks for reading,
Miguel Turner
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Re: CP4E in a third world country

Winston Wolff
Hi Miguel-

We teach computer programming with Python at Stratolab, but I like to  
start with Scratch first.  ( scratch.mit.edu )  Scratch builds the  
higher level programming concepts without the burden of learning  
syntax.  Scratch programmers learn problem solving, if-then logic,  
loops, an variables.  With Scratch, students get something working  
quickly, which builds their motivation.  Then the ones who really  
enjoy it can move on to Python.  Many are content using Scratch, which  
I think is fine.  Also Scratch's hardware requirements are relatively  
modest.

For the kids who move to Python, graphics are a great way to go--it  
provides a lot of positive feedback.  PyGame is rather low level.  I  
use my own MoonUnit wrapper around PyGame ( http://stratolab.com/misc/makebot 
  ), but LiveWires is similar.

As far as teaching tips, do you live anywhere near NYC?

-Winston


On Oct 7, 2008, at 11:26 AM, Miguel Turner wrote:

> Hello to all,
>
> I'm posting here because I am planning on teaching a programming  
> class to kids in a small town in Honduras. I am a Peace Corps  
> volunteer currently living in a town of about 2,500 people. I  
> studied CS in college and originally joined the Peace Corps when I  
> learned that they have been seeking volunteers with technical  
> backgrounds for some years now in order to develop the use of  
> technology in third world countries. Needless to say, I am facing a  
> number of challenges and I thought it would be helpful to seek out  
> some advice, and maybe see if there was anyone who has been or is in  
> a similar situation.
>
> I've been a huge fan of Python since I taught it to myself over 3  
> years ago, and I've used it often, since. I enjoy working in C and  
> Assembly, but Python was like a breath of fresh air. So, I'm already  
> sold on the idea of Python as a first language and basically  
> everything about CP4E. I recently read John Miller's excellent  
> dissertation on computer literacy, which is what motivated me to  
> post here.
>
> The colegio (middle/high school) in my town has maybe 150 students,  
> and 8 working, donated computers. There is currently a computer  
> teacher who gives very basic lessons in Windows and Microsoft Office  
> to the 20 or so high schoolers. The town has 1 public internet  
> connection at an internet cafe with 3 computers and a satellite  
> dish. Very few families have personal computers and far fewer can  
> afford to connect to the internet via mobile phone, which is the  
> cheapest option available. In short, there is very little exposure  
> to computers here. It is not unusual to find kids who struggle with  
> using a mouse. But there are also some kids who like to spend their  
> time at the internet cafe chatting and downloading music to their  
> cellphones (plenty of those here).
>
> The lack of computers and internet is the first challenge, though  
> not one I can do much about. Another is language. I speak Spanish  
> well enough, though I do anticipate difficulties when trying to  
> explain programming concepts in ways that make sense in this  
> culture. There is also the fact that most documentation, code, and  
> the language itself, are all in English. I'm aware of some books  
> that have been translated, but I'm mainly concerned with how  
> frustrating it will be for the students to debug their programs when  
> all of the error messages are in English.
>
> Another major challenge is the educational system, and indeed, the  
> educational culture here. It's a bit complicated, so I will just say  
> that only about 8% of kids make it through high school and most of  
> those will graduate without ever seeing algebra. The worst of it is  
> that it's hard to find people who actually want to learn, or even  
> think. When I showed the computer teacher here Guido van Robot she  
> said, "doesn't all that thinking make your head hurt?" This is  
> reflected in the lack of self-confidence a lot of the kids have that  
> they're smart enough to learn difficult things. It's very  
> frustrating, but it makes me think that a programming course would  
> be all the more worthwhile, assuming I can get past enough of that  
> sort of thinking to get started.
>
> Practicality is also very important here. Given that, and the  
> generally low level of education, I am interested in integrating  
> other subjects into the class, such as algebra, reading material,  
> and whatever I can include that might be more directly related to  
> local life. I don't intend programming to be an end, so much as the  
> means to an end.
>
> I have considered, in some depth, using another method for teaching  
> programming, such as Alice or Guido van Robot. Perhaps in another  
> post I can give my reasons for deciding against those and going with  
> Python. I've looked at the OLPC project too, but, unfortunately, it  
> doesn't look like that will be making it to Honduras for a while.
>
> My biggest concern, it must be said, is that I have no real teaching  
> experience - I'm a programmer. I'm sure I can muddle through until I  
> can get the hang of it, but given all the other challenges I have to  
> face, I'm not sure the kids (or the teachers) will have the patience  
> to stick with me until I do. So, I'd appreciate recommendations for  
> good teaching resources, as well.
>
> I could say much more, but I only wanted to introduce myself.  
> Hopefully someone can give me some idea how far up the creek I am,  
> though I'd be happy to hear comments on anything that I've brought  
> up. I'm open to criticism as well, if anyone has any compelling  
> reasons for why this might not be a good idea. I know most, or all,  
> of these kids will never become programmers, but that's not the  
> point, is it?
>
> Thanks for reading,
> Miguel Turner
> _______________________________________________
> Edu-sig mailing list
> [hidden email]
> http://mail.python.org/mailman/listinfo/edu-sig

Winston Wolff
Stratolab - Computer Courses for Teens and Kids
(646) 827-2242 - http://stratolab.com

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Re: CP4E in a third world country

Charles Cossé
In reply to this post by Miguel Turner-2
Greetings Miguel,

Sounds like fun down there in Honduras.  I just visited Costa Rica
with my kids earlier this summer, and ran into some Peace Corps tech
teachers down there.  Myself, I'm an RPCV (Kenya 1991-1993) and have
been implementing the 3rd Peace Corps goal ever since by developing
OpenSource Education Software in Python (www.asymptopia.org).
Actually, there you might be interested in TuxWordSmith which is
almost Scrabble and plays in many language combos, including
Spanish/English and English/Spanish.  I'd be happy to correspond and
perhaps help you with some supplies if you need ... gotta run, but I'm
here.  Hope to hear from you.

Charles Cosse
--
AsymptopiaSoftware | Software@theLimit
                 www.asymptopia.org

On Tue, Oct 7, 2008 at 9:26 AM, Miguel Turner <[hidden email]> wrote:

> Hello to all,
>
> I'm posting here because I am planning on teaching a programming class to
> kids in a small town in Honduras. I am a Peace Corps volunteer currently
> living in a town of about 2,500 people. I studied CS in college and
> originally joined the Peace Corps when I learned that they have been seeking
> volunteers with technical backgrounds for some years now in order to develop
> the use of technology in third world countries. Needless to say, I am facing
> a number of challenges and I thought it would be helpful to seek out some
> advice, and maybe see if there was anyone who has been or is in a similar
> situation.
>
> I've been a huge fan of Python since I taught it to myself over 3 years ago,
> and I've used it often, since. I enjoy working in C and Assembly, but Python
> was like a breath of fresh air. So, I'm already sold on the idea of Python
> as a first language and basically everything about CP4E. I recently read
> John Miller's excellent dissertation on computer literacy, which is what
> motivated me to post here.
>
> The colegio (middle/high school) in my town has maybe 150 students, and 8
> working, donated computers. There is currently a computer teacher who gives
> very basic lessons in Windows and Microsoft Office to the 20 or so high
> schoolers. The town has 1 public internet connection at an internet cafe
> with 3 computers and a satellite dish. Very few families have personal
> computers and far fewer can afford to connect to the internet via mobile
> phone, which is the cheapest option available. In short, there is very
> little exposure to computers here. It is not unusual to find kids who
> struggle with using a mouse. But there are also some kids who like to spend
> their time at the internet cafe chatting and downloading music to their
> cellphones (plenty of those here).
>
> The lack of computers and internet is the first challenge, though not one I
> can do much about. Another is language. I speak Spanish well enough, though
> I do anticipate difficulties when trying to explain programming concepts in
> ways that make sense in this culture. There is also the fact that most
> documentation, code, and the language itself, are all in English. I'm aware
> of some books that have been translated, but I'm mainly concerned with how
> frustrating it will be for the students to debug their programs when all of
> the error messages are in English.
>
> Another major challenge is the educational system, and indeed, the
> educational culture here. It's a bit complicated, so I will just say that
> only about 8% of kids make it through high school and most of those will
> graduate without ever seeing algebra. The worst of it is that it's hard to
> find people who actually want to learn, or even think. When I showed the
> computer teacher here Guido van Robot she said, "doesn't all that thinking
> make your head hurt?" This is reflected in the lack of self-confidence a lot
> of the kids have that they're smart enough to learn difficult things. It's
> very frustrating, but it makes me think that a programming course would be
> all the more worthwhile, assuming I can get past enough of that sort of
> thinking to get started.
>
> Practicality is also very important here. Given that, and the generally low
> level of education, I am interested in integrating other subjects into the
> class, such as algebra, reading material, and whatever I can include that
> might be more directly related to local life. I don't intend programming to
> be an end, so much as the means to an end.
>
> I have considered, in some depth, using another method for teaching
> programming, such as Alice or Guido van Robot. Perhaps in another post I can
> give my reasons for deciding against those and going with Python. I've
> looked at the OLPC project too, but, unfortunately, it doesn't look like
> that will be making it to Honduras for a while.
>
> My biggest concern, it must be said, is that I have no real teaching
> experience - I'm a programmer. I'm sure I can muddle through until I can get
> the hang of it, but given all the other challenges I have to face, I'm not
> sure the kids (or the teachers) will have the patience to stick with me
> until I do. So, I'd appreciate recommendations for good teaching resources,
> as well.
>
> I could say much more, but I only wanted to introduce myself. Hopefully
> someone can give me some idea how far up the creek I am, though I'd be happy
> to hear comments on anything that I've brought up. I'm open to criticism as
> well, if anyone has any compelling reasons for why this might not be a good
> idea. I know most, or all, of these kids will never become programmers, but
> that's not the point, is it?
>
> Thanks for reading,
> Miguel Turner
> _______________________________________________
> Edu-sig mailing list
> [hidden email]
> http://mail.python.org/mailman/listinfo/edu-sig
>
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Re: CP4E in a third world country

Vern Ceder
In reply to this post by Miguel Turner-2
Good luck Miguel, we're all pulling for you.

My advice teaching-wise would be to go slow with the initial concepts.
To someone who has never coded at all variables, lists, loops, etc are
somewhat alien concepts, while once you know how to program, the same
concepts seem trivial. So be patient and attentive to whether or not
they're getting it, and be ready to explain (and illustrate and have
them practice) the same thing several different ways.

Cheers,
Vern Ceder

Miguel Turner wrote:

> Hello to all,
>
> I'm posting here because I am planning on teaching a programming class
> to kids in a small town in Honduras. I am a Peace Corps volunteer
> currently living in a town of about 2,500 people. I studied CS in
> college and originally joined the Peace Corps when I learned that they
> have been seeking volunteers with technical backgrounds for some years
> now in order to develop the use of technology in third world countries.
> Needless to say, I am facing a number of challenges and I thought it
> would be helpful to seek out some advice, and maybe see if there was
> anyone who has been or is in a similar situation.
>
> I've been a huge fan of Python since I taught it to myself over 3 years
> ago, and I've used it often, since. I enjoy working in C and Assembly,
> but Python was like a breath of fresh air. So, I'm already sold on the
> idea of Python as a first language and basically everything about CP4E.
> I recently read John Miller's excellent dissertation on computer
> literacy, which is what motivated me to post here.
>
> The colegio (middle/high school) in my town has maybe 150 students, and
> 8 working, donated computers. There is currently a computer teacher who
> gives very basic lessons in Windows and Microsoft Office to the 20 or so
> high schoolers. The town has 1 public internet connection at an internet
> cafe with 3 computers and a satellite dish. Very few families have
> personal computers and far fewer can afford to connect to the internet
> via mobile phone, which is the cheapest option available. In short,
> there is very little exposure to computers here. It is not unusual to
> find kids who struggle with using a mouse. But there are also some kids
> who like to spend their time at the internet cafe chatting and
> downloading music to their cellphones (plenty of those here).
>
> The lack of computers and internet is the first challenge, though not
> one I can do much about. Another is language. I speak Spanish well
> enough, though I do anticipate difficulties when trying to explain
> programming concepts in ways that make sense in this culture. There is
> also the fact that most documentation, code, and the language itself,
> are all in English. I'm aware of some books that have been translated,
> but I'm mainly concerned with how frustrating it will be for the
> students to debug their programs when all of the error messages are in
> English.
>
> Another major challenge is the educational system, and indeed, the
> educational culture here. It's a bit complicated, so I will just say
> that only about 8% of kids make it through high school and most of those
> will graduate without ever seeing algebra. The worst of it is that it's
> hard to find people who actually want to learn, or even think. When I
> showed the computer teacher here Guido van Robot she said, "doesn't all
> that thinking make your head hurt?" This is reflected in the lack of
> self-confidence a lot of the kids have that they're smart enough to
> learn difficult things. It's very frustrating, but it makes me think
> that a programming course would be all the more worthwhile, assuming I
> can get past enough of that sort of thinking to get started.
>
> Practicality is also very important here. Given that, and the generally
> low level of education, I am interested in integrating other subjects
> into the class, such as algebra, reading material, and whatever I can
> include that might be more directly related to local life. I don't
> intend programming to be an end, so much as the means to an end.
>
> I have considered, in some depth, using another method for teaching
> programming, such as Alice or Guido van Robot. Perhaps in another post I
> can give my reasons for deciding against those and going with Python.
> I've looked at the OLPC project too, but, unfortunately, it doesn't look
> like that will be making it to Honduras for a while.
>
> My biggest concern, it must be said, is that I have no real teaching
> experience - I'm a programmer. I'm sure I can muddle through until I can
> get the hang of it, but given all the other challenges I have to face,
> I'm not sure the kids (or the teachers) will have the patience to stick
> with me until I do. So, I'd appreciate recommendations for good teaching
> resources, as well.
>
> I could say much more, but I only wanted to introduce myself. Hopefully
> someone can give me some idea how far up the creek I am, though I'd be
> happy to hear comments on anything that I've brought up. I'm open to
> criticism as well, if anyone has any compelling reasons for why this
> might not be a good idea. I know most, or all, of these kids will never
> become programmers, but that's not the point, is it?
>
> Thanks for reading,
> Miguel Turner
> _______________________________________________
> Edu-sig mailing list
> [hidden email]
> http://mail.python.org/mailman/listinfo/edu-sig

--
This time for sure!
    -Bullwinkle J. Moose
-----------------------------
Vern Ceder, Director of Technology
Canterbury School, 3210 Smith Road, Ft Wayne, IN 46804
[hidden email]; 260-436-0746; FAX: 260-436-5137
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Re: CP4E in a third world country

Winston Wolff
Variables especially are such a central concept to programmers that I  
found it difficult to teach.  It seemed obvious to me but students had  
a lot of trouble with them.

Loops and if-then statements are easy to see what they do, but the  
uses of variables are much more abstract.  For example using variables  
to determine state takes a while to understand.

But beyond just programming, I find that the process of programming is  
a great place to teach many other general skills--learning to solve  
problems, to break down problems into pieces, working in teams,  
communication, attention to detail.

-Winston


On Oct 7, 2008, at 12:03 PM, Vern Ceder wrote:

> Good luck Miguel, we're all pulling for you.
>
> My advice teaching-wise would be to go slow with the initial  
> concepts. To someone who has never coded at all variables, lists,  
> loops, etc are somewhat alien concepts, while once you know how to  
> program, the same concepts seem trivial. So be patient and attentive  
> to whether or not they're getting it, and be ready to explain (and  
> illustrate and have them practice) the same thing several different  
> ways.
>
> Cheers,
> Vern Ceder
>
> Miguel Turner wrote:
>> Hello to all,
>> I'm posting here because I am planning on teaching a programming  
>> class to kids in a small town in Honduras. I am a Peace Corps  
>> volunteer currently living in a town of about 2,500 people. I  
>> studied CS in college and originally joined the Peace Corps when I  
>> learned that they have been seeking volunteers with technical  
>> backgrounds for some years now in order to develop the use of  
>> technology in third world countries. Needless to say, I am facing a  
>> number of challenges and I thought it would be helpful to seek out  
>> some advice, and maybe see if there was anyone who has been or is  
>> in a similar situation.
>> I've been a huge fan of Python since I taught it to myself over 3  
>> years ago, and I've used it often, since. I enjoy working in C and  
>> Assembly, but Python was like a breath of fresh air. So, I'm  
>> already sold on the idea of Python as a first language and  
>> basically everything about CP4E. I recently read John Miller's  
>> excellent dissertation on computer literacy, which is what  
>> motivated me to post here.
>> The colegio (middle/high school) in my town has maybe 150 students,  
>> and 8 working, donated computers. There is currently a computer  
>> teacher who gives very basic lessons in Windows and Microsoft  
>> Office to the 20 or so high schoolers. The town has 1 public  
>> internet connection at an internet cafe with 3 computers and a  
>> satellite dish. Very few families have personal computers and far  
>> fewer can afford to connect to the internet via mobile phone, which  
>> is the cheapest option available. In short, there is very little  
>> exposure to computers here. It is not unusual to find kids who  
>> struggle with using a mouse. But there are also some kids who like  
>> to spend their time at the internet cafe chatting and downloading  
>> music to their cellphones (plenty of those here).
>> The lack of computers and internet is the first challenge, though  
>> not one I can do much about. Another is language. I speak Spanish  
>> well enough, though I do anticipate difficulties when trying to  
>> explain programming concepts in ways that make sense in this  
>> culture. There is also the fact that most documentation, code, and  
>> the language itself, are all in English. I'm aware of some books  
>> that have been translated, but I'm mainly concerned with how  
>> frustrating it will be for the students to debug their programs  
>> when all of the error messages are in English.
>> Another major challenge is the educational system, and indeed, the  
>> educational culture here. It's a bit complicated, so I will just  
>> say that only about 8% of kids make it through high school and most  
>> of those will graduate without ever seeing algebra. The worst of it  
>> is that it's hard to find people who actually want to learn, or  
>> even think. When I showed the computer teacher here Guido van Robot  
>> she said, "doesn't all that thinking make your head hurt?" This is  
>> reflected in the lack of self-confidence a lot of the kids have  
>> that they're smart enough to learn difficult things. It's very  
>> frustrating, but it makes me think that a programming course would  
>> be all the more worthwhile, assuming I can get past enough of that  
>> sort of thinking to get started.
>> Practicality is also very important here. Given that, and the  
>> generally low level of education, I am interested in integrating  
>> other subjects into the class, such as algebra, reading material,  
>> and whatever I can include that might be more directly related to  
>> local life. I don't intend programming to be an end, so much as the  
>> means to an end.
>> I have considered, in some depth, using another method for teaching  
>> programming, such as Alice or Guido van Robot. Perhaps in another  
>> post I can give my reasons for deciding against those and going  
>> with Python. I've looked at the OLPC project too, but,  
>> unfortunately, it doesn't look like that will be making it to  
>> Honduras for a while.
>> My biggest concern, it must be said, is that I have no real  
>> teaching experience - I'm a programmer. I'm sure I can muddle  
>> through until I can get the hang of it, but given all the other  
>> challenges I have to face, I'm not sure the kids (or the teachers)  
>> will have the patience to stick with me until I do. So, I'd  
>> appreciate recommendations for good teaching resources, as well.
>> I could say much more, but I only wanted to introduce myself.  
>> Hopefully someone can give me some idea how far up the creek I am,  
>> though I'd be happy to hear comments on anything that I've brought  
>> up. I'm open to criticism as well, if anyone has any compelling  
>> reasons for why this might not be a good idea. I know most, or all,  
>> of these kids will never become programmers, but that's not the  
>> point, is it?
>> Thanks for reading,
>> Miguel Turner
>> _______________________________________________
>> Edu-sig mailing list
>> [hidden email]
>> http://mail.python.org/mailman/listinfo/edu-sig
>
> --
> This time for sure!
>   -Bullwinkle J. Moose
> -----------------------------
> Vern Ceder, Director of Technology
> Canterbury School, 3210 Smith Road, Ft Wayne, IN 46804
> [hidden email]; 260-436-0746; FAX: 260-436-5137
> _______________________________________________
> Edu-sig mailing list
> [hidden email]
> http://mail.python.org/mailman/listinfo/edu-sig

Winston Wolff
Stratolab - Computer Courses for Teens and Kids
(646) 827-2242 - http://stratolab.com

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Re: CP4E in a third world country

Daniel Ajoy-2
In reply to this post by Miguel Turner-2
On Tue, 07 Oct 2008 10:26:30 -0500, <[hidden email]> wrote:

> There is
> also the fact that most documentation, code, and the language itself,
> are all in English. I'm aware of some books that have been translated,
> but I'm mainly concerned with how frustrating it will be for the
> students to debug their programs when all of the error messages are in
> English.


There are Logos in Spanish, for example FMSLogo (which is free)

http://neoparaiso.com/logo/versiones-logo.html

and there are Logo books in English and Spanish.

FMSLogo is a very close descendant of MSWLogo and there are teaching materials for MSWLogo here:

http://neoparaiso.com/logo/mswlogo.html


many things under:

Trabajo con Logo
http://neoparaiso.com/logo/#sect5

can be applied to any version of Logo


I own three books of Logo in Spanish. I found them in old-books stores.

Daniel

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Re: CP4E in a third world country

Winston Wolff
In reply to this post by Winston Wolff
Miguel-

Here's a PDF of what we try to teach in the first few courses using  
Scratch.  We cover the "Programming Skills I " in 20 hours of lab  
time.  Programming Skills II takes much longer.

        http://stratolab.com/static/misc/Stratolab%20Programming%20Skills.pdf

-Winston

On Oct 7, 2008, at 11:39 AM, Winston Wolff wrote:

> Hi Miguel-
>
> We teach computer programming with Python at Stratolab, but I like  
> to start with Scratch first.  ( scratch.mit.edu )  Scratch builds  
> the higher level programming concepts without the burden of learning  
> syntax.  Scratch programmers learn problem solving, if-then logic,  
> loops, an variables.  With Scratch, students get something working  
> quickly, which builds their motivation.  Then the ones who really  
> enjoy it can move on to Python.  Many are content using Scratch,  
> which I think is fine.  Also Scratch's hardware requirements are  
> relatively modest.
>
> For the kids who move to Python, graphics are a great way to go--it  
> provides a lot of positive feedback.  PyGame is rather low level.  I  
> use my own MoonUnit wrapper around PyGame ( http://stratolab.com/misc/makebot 
>  ), but LiveWires is similar.
>
> As far as teaching tips, do you live anywhere near NYC?
>
> -Winston

Winston Wolff
Stratolab - Computer Courses for Teens and Kids
(646) 827-2242 - http://stratolab.com

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Re: CP4E in a third world country

David MacQuigg
In reply to this post by Winston Wolff
At 12:11 PM 10/7/2008 -0400, Winston Wolff wrote:

>Variables especially are such a central concept to programmers that I  
>found it difficult to teach.  It seemed obvious to me but students had  
>a lot of trouble with them.

I think Python would be especially beneficial in this situation.  Unlike other languages, variables in Python are nothing but labels that you can "stick onto" an object.  The sticky note analogy should be very easy.  Kids are very good at making up names for things.


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Re: CP4E in a third world country

Andrew Harrington
In reply to this post by Miguel Turner-2
Miguel,
Look at the data on the Sugar installations for thousands of kids in Peru.  The Sugar environment is certainly localized for Spanish and takes little resources.
laptop.org
sugarlabs.org

Andy

On Tue, Oct 7, 2008 at 10:26 AM, Miguel Turner <[hidden email]> wrote:
Hello to all,

I'm posting here because I am planning on teaching a programming class to kids in a small town in Honduras. I am a Peace Corps volunteer currently living in a town of about 2,500 people. I studied CS in college and originally joined the Peace Corps when I learned that they have been seeking volunteers with technical backgrounds for some years now in order to develop the use of technology in third world countries. Needless to say, I am facing a number of challenges and I thought it would be helpful to seek out some advice, and maybe see if there was anyone who has been or is in a similar situation.

I've been a huge fan of Python since I taught it to myself over 3 years ago, and I've used it often, since. I enjoy working in C and Assembly, but Python was like a breath of fresh air. So, I'm already sold on the idea of Python as a first language and basically everything about CP4E. I recently read John Miller's excellent dissertation on computer literacy, which is what motivated me to post here.

The colegio (middle/high school) in my town has maybe 150 students, and 8 working, donated computers. There is currently a computer teacher who gives very basic lessons in Windows and Microsoft Office to the 20 or so high schoolers. The town has 1 public internet connection at an internet cafe with 3 computers and a satellite dish. Very few families have personal computers and far fewer can afford to connect to the internet via mobile phone, which is the cheapest option available. In short, there is very little exposure to computers here. It is not unusual to find kids who struggle with using a mouse. But there are also some kids who like to spend their time at the internet cafe chatting and downloading music to their cellphones (plenty of those here).

The lack of computers and internet is the first challenge, though not one I can do much about. Another is language. I speak Spanish well enough, though I do anticipate difficulties when trying to explain programming concepts in ways that make sense in this culture. There is also the fact that most documentation, code, and the language itself, are all in English. I'm aware of some books that have been translated, but I'm mainly concerned with how frustrating it will be for the students to debug their programs when all of the error messages are in English.

Another major challenge is the educational system, and indeed, the educational culture here. It's a bit complicated, so I will just say that only about 8% of kids make it through high school and most of those will graduate without ever seeing algebra. The worst of it is that it's hard to find people who actually want to learn, or even think. When I showed the computer teacher here Guido van Robot she said, "doesn't all that thinking make your head hurt?" This is reflected in the lack of self-confidence a lot of the kids have that they're smart enough to learn difficult things. It's very frustrating, but it makes me think that a programming course would be all the more worthwhile, assuming I can get past enough of that sort of thinking to get started.

Practicality is also very important here. Given that, and the generally low level of education, I am interested in integrating other subjects into the class, such as algebra, reading material, and whatever I can include that might be more directly related to local life. I don't intend programming to be an end, so much as the means to an end.

I have considered, in some depth, using another method for teaching programming, such as Alice or Guido van Robot. Perhaps in another post I can give my reasons for deciding against those and going with Python. I've looked at the OLPC project too, but, unfortunately, it doesn't look like that will be making it to Honduras for a while.

My biggest concern, it must be said, is that I have no real teaching experience - I'm a programmer. I'm sure I can muddle through until I can get the hang of it, but given all the other challenges I have to face, I'm not sure the kids (or the teachers) will have the patience to stick with me until I do. So, I'd appreciate recommendations for good teaching resources, as well.

I could say much more, but I only wanted to introduce myself. Hopefully someone can give me some idea how far up the creek I am, though I'd be happy to hear comments on anything that I've brought up. I'm open to criticism as well, if anyone has any compelling reasons for why this might not be a good idea. I know most, or all, of these kids will never become programmers, but that's not the point, is it?

Thanks for reading,
Miguel Turner
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Re: CP4E in a third world country

Gregor Lingl-2
In reply to this post by Miguel Turner-2
Hello Miguel,

Python 2.6, which was released one week ago, comes with a new turtle
module. Perhaps this is something, you and your kids would like as it is
pure educational Python software based on Tkinter. One of it's design
goals was to provide easy access to graphics, thus avoiding the need to
tinker around with the administrative overhead to create
Tkinter-canvases and the like. It covers a considerable subset of
MSW-Logo, but has an even nicer animation of the turtles - it's 'drawing
devices', which give a good graphical feedback about the correct working
and also possible bugs of the programmers ideas. Moreover it can be used
in procedural or object oriented programming style.

It can also be used interactively from IDLE, provided you use it with
the -n switch, for "no subprocess".  A link like (for Windows)

C:\Python26\pythonw.exe C:\\Python26\Lib\idlelib\idle.pyw -n

will do it. For instance:

>>> from turtle import *   # imports all the turtle-graphcis functions
>>> forward(100)
>>> left(120)
>>> forward(100)
>>> right(240)
>>> shape("turtle")
>>> fd(100)
>>> lt(840)
>>>

Sequences of a few elementary turtle graphics functions can be used to
compose rather eleborate drawings. All the turtle-graphics functions are
also available as turtle-methods, eg.:

>>> from turtle import Turtle
>>> bob = Turtle()
>>> ted = Turtle()
>>> ted.left(180)
>>> bob.color("red")
>>> ted.color("blue")
>>> ted.begin_fill()
>>> for edge in 1,2,3,4:
        for turtle in bob, ted:
            turtle.forward(120)
            turtle.left(90)

>>> ted.end_fill()

(These examples just for whetting your appetite)

Moreover the module has an online-help via docstrings and provides the
possibility to replace the english docstrings with ones that are
translated to another language. (Alas, these do not exist in spanish
yet, but if someone wishes to do the translation I could give some hints
on how to proceed.)

The loading of these foreign-language-help ist configured via a
turtle.cfg file which also allows to configure several other properties
of the module at startup, such as window size, canvas size (with
scrollbars if necessary),  turtle-shapes and even  a  'logo'-mode
which  provides orientation  and  angle-measurement like in MSW-Logo.
The standard configuration is as to ensure  compatibility with the old
turtle module which was part of Python until 2.5

The module has also been ported to Python 3.0 and will be part of that
Python version which will be released presumably at the beginning of
December.

If you want to try out the module with Python 2.5, you can find it here:

http://svn.python.org/view/python/trunk/Lib/lib-tk/turtle.py?rev=66686&view=log

The online-docs (which are included in the distribution as well) you can
find here:

http://docs.python.org/library/turtle.html#module-turtle

A sequence of turtle graphics demo scripts covering a wide range from
easy to rather sophisticated (including a demo-viewer script) you can
find here:

http://svn.python.org/view/python/trunk/Demo/turtle/


If you - or somebody else has any questions I'll be happy to help.

Best regards,
Gregor






>

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Re: CP4E in a third world country

Miguel Turner-2
In reply to this post by Miguel Turner-2
Thanks to everyone for the support. I hope no one minds if I write a general reply.

Winston Wolff wrote:
> We teach computer programming with Python at Stratolab, but I like to start with Scratch first.

I've looked at Scratch, but I haven't yet had a chance to try it out. My plan is to start with high school kids, and depending on how well that goes and how much time I have, I will try to work my way down to younger kids. As I do I may be more inclined to try things like Scratch, but, to start at least, I want to avoid giving the impression that I am just teaching them how to use a toy or play a game. Not that those things aren't important. In the broader scope of the class I do want to introduce games, including board and card games. The only games kids here play are action games on gaming consoles, and soccer.

Daniel Ajoy wrote:
> There are Logos in Spanish, for example FMSLogo (which is free)

Gregor Lingl wrote:
> Python 2.6, which was released one week ago, comes with a new turtle module.

I have a soft spot for Logo. It's how I fell in love with programming in 5th grade. I have been following Python development, so I was aware of the new turtle module, though I hadn't seen the demos. It's amazing what you can do with so little code, and the GUI for the demo browser is something along the lines of what I'd want in an IDE for the students. I can certainly see using it once the students have a firm grounding in the basics. I think that would be preferable to a seperate version of Logo, so that I'm not forcing my students to switch environments.

Winston Wolff wrote:
> For the kids who move to Python, graphics are a great way to go--it provides a lot of positive feedback.  PyGame is rather low level.  I use my own MoonUnit wrapper around PyGame ( http://stratolab.com/misc/makebot ), but LiveWires is similar.

I do intend to introduce graphics as early as possible. I've used Pygame before. In fact, I once wrote a minimal GUI framework in SDL, which is the library Pygame is based on. I also like what the Pyglet developers are doing. I'm inclined to start with the turtle module, though, if only because it's functions relate easily to drawing with a pencil. I have seen MakeBot and LiveWires before. I wanted to try MakeBot last night, but ran into an error (see postscript).

Vern Ceder wrote:
> My advice teaching-wise would be to go slow with the initial concepts. To someone who has never coded at all variables, lists, loops, etc are somewhat alien concepts, while once you know how to program, the same concepts seem trivial.

That's the plan. Patience, persistence, and a little creativity. At one point I tried a very simple exercise in Guido van Robot with 3 high school kids, and was surprised to find that they were struggling with the idea that the robot followed the instructions sequentially. So, my expectations have been tempered a bit.

Andrew Harrington wrote:
> Look at the data on the Sugar installations for thousands of kids in Peru.  The Sugar environment is certainly localized for Spanish and takes little resources.

For some reason I skipped over the thought that Sugar would run on other machines, even though I know it's based on Fedora. But there's so much more to XO than Sugar. Would you say that even on it's own Sugar offers significant advantages over, say, Edubuntu? And if so, would that be true for older kids? Regardless, I will try to grab a copy, though bandwidth is a luxury here.

Charles Cossé wrote:
> Actually, there you might be interested in TuxWordSmith which is almost Scrabble and plays in many language combos, including Spanish/English and English/Spanish.

I will take a look, thanks. As for supplies, there are always things lacking in a place like this, as I'm sure you know. For the class, at least, I think I can manage with what's available.

Thanks again for all your responses,
Miguel Turner

P.S. -- MakeBot error
This was right after installing to the default location:

MakeBot 2008-10-07 22:42:06 INFO Checking folder "C:\Program Files\Stratolab\MakeBot-1.4\Builders" for builder files. (core.builders)
MakeBot 2008-10-07 22:42:06 DEBUG details=[Errno 2] The system cannot find the file specified (core.builders)
MakeBot 2008-10-07 22:42:06 ERROR Error in MakeBot: Here is the stacktrace:
  File "main.py", line 360, in ?
  File "wx\_core.pyc", line 7749, in __init__
  File "wx\_core.pyc", line 7346, in _BootstrapApp
  File "main.py", line 139, in OnInit
  File "main.py", line 168, in init_windows
  File "main.py", line 275, in new_document
  File "wxgui\mbdocument.pyc", line 281, in __init__
  File "core\builders.pyc", line 219, in find_builders
  File "core\builders.pyc", line 111, in __init__

exceptions.IndexError: list index out of range (__main__)


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