Learn to Code with Python

by |March 16, 2016

March at Booktopia is For Dummies month! To celebrate, we’ve invited some of our favourite For Dummies authors to write about what they’re most passionate about; what they specialise in. This week we have Brendan Scott, author of Python for Kids: For Dummies, sharing his knowledge about Python, the program that helps kids learn coding at school.

To add to the excitement surrounding For Dummies month, we’re giving Booktopians the chance to win a For Dummies prize pack. Just order any title from our For Dummies showcase to enter! (T&Cs apply)

Brendan Scott

News Flash! All students in Australia from Year 3 through to Year 8 will learn to write computer programs in school. If you are in primary school now, chances are you will have to learn to writehttp://www.booktopia.com.au/python-for-kids-brendan-scott/prod9781119093107.html computer code in school.

Over the next couple of years every Australian State and Territory will be transitioning to a new, national curriculum, which reorganises a heap of things about how and what kids are learning in schools. Importantly, one component of the new curriculum is Digital Technologies, requiring kids to learn how to write computer code – and this doesn’t mean ‘coding a web page’ (aka Coding Lite).

For younger children, coding will probably be taught through using a purpose built programming learning environment like Scratch, but those environments won’t cut the mustard for later years. The Year 7 and 8 sequences expressly require solving problems using a general purpose programming language and the Year 9 and 10 Digital Technologies elective will require programming in an object oriented language. In my opinion, Python will be the go-to language for learning the curriculum.

One of the authors of the Digital Technologies component of the Australian Curriculum, Associate Professor James Curran of Sydney University, gave a keynote speech at PyCon-AU in Brisbane towards the end of 2014. In his talk not only did he give an overview of the new curriculum, he endorsed Python as a core programming language to learn as part of the curriculum. He said:

DummiesMonth_CategoryTile-170x485pxI believe that Python is the ideal language to teach the [new Australian] Year 7 through to Year 10 curriculum as one core language…

There are a lot of reasons that make Python so well suited to learning to code:

• Python is an interpreted language. Your program runs immediately when you type it in. Other languages require an additional step, called compilation (type, compile, run, instead of type, run). Compilation really slows down your interaction with the computer and, therefore, your understanding of how and why the computer is doing what it is doing. As an interpreted language, Python makes it much easier to experiment by making changes to a program and checking what happens, making learning easier.

• Python uses English-like words and grammar to cause the computer to do things. The visual similarity to English aids comprehension.

• Python uses visual layout to define sections of code – much like we use paragraphs and indentation in an essay. Other languages use special characters, like { and } to mark out their code sections and, frankly, it’s confusing. Python’s approach is much closer to our experience using English. As such, it is more intuitive and easier to follow.

• Python is not a ‘toy’ environment. While purpose-built environments are useful to learn coding concepts, they are inherently limited in what they can achieve. Python’s capabilities span the complete breadth of computing experience, whether it’s creating a user interface, displaying graphics, programming a network or manipulating a database, Python is able to achieve them.

Python is not only gentle enough to be accessible to younger age groups, it’s advanced enough to keep them engaged as they grow older. Python is a great language to get started in computer programming and one that will repay any investment for many years into the future.

For more up-to-date information on this see Brendan Scott’s book Python for Kids: For Dummies.

 

Python for Kids by Brendan Scott

Python for Kids

by Brendan Scott

Calling all wanna-be coders! Experts point to Python as one of the best languages to start with when you're learning coding, and Python For Kids For Dummies makes it easier than ever. Packed with approachable, bite-sized projects that won't make you lose your cool, this fun and friendly guide teaches the basics of coding with Python in a language you can understand. In no time, you'll be installing ...

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