This week has been rough on my peace and tranquility. The book I am planning to use for my next semester Programming II Python course has developed issues and a reply to one of Alfred Thompson’s posts got me off on a thinking tangent.
The issue with the book is trivial but just continues my running battle with authors that make simple mistakes that complicates life for the classroom teacher. The author has a number of useful exercise problems in each chapter. After each exercise he gives the url to the solution website. Some kids might use the solution to understand how the program works and compare it to their own solution. Some kids will cut and paste and keep on truckin’. I would prefer to not have these solutions readily available in the text. This is a survivable issue but it is still annoying. What really tweaks me off is the solutions have code that is not covered up to that point in the text. Magic code should not be a feature of a beginner solution. The magic is not extensive but is just enough to bring up the “what in the heck does this do?” question. I have enough experience to figure the magic out but a kid looking at the solution is not going to be happy. If magic is used, a least put a comment explaining what is does. Turtle.x, turtle.y and turtle.redraw are fairly obvious as to what they do but still put a list of all turtle commands so the kids can see what is available for turtle commands. If the solution uses them then the reader might need to know what is available before they work on the exercise. And dropping in world.mainloop() with no explanation is just not good. Since I am just learning Python myself that bit of code took me a few minutes to understand what it is doing. I still do not know for certain how it works but hopefully the book will enlighten me in a later chapter. These are little issues but they are just annoying enough to be a pain.
The anonymous reply to Alfred’s post regarding 21st Century Skills got me thinking about what “21st Century Skills” really means. Are the skills Plato, Socrates and Aristotle were trying to teach considered 21st Century Skills? Sure they are but the capital letters implies these are new and were brought on by the advent of the 21st century. I will have to work up a later post on what a tech guy, tech teacher and math teacher (me) really considers 21st Century Skills. I do not think the list should emphasize skills teachers have been trying to teach since the first teacher picked up a sharp rock and said “Ugh”.