Archive for September, 2018

Python and Pygame and PyCharm, oh my!

September 30, 2018

I am teaching Python again this year.  Nothing different there. What is different I have 3 of 9 Python students with previous Python experience.  I cannot do my usual course with them so I thought I would get clever and throw Pygame at them. Now I have tried Pygame previously with mixed results.  It is not Pygame that I had issues with, it is getting Pygame to work at all. Since I am not the sharpest pencil in the box I figured I would try it again.  Opps. Two installs went along with no issues. Now this is on student owned laptops, not identical school lap computers. The third laptop has issues. Pygame runs in the console so it should run in the editor right?  Nope. We use PyCharm as the editor. I used to use PyScripter but it was not being updated and would not work with newer versions of Python. Running Pygame was giving a very ambiguous error that Google was no help with.  I uninstall and reinstall everything. Versions are correct, Pygame is installed and working, Python is working, PyCharm is working but mixing the three is not working. Hmmmm. The only variable I have to work with now is the editor.  I try PyScripter. Everything works. What the heck? What is it about the different computers that is different? Beyond me. That student is going to use PyScripter.

Now I know I could use IDLE and maybe bypass all these editor issues but what fun would that be?  Maybe it is time to have less fun but the trouble is I like the autofill and formatting features the editors give me.  Spoiled.

It is fun things like this that makes even a simple programming class a royal pain.  Time lost by the student, time lost by me troubleshooting the issue, added gray hair wondering what the heck, and of course the humph factor.  (The humpf factor is me being stubborn and not letting the issue go. I what to know why it is doing weird stuff. More time lost.) Handling issues like this does make me laugh a bit.  I think of that poor business teacher that has been informed by the administration they are teaching Python. They are not given a second prep period. Their experience is nil. Their PD is nil.  Their free time after school has just gone to nil. Ouch.

Reading blogs leads to more work

September 27, 2018

So I read Alfred Thompson’s blog on What makes a great high school CS program.  Then on to Mike Zamansky’s continuation of that blog, What CS should we teach in high school.  I have been through this thought process before so no great deal here.  OK, it is a great deal since the underlying questions are important but I have considered these questions before and years ago decided there is no correct answer.  I teach what I teach because of resources: my skill level, the hardware and software available and the students I get in the seats. Then I read Gas station without pumps’ blog on learning outcomes.  Now that I have never really defined.  It has always just been a warm and fuzzy mental list of goals.  Now I am thinking. (Bad, very bad. Not one of my strengths.) I am thinking the first two blog questions are extremely dependent on the decision on learning outcomes.  And if the learning outcomes are laid out nicely the “What” and “What” of the Alfred and Mike blog questions becomes much easier to figure out. I really like how Gas’ outcomes are observable skills and not some conceptual thing that fits in that “warm and fuzzy” category that I like so much.  Now I do have learning outcomes for my courses. Admittedly they are not written down or really well defined. They are things like “can problem solve”, “can locate documentation needed to learn a language” and so on. Not real specific and sometimes a bit broad.

I can tell I have been in the classroom teaching groove a bit too long.  I had not really thought about the idea of learning outcomes as a concrete list in a long time nor have I thought if I am achieving any of my learning outcome with the courses I am teaching or within the courses.  I need to nail down some solid learning outcomes then start looking at my curriculum. Am I actually achieving what I want to do with what I am doing? I am just not sure how far I want to drill down on the outcomes.  I could really care less if students know how to write a program to count all the “s” letters in a phrase from a file. I do want the student to be able to find the resources to learn how to write a program that will find all the “s” letters in that file.  (At one time I was big on finding those s’s. But then I got confused with the “what language” question.)

Now I need a strategy on how to build learning outcomes for my CS courses then my CS curriculum.  Something to do in my idle moments.

Office Space: I need a red stapler

September 5, 2018

I have never had an office in my home for school work.  I have never even had a dedicated desk or table location for grading or whatever.  I do most of that sitting on the couch.  I have a small laptop perched on the arm of the couch that I can do most of anything I need to do.  Anything serious I do at school during prep times.  This scheme has worked for many years.  It is not going to work this year.  Typically, I have three preps; Stats, Alg 2 and a programming class.  The rest of the time is spent with IT work which, if things are running correctly, leaves me lots of time for class prep while at school.  This year I have six preps.  In fact one of the preps, one of the Python classes, I had to split into two separate groups because I have three students in the class are familiar with Python so I have to dream up something other than the usual Intro to Python material.  Not a problem other than it takes time.  I now have to do some serious work at home.  I am redesigning the Stats course so I have to do some writing and planning there.  The Game Making with Unity class is going to be interesting because the text reference I have used for several years no longer matches the version of Unity I am using this year.  I have to work through the book and note the differences or the kids will get majorly lost.  For my regular Python class I typically have students that have some programming background.  This class I have three with no background out of six.  This is a dual-credit course so they may be over their head.  I have one student doing an intro to programming independent study the same time I am teaching the Stats class.  She is turning out to be needier than I was expecting.  I am hoping she will come in during lunch.  Even though it is independent study I do have a lot of planning to set up for her.  If I do not do at home what I used to use my prep periods for the IT side of the job is going to be ugly.  So home office it is.  The wife is not too tickled with the idea since I set up in the living room with a table, an office chair and a dual-monitor setup.  Not exactly living room furniture but it will have to do.

I think this is going to be one of the busiest years I have had in a long time.  I am looking forward to it, should be a challenge and fun.