CS Circles: Learning Python in One Browser Window

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15-minute talk on January 7, 2012
AMS-MAA Joint Math Meetings
MAA Session on Trends in Teaching Mathematics Online
Speaker: David Pritchard

We give an introduction to the goals, content, and mechanics behind a new project for teaching Python.

In the middle of the talk, there is a demonstration of lessons number 4, 3, and 2 from the website. This is not in the slides but you can check it out yourself at the website (registration is free):
http://www.cemc.math.uwaterloo.ca/resources/cscircles

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CS Circles: Learning Python in One Browser Window

  1. 1. CS Circles: LearningPython in a Browser Graeme Kemkes and David Pritchard Center for Education in Mathematics & Computing (CEMC), University of Waterloo
  2. 2. Computer Science Circles Overview• Website for learning programming• Mixed text, examples, exercises – Auto-grading of exercises – Feedback in-place (ajax) – Procedural generation• Math is a source of problems – In a good way – Geometry, arithmetic, primes
  3. 3. Goals Everyone can program / think algorithmicallyAid enrichment in high schoolsRobust self-learning for university students/adultsExperience should be:• fun, hassle-free• Engaging/interactive• Effective
  4. 4. An Empty NicheGreat existing services:• TopCoder & contests, for strong programmers• Khan Academy: videos, math exercisesNeed better services for beginners, ideally with• no software installation => happy admins• no back-and-forth between textbook and IDE• interactive engagement, exercises for mastery
  5. 5. Demo• 25 lessons, each w/ text and exercises – Examples, hints, diagrams• auto-grading (in a sandbox on our server) – 1 second time limit (not focusing on speed)• saves progress• “code scrambles:” drag lines to the right order• multiple choice, short answer• procedural generation of test cases
  6. 6. Under The Hood WordPress Lessons, Exercises in Markup Python SandboxWordpress Plugins (php, C) (javaScript, jQuery)
  7. 7. CS Circles: Do and Don’tCS Circles becomes much more powerful used in conjunction with an expert mentor/teacher• saves time grading, but can’t look at code and tell student when their code is badly written• we don’t try to check for plagiarism – in fact some exercises can be answered if the student carefully reads the .html source• person-on-person help is better for debugging
  8. 8. Future Directions• “I’m stuck!” button – sends an email to their teacher – includes the current code• Open-sourcing – smooth out the markup language• Teach JavaScript• Easier, harder versions; additional exercises
  9. 9. Thanks for Listening!

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