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ICT / Computing

Published on November 11th, 2015 | by What2Learn


Learn to program with Python… free resources!

learn to program with Python

Are you looking to learn to program with Python? Maybe you are deciding which programming language you should learn and are considering trying Python? Maybe you are a teacher getting to grips with saying goodbye to ICT and looking for how to introduce programming to students in their Computer Science lessons.

Whatever your reason for finding your way here, we would like to share a review of learning Python with Codecademy, provide you with some reflections on using it to support students taking baby steps in learning to program, and provide you with some additional free resources and workbooks which will help your students as they learn Python. Perhaps the best starting place is to consider why should we learn to program computers? The video below is a great way to introduce students to the importance of programming and the great opportunities it can offer those who have the skills to use it.

Teachers – why should your students learn to program with Python?

You won’t be able to get away from some proper text-based programming sooner or later. In the UK, the new National Curriculum does state that pupils should be taught to use two or more programming languages, at least one of which should be textual. In an earlier unit we have covered the use of logo which would suffice for meeting these requirements to a bare minimum. However, to move beyond such minimum delivery, and to prepare pupils in Key Stage 3 for the rigours of studying computing at GCSE and beyond, you won’t be able to get away from some proper text-based programming.

When it comes to selecting which programming language you will deliver with your classes, there are lots of options to pick from (and you may be already familiar with some), but Python is the most popular language used for GCSE computing at the moment. Remember, it is the pupils who will need to learn a language and complete coursework and exams, so don’t just go with whatever language YOU are most familiar with!

With a strong emphasis on code readability, Python is an ideal first language for pupils to learn. Despite this it is still a powerful, high-level programming language capable of undertaking complex tasks. Depending upon the kind of school you work in and the pupils you have, the depth with which you go into when it comes to Python programming will vary greatly. It is likely that you will be able to increase the depth into which you go as the next few years pass by as future years will have a far stronger grounding in the concepts of programming and computing due to delivery of Computing-focused units in earlier years.

Recommended resources for learning to program with Python

It is the delivery of such professional programming languages which has understandably caused the greatest amount of consternation amongst teachers of ICT. Many feel totally unskilled for delivering such curricular content. You can’t teach what you don’t know so it will be the professional responsibility of all to ensure a certain level of proficiency. Fortunately there are some incredible resources out there which will make both learning Python and delivering to our classes relatively pain-free. This guide focuses on the use of one of these – codecademy.

Codecademy is an exceptional online resource which teaches users to program in many different languages. What makes the resource so useful is that each step of the way to developing your knowledge it follows the same three steps: 1. Introduction of a new tool or concept to understand. 2. A practical task for you to attempt in a Python simulator. 3. Automated checking of your attempt. The user is only able to move on to the next step of the learning journey if step 3 above is successfully completed. By logging in, all the code created by the user is available to be looked back at later on. This is incredibly useful as remembering correct syntax every time is very difficult – even professional programmers will often look at notes and guides to ensure code is error-free. Pupils will also enjoy earning badges as they progress through the online lessons.

learning to program Python with Codecademy

Negative aspects?

There is one glitch which appears from time to time on Codecademy. This involves the ‘Save and Submit’ button turning into a blue button with a cog image (/settings icon). This is easily remedied by a quick refresh of the window and no progress data is lost. The key issue with the excellent Codecademy as a learning tool is that it is possible for pupils to rush on from one lesson to the next at great pace. As such for many there is simply not sufficient time and repetition for key concepts and skills to sink in.

Download a free ‘learn to program with Python’ workbook

This workbook was created to support students learning to code with Python through using Codecademy. It resolves the issue stated above of students racing through tasks without really getting time to reflect and consider what they have learned, and to apply it to different situations. The workbook covers the following topics:

– Python syntax
– Variables and data types
– Whitespace
– Maths operators
– Printing output
– Declaring and working with strings
– Working with dates and times
– Conditionals and control flow
– Comparators
– Boolean operators

There is no financial cost to download this workbook but to help spread the word we simply ask you to use the pay with a tweet (or FB) button below.

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