Saturday, November 18, 2006

Lurching Forward

I enjoyed a satisfying conclusion to Pythonic Mathematics today, that was #7571 - Computer Programming from Chaos to Python. The students had turned raw Python syntax to Vpython gold, including a 3-or-4 frequency tetrahedron, moons around moons, and a mom and her kids did this "look, a real professor" number in the Park Blocks (I had the plastic 4-frequency in tow, attracted attention).

However, these triumphs are somewhat overshadowed by the loss of my OSCON bag and all its contents: iPod, digicam, new Russian geometry book... dried up cashews. Part of the torment is imagining the lucky dude who now has all that, and that's if it really was stolen, which I can't prove (more torment). I recall from some Tibetan Book of the Dead DVD that this is the hardest part: watching your killers play with your stuff. Anyway, maybe it'll turn up, along with Robin, my stolen car.

Back to the classroom: we watched excerpts of a Google Technical Talk, Guido rehearsing before OSCON 2006, talking about Python 3000. Then I shared Store Wars (Cuke versus Darth Tater) and the first few verses of Ramanujan (as many stared into their screens, completing projects). I recommended Python 411 and Dive Into Python (starting with the web version) as possible next sources of information.

As for source code, I looked at Pascal's Triangle (first time through) and Fibonacci generators (second pass -- tie back to triangular and tetrahedral sequences, plus Pascal's). I said something to the effect that these gentlemen needn't have been the first to ever conceive of such language games. So calling 'em is more an honor than a right.

I handed out the closed student evaluation forms, which get sealed and collected at the end of the final class by an SA HQS minion (cute colleague, some new kid on the block), i.e. are pretty much unseen by the instructor. Plus we send home parent forms in case an adult guardian wants to give feedback. Plus I get to fill one out about my students, my experience as the instructor. Plus I handed out signed certificates of completion, properly name embossed, like a credential of some kind.

Several of my students expressed in different ways their wish that ordinary school was more beefy like this, dense-packed with relevant multiplexing, with parents seconding the motion. I always make these "right on" noises, like gee I really empathize. That's why I teach through Saturday Academy, to fight for our Silicon Forest and its values, high standards. I've also been invited onto a curriculum advisory board for Portland Public Schools (PPS).