Teaching Coding, Part 5

dragonYesterday was the third day we spent learning the ins and outs of Python. We continue to use Al Sweigart’s book, Invent Your Own Computer Games with Python (available for download here.) The topic of the day was defining functions.

Defining your own functions is one of the most useful skills a coder can have. If you want a program to perform the same task multiple times, simply program that task in a block of code, and give it a name. For example, if I want the computer to ask the user to pick a number several times, I can create a function called pickNumber that the program can call any time it needs it:

def pickNumber():
    print('Pick a number between 1 and 10')
    input()
    userNumber = input()
    return userNumber

Python has a huge library of functions that are already defined for programmers. As one of my students who is an accomplished coder said, “Programmers hate reinventing the wheel.”

The game we typed in today involved choosing between two caves, each containing a dragon. One dragon is friendly and will share his treasure. The other is greedy and will eat you up. The girls had to define functions for printing out a descriptive introduction, letting the user choose a cave, randomly picking the bad dragon’s cave and comparing it to the user’s choice, printing the outcome, and asking if user if he or she wants to play again.

The assignment for next class is to write an original game that asks the user to make a choice and output the consequences of that choice.

 

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Teaching Coding, Part 1

Scratch

My school has a three-week period between semesters called Winterim, where we offer an alternative curriculum. This year, I am taking the plunge and teaching an intro to computer coding. One of the biggest challenges of teaching at an all-girls school is sparking interest in computer science among my students. Hopefully, this minicourse will get a few girls inspired to pursue the subject further, and we can build on that. So, I’ll be writing a series of posts in the next couple of weeks to share with you what works and what doesn’t.

The basic course outline is this:

  1. Intro to coding through Scratch. (The screenshot above is from the Scratch programming environment.)
  2. Intro to Python by designing some simple games. For this part, I’m using Al Sweigart’s Invent Your Own Computer Games with Python. It’s available for free online here.
  3. Design your own Android apps. I’m using MIT’s App Inventor website in conjunction with the book App Inventor to do this. You need a Google account to log into the website.
  4. Time permitting, we’ll learn the basics of TinkerCAD, and print out some 3D projects.

I’ve spent the past couple of days exploring Scratch, and that will be the subject of my next post.