Tag Archives: python

Python Project and CCOW Week 6 reflection

What?

During week 4, I took a good look at my multiple motivations for taking part in CCOW.  They were:

1)  I want to master SCRATCH so that I can better teach it to my students, and so  that I know more of it’s potential uses (particularly in the elementary grades that I teach).

2) I want to learn how to code again… not  just as a subject to teach but as a creative outlet for myself.  

3)  I want to read more about and reflect upon Constructivist principles in my teaching and learning.  

Given these 3 objectives here is a first try at framing a project idea:

I want to learn to code.  I would make the leap from Scratch to Python, which is a more multi-purpose language.  I could use it to code for the web or to make apps for my handy android phone.  So…  I will try to use a ‘How to code in python’ manual  as a guide to create a game in scratch

1) I want to build upon my experience using Scratch to teach myself how to Code in Python.

2) I want to document my personal experience and explore how I can help my students make the transition from SCRATCH to real-world programming.

 

So what?

I found some great online resources for teaching yourself scratch (mostly geared at children).  The ones I used most were

I played with a variety of python IDEs (Integrated development environments) before settling upon pyscripter for windows as one that works for me.

I typed, debugged, debugged, debugged, modified, and debug several python programs from the above ebooks and tutorials.

I recreated a starfield simulation created in python by codeNtronix into a scratch program.

I thought, reflected and wrote lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots.

Now what?

I want to continue monkeying with python so that I can gain enough proficiency that next time I say, “Someone ought to create an app, program or plugin to do…”,  I might attempt to be that someone.

I am considering starting a lunchtime programming club at my elementary school as an extension to the lessons in SCRATCH I have taught as one of the schools Library&Technology teachers.

 

Thank you to the Creative Computing Online Workshop team for providing such a wonderful opportunity for professional development.

Oh-the-hue-manatee-CI5N

There are Many Reasons to Learn to Program

In the above video from a variety of celebrities make a case for why programming should be taught to all children.  It is worthwhile to watch the full 10 minute video at Code.org.  Code.org also offers links to a variety of learn to program resources, including Scratch.

During this project to transition from Scratch to learning to program in Python,  Madeline Bishop has twice made comments on my post suggesting that my journey moving from scratch to python would help students wishing to pursue career.  She asked:

Do you have any idea of how many kids transition from Scratch into another language?  How many go on to have IT career?

My first reactions were– I don’t know  and I don’t really care.  But this comes off as blunt and doesn’t fully explain my thoughts on teaching myself how to program, or teaching children how to program.

To explain, I have to tell a little bit about myself-  I am a singer- songwriter, I play guitar and bass, I am a podcaster, blogger and have dabbled with creating websites since the early web. I dabble with photography and video. I was an early volunteer for Librivox.org recording public domain audiobooks.  I am a fan and proponent of open source software and make liberal use of public domain and creative commons media.  And I am a slow but persistent home handyman– I told my wife I am restoring our house on the 21 year plan (7 years in and it is starting to look quite nice).

As a regional children’s entertainer and folk songwriter, I have long become accustomed to well meaning questions of “So when can you quit your day job?”  The answer is “Never”.  But I derive immense pleasure from writing and sharing my music with others.  When I get the odd paying gig, it helps subsidize my gear buying habit. But I derive far more value from all my creative endeavors than just monetary value.  I think one of the greatest values is that I approach the world as a creator– rather than a consumer: of music, of media.

So learning to code for me is another creative outlet.  For me it is a liberal art… not just a means to a career path.  I found an article that develops this idea better than I can explain it:  Why Everyone Should Learn to Program by Dan Haggard.  In it, he explains how teaching himself to program in python has enabled him to do his work as a university administrator more efficiently.  Let me share just a brief snippet that gets to the heart of his argument:  (emphasis is all mine)

Given the relative ease in learning the basics of programming in scripting languages like Python, the time has come to challenge the assumption that programming is a specialisation.  If you need an analogy:  is learning to read and write in a spoken language like English – a specialisation?  No, it’s a fundamental tool needed to navigate your contemporary existence.  It’s easy enough to learn that you devote some of your early years to the task – and then it stays with you for life.  You could go on to specialise in language use.  Maybe you’ll go on to become a writer.  But you don’t need to specialise for your language skills to provide you with an incredible level of life-improvement.  Well – so to with programming.

What’s more – I now feel cured of an affliction I never realised I had.  If I had to name this affliction, I’d call it –defaultism.  Always did I just default to the way of things as it was handed to me.  Now I look at every aspect of my life with a hacker’s eye.  How can I free myself of this task? – is the question now at the forefront of my mind at all times.  There is no need to throw out every interface with which we are presented.  If it fits our needs and desires then fine.  But how often do you subvert your own desires and needs because of the constraints imposed by the limitations of the interfaces with which you have been bequeathed?

I also found a nice contrasting view by Jeff Attwood at Coding Horror entitled: Please Don’t Learn to Code.  Atwood’s key arguments centre around the idea that skilled programmers do not just produce lines of code.  The are problem solvers who through years of experience develop certain ways of approaching and solving problems.  He writes:

Look, I love programming. I also believe programming is important … in the right context, for some people. But so are a lot of skills. I would no more urge everyone to learn programming than I would urge everyone to learn plumbing. That’d be ridiculous, right?

In the final paragraphs of his article, Atwood seems to come closer to what I have been getting at:

The general populace (and its political leadership) could probably benefit most of all from a basic understanding of how computers, and the Internet, work. Being able to get around on the Internet is becoming a basic life skill, and we should be worried about fixing that first and most of all, before we start jumping all the way into code.

Please don’t advocate learning to code just for the sake of learning how to code. Or worse, because of the fat paychecks. Instead, I humbly suggest that we spend our time learning how to …

  • Research voraciously, and understand how the things around us work at a basic level.
  • Communicate effectively with other human beings.

These are skills that extend far beyond mere coding and will help you in every aspect of your life.

Both articles suggest that knowing how computers and programming work are a life-skill rather than just a career-path.  They teach us a certain approach to problem solving and how to think.

Back to the initial question of how does my Scratch help kids transition to an IT career.  I still don’t know.  But I have found out through my readings and learning a bit about Python, that Python is a great first or second programming language that allows someone lots of opportunity to explore a variety of styles of programming and almost limitless applications: whether it be making games, applications for the web, mobile apps, or complex scientific mathematics.   So yes, I guess it could be a first step to exploring an IT career,  or the first step to becoming a creator rather than consumer.  I find the latter idea much more compelling.

SeaCow-peacenik1-flickr

Photo by peacenik1 on flickr

CCOW Week 5 Wrapup

 

SeaCow- Fritzfranz Fride- flickr

This week I immersed myself in learning the basic principles, structure and commands of Python, so I did not do many of the week’s optional activities.  Here is a summary of how I approached week 5.

Help with Scripts:  I went on to the Help with Scripts discussion forum on the Scratch website a couple of times and read through the posts but I did not find any posts where I could give specific, constructive help that someone else had not already answered better.  Pro-tip:  When asking for help on a forum have a specific question in mind, and give as much detail as you can about the difficulties you are encountering.

Hardware and Extensions:   I did not do anything with this activity other than to think to myself, “Gee whiz there are a lot of neato gadgets that you can interact with using scratch”.

Unfocus Group:  I greatly enjoyed this activity but I ended up having an unfocus group of one.  I sent out emails to a musician friend who is also an open-source advocate and programmer, another tech crazy elementary teach in Nebraska, and a childhood friend who I learned to code with when we were 13 or 14.  Only Brad, my childhood friend was able to take some time  with me to discuss my project.  Unlike me, Brad continued to explore computer programming throughout his life.  He is a freelance programmer and database designer who now lives in northern Minnesota.  We had a wide ranging skype chat that meandered in the manner of  conversations between old friends.

Brad was fascinated by the concept of SCRATCH as a programming language to teach programming.   He also gave me several suggestions about choosing an Integrated Development Environment (IDE) including Eclipse (which is free and open source) and JetBrains, which is a commercial product but it has several cheaper or free options for teachers or open-source projects.  Brad’s point was if you choose get a multi-language, full-featured IDE, then you don’t need to relearn your programming environment every time you have a desire or need to learn a new programming language.

As I am writing this Brad popped up in my skype window… (I love years long, asynchronous text conversations).   He writes:

[10:47:50 AM] Brad: Heh, of course, there is a good argument to be made that no-one appreciates what an IDE does for them until they first use a text-based editor.  Notepad++ is a very nice text editor and has all the hooks into any language you want to use, plus user-customizable language settings too.  So maybe the need to pick an IDE is not as great as the need to just simply starting to build something.

I have used Notepad++ for years when I need to directly work in html code.  I have used it during my python explorations and it is very effective at color coding and indenting python code.  It does not have an integrated python interpreters or debuggers so you have to run your program within python or another IDE.  Otherwise it is a fantastic editor for almost any language or situation when you have to directly edit or write code.

Activity Extension:  I looked at the templates for making a Scratch card, but decided to devote more time to my Python Project instead.

Workshop Project: Reporting Out and Checking In 

Here’s our checklist for this activity…

  • Add a page in your design notebook and share an update about your independent workshop project progress, by responding to the red/yellow/green reflection prompts:

 

traffic_light_red_dan_ge_01

Red: What are some elements of your project that aren’t going well, that you’re worried about, or that you’d love advice about?

The thing I find most frustrating. is the amount of time it takes to type then to debug code.  I think the metaphor of programming language to spoken language is appropriate because they say it takes 1-2 years to gain facility in a new language.  This is beyond the scope of a 3 week project, but I have made a good start at learning.

 

traffic_light_yellow_dan_01

Yellow: What are some elements of your project that you are just OK, or that you’re feeling ambivalent about?

I’m going to reinterpret this question to:  What else do you want to write about or explore?   A couple of times a commenter has asked me about how my project can help students jump into a career in IT.  As a podcaster and musician, I have a knee jerk reaction to “How do you make money doing THAT?” questions of “I don’t know and I don’t care”.  But this question needs a longer and more sensitive blog reflection which I would like to write this week. 

 

 

 

traffic_light_green_dan__01Green: What are some elements of your project that are awesome or that you’re excited about?

I am enjoying the problem solving and puzzle nature of learning to make games in a new programming language.  I would like to continue doing that, even after the CCOW workshop ends.

 

Other Posts for Week 5:  

And One More Thing:

This week I installed two wordpress plugins into my blog to display python code (and indeed almost any kind of programming code) with correct formatting and color coding:   W-P Code Highlight and  Sunburst Code Prettify.

Recreating a Python Simulation in Scratch

Cooriemungle_Water_Tank_Cow_Monster-wikimedia-commonsIn my last post, I added my own modifications to the tutorial  Making Breakout by Leonel at codeNtronix.   He also has a number of tutorials about drawing 3D graphics using python and pygame.  I was intrigued by his simulation of a 3D Starfield made using Python and Pygame.  (Thanks Leonel for creating such useful tutorials).

 

His simulation uses a few basic 3D to 2D algorithms, which I don’t fully understand but they are effective at creating the desired effect.  He created this effect with just 80 lines of source code,  Click here to download the full source code from CodeNTronics.

I analysed the code myself to see if I could recreate this simulation in Scratch.

3D Starfield

Scratch Code:  Takes 31 lines of code and painted backdrop and sprite costume in the paint editor.starfield-scratch-stage-codestarfield-scratch-starsprite-code

 

Python code:  81 lines from CodeNTronics, with comments added by me.

# """
# 3D Starfield Simulation
# Developed by Leonel Machava <leonelmachava@gmail.com>
#
# http://codeNtronix.com
# http://twitter.com/codentronix
# """
import pygame, math
from random import randrange

class Simulation:
    def __init__(self, num_stars, max_depth):  # SM- each star needs an individual variable for x,y,depth.  
        pygame.init()   # SM-- does a bunch of pygame stuff to set up screen and clock.

        self.screen = pygame.display.set_mode((640, 480))
        pygame.display.set_caption("3D Starfield Simulation (visit codeNtronix.com)")

        self.clock = pygame.time.Clock()
        self.num_stars = num_stars
        self.max_depth = max_depth

        self.init_stars()  # SM- Tells the program to make the list of stars

    def init_stars(self):
        """ Create the starfield """
        self.stars = []
        for i in range(self.num_stars):
            # A star is represented as a list with this format: [X,Y,Z]
            star = [randrange(-25,25), randrange(-25,25), randrange(1, self.max_depth)]
            self.stars.append(star)

    def move_and_draw_stars(self):
       # """ Move and draw the stars   """   SM Converts the xy coordinates to cartesian to centre stars on screen
        origin_x = self.screen.get_width() / 2
        origin_y = self.screen.get_height() / 2

        for star in self.stars:
            # The Z component is decreased on each frame. SM-- Star Moves closer
            star[2] -= 0.19

            # If the star has past the screen (I mean Z<=0) then we
            # reposition it far away from the screen (Z=max_depth)
            # with random X and Y coordinates.
            if star[2] <= 0:
                star[0] = randrange(-25,25)
                star[1] = randrange(-25,25)
                star[2] = self.max_depth

            # Convert the 3D coordinates to 2D using perspective projection.
            k = 128.0 / star[2]   # SM I don't know where Leonel got this constant 128/depth but it works
            x = int(star[0] * k + origin_x)  #SM-- moves starfield origin towards centre of screen
            y = int(star[1] * k + origin_y)

            # Draw the star (if it is visible in the screen).
            # We calculate the size such that distant stars are smaller than
            # closer stars. Similarly, we make sure that distant stars are
            # darker than closer stars. This is done using Linear Interpolation.
            if 0 <= x < self.screen.get_width() and 0 <= y < self.screen.get_height():
                size = (1 - float(star[2]) / self.max_depth) * 5
                shade = (1 - float(star[2]) / self.max_depth) * 255
                self.screen.fill((shade,shade,shade),(x,y,size,size))

    def run(self):
        """ Main Loop """
        while 1:
            # Lock the framerate at 50 FPS.
            self.clock.tick(50)

            # Handle events.
            for event in pygame.event.get():
                if event.type == pygame.QUIT:
                    pygame.quit()
                    return

            self.screen.fill((0,0,0))
            self.move_and_draw_stars()
            pygame.display.flip()

if __name__ == "__main__":
    Simulation(256, 32).run()

Reflection:

The python program presents a much more realistic starfield and is much more versatile. But the scratch program accomplishes the same task in 1/4 the length and it is much easier for me to tinker with the variables and formulas to change the appearance in SCRATCH. It is an accomplishment that I can understand enough of Python to recreate the essential features of a program in SCRATCH. To use the analogy of spoken languages, I think that I have progressed to the point that I can understand a bit of what I read and hear in PYTHONESE, but I cannot yet speak it like a native. This is very good progress for 10 days. To extend the spoken language analogy, one of the common exercises for people learning a second language is to translate passages from one language to another.  That is exactly what I attempted here, and I am quite satisfied with the results.

In which I Pursue Progress with Programming in Python

99er MagazineIn  1981 or so, my brother and I were 12 and 13 years old and we both had paper routes.  We pooled the fruits of our paper carrier jobs, and Dad took us down to the Alberta Treasury Branch where he co-signed a $1200 personal loan at a whopping 23% interest so that we could buy our first personal computer– a TI-99/4.  In fact it was the first personal computer anyone had in our neighbourhood.  We poured over the accompanying manuals, got all sorts of books from the library, and subscribed to 99er magazine.  These early computer enthusiast magazines offered articles about the future of computing, ads for enticing new peripherals and gadgets, and most importantly programs.  Each magazine contained printouts– recipes I guess, for dozens of programs.  We learned to program by painstakingly copying programs from printouts in these magazines, even more painstakingly debugging our errors then figuring out how to fix the inevitable mistakes in the magazine’s code.

30 year later, as I make the transition from SCRATCH, to PYTHON, I find myself transported back to the same learning process.  As I undertook to learn a new programming language, I found myself seeking out familiar “Teach yourself programming by copying these game’ books.  But this time I did not need to go to the magazine stand, or the library, or order in by mail.  The resources are all a google away.  I think it says something about my personal learning style that I chose the cookbook style of print resources over the many multimedia and video tutorials available on youtube.

I’ve spent most of the last week trying to understand some of the basic structure and commands of python, as I worked my way through a variety of tutorial programs.  First impression is compared to scratch there is alot more fiddly typing and figuring out exactly how to initialize then execute each step.  Unlike scratch, it is much harder in python to just poke around and see what will happen.  If you don`t know the precise order, structure, and syntax for any small part… the whole program may not even start.  I think here is a fundamental difference between Scratch and python.  Constructivist philosophy is at the core SCRATCH.  It is designed to be explored, tinkered with and discovered.  On the other hand, Python is designed to be functional, readable, and infinitely extensible.  Alex Martelli, author of the Python Cookbook, summed up the Python Philosophy:

To describe something as clever is not considered a compliment in the Python culture.” Python’s philosophy rejects the Perl “there is more than one way to do it” approach to language design in favor of “there should be one—and preferably only one—obvious way to do it”.  From:  Python Programming Language on Wikipedia.

Bricka by codeNtronix

Download the original Brika Source code from codeNtronix

and here is my revised source code for Bricka.

'''
 bricka (a breakout clone)
 Developed by Leonel Machava <leonelmachava@gmail.com>
 http://codeNtronix.com

with revisions by Sean McGaughey http://edalchemy.mcgaughey.ca
during Creative Computing Online Workshop

'''
import sys, pygame
from pygame.locals import *

SCREEN_SIZE   = 640,480

# Object dimensions
BRICK_WIDTH   = 60
BRICK_HEIGHT  = 15
PADDLE_WIDTH  = 60
PADDLE_HEIGHT = 12
BALL_DIAMETER = 16
BALL_RADIUS   = int(BALL_DIAMETER / 2)   #source code was just BALL_DIAMETER / 2 This through an error of floating point vs Int error
                                        # I added an int function to make sure it is an integer value

MAX_PADDLE_X = SCREEN_SIZE[0] - PADDLE_WIDTH
MAX_BALL_X   = SCREEN_SIZE[0] - BALL_DIAMETER
MAX_BALL_Y   = SCREEN_SIZE[1] - BALL_DIAMETER

# Paddle Y coordinate
PADDLE_Y = SCREEN_SIZE[1] - PADDLE_HEIGHT - 10

# Color constants
BLACK = (0,0,0)
WHITE = (255,255,255)
BLUE  = (0,0,255)
BRICK_COLOR = (200,200,0)

# State constants
STATE_BALL_IN_PADDLE = 0
STATE_PLAYING = 1
STATE_WON = 2
STATE_GAME_OVER = 3

mousex = 0 #x coordinate of mouse event
mousey = 0 # y coordinate of mouse event

class Bricka:

    def __init__(self):
        pygame.init()

        self.screen = pygame.display.set_mode(SCREEN_SIZE)
        pygame.display.set_caption('bricka (a breakout clone by codeNtronix.com)')

        self.clock = pygame.time.Clock()

        if pygame.font:
            self.font = pygame.font.Font('freesansbold.ttf',20)
        else:
            self.font = None

        self.init_game()

    def init_game(self):
        self.lives = 3
        self.score = 0
        self.state = STATE_BALL_IN_PADDLE

        self.paddle   = pygame.Rect(300,PADDLE_Y,PADDLE_WIDTH,PADDLE_HEIGHT)
        self.ball     = pygame.Rect(300,PADDLE_Y - BALL_DIAMETER,BALL_DIAMETER,BALL_DIAMETER)

        self.ball_vel = [5,-5]

        self.create_bricks()

    def create_bricks(self):
        y_ofs = 35
        self.bricks = []
        for i in range(7):
            x_ofs = 35
            for j in range(8):
                self.bricks.append(pygame.Rect(x_ofs,y_ofs,BRICK_WIDTH,BRICK_HEIGHT))
                x_ofs += BRICK_WIDTH + 10
            y_ofs += BRICK_HEIGHT + 5

    def draw_bricks(self):
        for brick in self.bricks:
            pygame.draw.rect(self.screen, BRICK_COLOR, brick)

    def check_input(self):
        for event in pygame.event.get(): # event handling loop
            if event.type == QUIT or (event.type == KEYUP and event.key == K_ESCAPE):
                pygame.quit()
                sys.exit()
            elif event.type == MOUSEMOTION: # I added these mouse controls.  It works well.
                mousex, mousey = event.pos
                if mousex >= MAX_PADDLE_X:
                    self.paddle.left = MAX_PADDLE_X
                else:
                    self.paddle.left = mousex

            elif event.type == MOUSEBUTTONUP:
                mousex, mousey = event.pos
                self.paddle.left = mousex
                mouseClicked = True
                if self.state == STATE_BALL_IN_PADDLE:
                    self.state = STATE_PLAYING

        keys = pygame.key.get_pressed()

        if keys[pygame.K_LEFT]:
            self.paddle.left -= 5
        if self.paddle.left < 0:             self.paddle.left = 0         if keys[pygame.K_RIGHT]:             self.paddle.left += 5         if self.paddle.left > MAX_PADDLE_X:
            self.paddle.left = MAX_PADDLE_X

        if keys[pygame.K_SPACE] and self.state == STATE_BALL_IN_PADDLE:
             self.state = STATE_PLAYING
        elif keys[pygame.K_RETURN] and (self.state == STATE_GAME_OVER or self.state == STATE_WON):

            self.init_game()

    def move_ball(self):
        self.ball.left += self.ball_vel[0]
        self.ball.top  += self.ball_vel[1]

        if self.ball.left <= 0:             self.ball.left = 0             self.ball_vel[0] = -self.ball_vel[0]         elif self.ball.left >= MAX_BALL_X:
            self.ball.left = MAX_BALL_X
            self.ball_vel[0] = -self.ball_vel[0]

        if self.ball.top < 0:             self.ball.top = 0             self.ball_vel[1] = -self.ball_vel[1]         elif self.ball.top >= MAX_BALL_Y:
            self.ball.top = MAX_BALL_Y
            self.ball_vel[1] = -self.ball_vel[1]

    def handle_collisions(self):
        for brick in self.bricks:
            if self.ball.colliderect(brick):
                self.score += 3
                self.ball_vel[1] = -self.ball_vel[1]
                self.bricks.remove(brick)
                break

        if len(self.bricks) == 0:
            self.state = STATE_WON

        if self.ball.colliderect(self.paddle):
            self.ball.top = PADDLE_Y - BALL_DIAMETER
            self.ball_vel[1] = -self.ball_vel[1]
        elif self.ball.top > self.paddle.top:
            self.lives -= 1
            if self.lives > 0:
                self.state = STATE_BALL_IN_PADDLE
            else:
                self.state = STATE_GAME_OVER

    def show_stats(self):
        if self.font:
            font_surface = self.font.render('SCORE: ' + str(self.score) + ' LIVES: ' + str(self.lives), False, WHITE)
            self.screen.blit(font_surface, (205,5))

    def show_message(self,message):
        if self.font:
            size = self.font.size(message)
            font_surface = self.font.render(message,False, WHITE)
            x = (SCREEN_SIZE[0] - size[0]) / 2
            y = (SCREEN_SIZE[1] - size[1]) / 2
            self.screen.blit(font_surface, (x,y))

    def run(self):
        while 1:
            for event in pygame.event.get():     # I added these lines from Sweigart, making Games with Python
                if event.type == pygame.QUIT:
                    sys.exit                    # To check for Quit

            self.clock.tick(50)
            self.screen.fill(BLACK)
            self.check_input()

            if self.state == STATE_PLAYING:
                self.move_ball()
                self.handle_collisions()
            elif self.state == STATE_BALL_IN_PADDLE:
                self.ball.left = self.paddle.left + self.paddle.width / 2
                self.ball.top  = self.paddle.top - self.ball.height
                self.show_message('PRESS SPACE TO LAUNCH THE BALL')
            elif self.state == STATE_GAME_OVER:
                self.show_message('GAME OVER. PRESS ENTER TO PLAY AGAIN')
            elif self.state == STATE_WON:
                self.show_message('YOU WON! PRESS ENTER TO PLAY AGAIN')

            self.draw_bricks()

            # Draw paddle
            pygame.draw.rect(self.screen, BLUE, self.paddle)

            # Draw ball

            pygame.draw.circle(self.screen, WHITE, (self.ball.left + BALL_RADIUS, self.ball.top + BALL_RADIUS), BALL_RADIUS)

            self.show_stats ()
            pygame.display.flip()

if __name__ == '__main__':
    Bricka().run()

  

 Bonus:

Here is my first attempt at programming a game in Scratch from November of 2011.

1921SeaCowFlickr-theirhistory

Coder’s Log Terradate 26.06.2013

pythonI got some great feedback about my post this morning that for my CCOW project what I wanted to do is leave the SCRATCH sandbox and learn to code in Python.

Eric Schilling responded on Google Plus:

Have you checked out Blockly from Google? It’s a web-based, graphical programming editor, similar to Scratch except it will provide the code in a number of different programing languages (phyton, xml, etc.).
http://blockly-demo.appspot.com/static/apps/code/en.htmlAlso, I found Code Academy was a wonderful resource to learn new programming languages.
http://www.codecademy.com/tracks/python

I checked out both resources and they are quite useful.  Blocky seems to be a little more clunky than scratch, and it is also a sandbox type learning environment.  But it may be very useful transition for figuring out how things work in python by snapping somewhat familiar blocks together and viewing the python code that it outputs.
The codeacademy resource looks good, but I went looking for some other free kid friendly “How to code in python books” so that I could recommend some resources for children ready to make the move from Scratch.
Here on the blog, Claude commented:
Your blog is always very interesting Sean! Ok, now I have maybe too straightforward question for you : why don’t you set your objective to simply learn python and make a game with it? I know the course is supposed to be based on scratch, but it sounds like you’re twisting your multiple objectives to fit the course. And I think that when you teach with scratch, at some point you want introduce student too “fuller” languages, and I hear python is the natural second step. So it would be very coherent to prepare like the next step learning Python, wouldn’t it?
Thank you Claude.  You helped clarify to me about my project.  Rather than try to convert python code to scratch or vice versa, I will just document my own transition from the closed sandbox of scratch to the larger playground afforded by python.
So tonight I explored a number of beginner Python resources including:
Al Sweigart has 3 comprehensive free books geared at teaching nonprogrammers and children how to program python through games.

I settled on using the Python Book for Beginners by Jody S. Ginther  because it offers  a very simple short (58 page) primer to downloading and beginning to program with Python.    The first thing I did after I downloaded the book, is followed its instructions to Download Python for Windows and install it.  Don’t worry if you use Mac or Linux, there are flavours of Python for most operating systems.

Then I just started working through the book and following the code examples to make my first programs.  My first impressions of python are that through my use of Scratch and programming in BASIC 30 years ago, I know the basic principals of programming.  I will just have to start to learn the commands, syntax and peculiarities of python.  I like how the IDLE python editor uses color commands to differentiate between different types of commands.  It also automatically indents certain commands to make it easy to see which commands belong with which blocks of code.

My other first impression is that I realize now that the training wheels are definitely off.  Scratch offers a kind of mixed sandbox with it’s integrated graphics and audio editors, background support and focus on making multimedia programs easily.  There is a ton of programming and arranging you can do in scratch without ever snapping together a code block  (Ie setting up a picture or scene with a variety of text, paintings, and sprites).     Not so in python (or other object oriented languages).  If you don’t explicitly tell the computer to do something in the code– it will not happen.

Last thought before bedtime.  Today’s refined project objective for my CCOW project:  Document my transition from using Scratch to learning python on this blog.   Try to keep in my mind tips and resources that would help students make this transition.