1. # Teaching Python by the (Note)Book

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tl;dr: I tried out a modified Python lesson and I think it was successful at balancing learner motivation with teaching foundational (and sometimes boring) concepts.

# This stuff is hard

In many ways, teaching Python to scientists is easier than just about every other audience. The learning objective is clear: write code to make my science more accurate, more efficient, and more impactful. The motivation is apparent: data is increasingly plentiful and increasingly complex. The learners are both engaged and prepared to put in the effort required to develop new skills.

But, despite all of the advantages, teaching anybody to program is hard.

In my experience, one of the most challenging trade-offs for lesson planners is between motivating the material and teaching a mental model for code execution. For example, scientists are easily motivated by simple data munging and plotting using pandas and matplotlib; these are features of the Python …

2. # First time teaching Python to novices

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edited: August 14, 2015, 10:00
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This July I co-instructed with Jennifer Shelton a Software Carpentry workshop at Stanford University, targeted to researchers with genomic or evolutionary datasets. Jennifer taught the shell (Bash) and version control with Git, while I taught the general programming language Python. I’ve been aware of the organization, which teaches software development and computational methods to scientists, since attending a workshop in 2012. Since then I’ve served as a helper at one workshop (troubleshooting individual learner’s problems and helping catch them up with the rest of the class), and gone through the “accelerated”, two day, instructor training at Michigan State University. After the Stanford workshop, I took part in new-instructor debriefing on August 4th, during which I mentioned that I had to greatly pare down the community-written lesson plan, python-novice-inflammation, to fit into the two half-day session we allotted it.

Karin and Tiffany, who were running the debriefing, asked …

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