Saturday, March 7, 2009

PyWhip and Javabat ?!

If you are a member of Edu-Sig (the Python in Education group), you may have heard talk recently about creating a Python alternative to JavaBat, a tool used by almost every AP Computer Science teacher on the planet.

JavaBat is almost universally loved and used by high school APCS teachers. Students can sign up easily and then start solving the 250+ challenges they are presented with, ranging from simple String manipulations to hard core recursion methods.

One of the difficult aspects of Java is that it never was designed as a nice language to quickly write up some code and let it run. Old farts will talk about the golden days of BASIC, but Python is really a great language for Computer Science education. Javabat helps by letting students write simple methods (functions) without the need to enclose everything in a Java class with public static void main (String[] args) . In short, it let's students and teachers focus on the login involved in a particular method--which is a good thing. Teachers can track student progress, browse their code, etc.

So the reality is that Javabat is one of the most used tools for teachers of AP Computer Science. I have yet to meet a teacher of APCS in my state that does not use Javabat.
If Python is to ever gain a foothold in secondary school CS education, having a Python alternative to Javabat is a very good idea.

Right now it's just beginning, but if you want to contribut to PyWhip, head on over to edu-sig or contact me on how to get involved. Since I haven't really asked the two main contributers for permission to put there contact info here, I'll leave their names out of this, but they're doing a great job on this so far.

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