Wednesday, July 01, 2009

IronPython in Action Goes to College

Thanks to the wonder of Twitter I've heard about two different college courses that will be using IronPython in Action as course material next semester. One is Sargeant Reynolds College in America, with a course taught by Kevin Hazzard, and the other is Northtec in New Zealand with a course taught by Tony Meyer.

IronPython is an ideal language for learning programming, it has the great combination of an easy to learn general purpose programming language (Python) with a programming environment which is widely used in commercial development (the .NET framework). Not only these factors, but it is easy to teach good programming practise with Python; things like well structured code, testing, computer science theory including elements of functional programming and so on.

I exchanged emails with Tony who explained why he is using IronPython in Action:
The course is (unimaginatively) titled "Programming" (not my doing!). It's at NorthTec at the Whangarei campus (a couple of hours north of Auckland). It's the second programming course in their Bachelor of Applied Information Systems degree. We switched the first course from VB to Python a couple of years ago, but left this one as VB (because it's their introduction to Visual Studio and .NET).

Early last year I started work convincing people that IronPython would be a good choice, since they can continue with a language they (somewhat) know, but still get the intro to the Microsoft toolchain (plus, I hate VB, and dislike teaching in a language I never use in practice). I was expecting that I'd have to continue on without a textbook, until I saw that IronPython in Action was coming out.

BTW, while it's not like there is much choice in the way of books, yours is an excellent fit. The first section is a good Python refresher and .NET introduction. I introduce unit testing to them in the course, and the book handily has a chapter on that. They do a lot of sysadmin work later in their degree, so the chapter on using IronPython / PowerShell is great. They do ASP.NET stuff later on as well, so that'll be a good reference at that time (I don't expect I'll have time to cover that myself). I introduce them to databases and (since a couple of years ago) web services, and there's a chapter on that. Silverlight is an interesting example, and something I expect they'll be interested in given the later web development work, and there's an introduction to that.

Basically, you couldn't have done a lot better if I'd commissioned it! Thanks! - it certainly has made redoing the course material much simpler than if I was working completely from scratch.

As I mentioned in my tweet, I'll put my course material online at some point in the next couple of weeks (it's not quite finished) in case anyone else is interested in it.

1 comment:

  1. Hey, Michael, Kevin Hazzard here. My experience was very similar to Tony's. It took me a couple of years to convince the college administrators to use Python as an entry level programming language. Your book actually helped to make my message much clearer. My prediction is that by 2012, Python will be *the* language of choice for teaching new programmers at my school. Exciting times, indeed.

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