Adventures in Learning Python

Elizabeth Wickes

Audience level:


Once students are inspired to learn Python, what does the community have to offer to facilitate that education? This poster discusses educational tools and services for the Python novice with a focus on students outside of a mainstream computer science degree program. Come share your story of learning Python!


Programming and computer science education have quite a few barriers to full inclusion of researchers who could benefit from acquisition of those skills. The desire to learn is often seen as the largest barrier for entry into computer science education, and many programs and initiatives are designed to encourage prospective students to move beyond it. In most cases those students will be entering into a formal and structured learning environment, but what about the students who are outside the mainstream computer science educational system? Students may be from academic domains that do not traditionally use programmatic tools for research, lack the funds to enter into college coursework, or are a working professional trying to gain new and marketable job skills. One of the most obvious advantages of learning Python is the ease and low cost of access to begin development. Setting up a computer for Python development may be accomplished at zero cost in software or tuition. Additionally, many tools for learning are available for free or low cost, but students outside the formal classroom experience often have to rely on word of mouth and dumb luck to discover these tools. This poster has two goals: first to educate the conference participants on the resources available to new students of Python and to encourage them to give back to their community by participating in their local Python organizations. The content of the poster will explore the advantages and disadvantages the Python community offers students who are learning outside of a mainstream degree program, summarize some of the existing tools independent students may find helpful, and explore the outreach programs used by the Champaign-Urbana Python User Group (Py-CU). The interaction with the PyCon participants will be the core experience. Developers are encourage to share their stories of learning Python with the poster presenter. Understanding of how developers learn their craft, and what they found helpful and encouraging in that process, is vital to have on hand in order to design and facilitate programs that can give the most back.