PyCon UK 2019

Here's Your Mistake...
2019-09-15, 15:30–16:00, Ferrier Hall

Lessons learned from teaching Python; or why learning to program is surprisingly hard, even with a language as simple as Python.

With a language as simple as Python, learning to program is easy enough. Or at least so it seems: every once in a while, we encounter a new concept that is really hard to understand, or we make mistakes that we just can't figure out. Perhaps surprisingly, these hard concepts also include basic syntax. And in contrast to Python's simplicity, it offers very little help if you actually made a mistake.

As teachers and educators, we face the challenge of helping our students advance in their programming skills, deal with errors and mistakes, and slowly build self-confidence in their abilities to master Python as a versatile tool. This talk invites you on a journey through common student errors, where I will show you how I changed my teaching to live up to this challenge, find out why the students made mistakes, and how to empower them to overcome their hurdles and eventually master programming in Python.

Is your proposal suitable for beginners? – yes

Tobias Kohn is currently studying Python as part of his research at the University of Cambridge. He has been working with Python ever since he started teaching programming at high school over ten years ago. His insights into the students' troubles with learning Python led to a PhD, several scientific publications, and a new programming environment with improved error messages. After finishing his PhD, he worked in a machine learning group at the University of Oxford, bevore joining the compilers and computer architecture group at Cambridge. He is a regular speaker on the subject of teaching Python at various workshops and conferences and co-author of a textbook on programming with Python.