Teaching learners to code with Python

Using Python to teach coding in class

Right now we’re definitely in a great time for teaching coding and programming in schools. More and more students are starting to get into coding, with an incredible wealth of resources available to them. At Exa Foundation, we’re dedicated to inspiring, supporting and promoting Digital Makers, regularly running events designed to exploring different sides of Computing.

We’re sure that you’ll have heard of devices like the Raspberry Pi and BBC micro:bit - they’re by far the most popular devices for teaching kids about Computer Science and programming. We run a lot of events dedicated to Digital Making, frequently presenting at Raspberry Jams for the Pi to show off a few different sides of the computers, along with some of the fantastic things they’ve been used for.

One of the increasingly popular parts of Digital Making with Raspberry Pis is the use of Python. Python is one of the text-based languages bundled with Raspberry Pi, and can be used to build programs for the device. We’ve decided to put together this blog to give you a bit of information about what Python is, why it’s popular, and how you can use Python in your school to get learners engaged and active in coding.

Understanding Python’s uses in the classroom

Programming languages are frameworks designed to let people create computer programs without having to deal with the tedious and difficult work of programming in machine language. You can find a vast number of programming languages ranging from popular forms like Javascript and Ada to comedy languages like Shakespeare (designed so that programs look like the Bard’s plays) and Chef (which makes programs read as recipes). Despite all the competition, Python is one of the most popular languages, particularly when it comes to teaching and learning.

Python’s popularity is generally credited to the fact that programs written using it are easier to read and understand than other languages. While text-based programming can get incredibly complex, Python is designed to simplify it as much as possible, cutting down on confusion and excess code.

The readability of Python makes it ideal for classroom use - they won’t get tangled up in unnecessary code, and can easily work out how to achieve a set task. We’ve already mentioned that Python is used for coding Raspberry Pi programs, always sure to impress learners, but the language also has a whole lot of non-Pi applications.

While a lot of learners probably won’t be interested in a lot of Python’s applications, there’s a few things they’ll definitely be excited about making. Python has frequently been used to control robots from mini bots to robotic arms and more. While most people shy away from using Python for games, it’s been used to handle everything from basic 2D platform games (a great project for students to work on) to full on commercial releases like EVE Online and Civilisation IV.

Here at Exa Foundation, we’ve found a few great ways to add a Python twist to children’s favourites like Minecraft, giving them a chance to learn coding in a way that they enjoy. We run regular Digital Making events across the UK, so make sure that you find out what’s going on!