For younger students especially, learning to code using a text-based language can be a daunting experience. A common approach is to teach the fundamentals of programming using a block-based language such as scratch, which uses a drag a drop system of building blocks that are easy to understand and so less intimidating. Python is also great for overcoming this initial hurdle – it was designed to be as human readable as possible, and uses lots of normal, everyday words to describe things instead of complicated jargon. For example, simple programs can often be understood by people with no coding experience at all just by reading the program like a sentence – see if you can work out what the program here does!
learning_coding = true
if learn_coding is true:
print "Python is great!"
This simplicity allows those teaching Python to concentrate more on the students’ understanding of the core programming concepts that are common to every language, without getting stuck on difficult syntax, lots of different brackets and hard to remember constructions. Once students have this crucial understanding of the core concepts, it is very easy for them to go on to learning other more specialised languages, building on those initial ideas.
Not only is Python easy to understand, but it is also a ‘high level’ language. High level languages are ones that have lots of functionality right away – common features are completely built-in to the language, and don’t require the programmer to spend lots of time writing long programs to accomplish simple things like searching for text, calculating averages and so on. This makes Python programs much shorter than the same thing written in other languages, and so easier to understand for a human reading it!
Python is also great for school environments, as it will run on any computer (or even in a web browser!) with no or very little software to install. It is also being used increasingly in smaller embedded systems that might power a set top box, washing machine or other electronic devices due to its simplicity and ease of use. It is the main textual language supported on the BBC micro:bit – a small programmable computer board that costs around £12, that can be used for making everything from wearable electronics projects to autonomous robots. The micro:bit is becoming very popular in schools for teaching coding due to being so affordable and supporting Python – we use it extensively ourselves for teaching robotics with our Invent! Robotics Kits, and creating spy gadgets in Cyberspy Academy here at Tech Camp.
This high-level functionality also makes Python a popular choice for creating large platforms as it is quick to develop with, and easy to scale. For example, Facebook, Instagram and Netflix are just a few examples of services we use every day that are written in Python. The huge popularity of the language in industry creates a high demand for developers with great Python skills, both now and for a long time into the future.
AI, VR neural networks and machine learning are just a few of the emerging technologies making great strides using Python as their go-to language. As a result of it being very powerful and being able to accomplish complex things quickly, it is very suited to these research applications as it is very straightforward to get things working with lots of pre-existing tools available.
So if your children want to get started with coding, Python is a great choice for all ages. There are a wealth of tutorials online, but you just can’t beat the experience of learning in person from an expert. A specialised Python coding summer camp can be a great way to get this experience and could ignite a passion that lasts a lifetime! We offer two different Python coding camps: Robowars, where students learn Python by creating and coding their own battling robots, and Cyberspy Academy where they create spy gadgets and cipher and encryption programs using Python. Start coding today!