Seeking advice on Python Media Computation, Fourth edition (for Q1 2015)

March 8, 2014 at 1:30 am 1 comment

Pearson has asked me to update our Python Media Computation book, “Introduction to Computing and Programming: A Multimedia Approach.”  This will be the fourth edition.  I plan to address the errata (as well as the ones I haven’t yet posted to the website), add new assignments, and change out the pictures (a lot of those pictures are 12 years old now).  I think I’m going to give up on trying to do screen-scraping off a live website — they keep changing too fast.  Instead, I might add something about how to parse CSV files, which are common and useful.

I have a couple of bigger ideas for changes, and I’d appreciate feedback from readers. (And I’m certainly interested in other advice you might give me.)

(1) CPython cross-platform libraries have come a long way since the 3rd edition was written. It’s likely that we could write a media library for CPython that works much like media library in JES. A CPython version of Media Computation would likely be faster. We probably would not re-create JES in CPython. It will take some time to develop a CPython version, so a Jython/JES-based 4th edition could be available in early 2015 (aiming to be out before SIGCSE 2015), but a CPython version would probably be mid-2015.

  • (a) Is a CPython version something that you would find interesting and worth adopting?
  • (b) Would you have a preference for one or the other? Or would you see value in having both versions?

(2) At Georgia Tech, we have started teaching the book with a brief excursion into strings and lists before introducing pictures. We talk about the medium as being language or text, and we manipulate characters in the strings using algorithms like those we later use with pixels in a picture or samples in a sound. For example, we can “mirror” words as we later mirror sounds or pictures. The advantage is that students can see all the characters in the string, and print out every step of the loop — where neither of those is reasonable to do with pictures or sounds.

We’re considering adding an OPTIONAL chapter at the beginning of the book in the 4th edition. We wouldn’t remove the introduction to loops in Chapter 3. We would move some of the string processing from Chapter 10 into this new Chapter 2.5, but leave methods and file I/O for Chapter 10. You would be able to use the book as-is, but if you want to start with characters and words as a text medium first, we would support that path, too.

  • Does that seem like a chapter that you would find useful? Or would you rather just keep the book with the chapters as they are now?

Thanks for any advice you would like to give me on producing the 4th edition of the book!

 

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. shriramkrishnamurthi  |  March 8, 2014 at 8:55 am

    Brian Harvey’s book began with strings and lists, and it worked beautifully. You may find it work checking out for inspiration.

    I’ve always liked strings as a really good starting datatype for many reasons:

    – you can do fun things with them
    – they support lots of interesting operations
    – they’re not _too_ sophisticated
    – it’s easy to tell whether the answers are as expected (unlike numbers, which sadly, many students have no intuition for)

    Also, when you finally understand the importance of testing (-:, you’ll find it far easier to test on strings than on images. So you should make the move now, in preparation for this improvement in a future edition. <-;

    Reply

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