“Greetings Youtubers” I say, starting my Mr. Roger’s like kid-friendly show, “greetings Youtubistas” (weird).
I go on to explain, at least in one video, how “Youtubista” derives from “Pythonista” which is our preferred name for “one who uses Python” (the computer language).
Those familiar with the lingua franca, i.e. Latinate languages (an early Esperanto), recognize “Pythonista” is femininely gendered and “Pythonisto” sounds dumb (no one uses it).
This gender bias fits well with PyLadies, a global network, and, I would claim, with the gender of “Naga”, whom I introduce as a retired mascot. She made it to a few Pycons and OSCONs, perhaps even a Djangocon back when they had that unicorned pony.
I’d say “the age of mascottery” is behind us at the moment, which means it’s likely to arise again (perhaps sooner than we think, read on).
What I’ve been doing on Youtube involves Python pretty obviously, which I then blend with a flavor of geometry that’s decidedly spatial in nature. I’m not bound to the plane as strictly as the Euclidean crowd is, not that I’m working outside of Euclid. I use the Pythagorean Theorem as much as anyone.
On the contrary, Euclid went on to Polyhedron constructions too in the end, we could talk about exactly where, as in which volume. Lets start more where he left off, and work backward if we need to. But also forward.
We’ve got this thing called a “concentric hierarchy” (a nesting of shapes within shapes).
Growing up, Saturday morning cartoons were a big deal. I’d just gotten hooked when we moved to Rome, and I went cold turkey, dove into comic books instead, probably good for me.
Those cartoons weren’t especially didactic meaning they didn’t teach any skills to speak of. You learned to run around in a cape pretending to have superpowers. Big deal.
You couldn’t learn any Python watching animations for hours and hours. Besides, Python hadn’t been invented yet. When I joined the scene, computers were still beyond the reach of young girls and boys.
By the way, I liked Kaa the python in that Disney movie, that first Jungle Book cartoon. Kaa made me laugh. I really liked and respected Bagheera too (I’d read a dumbed down version of Kipling’s original). Mowgli was OK, as humans go, but humans were just never quite as cool as black panthers.
By the time I got to high school aged, mid teens, Sesame Street had been invented and I was living in the Philippines (Rome had been a blast, great boyhood).
The RP (Republic of the Philippines) showed lots of USA TV. I was hungry to get back to that diet. Hawaii Five-O, Medical Center, The Waltons… I’d record opening theme music to cassette tape. Maybe someday I’d have a career in television.
Americans are happy when you share their TV shows as that means you might love them. Indeed, who can hate Bert and Ernie, or Big Bird? Plus these shows were didactic, they were actually teaching things.
But did Big Bird know about complex numbers? He didn’t seem to.
No Mandelbrot Sets on Sesame Street; we needed a show like it, but for older kids (and more discriminating adults). Adult Swim? That hadn’t been invented yet. I refer to a TV syndication company.
Yesterday I was in a computer lab full of middle schoolers. I was their instructor, of Python, and I have this book about how to visualize the Mandelbrot Set using that language.
I waved it around and dove into Youtube, picking one of my favorite fractal zoom ins. I think I blew a few minds, in a positive way. Mostly, we’re using Codesters (codesters.com).
I told them the math was simple, but it took a computer to really render the vistas.
That’s true of so much of our civilization: it takes a few lines on paper, plus a few billion transistors, all pumping juice to the tune of such as:
some of what crosses my desk when I read proposals for OSCON talks. I showed them Jupyter Notebooks.
Mathematica, or Wolfram Language, was not on my list because OSCON is for free, open source languages. However Mathematica, and Wolfram, are definitely players when it comes to the new kind of science we’re able to offer in the K-16 grades (that’s US education speak).
Cellular automata get their most exhaustive treatment in Wolfram’s book. Any Martin Gardner type would see ways to extrapolate to different rules. I coded Conway’s Game of Life on a hexapent (sphere of hexagonal and pentagonal tiles). Does that make me a genius? I was working with Visual Python.
By now, I think you’re getting the idea. Python meets Polyhedrons by the time we get to “hexapent” (think of a globe, a world model, adapted for gaming platforms).
I get on Youtube and spell out for teachers, what a bigger budget version of my curriculum might look like. I storyboard, giving the comic book version of what could be a didactic cartoon, or genre of cartoons.
I get by with primitive drawings and hand-rolled computer graphics, a few hypertoons.
I use low end Bluetooth headphones and sometimes don’t do any post-production. Other times I do, using Camtasia 2. I’ve use other video editing software too, enough to get the concepts. Timelines matter. Transitions too.
Sometimes I’ll do my talking head slide show and share straight to Youtube. I don’t cut the “ums” (there’s a really stellar cough I kept in one of them). I’ll use the same slides in multiple contexts. That’s effective andragogy (pedagogy too).
Why don’t I jazz it up more?
Well, for one thing, I do think I’m jazzy already, the way I riff through my materials. For another thing, I’m trying to spark trends and fashions, not roll out some intimidating paywall with everything already finished, and out of reach.
For another thing, I plan to (jazz it up more).
We’re definitely in the spirit of “make your own” and “do it yourself” (DIY). In one of the videos, I go to a maker space in a public library, and get lots of help 3D printing an “S module” (actually two of them, one “phi down” from the other, meaning smaller by a factor of about 0.618). That others could do the same, is a core message. “Do try this at home”.
What’s an “S module” by the way? Another thing Bird Bird didn’t know about, suitable for use in animations nonetheless. I also yak about A, B, T & E modules.
I actually wrote to Childrens Television Workshop about “The Videogrammatron” as I called it. I was imagining Youtube in 1984, except with episode directors drawing from it and chaining segments together, weaving themes. Like I’m doing here.
My role back then was some kind of assistant editor at McGraw-Hill, looking ahead to how we might tackle the computer stuff. Back in the 1980s, it looked like the computer and mathematics literacy faculties were likely to converge.
We weren’t expecting the standoff would last well into the 21st Century.
An “S module” is a fragment obtained when splitting an icosahedron from its containing octahedron. Containing in a “faces flush” kind of way. See figure.
Then we have the Koski Identities, which, like the Waterman Polyhedra, are named for contemporaries, people I’ve worked with.
My work connects me to other teachers around the world, of similar or identical subjects.
Neither Steve Waterman nor David Koski were into computer programming much, which is why my skills were complementary.
When collaborating with Steve, I would actually render his polyhedrons using POV-Ray. With David, I’d do some animations, but also lots of extended precision decimal calculations, using the library gmpy2.
I’ll conclude this story by recapping why Python and Polyhedrons go together.
Because “polyhedrons are objects” in both a mathematical and programming sense, and also in the very literal sense of being actual things you can build, hold, turn in your hands, contemplate.
They have features. We have things we can do with them.
These are all the ingredients we need to achieve a blend that’s at once abstract and concrete.
We’re doing coding, around spatial geometry, with the Polyhedron class of object.
A lot of worthwhile metaphors (sustainable, extendable, consistent) arise from this conceptual matrix, to become part of the mnemonic glue work that marks any strong curriculum.