Some of the more frequent questions we receive about Wakari center on its use for the teaching and the classroom.
“Can I use Wakari to teach a mathematical or computational science course?
What about an Intro to Programming course?
Do you have any suggestions or best-practices for doing so?”
The answer, of course, is a resounding YES! In this blog post, we will share some of the innovative ways Wakari is being used in the classroom. We hope these tips and profiles will help encourage even more teachers, students, and user groups to try out Wakari, and hopefully inspire the next generation of Python developers!
Wakari at ETSU
The first experience comes to us from Jeff Knisley, an Associate Professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at East Tennessee State University. He used Wakari almost exclusively to teach his undergraduate Math Computing Course this past spring and continues to use Wakari to teach his classes.
Jeff offers some insight into his experience with Wakari beta:
To begin with, our bunch gave Wakari a pretty good workout, and it performed surprisingly well for a beta and in support of such a new medium (IPython Notebook). I wanted them to see cluster computing, as well as what an NP problem (and associated approach) looks like, because they are all math majors – many future teachers who may never write programs again once they get past our required computational classes – and they need to see the “why” of computing as much or more so than the “how”. Thus, “Kudos” for releasing such a stable and powerful platform from its outset!!
- The IPython Notebook is very, very user friendly. My students did not struggle with the Notebook format at all, which is a huge + in comparison to past years when we spent as much time wrestling with how to use the IDE as we did the concepts themselves.
- Wakari upload/download. The filesystem was not alphabetized until recently, but they didn’t have that many files anyways.
- The ease in creating and using clusters: Not sure this was intended, but there were some advantages to the “File -> Open” approach, including the ability to use IPython Notebook to start clusters.
- The very clean Wakari interface. Only a few of my students ever used terminals, but everything was rather easy to use and manage. I didn’t use gists, primarily because they just downloaded and turned in their programming assignment notebooks directly to me and I could grade all at once using a local (virtualenv) installation of IPython notebook I set up just for grading purposes.
After the Wakari 1.0 release, Jeff sent us a follow up email:
None of the “Bad” applies anymore — Wakari 1.0 or IPython 1.0 (coming out soon) addressed all of them. Even the most computer-phobic students pick up Wakari quickly and without frustration.
Also, I now have received the student evaluations for the course, which were very high and have some excellent comments I would also be glad to share:
- “The (Wakari notebook) tutorials were detailed and easy to follow.”
- “Loved how the assignments were created with the IPython notebooks.”
- “The assignments are very well written, well thought, and an example of education perfected.”
- “I’ve had other computer courses but never understood computers until this class.”
Wakari has become *my tool of choice* for teaching (via the IPython notebook and the excellent interface to files/notebooks/etc) and soon will be for research also (continuously migrating in that direction). This fall, all my students will be required to have an account, and this Spring, I will be teaching at least one “Large” (Mooc-style) course using Wakari.
Wakari at National University of Colombia
The second experience comes to us from Diego Camilo Peña Ramirez, a teacher’s assistant at the National University of Colombia in the field of numerical methods. Diego’s case is interesting, because he did not discover Wakari until the later stages of his course and realized then that it would have solved many of his initial difficulties with teaching Python.
My department has students with several different majors, many of whom had only basic programming knowledge. I decided to start with Python because it’s a simple enough programming language to learn, in addition to the broad ecosystem of numerical analysis tools such as numpy, scipy and matplotlib.
At first it was difficult and even became frustrating because the transition from Python 2.x to Python 3.x often made it difficult to find the matching library and Python version. Not all of them functioned in the same environment. This process took way more time than I had allocated. Finally, the necessary packages were not installed on the computing facilities’ machines, which ended up forcing the students to bring their own computers.
Nonetheless, the course went on with the available resources. It was then that a friend recommended Wakari, which in addition to the benefits of IPython, offered the ability to share the “notebooks” for social networks, comments, password protection, etc. … without the obligation to have anything installed, yet also able to develop some tutorials related to the subject:
It would have saved me a lot of time and trouble if I had known about Wakari beforehand. Some of my students even came to share their “notebooks” with the class on Wakari.
I tell my students the future of IPython is within Wakari, however it is not necessary to wait for the future by having a tool like Wakari FREE at our disposal right now.
As you can see, Wakari is already being used to help people learn and experience Python in new and novel ways. The similarities of these cases serve to illustrate how quickly and easy Wakari is to set up, and that hits the nail right on the head from our perspective. We want teachers and groups to spend as much time as possible on the “learning” side of the material, and not tangled with preparation and setup. The reality is that many people are introduced to Python and coding for the first time with Wakari, and it is absolutely imperative that they have a positive and fruitful first experience. Spreading the Python language to the masses is the heart of our message at Continuum Analytics, and we’re doing everything we can to keep students, teachers, and groups coming back to use Wakari.
So please, try it out, no matter the size, place, or occasion, and let us know your feedback along the way. If you know the date, time, and size of the class, go ahead and send us an email to [email protected], and we’ll do everything we can to help make it a success. Also, don’t forget to check out the Wakari Notebook Gallery, as new and useful teaching content is uploaded all the time!