I spent most of yesterday with the combined GIS crews of several cities and counties, already Python fans because of ESRI (the GIS giant) and therefore open to hearing from one of the horses (as in "horse's mouth") i.e. from me in a 10:30 - noon time slot.
As you'll see from the slides, we're continuing work on our test pilot studies, where we take kids from successful alternative tracks, such as Caleb Gattegno's, and track them forward in some promising direction.
My purpose at GIS in Action was also to scope out how this 17 year old regional conference handles town-gown relations. Pycon is very business oriented, given most people making their fortunes with it haven't shared much with universities about what they're up to. Google is far more forthcoming, in behaving more like an academic institution right out of the box, even though it's private sector, what with Summer of Code and lots of open source projects. Google App Engine is a friendly host to Python source, but again, that needn't be open. Dr. Chuck's upcoming book on the that engine (a collaboration) will explain more how that works (he's mentioned in my slides as well).
As I explained to the GIS folks, our political strategy is to invite various states, such as Oregon, to accept a "discrete standards" track on a par with the musty dusty one that currently dominates thanks mostly to cronyism (talking about calcified calculator-intensive calculus, not what Silicon Forest is sponsoring, but other industries apparently need a lot of these skills).
Given the public school system is for all taxpayers, not just an elite few who love continuity, we're having little trouble making our pitch. True, some holdout math departments maybe think digital maths spell trouble, but I sense we're mostly working in cahoots, as no one wants to spend half their career doing remedial stuff, student or teacher. So let's nip it in the bud and start over? At least in some pilot studies, that's what we're trying (talking about Algebra First type stuff).
Those of you following more closely will recall our rhetoric also includes the "all schools are charter schools" plank, meaning it's just a matter of "when" not "what" i.e. every school needs a charter of some kind, a mandate, an authorization from state or other entity. They differ in terms of boilerplate, but LEP High is no less a public school that Madison, Marshall, Cleveland or Grant.
Our place based curriculum is not a novel concept in that all education in these parts used to be environmental in nature, talking 10K years of indigenous education services, provided by tribal elders. But it pays to gussy it up in Anglo edu-speak, which is what flies with the legislature. Local reservations may be among the first beneficiaries, not coincidentally given (a) the familiarity of "place based" approaches and (b) the natural market for supermarket and discrete / quantum math (what you need to manage a household, plan and run a casino, branch out into other investments over time). Python is quite popular in the financial community, not just in sciences and engineering.
Of course I had no problem getting this audience to join me in wishing something better for our USA students than mere calculators. Talk about getting left behind! The GIS community uses hand-held devices, true, but this highly graphical discipline is all about big databases and large flatscreens. Not every school can afford the latter, but PostgreSQL is free, as are the OpenGIS products, so it's really just a matter of supplying missing skills, not budgeting for a lot of applications. Many schools will roll their own mashups, as a matter of school spirit.