Last year I wrote about repl.it, an online IDE that supports multiple languages. At the time it had some rudimentary classroom support and since I started using it, repl.it has become better and better. I used it last year with my class because I had to start the year in a lab where I couldn't easily install my own software. I'll continue to use repl.it - mostly for it's ability to schedule publish and manage assignments but when possible, I like having my students work locally.
This year I'm excited about another tool - Thonny. Thonny's a simple Python IDE designed for beginners. I discovered it last year but at a time when it was impractical for me to use with my students. This year I can and I'm really liking it. I'm still an Emacs guy and will continue to use Emacs for my python development (video 1, video 2) but for beginners I think Thonny is the way to go.
Some of Thonny's highlights:
- An integrated Python 3 virtual environment making for ease of installation and consistency across student installs
- A debugger that shows how expressions are evaluated
- Great visualizations of function calls that make it easier to understand the call stack and scope
- The ability to look at memory to understand references.
Rather than go into the gory details in text, I put together this video: