Programming Languages Explained: Python vs. JavaScript / CSS / HTML

The differences, similarities, and why any form of tech education is important.

You’ve likely seen Python mentioned among other traditional programming languages, including JavaScript (JS) and CSS/HTML. In fact, JavaScript, HTML/CSS, and Python all fall in the top three languages that developers use in their careers, according to the annual Stack Overflow survey (2021). 

With Python’s increasing exposure, it’s important to understand how it relates to the other programming languages available, how it’s different, and provide perspective on where it fits in the classroom with your students. Let’s get started by first providing a quick overview of exactly what Python, HTML/CSS, and JavaScript are so you have a basic understanding.

Programing Languages

What is Python?

First released in 1991, Python is a general-purpose programming language that can be used in a range of applications, including data science, software development, and automation. According to Python.org, Python is an interpreted, object-oriented, high-level programming language with dynamic semantics. 

The programming language has been notably used to create Netflix’s recommendation algorithm and software that controls self-driving cars, according to an article by Coursera. The Python interpreter and standard library are freely available in source or binary form for all major platforms from the Python Web site.

A fun fact about Python, creator Guido van Rossum came up with the name while reading published scripts from “Monty Python’s Flying Circus”.

What is HTML?

Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML) is a coding language used to build websites. Specifically, HTML’s job is to label and organize content such as headings, paragraphs, lists and images, so that the web browser (e.g. Chrome, Firefox, etc.) knows how the page should look.

What is CSS?

Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) is a coding language that pairs with HTML. It works by defining a series of rules for how the HTML should look (colors, spacing, etc). CSS is helpful for establishing the layout and personality of a website.

What is JavaScript?

JavaScript (JS) can be combined with HTML/CSS to bring websites to life. JavaScript is a versatile programming language that can be used for animation, dynamic apps, interactive games and more.

The Importance of Understanding a “Stack”

While JavaScript has been the most commonly used programming language for the past nine years, it’s important to mention that professional programmers are often fluent in several languages that make up what is called a “stack”.

A stack is a set of languages or frameworks that work together to accomplish common computing tasks. For example, HTML/CSS and JavaScript make up what is called a “front-end stack” because these languages are used to create what you see while on a website. Python, PHP, and SQL make up the “back-end stack” and are used to handle website databases and control how websites function with hosts and servers.

Differences and Similarities Between Programming Languages

When the question comes up, “which is better, Python or JavaScript?”, it really depends on what kind of computing tasks you might be interested in doing. Front-end developers (HTML/CSS and Javascript) spend more time working on the design, layout and the function of websites, while back-end developers (Python, PHP, and SQL) are concerned with security, networks and databases. No matter which language interests you the most, as a professional programmer you will need to study and learn the accompanying languages that make up your chosen stack.

When the question comes up, “which is better, Python or JavaScript?”, it really depends on what kind of computing tasks you might be interested in doing.

Why BSD Uses JS and HTML/CSS

At BSD Education, we feel strongly that any type of coding and digital skills instruction is vital to a student’s education and future in navigating our digital world. We have chosen the front-end stack as a part of our digital skills curriculum because it satisfies a range of interests, including design, layout, functionality, UI/UX, gaming, AI and VR. By learning three languages together to develop more interests, and ultimately more skills, students are provided a more complete learning experience that learning one language can’t match. This broad range of skills stretches beyond the keyboard and includes key computational thinking and critical thinking skills vital to learning in any other core subject.

In addition, when we think about the most powerful technologies that we use everyday, most of them operate in the web browser, which is what HTML/CSS and JavaScript are used for. Every website and web application that you have ever used were made using this front-end stack. 

If students are interested in becoming computer scientists, they may need to learn Java, Python, JavaScript, or other languages depending on the accreditation program. For example, Java has been the language of choice for the Advanced Placement college equivalent course that is available in many High Schools in the U.S. Many commonly used frameworks for Computer Science do not even list a specific programming language, but instead provide a map for concepts that are found in most languages, like algorithms, variables, control structures and modularity. Both the British IGCSE and the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) publish curricular guidelines and standards that focus on computer science concepts instead of specific languages. 

What Fits for Your Classroom?

Ultimately when it comes to the Python versus JavaScript and HTML/CSS showdown, it really depends on what you want to do with your knowledge of programming and what goals you have as a developer. 

Whether you have no experience or are ready to take your tech education to the next level, BSD provides the support and intuitive platform to help you teach these front-end stack digital skills. In a matter of minutes using BSD, students will begin building their first website, create a mobile app, or even a fun game they can play with friends. BSD makes it possible for any teacher of any subject to incorporate coding and digital skills into their curriculum so students are future ready.

Contact us today so we can address your unique needs and develop a partnership that will help your students reach further and have an experience that will equip them with the skills they will need for tomorrow, no matter what career path they choose. 

What Does the Future of EdTech Look Like in 2021?

The end of the year is ideal for reflecting on the year passed and looking towards the future. Accordingly, during December, I have dedicated some time to focus on the key trends I expect to be the future of EdTech in 2021.

It is so easy to underestimate the depth and breadth of the EdTech industry and nigh on impossible to visualize the over $5 trillion ecosystems that it forms a part of.

I exist in the realm of K12 digital and 21st-century skills education with an increasing amount of time spent tackling challenges around career-focused learning for students aged 16-24. Sitting on the boards and advisory groups of schools, education foundations, and nonprofits, I am fortunate to experience a broad spectrum of education from several different perspectives throughout each year.

EdTech Investment

EdTech took a front-row seat in the global business landscape in 2020, with investors making significant bets on established and larger companies in growth investment rounds. However, I feel that venture capital investors can struggle to balance early-stage educational investment with the return demands of their investment models. Driven by a lack of specialization in specific domains of education, this investment, even with an overall sector-based generalization, is highly complex. They also lack confidence in the strength of their networks to influence growth within a huge institutional addressable market and a consumer segment that can suffer from poor unit economics. 

That said, several education investors with precise specializations are now establishing early-stage funds, presenting a solid opportunity for high-quality investment in early revenue stage companies. Well-tested and validated through the pandemic, these companies will be more robust than usual for their stage and likely undervalued. 

In 2021, while it will still be a journey back towards average, schools will begin to operate with more established processes and protocols, providing more stability for smaller but growing EdTech companies to gain a foothold and deliver initial results. With this in mind, I believe investors will deploy a continued investment growth to a broader range of companies across the future of the EdTech industry in the coming year. 

Online Learning

Educators already anticipated online learning to be an area of significant growth in 2020. Accelerated by COVID-19, online learning has permeated traditional schools to a greater extent than previously foreseen. As a result, a good standard of online delivery of formal education was achieved, and its status and perception in the eyes of both educators and parents have improved. In 2021, schools will determine which aspects of learning were enhanced by online learning and which remain best delivered in person. This will drive growth in the future of EdTech through the definition and practice of hybrid educational models and the technology and training that supports them.

Growth in Pedagogical Technology

Many approaches to online learning have focused on implementing video conferencing tools and achieving full adoption of learning management systems (LMS) by faculties. While an initial step in the right direction, this combination of administrative and communication technology does not provide a seamless transition between offline and online learning or the ability for the same understanding to be delivered in the same amount of time. 

Elementary school educators have struggled to deliver the full spectrum of learning online – a challenge that remains unresolved and not likely to be solved any time soon – however, middle and high school learning has continued online with less disruption. Overall, time-constrained learning has focused on tested topics and exam preparation, resulting in a significant rollback in enrichment and elective education, arguably more relevant to students’ futures in the real world than much of traditionally tested learning. 

I believe educators will begin to adopt and seek pedagogical technology tools in 2021 that focus on content creation and engagement, real-time student learning data, and feedback to empower best practices and bridge the gap for effective teaching between LMS and communication tools.

LMS Consolidation and Interoperability

With technology tools remaining at the heart of quality teaching and learning experiences, streamlining their usage and allowing educators to move quickly between systems will become critical. It will also mean a growing demand for and a definition of the requirements for interoperability. Currently, the fragmentation of the LMS market and unpredictability of application programming interfaces (APIs) is a barrier to broader and more consistent standards for interoperability. I believe this will begin to be resolved as the LMS market starts to consolidate towards the latter part of 2021.

Data and Privacy

Against a backdrop of increasing regulation and legal scrutiny, growth in pedagogical technologies and interoperability will lead to more real-time educational data being produced about student learning in 2021 than ever before. EdTech companies will need to be acutely aware of data privacy, protection, and storage requirements at both the consumer and institutional customer levels. In addition, global companies will need to consider effective data regions within their technology infrastructures and understand the security and architectural implications of scaling their technology, particularly where accurate time data is involved. 

Career-focused Learning and Assessment

As many developed nations continue with employment stimulus packages, the economic repercussions of COVID-19 have yet to be fully felt around the world. Going into 2021, however, these effects will become more significant, and unemployment levels will likely increase to levels similar to the post-war era of the mid-20th century. This will accelerate career-focused learning, re-skilling, and reduce university application and enrollment. As a result, people focus on faster and cheaper means of validating skills and experience that give them employment in developing, likely technology-driven industries. For the future of EdTech, this will lead to growth in opportunities for curriculum creators, new assessment providers, and credentialing organizations that have strong partnerships with the industry. 

At this point, you might be wondering why I have not mentioned artificial intelligence in the trends that I am predicting. I do believe that meaningful AI implementations in education will take place, just not in 2021. We are still witnessing the early phase of developing validated solutions for real-time data and analytics in machine learning. The longitudinal validation of AI in education and complexities of algorithmic bias will make progress slow, while other EdTech developments will have more impactful and verifiable immediate results.

Although it has been said that 2020 was when the impact of EdTech on education was felt, I would say that the door has only been cracked open. Instead, it has been a year of learning and discovery in preparation for a truly significant level of adoption at a later date. 

2021 will be a year when the disruption of 2020 becomes the new normal, and it is against this backdrop that the future of EdTech will indeed be defined.

What I Wish My Teachers And Parents Knew When I Was In School

It’s been almost 5 years since I’ve left high school and 4 years into working with BSD Education. As we mainly focus on helping educators bring technology education into classrooms (as a way to further prepare kids for the future with digital skills), I’ve been able to work with numerous educators, parents, business leaders, as well as students and kids. This has not only given me insights about the Education industry, teaching and student learning and experiences, it has also opened my eyes and shown me aspects that could have helped enhance my experience or any students’ experiences at school.

A Trip Down Memory Lane

To be honest, I wasn’t very “good” at school. I would usually just have passing grades and wouldn’t pay much attention during classes, thinking what I was learning wouldn’t be used in the real world and that it would be irrelevant for my desired future career paths. I thought that especially in Math class, and failed almost every year. “When am I ever going to need to solve a bunch of equations finding x’s, y’s and using formulas like trigonometry ratios (SOH CAH TOA)?”.

Though I did excel in subjects in Humanities, like History and Languages. Yes, it is pretty ironic that I would think Math was of less use to the real world than History, but what helped me excel in it was that it was easier to imagine various scenarios that took place – through my History Teacher’s storytelling. He made us role play and reenact scenes to test our reactions or behaviors to find similarities and differences in how it had been during the Cold War for example. I loved and enjoyed it so much, History classes felt like playtime.

Math class was just not the same. The way our whole class was taught was that you had to remember a number of formulas to solve equations they gave, which looked a lot like this:

Image by IB Survival

(Wow, this still looks scary to me…)

Even though I didn’t think it would be helpful for me, like any other kid I wanted to “succeed” and do well for my future. I tried my best to revise as many formulas as I could, but I still failed most of the time. 

It was easy for me to compare myself to my classmates with our grades. I felt I lacked the intelligence they had. I was demotivated, disengaged and most of all, I felt hopeless. I started hating school.

 

Presented Opportunities

Once every school year, my parents would be invited to visit school to attend a 10-minute Parent-Teacher’s meeting. They would discuss my grades for each subject and my general behavior in classes (Hey – I was still a good kid!). 

My grades for Math and Sciences would often be highlighted as ( F ) for Failed, I couldn’t tell you how many times they told my parents that all I needed were to get more exercise books to practice more at home until I could get better at it, pay more attention during class and stop doodling on my homework. 

My parents would agree to my teacher’s recommendations, and on the way back home would remind me how I’ve always been weak at Math and that I needed to improve on it for my future.  They weren’t very involved or engaged in my education, but it was because they were also very busy with work trying to make ends meet, which I understood. Neither would I have wanted them to anyway because I was also scared of giving them reasons to be disappointed in me.

I then would turn to my eldest sister to help me as a last resort. I remember her spending nights trying to get me to understand basic algebra and most of the times, I just wouldn’t get it. As she wanted to give up on one of the nights, she decided to take out a sketchbook. 

She drew out a building with multiple “apartment windows” where parts of an equation laid and told a story on how the different numbers and letters were neighbors and siblings, and how they “lived” and solved problems together – and I actually got it! I felt great for being able to really understand the story and solve the other similar equations she gave. 

I don’t have an original copy of the sketch she drew, but it looked a lot like this:

I thought I would love Math from then on.

Missed Opportunities

Looking back at it now, that learning approach was a sign that I could learn easier with pictures and stories. Maybe I wasn’t necessarily bad at school, It was just that I had a different learning approach, like many of us. If we were to base it on the 4 main learning approaches, I was (and still am) a visual learner. This meant that it was easier for me to understand concepts that I could visualize and illustrate relationships between ideas.

Image by Prezi

I didn’t know there were various learning approaches, finding this out after high school blew my mind and helped make sense of many things I’ve gone through in life. 

I wish my Math teacher knew to help me in an approach that worked for me, I needed help. But I couldn’t blame them for not realizing this because they weren’t just teaching me, they were teaching a whole class of 30-40 students. They used what worked for most and it just wouldn’t be feasible to cater to each and every one of us.

My sister and I thought the stories were merely just another fun way of learning Math for me, so this finding was never communicated back to my parents or teachers. Plus what would my teachers also think or say If I was making random stories of equations at school?

I tried making more stories anyway, on my own, but still needed guidance in making sense out of them. So unfortunately, the learning method didn’t stick. I continued to struggle in school overall, and with other reasons and pursuits (we’ll visit these next time!) – I decided to drop out.

Finding the Power of Communication and Collaboration, and Taking it into Action

You might think it was pretty weird for me to decide to work with an Education company that mainly works with schools after hating my experience and dropping out. But to me, the hardship that I went through was great enough that I developed a passion for Education and have made it my life purpose to do what I can to continue improving and enhancing it – so more kids won’t have to go through what I did.

As I wrote this article and recalled my past experiences, I realized many points in my experience that could have been opportunities or ways to help me in my learning, particularly in the way parents and teachers can communicate and collaborate to build a solid, learning support system for kids and students, which studies prove.

So here are the main takeaways on what teachers, parents and guardians can do to help their kid’s learning experiences, from a perspective of a past student. It may sound obvious, but it’s those things that we usually take for granted and forget:

Re-Defining “Learning” and Roles

It isn’t emphasized enough that learning doesn’t just happen within the 4 walls of a classroom, for only 6-8 hours of kids’ days. Learning and “education” happens at almost every point in our lives, and anywhere – be it at school, home or even the supermarket. This is where parents’ involvement becomes essential to kids’ learning and growth.

Both parents and teachers share equal responsibility in helping their kids learn and meet their development goals. When parents are involved or engaged with their kids learning, kids are encouraged to not just talk about their experiences at school to help parents find areas of improvement, but also work with their parents to apply what they learn in school in a different context and environment – allowing them to further understand concepts and see how it is applied in the real world. This helps kids develop a love for lifelong, limitless learning.

More and Encouraged Communication

Teachers are the experts in teaching, parents or guardians are the experts of their kids. 

In my case, you could find a few gaps in the communication between my teachers, parents and me.

Because my parents weren’t as involved or engaged in my learning, they were limited in finding ways to help my teachers help me. They didn’t know of what my sister and I found as the most effective learning approach for me. So this led them just accepting my teacher’s recommendations on what they thought best, rather than opening a two-way discussion on how to best help me achieve my educational goals.

Parents can support teachers anyway by providing more insights of their kid’s interests or behaviors as a way for teachers to leverage when they explore ways to effectively engage students for a smoother learning experience.

Teachers can also help parents be more involved by providing tips on how they can do so; from just talking to their kids more about how their school days went and opening conversations on what they love about it or areas they are struggling in, to doing homework with them. Here’s a great list we love of resources educators can use to enhance communication and collaboration with parents.

A way that can also help parents and teachers help their kids’ learning is to encourage them to open up. We need to avoid seeing kids’ struggles as “failures” and reprimanding them for it. Kids want to make their parents and teachers proud, and if we don’t offer them a positive environment to learn, fail, and try again, they will only be inclined to keep their struggles to themselves – which doesn’t help anyone in the end.

Holistic, More Frequent Feedback

The 10-minute Parent-Teacher meetings once every school year is just not enough. A student’s learning journey cannot be summarized into 10 minutes, neither can it be fully expressed through a bunch of grades and numbers. It’s not the same for every school, but there are ways we can improve how these meetings are run and what they usually cover.

Now more than ever has it been much easier for teachers or parents to reach out to each other with Technology, be it via email, phone or any other channels they agree to use. Teachers can help make these meetings more productive and actionable for example by sending report cards before the meeting, and discussing the kids’ overall interests, behaviors and attitudes in person on top of where kids have performed well, why certain grades have been and how else to improve it. This encourages an open conversation about the overall learning and development of the kids.