Comments on LearningEmacs

Emacs Education

Has anyone made a Live DVD .iso for teaching Emacs and e-lisp? My recent versions of the Ubuntu Live DVD don’t come with emacs.

I’d like to start experimenting while adapting Introduction to Emacs Lisp and The Schemer’s Guide with ESL/EFL students. A light, bootable emacs .iso would make it easy to get started with students. Keeping a browser off the DVD might be a cunning incentive for students to leap ahead and learn w3 in large classes where some of the un-motivated will be tempted to do SNS instead of focusing on the class.

I want to think about teaching(and learning) e-lisp in the style of I.A. Richards English Through Pictures books. With Richards’s “Graded Direct Method” you create situations that show and don’t tell. This way, learning English starts with a comparison of “I” and “You”, and tries to let learners see how words work through comparison all the way through. I’m thinking an adaptation of this approach to e-lisp will be an effective way to learn English while learning something else useful. I’m hoping to learn e-lisp while thinking on examples to sequence in the same way. I have ideas for the first two examples but I want to start testing them with learners, and a live cd would be a great help once I get volunteers(which should be easy).

I hope this commenting page is an appropriate place to ask for .iso suggestions.

– brismall 2014-01-09 04:06 UTC

You can certainly post your comment here. However, I’d suggest that you create a new wiki page for your topic, as comments pages are really more for a discussion or miscellaneous comments, so (a) people won’t necessarily look here to find that topic and (b) it might well get drowned by other, unrelated comments.

DrewAdams 2014-01-09 04:52 UTC

Wrt your iso question: I know nothing about .iso, so I can’t help you. What is your operating system? If it is MS Windows, then there are binaries (executables) available for download.

The wiki is not so much a Q & A site, though you are welcome to ask questions here. You might also try the .iso question on one of the Stack Exchange sites.

DrewAdams 2014-01-09 04:55 UTC

I remember having worked on an EmacsBusinessCard – a 50MB disk image with GNU/Linux, X11 and Emacs. I’m not aware of any recent efforts, however.

AlexSchroeder 2014-01-09 10:12 UTC

Thanks for the quick responses, Drew Adams and Alex Schroeder.

I use Ubuntu Linux and have been setting up some friends with it. They are older organic farmers who seem to be getting as far as Libre Office but I don’t think they will learn emacs. I try to avoid the mouse myself but I discovered that right clicking is better than C-z and other shortcuts for people with heavy fingers. But I might have a chance to work in emacs with some people at earlier stages. I.A. Richards is all about getting learners to be “self-corrigible”, being able to see if they are learning or not, and a nice sequenced Emacs in Easy English course might help with that.

I’m looking for a bootable Education Emacs CD to see if I can use it in a school computer room, or anyone’s computer really. I don’t think anyone at the school is confident enough with computers to feel comfortable installing extra software, or letting me do it. A CD would make it easy to experiment with a few interested students before trying to convince people it’s worthwhile to install more applications. With a CD, students could even bring in their own computers to see what sort of learning we can do. I’ve been getting the impression that some of the younger people in Japan are a lot more comfortable with their phones than computers, so they might not be comfortable installing on-line binaries. Some students didn’t know what HTML was.

I don’t know when I’ll have time to figure out how to remaster a CD/DVD with emacs (and maybe Tux Typing and other educational goodies) and was hoping someone had already spent some time inventing these sort of educational .iso wheels. The CD doesn’t even have to be that small, I don’t mind buying a fifty pack of DVDs to get started but it shouldn’t be too slow. Recently it seems that whenever I check a live CD, it doesn’t have emacs.

I installed emacs through the Ubuntu Software Center and just realized I don’t have the source files while working through the Introduction to Emacs Lisp. I’m thinking an Emacs Education Live CD will have to have the sources to follow along with Robert Chassell’s book.

It took me a while to wrap my head around recursion for some reason. Maybe it was because I started with a Japanese book, or because I wasn’t paying attention. After a few years I sat down and worked through The Schemer's Guide and it helped. It felt good to be able to work through that. I think I used Racket to work through the exercises. The Racket guys seem like good educators, one of their on-line curriculum pages talked requirement for documentation (strings) in student work.. I think it would be great to work on developing good thinking like the Schemers Guide (and maybe HTDP, How To Develop Programs, but I haven’t had a chance to look at that book yet) in emacs. For students that aren’t ready for programming, just jumping around in text or exploring document structure with org mode might help them. I imagine the possibilities are endless but experimenting will reveal the most useful approaches.

I’m thinking emacs with all the English manuals, especially the tutorial will be great for students of English as a Foreign Language - and students stuck in the class without any interest in English might be able to get into e-lisp and/or working with text in emacs. You never know until you try.

Thanks again for the quick responses.

– brismall 2014-01-09 11:57 UTC

Hm, perhaps you might be better off just installing Emacs for Windows on 20 USB stick and hand these out to students? Let them bring their own sticks and make copies, if they want (or give the sticks away?) – I don’t think Emacs needs any registry entries or settings or anything like that.

I don’t think that $HOME would point to a directory on the USB stick, so this might confuse people who want to work on an init file. You might have to fiddle with the copy of Emacs you install on those USB sticks to make it (load (concat invocation-directory "../../emacs-init.el")) for people to edit or (setenv "HOME" (concat invocation-directory "../../")) such that people can create their own ~/.emacs file.

AlexSchroeder 2014-01-09 12:56 UTC

+1 to Alex’s suggestion, if you have Windows computers. And yes, take care about `$HOME’ and init files.

DrewAdams 2014-01-09 14:55 UTC

Thanks again Alex and Drew, Thanks for the ideas, and init file lines. I can just paste them into my .emacs right?

I’ll look into the USB option over the next few weeks, My partner has a windows computer. If I can get into the school compuer room they are all windows computers. Before doing that I’ll ask a few interested students to bring in their computers to test out the approach. One likely candidate has a mac, but the USB option will be great for the computer room, if I can motivate myself to talk my way into it.

I just remembered I used to play around with the Lisp Resource Kit. I just checked out the site and all the download links are broken. I guess I’ll have to find an old copy laying around somewhere and hope the CD is still ok. I can’t remember if it had emacs on it or not. If it does I doubt it has the sources and manuals though….

Thanks again.

– brismall 2014-01-10 01:26 UTC

If I can find my old CDs, the lisp resource kit does seem to have emacs (third image down). Nothings seems to have happened with the resource kit since 2004 though.

I should be able to get started without the manuals, but having all the manuals (and the psychotherapist) available would be great to challenge certain students with something new and different, especially when the going gets slow for them otherwise.

Eventually I’ll probably have to figure out how to use one of the CD image remastering services.

Sitting down with a Windows computer and usb sticks might save me a lot of time though.

Thanks again.

– brismall 2014-01-10 01:43 UTC

With Windows, I copied the emacs( ) folders to a usb stick and double clicked on emacs in the bin folder. It works great, All the manuals are there too. That’s all I really need to get started. I never would have thought it was so easy, I just assumed I needed a Live CD to get started. Thanks a lot Alex and Drew. I’ll worry about the init.el and .emacs files later.

– brismall 2014-01-14 07:17 UTC

See these StackOverflow questions and answers about running Emacs completely from a USB stick on Windows:

DrewAdams 2014-01-14 16:09 UTC

Thanks again Drew. I’m going to try and see how students react to learning English with emacs this week. The Knoppix 7.2EN DVD has emacs and the basic tutorial but not the Introduction to Elisp or other manuals. I don’t think I was able to get flash-knoppix to work on my first try but they say it’s 5 times faster than the DVD. Knoppix seems like a great way to show off Free software in class (Tux Typing, KTouch…) But people’s eyes glaze over while trying to explain BIOS settings so the usb-emacs on windows will be a great help.

– brismall 2014-01-21 04:13 UTC

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