Trying to find useful things to do with emerging technologies in open education and data journalism. Snarky and sweary to anyone who emails to offer me content for the site.
Generating “Print Pack” Material (PDF, epub) From Jupyter Notebooks Using pandoc
For one of the courses I work on, we produce “print pack” materials (PDF, epub), on request, for students who require print, or alternative format, copies of the Jupyter notebooks used in the module. This does and doesn’t make a lot of sense. On the one hand, having a print copy of notebooks may be useful for creating physical annotations. On the other, the notebooks are designed as interactive, and often generative, materials: interactive in the sense students are expect to run code, as well modify, create and execute their own code; generative in the sense that outputs are generated by code execution and the instructional content may explicitly refer to things that have been so generated.
In producing the print / alternative format material, we generally render the content from un-run notebooks, which is to say the the print material notebooks do not include code outputs. Part of the reason for this is that we want the students to do the work: if we hnded out completed worksheets, there’d be no need to work through and complete the worksheets, right?
Furthermore, whilst for some notebooks, it may be possible to meaningfully run all cells and then provide executed/run cell notebooks as print materials, in other modules this may not make sense. In our TM129 robotics block, an interactive simulator widget is generated and controlled from the run notebook, and it doesn’t make sense to naively share a notebook with all cells run. Instead, we would have to share screenshots of the simulator widget following each notebook activity, and here may be several such activities in each notebook. (It might be instructive to try to automate the creation of such screenshots, eg using the JupyterLab galata test framework.)
Anyway, I started looking at how to automate the generation of print packs. The following code [(https://gist.github.com/psychemedia/6288db9ef97dc17b2fbd909a7516f12b)%5D is hard wired for a directory structure where the content is in ./content directory, with subdirectories for each week starting with a two digit week number (01., 02. etc) and notebooks in each week directory numbered according to week/notebook number (eg 01.1, 01.2, …, 02.1, 02.2, … etc.).
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The script uses pandoc to generate the PDF and epub documents, one per weekly directory. The PDF generator also includes a table of contents, automatically generated from headings by pandoc. A second pass using fitz/pymupdf then adds a logo and copyright notice to each PDF.