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General Chat Thread, Great TES thread in General; Nope, not techie\teacher bashing but a damned good look at programming in schools: TES - Teaching jobs, resources & ideas ...
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    Dos_Box's Avatar
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    Great TES thread

    Nope, not techie\teacher bashing but a damned good look at programming in schools:

    TES - Teaching jobs, resources & ideas from the Times Educational Supplement

    I love this bit:

    Without doubt the best programming that I teach is in our annual activity week where I teach interested students BASIC using real and emulated Commodore 64s (I have about 5 fully working C64 systems and those using emulators have the option of transferring their work to a 5" floppy disk to test it on the real thing). The excitement when they manage to write a few lines of BASIC to move an asterisk around the screen with a joystick is unbelievable. No comparison to inserting a few images into Powerpoint/Word/Publisher and discussing how effective they are!!! After last year a couple of students got their parents to buy them C64s from Ebay and they have been using them ever since. I have now guided some of the brighter students to explore memory maps and start using assembler/machine code and they are learning so much about how a computer actually works without a modern OS getting in the way. I am doing the same activity this summer and it is already oversubscribed!
    Good work dude!!
    Last edited by Dos_Box; 17th April 2008 at 01:26 PM.

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    Ric_'s Avatar
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    TES - Teaching jobs, resources & ideas from the Times Educational Supplement is the link DB meant to post.

    I must admit that the stuff I see them doing is complete tosh nowadays. I didn't learn any programming at high school, it would have really helped me out though I think, but the course I did was considerably more than the 'make a database' project that they seem to do now.

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    I think a lot of kids would be offended by being taught 'basic' anything....


    * Sorry, I'll get my coat.

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    Geoff's Avatar
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    Heh, I learnt Turbo Pascal at high school. Then moved on to Visual Basic and Delphi.
    At home I had a ZX81, a BBC B+ and a IBM XT. So had a choice of 3 different flavors of Basic, 3 different assembler languages and also using C on the XT.
    At university I learned C++, HTML and Java. I also had a Linux machine by that point, so learnt all about Unix programming.
    In more recent years, I have taught myself Bash, Perl, Python, Ruby and SQL.

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    contink's Avatar
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    I have to admit that is somewhat heartening... I remember spending months writing a game in basic on my Dads Zenith Winchester system which he brought home when I was 8.

    BASIC was definitely a good start in programming although the whole tape save/load thing was one heck of a nightmare I could have done without when I got my ZX Spectrum days

    Still n'all... The you could cut corners with the keys providing the function/keyword choices... Not like nowadays...

    Oh dear... I'm starting to get hankerings for the "old days"...

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    contink's Avatar
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    LOL... as an aside have you noticed the resident trol *ahem* I mean Johnbrown has suddenly realised that he will now have to rue his treatment of his techs...

    Karma in its purest form...

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    torledo's Avatar
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    Oh, lordy!!! are my eyes deceiving me ??? did someone mention blitz basic in that TES thread. Wow, it's been over a decade since i heard anyone mention blitz basic.

    Just goes to show there are some encouraging noises coming out of that thread, from people who seem to do grasp the ability of programming skills to solve problems. Though i can't profess to understand the excitement of programming assembler on the C64, or whatever the heck they're talking about...i do think it's a shame they're not involved in fashioning the IT curriculum.

    Agree totally about the sentiments of using powerpoint or dw to output some piddly little website in a lesson as opposed to developing proper code or using programming concepts for developing solutions to problems . I personally like the idea of using actionscript to program flash behaviours - would give a good intro to programming concepts while allowiing pupils the opportunity to create something that captured their interest. You dismiss actionscript at you're peril ....it is a fundamental foundation of advanced dynamic web development. You can't do flex properly without actionscript, and flex has gotten good traction as a RIA technology.

    good to see dhicks get in there with some good advice re the perils of using c++ for teaching....c++ for win32 app development, err no thanks, do you think with all the the talk of delphi, assembler and C++, that perhaps .NET has passed them lot by ;-)

    I also think dhicks is right to mention python. Might be worth them pursuing the OLPC project, as python is the foundation for programming games and apps for the platform. I don't know the skill levels required but it'd be worth investigation.

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    When I was at high school, we did a little BASIC programming on the BBCs. We created programs to control traffic lights that we had previously made in CDT. Great times.



    Andy

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    I'm sure I've ranted on this before in another thread. My office right next to an ICT suite so I get to hear the GCSE/A-Level/CLAIT courses being taught. The modules that in my day would have involved coding a system in COBOL or Pascal are being done usine Excel and Access. And when I say Excel and Access, I mean just that. No VB Script. Any Macros are recorded mouse movements and forget anything fancy like Pivot Tables if you will. Even HTML is auto generated Frontpage - they may as well be using Publisher!

    I've heard of students dropping Computing at Degree level because the 1st year C++/Java coding was too difficult!

    This leads to the question - where are our next generation of games developers/OS developers/programmers going to come from? Basic BASIC should be taught as part of GCSE IT. A-Level should cover basic Assembler, C++, and HTML IMHO.

    I do my bit. I put a program called 'Scratch' on our network. Basically BASIC with an ultra simple drag and drop coding interface. Took me about 30min to rewrite space invaders Unfortunately the kids just use it to play the built in games - and the teachers let them without explaining the program. Hopefully some of the brighter ones would fiddle with the loop controls and variables to see what effects they have...

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    dhicks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tmcd35 View Post
    I've heard of students dropping Computing at Degree level because the 1st year C++/Java coding was too difficult!
    Then that degree wasn't for them, so thank goodness they discovered that in the first year and had plenty of time to switch to something they would enjoy instead.

    The phrase "Programming At School" covers a wide range of time and abilities - from primary level to A-level and vocational courses. I figure everyone should be taught "programming" as a basic thinking skill at primary level, just as another thinking skill like reading or mind mapping. Programming should simply be introduced as a tool that you can use to get computers to figure stuff out for you. There's some problem-solving skills in there, debugging programs, that's the important bit.

    Then you get to career-decision time, when children start choosing what subjects they'd like to do for GCSE and so on. Some pupils are going to do A-levels then go on to do a degree course. Some are going to do vocational courses at a college, some will leave after GCSEs. Vocational course pupils need to know basic how-to-use-a-computer stuff - if they're defiantly leaving soon then it's probably worth doing an up-to-date office skills course that they can take to an employer and use right away.

    Pupils going on to do a degree that isn't computer science (i.e. the vast majority) are going to need a basic grounding in computing technology, from the point of view that they're going to have to figure out how to use an office machine and they might have to work with people designing or running a computer system.

    There's no point in schools teaching anything towards a computer science degree. I know my degree entry requirements were basically Maths, more Maths, further Maths, yet more Maths, and anything that looked like Maths (i.e. physics). Computer Science degree courses will teach you the finer details of programming, schools don't need to. Sure, future computer scientists need some opportunity to discover some innate skill for programming, but there's plenty of scope for that to happen within other subjects (well, mostly maths :-)).

    Computer science degrees aren't intended to train you in specific programming languages, the idea is that you understand the principles behind programming languages (and a bunch of other stuff) so that you can figure out the details for yourself. I know in our first year we did C and C++ programming on the Mac (I'd already done BASIC, Pascal, and C at home), emulated our own processor to do assembly, then in our second year got on and did Modula-2, Scheme, SQL, Prolog and PostScript. By our third year we were expected to know enough about the principles of computer languages (and computing in general) to be able to write our own language and an OS to go with it.

    --
    David Hicks

  11. Thanks to dhicks from:

    torledo (18th April 2008)

  12. #11

    localzuk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tmcd35 View Post
    I'm sure I've ranted on this before in another thread. My office right next to an ICT suite so I get to hear the GCSE/A-Level/CLAIT courses being taught. The modules that in my day would have involved coding a system in COBOL or Pascal are being done usine Excel and Access. And when I say Excel and Access, I mean just that. No VB Script. Any Macros are recorded mouse movements and forget anything fancy like Pivot Tables if you will. Even HTML is auto generated Frontpage - they may as well be using Publisher!

    I've heard of students dropping Computing at Degree level because the 1st year C++/Java coding was too difficult!

    This leads to the question - where are our next generation of games developers/OS developers/programmers going to come from? Basic BASIC should be taught as part of GCSE IT. A-Level should cover basic Assembler, C++, and HTML IMHO
    There is a big difference between ICT and Computing though. ICT covers data entry, analysis and that sorta thing whereas Computing covers programming and more of the nitty gritty of the computer. The latter was never offered as a course at my old high school, but the prior was.

    The idea is that you pick up the basics of what a computer can do, and the basics of data in general before moving on to more complex issues such as programming at A-Level, if you want to go down that route, or you can look at the more complex side of data if you go down the ICT route.

    Obviously, 1 is more suited for a computing degree than the other.

    And if someone couldn't grasp Java at first year degree level then they are definitely not suited to a computing career!

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    torledo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dhicks View Post
    Then that degree wasn't for them, so thank goodness they discovered that in the first year and had plenty of time to switch to something they would enjoy instead.
    David Hicks
    100% agree with this comment, and everything else you've said....

    I started out doing a computer science degree after years of english and business studies both at school and at college. IT at school was non-existent and i avoided maths, science and computing at college. So doing comp science was a complete right angle from what i had previously done, and to be honest the opposite of what i was good at up until that point.

    The first few weeks were a shock to the system that i never fully recovered from. The coverage of registers, disk geometrys or the nitty gritty as localzuk puts it had me totally bamboozled even before i got to programming modules. I new it wasn't for me and so didn't even bother turning up for the pascal bits. I had done a bit of training in C that didn't go well before i decided to go to uni, but for some reason that didn't set any alarm bells ringing. The only thing i did well in that first year was boolean logic, which was covered again in electronics in the degree course i switched to.

    I transferred to a newly devised ICT related degree that covered more varied topics, some easier to digest such as DTP, others technically challenging such as electronics and C programming (again!!!) Fortunately through the course i had enough exposure to other aspects of IT so that i knew being a hardware engineer or java programmer weren't my only career options upon graudation.

    There should be a distinction between IT relate degrees and comp science degrees, and while content does overlap, i would say the comp science degrees and particularly the programming elements are for people with that solid maths foundation or interest in mathematical problem solving. Most programming lecturers or instructers are keen maths students - why do you think fibonacci is so popular in C courses.

    The newer IT related degrees give the the option for mere mortals to get exposure to databases, computer networking etc. in a far more accessible and easier to digest way. These topics are demystified in the polytechnic style universitys, becuase the IT related degrees are more and more industry related - so although the theory is still covered you've got vendor products thrown into the mix.

    To attract the programmers and microprocessor engineers the industry needs you still need the comp. science degrees, but most IT positions nowadays don't need that level of study - companies are looking for people with the aptitude to learn quickly and to understand the products they're working with. For a lot of graduate positions an IT degree isn't even a requirement, they'd consider a non IT graduate with a strong 2:1 or first class honors whom they can mould.

    The sad thing is most of the people who started on that comp science degree weren't really doing much better than me. Most were copying work and projects, and unfortunately after three years of the degree with no work placement experience and a graduate recuitment market that ground to a halt.....they were left with difficult choices about what to do next. I would say the numbers who went into IT were few and far between, most probably weren't any the wiser as to what they're career prospects were than when they started.

  14. #13

    tmcd35's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dhicks View Post
    Then that degree wasn't for them, so thank goodness they discovered that in the first year and had plenty of time to switch to something they would enjoy instead.
    There is a big difference between ICT and Computing though. ICT covers data entry, analysis and that sorta thing whereas Computing covers programming and more of the nitty gritty of the computer. The latter was never offered as a course at my old high school, but the prior was.
    Perhaps it's a difference in backgrounds, previous experience and all, but I have to disagree with you both here!

    I have a GCSE in Computing. I took the first year of A-Level Computing before discovering that A-Level in general were not right for me. I have a B-TEC ND in Computing and I have a degree in Applied Computing.

    I took Applied Computing to get away from Program because I discovered that although I can do it, I don't particularly enjoy it. I wanted to learn networks, databases and architecture stuff - which I did, but I still have nightmares at the amount of coding required on this course!

    Maybe you are right to a certain extent that they kids dropped out because, like me, coding wasn't for them. But you have to remember their exposure to programming prior to that was building an Access Database!?! Not exactly the best grounding when faced with Java for the first time.

    I learnt the following programming languages at school/college prior to university: Logo, BASIC, Pascal, COBOL, Assembler.

    Remember my office is next to the class room, I can hear the lessons be taught. They are being taught, on the board, variable and loops. They are being taught the system life cycle. And when it comes to the project - it's in Access/Excel. This A-Level! Like I say no Macro's/VB is being taught, it's not data entry.

    I'm not saying that every kid at school should be taught to code, although it won't hurt them - It's the GCSE or Applied GCSE students and the A-Level student who choose to do Computing as a subject. Who probably expected to learn some programming as part of the course. They should be taught a basic language - BASIC or Pascal - to base their system design projects on.

    I dunno, It's just how it was done in my day

    It wouldn't be so bad if, when being taught web design, the kids were taught basic (again key word basic, simple, entry level) HTML and editing in notepad. Like I said before the web design these kids are being taught is little more than an extension to the 'how to use' M$ Publisher modules.

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    Sirbendy's Avatar
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    I self-taught Qbasic in Secondary on 8086/286's..then got a dodgy copy of QuickBasic on floppy to make the .exe's. That was fun..we did menu screens, and a rudimentary login system using that that compared passwords and usernames to a CSV text file.

    Then when I went to college, we had a "programming" choice between C++ or Turbo Pascal 7. Again, we used to write "pacman" style games, and some of my classmates coded up innocent looking imitation DOS commands with hidden switches to do things like format the C drive, hide files (techs had removed any "advanced" utilities), and so on...

    It was great fun...they made the techs life hell, I do admit..but he was easy going, and we did always reinstall for him after..he decided me on this career to be honest.

    Altering command.com was always good..changing the inbuilt DOS commands to abusive ones, altering messages etc. Using debug to kill machines was fun too..CLI, and HLT..my 2 favourite instructions..

    We had to code applications of our own devising to pass the course - no spoon feeding, no idiot guide..just a copy of the software and "the library is over there".

    I still dabble every so often, although VB and the likes never really appealed. Don't know why. We use scratch here - the kids love it.

    As to DW and Frontpage..gah..so many of them have no idea..they call the teacher to help with something, teacher can't figure out what they've done..teacher calls me, I go in.."code view", and there's the problem..I can't work with either visual editor..plain code and notepad++ is what I do all of mine in.

    The trouble with giving kids a GUI based "self building" idiot app like that is if they come across code without it, they're utterly lost. Same with most things that aren't point and click. The Missus is a professional webdev, and her predecessor did all the corporate sites she handles in DW, and they were riddled with issues and innefficiency. First thing she did was a ground-up rewrite by hand.

    She's an ex-student..never got taught HTML or anything even remotely useful with regard to IT...she's taught herself X/S/HTML, PHP, SQL, CSS and so on, and so on totally unaided..and she's scarily good at it..

    Anyone remember "PEEK" ing and "POKE"ing? Heh..direct memory manipulation..those were the days..

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