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IT News Thread, Coding - The new Latin in Other News; Originally Posted by sonofsanta I was just nattering with our Head of IT here, and as he said - it's ...
  1. #31


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    Quote Originally Posted by sonofsanta View Post
    I was just nattering with our Head of IT here, and as he said - it's not that he doesn't know programming, it's just that there isn't enough time in his day to keep current and in practice with that as well as with everything else he needs to know for the subject now. Christ, I doubt I could achieve anything in C or Java now as the last time I touched either was my first year of Uni; even PHP, the closest I ever came to a home language, would take an effort to write anything in now.

    If you're going to teach and mark programming, you almost have to be constantly writing software yourself just to keep in practice. And there's only so much time in a week.
    I might (almost) buy that for something like Visual Studio 2010 or some other complicated IDE (Oracle forms, Dephi, Powerbuilder). But the basics of programming are very simple and don't change much between languages (leaving prolog and other weird niche languages aside). Constants, Variable, types, structure (if then, loops, procedures, functions), arithmetic and boolean operators. I started programming 30+ years ago - the two big things that have changed in that time are the use of Objects/Classes as ways of structuring a problem and the abstraction of data into SQL queries (e.g. programs don't themselves have to deal with the underlying tables as in DBase). The second of those is more minor though. IMO those skills are a bit like riding a bike.

  2. #32

    sonofsanta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pcstru View Post
    I might (almost) buy that for something like Visual Studio 2010 or some other complicated IDE (Oracle forms, Dephi, Powerbuilder). But the basics of programming are very simple and don't change much between languages (leaving prolog and other weird niche languages aside). Constants, Variable, types, structure (if then, loops, procedures, functions), arithmetic and boolean operators. I started programming 30+ years ago - the two big things that have changed in that time are the use of Objects/Classes as ways of structuring a problem and the abstraction of data into SQL queries (e.g. programs don't themselves have to deal with the underlying tables as in DBase). The second of those is more minor though. IMO those skills are a bit like riding a bike.
    Whilst I wholeheartedly agree, I can sympathise with the HOD here - because to teach something you have to know it much better than you need to know it to fudge your way through (as most of my programming is done). And whilst it's fine to talk of vagaries and concepts, and they are the most important thing, the fact is that at some point you will need to teach them an actual language - at least, if you want the teaching to stick. At that point you really do need to know a language well, to be able to troubleshoot code at a glance (when you have 30 pupils, you have little time) and to be able to mark it quickly and efficiently.

    And when you see how coursework heavy and time consuming the IT curriculum is already, you can see where he's coming from!

  3. #33

    LosOjos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sonofsanta View Post
    And when you see how coursework heavy and time consuming the IT curriculum is already, you can see where he's coming from!
    I can see where he is coming from in terms of adding coding to the curriculum but what if it was the curriculum? I'm certain I'm not the first person to say that teaching kids Microsoft Office skills is pointless these days, they seem to be practically born with the basic knowledge that the current curriculum teaches!

    I think the whole curriculum needs scrapping and starting again, with coding at the core of it.

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    sonofsanta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LosOjos View Post
    I can see where he is coming from in terms of adding coding to the curriculum but what if it was the curriculum? I'm certain I'm not the first person to say that teaching kids Microsoft Office skills is pointless these days, they seem to be practically born with the basic knowledge that the current curriculum teaches!

    I think the whole curriculum needs scrapping and starting again, with coding at the core of it.
    If it was the curriculum then I know for a fact he'd be delighted - as it would be replacing something else and finally give him the time to deal with it. He's as frustrated with the curriculum as the rest of us, particularly the keyword nature of the exams i.e. if you don't mention the exact phrase they are looking for, you get no marks, no matter how clearly you have demonstrated your understanding of the concept otherwise.

    Office should be taught as a separate, core GCSE and programming, networking, hardware etc. should be the actual ICT curriculum.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sonofsanta View Post
    Office should be taught as a separate, core GCSE and programming, networking, hardware etc. should be the actual ICT curriculum.
    Word should be taught in English when they are typing things up. Excel should be taught in maths with a decent use for it, at the moment our year 7's are creating a seating plan in excel and colour coding to do countif's etc

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    Hedghog's Avatar
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    I might go with the maths and Excel but english knowing how to use word - it's hard enough for them to log on here sometimes. Probably not fair to some of them but I seem to spend my time showing them how to use the perishing product properly without them trying to teach it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hedghog View Post
    I might go with the maths and Excel but english knowing how to use word - it's hard enough for them to log on here sometimes. Probably not fair to some of them but I seem to spend my time showing them how to use the perishing product properly without them trying to teach it.
    You can't base it on what the teachers know now, its what they should know in the future.

    IMHO I spent a year learning about poems at school - never interested in anything from English Lit but I had to do it!

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    Quote Originally Posted by glennda View Post
    You can't base it on what the teachers know now, its what they should know in the future.

    IMHO I spent a year learning about poems at school - never interested in anything from English Lit but I had to do it!
    and the stuff you had to read put me off reading for years it was probably a decade or more after school before i picked up a book again for fun now i cant put my kindle down and have some odd stuff on there i never would of thought id enjoy

  9. #39


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    Quote Originally Posted by sonofsanta View Post
    Whilst I wholeheartedly agree, I can sympathise with the HOD here - because to teach something you have to know it much better than you need to know it to fudge your way through (as most of my programming is done).
    Perhaps; but I would have thought that all that expensive teacher training would equip someone with the techniques to teach 'adequately' even if in reality they are just keeping a few steps ahead of the class. What real knowledge can do, is make it easier to be truly inspiring. And it also seems that perhaps you HOD wants to have his cake and eat it. They moan that technology is a subject in which there is huge change in short timescales but they then also seem to say they can't teach stuff unless they are intimately antiquated with it. Perhaps they should teach History then. At least there, no one has figured out how to improve Henry VIII.

    And whilst it's fine to talk of vagaries and concepts, and they are the most important thing, the fact is that at some point you will need to teach them an actual language - at least, if you want the teaching to stick. At that point you really do need to know a language well, to be able to troubleshoot code at a glance (when you have 30 pupils, you have little time) and to be able to mark it quickly and efficiently.
    I don't really agree with that. If you know programming you can quickly learn what you need in a language and there are plenty of choices of languages that have simple entry requirements (i.e. you don't need to spend 200 lines declaring interfaces to windows API's before you can, on line 201 write : print "hello world"). You should rarely be having to troubleshoot pupils code for them since that is part of the essential skill you are teaching and it's important that they do it for themselves.
    And when you see how coursework heavy and time consuming the IT curriculum is already, you can see where he's coming from!
    That I do have sympathy for. I see how hard many teachers have to work to keep up with changes in the curriculum AND the individual needs of their students. I think the problem is that ICT is too big a potential basket. There does need to be basic IT skills - taught from primary school in the same way students learn to read and write. After that, there are more technical skills; a basic understanding of logic gates and microprocessors (I think that is actually key, it's important that people understand that everything in IT is based on a few simple building blocks) and then an understanding of procedural problem solving.

    Personally I despair at what is being taught in Schools. I see around me people who are hacking 3d printers out of parts they find in B&Q and a few chips and motors they find on the net. People doing incredible things with home CNC, or a LAMPS websites. These are people who have no fear of engineering and technology and know how to go about finding out what they need where they don't have knowledge of it already. They have a basic knowledge that allows them to bootstrap themselves into a self sufficiency of a mastery of technology. And while they are doing it, they look as if they are having an incredible amount of fun (probably because they are!). There are still geeky kids who's parents don't quite realise that their kids have their noses buried in a computer and are raking in 10000 a month from some silly iPhone app they knocked up. And yet what do we see in an ICT lesson - hey kids, let's learn how to do a graph in excel or a table of contents in word - or whoooo - complex but let's learn how to do a ... mailmerge!! I despair not because we aren't teaching the skills that Industry or business needs, not because the lack of those skills will mean that our country loses it's status as a world beater in IT or that we will be less competitive and rake in less lovely cash from ... err ... johnny foreigner. I despair because these are skills that allow people to be truly empowered and independent as individuals.

    Still not sure why they say that is the new Latin. In Caesars time, there was a snobbery where people would say someone was an ignorant peasant with no Greek. Programming should surely be the new Geek?

  10. #40

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    As much as I support the Computing at School agenda and would love to get more Computer Sciences and Coding into education, I have to say that I was not that impressed by Ian Livingstone when he spoke at the Microsoft Partners in Learning Forum last Thursday ... and I was not the only one.

    There is a small group involved in promoting coding and creative development who are knocking IT skills which have been taught over the last 10 years. I am not saying that learning MS Office (other office packages are available) is the best thing in the world, but it is not the worst either. In fact a number of folk (CBI, etc) where saying that school leavers did not have the skills to readily pick up the different range of applications and packages used in business, and that they needed more done on it at schools. This was done ... and now people are knocking it to get *their* agenda heard.

    As bad as bloody politicians ... make themselves look good by everyone else looking bad.

    One of the problems if that most office packages have some very powerful tools in them ... tools that can sit side by side with coders ... and yet they say that this is not what is needed. Calling all ICT boring was a bad move in my book. I have seen it taught fantastically ... and instead of just saying "oh, but that is only in a minority of cases" why don't they work out how to get *more* people teaching that way.

    Coding covers concepts, skills and knowledge ... and one of the greatest skills is problem solving ... that is not isolated just to coding but covers a wide area. Most of the careers covered within STEM will need to use Office suites and other 'basic' ICT skills ... so don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    ICT and Computing can work together ... the same way Art and Graphic Design can do. It is also not the case that *all* children are able to hack, code, phreak, browse, design, etc ... there is still a digital divide and that needs addressing too. The frustrating thing for some children is that in their primary school they could be doing quite advanced work, yet have to go back to basics when in secondary ... because there is such a disparity between schools they come from. With the ICT Co-ordinator role still being given to the last person running out of the staff room when responsibilities are handed out ... then you can struggle to have the same level of curriculum in each school. In some schools they find tech is a tool for developing tech ... and in others you might find the priority is using it as a tool for promoting writing ... it all depends on the individual needs of a school.

    So, personal opinion ... a lot of this is political staging and folk trying to get their agenda to the top of the pack. Give it 2 years and it will be something else ... and yes, I am more than a little cynical.

  11. #41

    dhicks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GrumbleDook View Post
    now people are knocking it to get *their* agenda heard.
    Schools should be providing a general, all-round education - specialising for a particular industry is for post-18 studies, or later. I think computer programming is a useful tool that should be taught at primary level and utilised more in maths and science at secondary level. Computer programming is, after all, easy, consisting of a simple mathematical basis and a bunch of stuff made up by other human beings piled on top. Proper maths is hard. Computer programming can be taught perfectly adequatly by our current teachers, in the same way that most teachers are actually perfectly capable of using a computer to do basic office tasks, they just lack the time or confidence to experiment and figure stuff out as they go along.

    We, the people who work in IT support jobs in school, now have possibly our biggest chance so far to change the way IT/ICT/computing/programming/hacking/whatever is perceived and taught in the UK with the launch of the Raspberry Pi computer. It's not so much the device itself - other similar devices already exist, the Ardunio in particular - as the amount of interest surrounding it. Raspberry Pi, Computing at School and other various bodies seem to have been releasing a steady stream of press releases and news articles over the past few months, all leading up to the Raspberry Pi's launch in a few week's time. When it launches, those first 10,000 Raspberry Pis are going to get sold pretty quickly, and most of the first batch is going to wind up in the hands of experienced IT professionals - people with 10 or 20 years in the industry who will find tinkering with a chip on a circuit board fun. A bunch of those people will have their own ideas as to what would make a good educational programming tool, and being experienced IT professionals a good number will promptly sit down and make one, because that's what you do when you have your own computer and a good idea.

    If you want to help shape how computing gets taught in schools over the next decade or so, go and buy a Raspberry Pi when they launch and help create the kind of educational programming environment you think is best. We are, after all, the people who should know exactly what is needed - we wander in and out of most lessons in the school, observing how current technology works for or hinders teachers and pupils, and we'll shortly have a tool with some momentum behind it that we can get into classrooms and get those education-enhancing devices and applications made.

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    X-13's Avatar
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    Urgh... even though I'm interested in all the points being raised, this is quickly becoming tl;dr

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    sonofsanta's Avatar
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    The government response, as promised in the original article: Government focus on skills development
    Teaching of ICT and computer science in schools needs reform to better reflect the changing role of technology and the need to engage the computer scientists of the future, the Government says in its response to an independent review of skills (“Next Gen”) for the UK’s video games and visual effects (VFX) sectors.
    EDIT: I do love how easy it is pointing out government hypocrisy.
    Creative Industries Minister, Ed Vaizey said:

    “The economic and cultural value of the UK’s video games and VFX sectors is clear and the long-term potential of their global markets present a great opportunity for UK-based businesses.
    This being the same Ed Vaizey that shot down tax breaks for the UK videogame industry not so many months ago, despite the clear and obvious benefits it would bring economically and culturally.
    Last edited by sonofsanta; 29th November 2011 at 08:47 AM.

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    localzuk's Avatar
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    My colleague pointed out something interesting yesterday.

    Back when he was younger, and computers were basically just starting out in the home, people bought magazines with pages of code which they then typed into their computers to load up games. Cover discs? Nah.

    So, by doing that, they got to see exactly how the game worked, and could edit it to do what they wanted. This led him to go from bedroom enthusiast, to setting up a game company with some friends and developing several games (until they went bust due to their distributor going down the pan).

    At that time, the UK was the world leader in computing and gaming, without question. Now that everything is basically a click away via steam, the UK languishes down the list of countries. Our gaming industry is tiny compared to what it once was.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dhicks View Post
    If you want to help shape how computing gets taught in schools over the next decade or so, go and buy a Raspberry Pi when they launch and help create the kind of educational programming environment you think is best. We are, after all, the people who should know exactly what is needed - we wander in and out of most lessons in the school, observing how current technology works for or hinders teachers and pupils, and we'll shortly have a tool with some momentum behind it that we can get into classrooms and get those education-enhancing devices and applications made.
    I'm supportive of the Raspberry Pi, and our HoD already wants a classload to teach some form of programming. I don't think it's necessarily the solution though, we've enough computers in school that we could easily run java/python/chosen language for programming. I'm not really sure what extra the Pi is going to give schools? To teach programming you only need a terminal, a text editor and a teacher.

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