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British Schoolchildren To Get Programming Lessons

Unknown Lamer posted more than 2 years ago | from the cool-kids-code dept.

Education 273

judgecorp writes "The British Education Secretary Michael Gove has said that the school ICT curriculum will be scrapped and replaced with programming and real computer science. Britain's schoolchildren have had compulsory ICT (information and communications technology) lessons for some time, but they are hated by staff and pupils alike, amounting to little more than Power Point training, using the products rather than understanding the code. There is room for improvement — and the British-designed Raspberry Pi could be part of this, but can the new system break away from the old product-centric regime when it will apparently be sponsored by companies including Google and Microsoft?"

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273 comments

It shouldn't be mandatory (4, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663002)

the current ICT curriculum will be scrapped in September this year, to be replaced by compulsory lessons in computer science and programming.

While I appreciate the need to expose students to computer classes in the same way they're exposed to other subjects, I don't think that something as specific as programming should be a *mandatory* requirement. Programming is a vocation, like many vocations, that some people are cut out for and other people are not. Those with a true passion for it will actively seek it out and those with no interest in it will hate it no matter how many programming classes you force them take. You can't MAKE a great programmer any more than you can MAKE a great engineer, mechanic, etc. Someone has to WANT it first. And forcing someone to take a programming class isn't going to make them a better programmer, any more than forcing me to take a class in shop is going to make me a better carpenter.

I think vocational classes should always be optional. Expose the kids to it, fine. Talk about vocations like programming in mandatory classes, but ultimately let the kids CHOOSE the optional classes based on their interests. The idea that you can turn your country into a tech giant just by forcing kids to take programming classes is ridiculous (if anything, you'll create a country that RESENTS programming).

Offer the classes, make them intensive and varied, and let the kids who WANT to be programmers come to YOU (and they will).

Re:It shouldn't be mandatory (4, Insightful)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663060)

Way back in 6th grade, we did "programming" with LogoWriter as a topic of our overall computer class (along with the basics like word processing, basic file management, Oregon Trail and of course typing). It was a nice introduction to programming that was suitable to that level of schooling. We were also given enough leeway to play around with variables and try new things that it piqued the interest of almost everybody. However, and entire class on just programming may be a bit much. Maybe offer programming as an alternative to having to take a foreign language (why is that mandatory anyway?).

Re:It shouldn't be mandatory (5, Interesting)

sandytaru (1158959) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663158)

The most programming I did when I was in primary and secondary school was using the simplified form of BASIC to write programs for our TI-82 calculators. The best part of that? If we were successful in programming our calculators, we were permitted to use them to crunch equations for our physics and math classes. If we screwed up the programming, we screwed up the tests. But if we were successful in coding the programs, then we'd score well on the tests. The trick was that all programming had to occur within classes just before the test; no transferring or copying programs from calculator to calculator the night before. (We had to leave them in the classrooms overnight before tests.) This served two major functions: It taught us the guts of the equations, and it taught us some of the most essential raw programming skills. One girl did such an amazing job with her physics programs that she scored a one hundred percent on the final exam, a first in the history of the school.

Re:It shouldn't be mandatory (2)

scubamage (727538) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663392)

That's a really cool way to go about teaching a bunch of things all at once. I like it!!

Most Important Lessons of All (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38663818)

101: RTFM: How to Find an Answer All by Yourself by Reading Commonly Available Materials with No Handholding!

They can teach it along with a "how to take personal responsibility" class, a "how to show initiative class", and some basic reasoning.

Re:It shouldn't be mandatory (1)

willaien (2494962) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663702)

I would, admittedly, "cheat" for some of the harder equations. I wrote some software that would solve about 50% of a particularly awkward and long type of equation. I would just change the variables. Then again, I could do it by hand, and I obviously understood the problems if I could write a program to do it for me, so I didn't really see the big issue.

Re:It shouldn't be mandatory (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38663248)

The foreign language is mandatory because it has been proven that learning a second language, especially early on, vastly improves your chances of learning a 3rd, 4th, 5th and so on language. The idea being that even if the learned language isn't something that is used, the skills provided will be helpful should you need to learn something specifically.

Of course, if you ask me, mandatory anything at school is a bad idea, but that's a different topic.

Re:It shouldn't be mandatory (2)

thomasw_lrd (1203850) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663546)

The problem with mandatory foreign language is (at least in the US), they don't start until high school. They should start in at least 3rd or 4th grade? Probably in Kindergarten. Waiting until high school is just pointless.

Re:It shouldn't be mandatory (5, Interesting)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663798)

Same in the UK, they don't start until secondary school (equivalent of high school i guess), and are pretty basic (Teaching you how to order a cup of coffee in french or german)... And you will almost never encounter the language you learn anywhere but school.

In other countries where the primary language is not english, then english is generally taught in schools at quite an early age and is likely to be encountered regularly through the internet and on television...

People from Holland tend to speak very good english because most of the shows on tv are in english with dutch subtitles, teaching them both the meaning and (usually american) pronunciation of the words in an environment that's actually interesting for them...

A classroom is a terrible place to learn anything, you have a dull rigid environment which causes you to mentally switch off, combined with other kids who are there by force not choice and who can easily disrupt anyone who is actually trying to learn.

Re:It shouldn't be mandatory (1)

kelemvor4 (1980226) | more than 2 years ago | (#38664136)

The problem with mandatory foreign language is (at least in the US), they don't start until high school. They should start in at least 3rd or 4th grade? Probably in Kindergarten. Waiting until high school is just pointless.

I've got kids in elementary and middle school. 1Y foreign language is a minimum requirement to be promoted to high school (grade9) and is optional from Grade6. In the grades below 6 they're still trying to get the basics down for English/Math, and more importantly the basics of how to be a student in general.

Personally, I wish they'd give some better choices for foreign languages. Spanish is the de facto standard, and French is the only other option I saw. Why not Chinese, or Japanese, or Gaelic, or whatever else you can think of? That way my kids could communicate with their Chinese overlords in a few years.

Re:It shouldn't be mandatory (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38664226)

That way my kids could communicate with their Chinese overlords in a few years.

They don't teach Hebrew now, so what will be the difference?

Re:It shouldn't be mandatory (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#38664112)

I learned French in 6th and 7th grade, Latin in 8th grade, French in 9th and 10th (Latin teacher retired) and then got my third year of French waived because I went to BOCES for PC networking. I also spent one drunken night in college learning Esperanto. I still have no use for French, Latin, Esperanto or any other language.

Re:It shouldn't be mandatory (3, Insightful)

umghhh (965931) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663486)

...Maybe offer programming as an alternative to having to take a foreign language (why is that mandatory anyway?).

You realize of course that foreign language is a basic skill for almost anybody in the world as it lets kids recognize the fact that there are people beyond borders of your country and that these people speak, it allows you also to know about these people and communicate with them. Besides this it may allow you to be exposed to other cultures which may be beneficial.

OTOH I always hated big part of my curriculum. I understood at some point that the school (university also) is just a tool that lets you learn basics among them how to learn effectively as well as exposes you to things I never thought existed. Surviving pointless classes is a ability that lets you also surviving blah-blah produced by management and marketing deps of different companies as well as nonsense produced by politicians in your country by providing you with well trained ability to ignore them effortlessly.

Of course it also may be that you live in a country that such exposure and access to foreign media is not appreciated and even forbidden, ever wondered why is that? Could this be that the command of 'foreign' language may be used a weapon against tyranny?

Yet another thought - in country I live in at least 14% of population speak another language than I do. It is 'foreign' language yet it can be useful for my son to speak it as majority of his peers at school speaks it off of school. Of course learning some languages may be less useful as others.

Re:It shouldn't be mandatory (0)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#38664188)

I live in the northeastern US where English is king (unlike the south and southwest where Spanish is fairly widespread). Generally, the only foreign speakers around here are from Quebec and they're usually chased out of the state as soon as we see them.

I'd consider social studies to be far more important when studying the rest of the world as 1) it offers useful insights and 2) it covers more than one culture. I have no problem with foreign languages being offered as optional or even making a half year or year mandatory to expose students to another language, but four years of a foreign language that a tiny percentile of the graduating class will ever use seems a bit useless at best.

Re:no reason why not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38663146)

I don't see it as any different from a foundation in algebra , geometry etc which I presume they will all do.
Those who find a natural aptitude for it will then, as you say, seek out further development & progress.
Those who don't have just learned some basic logic.

Re:no reason why not (2)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663278)

Programming is not a fundamental skill in the same sense that mathematics, English, etc. are. It's a specific vocational skill. Sure you can learn some underlying skills from it, in the same way that you can learn underlying skills from any vocational training. You can learn some logic from a mandatory programming class, some physics from a mandatory engineering class, some fluid dynamics from a mandatory mechanic class, some geometry from a mandatory carpentry class, etc. But none of those are going to make you into a programmer, engineer, mechanic, or carpenter.

Re:no reason why not (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663366)

But none of those are going to make you into a programmer, engineer, mechanic, or carpenter.

LOL of course they do. A novice/noob/junior/apprentice programmer, engineer, mechanic, or carpenter, obviously. Just for laughs, if proven ability to do, doesn't define a persons skillset, then what in your opinion does define a persons skillset? LOL.

Re:no reason why not (2)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663838)

In the same way that algebra is basically a vocational class...
Only basic levels of mathematics can be considered a fundamental skill... Most of what they teach will be of absolutely no use whatsoever to most people during their adult lives.

Re:no reason why not (2)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | more than 2 years ago | (#38664054)

Programming is not a fundamental skill in the same sense that mathematics, English, etc. are.

No, but it stands a good chance of teaching pupils how to give and receive instructions. There is a major problem in the UK with school leavers who cannot follow simple instructions like "open the text book and turn to page 10" - they will open some other book, or turn to some other page, or do something else entirely. This makes them unemployable - hence the need to import a large number of Polish workers to do menial tasks.

Re:no reason why not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38664206)

Programming is not a fundamental skill in the same sense that mathematics, English, etc. are. It's a specific vocational skill.

I disagree. programming is a subset of mathematics. Teaching some basic programming along with some basic geometry and algebra in higher end required math courses is a good idea.

In a world where everyone has a computer with them at all times it's rather ridiculous that so much of society treats computers like magic and programming like witchcraft. Peeling back the veil and ensuring everyone has some basic computer science skills will go a long way to improving education in a modern world.

Re:no reason why not (3, Insightful)

umghhh (965931) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663528)

I suppose some basic level of programming say scripting may be useful. Today there is almost no job (in the west) that does not involve some sort of data processing and tasks involving data processing devices which can be simplified by use of said scripting. This and some basic statistics so that the kids have basic foundations for intelligent ignoring of nonsense pumped into our brains by media, politicians etc.

Re:It shouldn't be mandatory (4, Insightful)

Nursie (632944) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663156)

Except these things have such a huge presence and impact on the modern world that a mandatory intro to understanding and programming them is a damn good idea.

Besides which, computer science is not necessarily vocational, it's also an academic and theoretical science.

"You can't MAKE a great programmer any more than you can MAKE a great engineer, mechanic, etc?"

No, but you can make sure they get exposed to it, like we do with sciences, languages and literature.

Those with a true passion for it will actively seek it out

And this is where you fail. They may know nothing about it.

Besides which, if you read TFA you'd find out this isn't several years course resulting in exams, just a replacement to the current braindead "Here is how to open a document in word, here is how to change a font" bullcrap that's passed off as "Computer Education" in British schools at present.

Examined courses (GCSE at 14-16, A-Level at 16-18) will still be optional. If I'd known about programming (other than C64 Basic) when I was 12 I'd have been all over that, as it was I didn't really start until university at 18. This is a very, very good thing.

Re:It shouldn't be mandatory (5, Interesting)

John Courtland (585609) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663288)

I'm personally of the opinion that the vast majority of modern white collar jobs are going to require some form of computer programming in the very near future. For example, my wife works in supply chain and the ridiculous shit they do because they are simply ignorant of even 50 year old computing methods cause them to waste a considerable amount of time and resources. It's not uncommon either, people get in a rut doing repetitive, computationally simple tasks because they don't know any better. Those kinds of jobs are doomed and I think that in order to be competitive or even hire-able you will need to know how to automate the minutiae.

Re:It shouldn't be mandatory (2)

umghhh (965931) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663568)

I'm personally of the opinion that the vast majority of modern white collar jobs are going to be off shored in the near future.

.

Here it is I fixed it for you.

Re:It shouldn't be mandatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38663536)

Except these things have such a huge presence and impact on the modern world that a mandatory intro to understanding and programming them is a damn good idea.

Plumbing has a huge presence and effect on the modern world. Students aren't given a mandatory introduction to understanding plumbing just because of that.

On second thoughts, perhaps that's also a damned good idea!

Re:It shouldn't be mandatory (4, Insightful)

SpinyNorman (33776) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663204)

Some basic undrestanding of computers isn't really vocational - nowadays they are so pervasive (in all your gadgets as well as computers themselves) that it's really basic knowledge. I'd put knowledge of how computers work (incl. basic programming) in the same class as something like physical geography (how mountains, glaciers form, etc)... If you want to understand the world around you then these are basics you need to know... it's more a matter of foundational knowledge than vocational training.

Re:It shouldn't be mandatory (2)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663390)

I'm fine with a mandatory "Basic Computer Science" class or something along those lines, one that *exposes* kids to programming. But actual programming classes are getting into a specific vocation. And that, like all specific vocational classes, should be optional. I wouldn't want my mechanic to be forced to take a programming class any more than *I* would want to be forced to take a mechanic class (even though both are quite useful skills to have).

Re:It shouldn't be mandatory (3, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#38664242)

Actual programming classes aren't vocational any more than writing classes are vocational. Not everyone is going to be an author, but everyone can benefit from knowing how to write well. The same goes for programming.

Re:It shouldn't be mandatory (1)

flaming error (1041742) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663218)

As ubiquitous as CPUs have become, maybe understanding how they work is becoming a good idea in general, and not as "specific" to vocational programmers as it once was.

Re:It shouldn't be mandatory (2)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663320)

I guess it's a bit like the driving test - as part of that you need to demonstrate that you know how to check things like the oil and water and that you know at least theoretically how to change a wheel.

It's not that everyone is expected to go out and become a car mechanic, it's that drivers are expected to know why it's a bad idea to drive around on flat tyres with no oil in the engine.

Re:It shouldn't be mandatory (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663230)

Programming education done right forces people to think logically and break down from top level goals to individual machine language instructions/microcode.
Very applicable for any person in almost any field. Much virtually no one uses calculus once they graduate, but everyone has to learn it, because its excellent logical/mental training for hard science related work.
Programming training (aka code monkey and IT) is probably not necessarily useful.

Another interesting area is everyone likes to think they're very "special" and no outsiders can understand them, but at least some traditional programming development strategies (waterfall, agile, etc) can be applied in completely non-programming environments. You can run a project designing RF amplifiers using waterfall perfectly well without involving a line of code. Its probably way the heck easier to teach these project management techniques in the field they developed in, rather than shoehorning them somewhere weird.

Finally, insert Barbie doll saying "Math is hard!". If its mentally challenging, its good mental exercise, and no further justification is necessary.

Re:It shouldn't be mandatory (2)

somersault (912633) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663254)

Some kids might love it, but not know until they try. Their parents may just sit them in front of a games console or send them outside and not give them any access to the 'net or books for them to find stuff that they enjoy.

I'd say have at least one "compulsory" programming session, maybe a few since you can't do much in one class. There are all sorts of classes in school to get kids to try vocational-type things that they may hate. Art, music, mathematics, science.. they all take a certain type of person to do well, but you need to try it before you really know.

Surely the same applies to shop class and carpenters? I've had very limited experience of metalwork and woodwork outside of school, so I enjoyed getting to try them out - though I wouldn't do them for a living. Then again I'm sure some people really loved the classes and went further with it, then went on to be mechanics, welders, carpenters, or whatever.

Re:It shouldn't be mandatory (1)

Shimbo (100005) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663260)

the current ICT curriculum will be scrapped in September this year, to be replaced by compulsory lessons in computer science and programming.

While I appreciate the need to expose students to computer classes in the same way they're exposed to other subjects, I don't think that something as specific as programming should be a *mandatory* requirement.

Fortunately, the quote is pretty much the opposite of what he said. A better summary would be:

1. ICT will continue to be mandatory.
2. The detailed, government required program requirements will be abolished.

Re:It shouldn't be mandatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38663262)

the current ICT curriculum will be scrapped in September this year, to be replaced by compulsory lessons in computer science and programming.

While I appreciate the need to expose students to computer classes in the same way they're exposed to other subjects, I don't think that something as specific as programming should be a *mandatory* requirement. Programming is a vocation, like many vocations, that some people are cut out for and other people are not. Those with a true passion for it will actively seek it out and those with no interest in it will hate it no matter how many programming classes you force them take. You can't MAKE a great programmer any more than you can MAKE a great engineer, mechanic, etc. Someone has to WANT it first. And forcing someone to take a programming class isn't going to make them a better programmer, any more than forcing me to take a class in shop is going to make me a better carpenter.

I think vocational classes should always be optional. Expose the kids to it, fine. Talk about vocations like programming in mandatory classes, but ultimately let the kids CHOOSE the optional classes based on their interests. The idea that you can turn your country into a tech giant just by forcing kids to take programming classes is ridiculous (if anything, you'll create a country that RESENTS programming).

Offer the classes, make them intensive and varied, and let the kids who WANT to be programmers come to YOU (and they will).

While I appreciate the need to expose students to cookery classes in the same way they're exposed to other subjects, I don't think that something as specific as cooking should be a *mandatory* requirement. Cooking is a vocation, like many vocations, that some people are cut out for and other people are not. Those with a true passion for it will actively seek it out and those with no interest in it will hate it no matter how many cookery classes you force them take. You can't MAKE a great cook any more than you can MAKE a great engineer, mechanic, etc. Someone has to WANT it first. And forcing someone to take a cooking class isn't going to make them a better cook, any more than forcing me to take a class in shop is going to make me a better carpenter.

I think vocational classes should always be optional. Expose the kids to it, fine. Talk about vocations like cookery in mandatory classes, but ultimately let the kids CHOOSE the optional classes based on their interests. The idea that you can turn your country into a culinary giant just by forcing kids to take cookery classes is ridiculous (if anything, you'll create a country that RESENTS cooking).

Offer the classes, make them intensive and varied, and let the kids who WANT to be cooks come to YOU (and they will).

Re:It shouldn't be mandatory (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 2 years ago | (#38664006)

Cookery is different...
Sure, most people will never be michelin starred chefs no matter how many cookery lessons you expose them to, but people should be capable of preparing themselves a basic meal from fresh ingredients.

People with absolutely no idea how to even prepare the most basic of meals are part of the reason obesity is such a problem, these people simply buy ready prepared fast food as they get bigger and bigger.

With cookery it's not about teaching vocation skills they will use to make a living, its about teaching basic skills that they will use throughout their lives... After all, everyone has to eat.

And for cookery, the school should supply the necessary equipment and ingredients. I had to sit out cookery classes in school because i never had the requested ingredients. Being a kid i couldn't go out and buy them myself, i had to rely on my parents to provide them and they never bothered to do so.

Re:It shouldn't be mandatory (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38663276)

It's not about forcing kids to become programmers, it's about exposing them to and teaching them actual things about computers rather than just how to use Office. In the same way that you don't try and teach advanced quantum theory at highschool level, but you do introduce the basic concepts and how they apply to physics in a general sense.

I mercifully missed out on ICT being taught at GCSE because it wasn't brought in until after I left school, but having seen my brother's sample exam paper I don't know why they even bothered. It makes the ECDL look complex; questions like "Here is a picture of a keyboard, is this an input device or an output device" and coursework involving the design of databases on paper printouts of Excel sheets.

People increasingly seem to be of the opinion that "kids these days" know all about computers because they use them all the time, but it's bollocks. They know about Facebook, Twitter, iTunes and how to stream porn; they don't know any more about computers than most 40-somethines, they're just more comfortable using them. If they can genuinely reform the IT teaching in the UK (which is highly doubtful, but you never know) so that kids are taught hardware, software and programming fundamentals then it would be nothing but beneficial.

Re:It shouldn't be mandatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38664082)

Spot on - ICT in schools tends to be along the lines of how to use spreadsheets, word processors and the like (to a pretty basic level). Ironically most primary schools have more exposure to programming than secondary schools (doing things like keying in programs in BASIC or using the Turtle or whatever). A little programming/CS knowledge is certainly not wasted, even if you go on to do a totally unrelated job. It's really only a practical application of maths, so it might even do some good in getting more kids interested in what's traditionally quite a dry subject.

Re:It shouldn't be mandatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38663328)

You can't MAKE a great programmer any more than you can MAKE a great engineer, mechanic, etc.

And yet we teach physics to every student who may or may not be engineer, and teach art to every student who may or may not be artist. Sorry but you're wrong. Teaching basic, simple programming is useful because it can introduce it to students who might just find it fun but might not discover it otherwise. This is especially important today when computers are getting less and less open that it is very difficult for a kid to accidentally discover the joy of hacking.

Re:It shouldn't be mandatory (1)

RMingin (985478) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663348)

Nobody (except you, apparently) is talking about mandatory training to become a programmer. This is more like a familiarization course, so that they at least know what a programmer IS and what that job entails. An astounding percentage of people seem to consider "programmer" on par with "wizard" in terms of comprehension.

Re:It shouldn't be mandatory (1)

Nursie (632944) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663492)

As much as I approve of the educational changes, it is rather advantageous that the profession be thought of as wizardry, it keeps the numbers low and the money flowing!

Re:It shouldn't be mandatory (1)

lucian1900 (1698922) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663376)

But kids have mandatory arts for example (at least in other countries), to get them exposed to it. They don't yet know what they like.

Re:It shouldn't be mandatory (1)

flirno (945854) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663412)

They should start more fundamental and introduce them to grammers which would be useful to programmers but also to human language studies.

Re:It shouldn't be mandatory (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663456)

I (somewhat) beg to differ:

Software engineering is definitely a vocation(or at least a job). Paint-by-numbers in the corporate fad language of today, assured to be obsolete by the time you graduate, is also pure vocational training. So too are the specifics and details that are involved in large-scale projects(knowledge of revision control, project management and project-being-managed, etc, etc.)

However, computer science is a branch of mathematics and arguably has the same claim as calculus or geometry to some portion of instructional time purely as a matter of general education. In addition to simple 'breadth-of-knowledge' stuff, the same thing that rationalizes all curriculum that isn't purely vocational, there is a very good argument to be made that a degree of programming knowledge(on the level of basic shell, or python, or even Office vbscript macros) is a very, very valuable tool for enormously increasing the power of the learner over all sorts of computer-related or computer-assisted tasks(which a great many of them will almost certainly be doing at some point in their lives, even if with a different high-level scripting/glue language).

Unless the kiddie wants to actually go down the CS path, flunking him for failure to grok MIPS assembly or keep his pointers straight is mere cruelty without purpose. Giving a basic grounding in programmatic operations provides enormous power over the "I could just do it manually if there were 10 of them; but there are 10,000" style problems is both practical and (potentially) might spark further interest.

Re:It shouldn't be mandatory (3, Interesting)

inviolet (797804) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663458)

While I appreciate the need to expose students to computer classes in the same way they're exposed to other subjects, I don't think that something as specific as programming should be a *mandatory* requirement. Programming is a vocation, like many vocations, that some people are cut out for and other people are not. Those with a true passion for it will actively seek it out and those with no interest in it will hate it no matter how many programming classes you force them take. You can't MAKE a great programmer any more than you can MAKE a great engineer, mechanic, etc. Someone has to WANT it first.

I taught my two sons to program. Only one of them liked it, but they both got an astonishing side benefit from it: it taught them to see their own brains as software... with algorithms and bugs. In the context of a broader parent-child discussion of recognizing and dealing with personality bugs, programming seems to make it real, in a way that no amount of lecture can.

Haven't you noticed how few people are introspective, how few are even capable of thinking that their thoughts and feelings may be incorrect?

Re:It shouldn't be mandatory (2)

Natales (182136) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663532)

I disagree. By making programming mandatory you help these kids create new ways of thinking. It's not about the programming itself, it's about learning how to understand interactions among abstract entities, and how to take a problem and separate it into many smaller problems. Those skills are valid for all disciplines and are useful all your life regardless of what you end up doing in life.

As an added bonus, 20 years from now, none of those kids will see computers as magic, and they would have learned at least the basics on how things work internally, a skill that some lawmakers would really benefit from.

I haven't solved a single Calculus equation in 25 years, and although I was good at it, I couldn't probably do it any more without going back to the books, but one thing I can say, is that I can clearly remember the way my way of thinking changed after I learned those skills. I was never the same, and I applied the logic created by those new neural pathways in all areas of my life.

I see programming being an extension of math from that perspective, where logical, structured and rational thinking helps develop areas in your brain at a critical age that you could not get if this would be optional.

Re:It shouldn't be mandatory (2)

shadowrat (1069614) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663540)

Anything that exposes people to what programming a computer is really about is a good thing. Maybe in 20 years there will be a bunch of managers and hr people that say stuff like, "how can you possibly think you will get that system implemented in 2 months, you need 2 years at least!", or, "No bob, we don't need a programmer to manage our twitter feed."

Re:It shouldn't be mandatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38663576)

Being a mathematician is a vocation, nontheless kids are teached basic maths and oh my god even geometry you know the queen branch of mathematics that teaches you how to apply deductive reasoning ?.
Maybe 99% of school kids will never ever embrace programming as a work skill. Even so, in a modern technical society not knowing the basics of what computers and computer science is about is wrong. Teaching them aspects of logic/programming, of how computer works etc... is a good thing even if they will never open a pc case the rest of their lives.

Re:It shouldn't be mandatory (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38663732)

This argument fundamentally misunderstands the concept of education.

Woodshop, metalshop, cooking, mathematics, creative writing, sports, religious studies, are all "vocational subjects" too - if you choose to look at things that way. Take those all out because they are "vocational", and what do you have left? It is obvious that *any* subject of study is also a subject of work, even if that work is only continued study.

The validity of a subject within an educational context has nothing whatsoever to do with its usefulness in a vocation. The thing is, you're sort of arguing this point, but contradicting it at the same time by saying useful subjects should be optional. No, the design of the mandatory curriculum should be *independent* of the vocational status of any given subject.

Your heartfelt assumption that people are in two camps - programmers and non-programmers - and that mandatory education will polarize these camps further, absolutely denies the effectiveness of education. If you believe that then why have mandatory classes *at all*? Or, indeed, school?

Re:It shouldn't be mandatory (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663742)

I fully agree with this, if you force kids to take programming classes most of them will HATE the class...
The result of this is that the kids who hate the class will disrupt their peers, so that even the kids who might be interested in programming will be put off either via peer pressure or due to the classroom environment being too unruly.

They do need to teach general IT tho, not programming but the general concepts of performing common tasks such as accessing the internet and typing a letter. What they should not do however, is stick to a single platform or set of apps... Kids should be taught the general concepts, and how they can be applied to different applications.
If you teach specific software, then by the time they leave school that software will be obsolete.. It will be replaced by a newer version, something else or its function may even be entirely obsoleted.

Something else that needs doing, is to provide the kids free access to computers in school... Not restrictive access where they can't do very much, but unrestricted access to machines set up for that purpose with encouragement. Give them unrestricted root access, but have it reset to a standard image each time you reboot it or on request... Or give them unrestricted access to their own VM. Above all, make sure they know they can do what they want, without fear of causing any permanent damage and without fear of punishment.

Many kids in poorer areas don't have access to computers at home, and having access to a restrictive environment that only permits them to use a word processor is not going to drive any interest. There are plenty of people who would have made good programmers, had they had access to learn.
Even those who do have access to a computer at home, may find that it is shared with other family members and therefore are fearful of truly experimenting with it incase they break it and incur anger from the other users.

Kids learn by trying things, but if you punish them for trying then they will not learn anything and just grow resentful.

Re:It shouldn't be mandatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38663944)

They cannot effectively teach math. There are no mandatory introduction to logic courses. What makes them believe that they can have an effective mandatory CS class, with students who have little to no mastery of either math or logic?

It *should* be mandatory (1)

gwolf (26339) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663966)

An important part of school is exposing us to subjects we would not even consider otherwise, and give us the most basic concepts in them. As a programmer, of course, I thank for the 12 years worth of Mathematics I got, plus many concepts that were given to me in Physics, Chemistry... But I do not reject learning grammar, literature, history or biology. As many geeks (and unlike most of the rest) I hated physical education, but as an adult have to recognize its importance. We had several subjects, all of them mandatory, I would not properly know how to translate into English.

If you had the vocation to be a painter or a psychologist, would you sue the State for forcing you to spend 12 years of your life learning about an hour of every working day to mathematics? Do you think it's a waste to teach not only the numbers and basic arithmetic, but the basis of abstraction, probability, etc.? I know I could perfectly live without knowing the basics of Mexican history, but my understanding of the society that surrounds me would be much impaired.

Like mathematics, programming shows a different way of thinking, and is probably the most efficient way to get kids to understand some mental processes. I have long argued for the need of such a move, and hope many other countries follow the UK's lead. Come to think of it, were it not for learning Logo at school at age 10, I could have never discovered my vocation.

Re:It shouldn't be mandatory (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 2 years ago | (#38664084)

Programming is a vocation, like many vocations, that some people are cut out for and other people are not.

Computer science isn't the same thing as programming, first off. One of my CS profs pointed out that you can think of CS as a particular variety of applied math, and that it helps develop logical thinking, breaking down problems into component parts, and analyzing algorithms.

But even programming is something that has applications outside of software development. It arguably benefits anybody working in mathematical or scientifically oriented fields - accountants can make more sense out of spreadsheet macros, physicists can make more sense out of their experimental results, etc.

Re:It shouldn't be mandatory (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#38664120)

Programming is not just a vocation. It's a life skill. Nearly everone uses a computer daily, and everyones daily life could be improved by using a little automation. Even if you never write a script you use yourself, understanding how programming is done allows you to understand the kinds of things that can be done and helps you ask the right kinds of questions.

Programming is one of those skills everyone should at least be exposed to, in order to be a well rounded individual.

Re:It shouldn't be mandatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38664186)

Ironically, current ICT curriculum is horrifically vocational: use of IE and Office in early years, use of Photoshop etc in the more advanced GCSE classes (for 14-16 year-olds). This proposal is to allow schools to teach the more general principles (basic programming, binary logic, how computers work). Students in England don't get any say on their curriculum up to the start of GCSEs, so it being "compulsory" is actually referring to making it compulsory for schools to *teach* it at some level in all school years.

My younger brother is currently in the final year of the most advanced computer-related course he can elect to take at school at GCSE level. They have barely touched any kind programming other than copy-pasting simple statements in ActionScript in Flash, which IMO is pretty outrageous.

On the other hand, when I was at school (10+ years ago), IT wasn't even a subject. A couple of lessons per year in each subject would make use of the school's assortment of creaking 386s to tick an OFSTED box (the school inspectorate were keen on that kind of thing), but if you wanted to do anything more advanced than use LOGO you were on your own. Luckily for me, we had computers at home, and they required some understanding of how they worked to get them to do anything interesting, so by the time I got to GCSE age I was getting pulled out of lessons fairly regularly by the "head of IT" to fix the school network for them.

I'd love it if they scrapped the bogus IT crap they've been wasting masses of money on, and replaced it with just a couple of lessons per year writing simple programs with immediate visual output (basic games, hell, even just drawing stuff on the screen ala LOGO).

Nice idea but... (1, Interesting)

jholyhead (2505574) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663042)

It's a great idea, but the execution is the only thing that matters and I just don't see them pulling it off. Who is going to teach these kids programming? When I was at school most of my teachers didn't have a Computer Science background at all, I think the most common degree subject was Business Studies. How many business graduates are going to be able to teach programming beyond having the students copy code out of a textbook?

If I thought this would actually happen as described, it would almost be enough to make me consider a career in teaching. Good job I know better.

Re:Nice idea but... (1)

Nursie (632944) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663206)

When I was at school the chemistry teacher was just starting to investigate RASMOL and various computer tools, and admitted to having done a bit of fortran in the past. I also know maths teachers now who have an engineering and computer science background. Maybe this is semi-common?

The computing teacher at our school, OTOH, she knew how to make words curve around a circle and how to pick a fill colour in some DTP package on an Archimedes. Thrilling....

Re:Nice idea but... (1)

jholyhead (2505574) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663326)

I have no problem with Engineers becoming maths teachers because the core of Engineering is math.

I think the problem with IT and Computing is that if you're good, there is no economic reason to go into teaching. Junior IT support roles routinely start at higher salaries than qualified teachers. Why would I hang up my developers hat to go and teach 11 year olds about strings and CPU scheduling? Will they pay me more for knowing what I'm doing? Of course not. So you'll continue to have the psychology and business graduates teach IT classes, except now they'll be teaching kids things that they can't do themselves.

It's a disaster in the making, but the bar is set so low that they might as well try.

Re:Nice idea but... (2)

Nursie (632944) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663426)

Well my friend who does the maths teaching, despite degrees in Mech Eng and Comp Sci (and now a PGCE as well) just didn't really get on in the corporate world. Teaching is the family business (his folks were teachers at our school), he got good grades when he was at school, good degrees and he seems to enjoy it... Economics don't seem to figure too much in his life-decision making thoughts.

You and I may not hang up our developers hats, and he may not have a huge amount of commercial programming experience, but neither of those things mean kids (in at least that school) couldn't get a good intro to programming.

Re:Nice idea but... (1)

jholyhead (2505574) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663480)

Except no school in its right mind is going to take a good maths teacher out of the maths department. Business graduates can fake ICT knowledge, but they can't fake Maths.

Re:Nice idea but... (1)

Nursie (632944) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663524)

Well it's true that maths teachers are in short supply, but proper programming knowledge can no more be faked than the maths stuff. And no less - you could get a numpty with a script to teach maths to younger kids too.

Meh, you raise some good points, I think I raise others. We'll probably just have to wait and see, but I have no great hopes for the English educational systems to do it well either.

Re:Nice idea but... (1)

jholyhead (2505574) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663610)

I think if I had to choose, I'd put my eggs in the Maths basket. Without maths, you can't really do computer science anyway.

Re:Nice idea but... (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663496)

Junior IT support roles routinely start at higher salaries than qualified teachers.

The Inflation Adjusted pay slope/1st derivative is zero to negative for IT support or weakly positive if you are in the minority who get promotions. The union teaching contract has a strong positive slope, every year you get "X" percent more. The crossover point is pretty locality specific but generally by the time you have kids of your own the teachers are making more than the IT people. Also ageism means your IT career will be shorter than a NFL quarterback's career, but teachers can and do teach until retirement age. If you factor in having to work at Walmart from 35 to 65 for IT workers, suddenly teachers come out far ahead in lifetime earnings. Its a cruddy job and they earn every penny, from what I've seen.

Will they pay me more for knowing what I'm doing? Of course not.

Actually, yes, they will, and they'll reimburse you for your education expenses too. The details depend on your local union contract, I suppose in the slums you might not get a good deal, but the bottom 10% of all jobs across all categories suck, so I don't think that proves anything.

Where do you get these weird ideas about teachers and pay? I have a few in my family, and you seem almost trollishly opposite of reality.

Re:Nice idea but... (1)

jholyhead (2505574) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663552)

Really? Because the teachers in my family are all paid a lot less than I am and their salary scale tops out at less than my salary. If they want to get on parity with me, they have to stop teaching and start managing. Are you even British? Your reference to NFL and Walmart suggests not, which means you're comparing apples to oranges.

Re:Nice idea but... (4, Interesting)

RogueyWon (735973) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663402)

I went to an (otherwise excellent) private school in the UK, in the early/mid 1990s. What was striking at the time was how much worse the quality of the IT teaching was compared to that in other subjects. For most of my time there, IT (which was only mandatory from ages 11-13) was taught by an elderly priest with no computing knowledge, following a script sent out by some course provider.

While I'm sure we were well below the level of many slashdotters, my friends and I were significantly more computer literate than him. We'd been messing around with DOS, clearing up EMS and conventional memory to get our games to run for years (a couple of years later, we'd be enthusiastically pulling together Doom .wads and Duke Nukem 3d mods). Despite being among the "good kids" in the school in behavioural terms 99% of the time, we ended up so bored in those lessons (while he tried to teach basic word processing) that we ended up causing all kinds of havoc on the school PCs (completely undetected) and disrupting lessons no end (all while looking innocent and helpful).

When I went into the sixth form (16-18, for the benefit of non-UK readers), they got somebody in "from industry" to teach IT - and made a once-weekly half-hour IT class mandatory for everybody. Of course, the guy they'd got in "from industry" turned out to have been a factory floor manager in a PC assembly plant. He knew no more about the subject he was supposed to be teaching than the priest. The lessons came down to him reading instructions from a printed script (again provided by some faceless course-provision company) on how to create Word and Powerpoint documents. By this point my friends and I had brushed up our skills no end and were capable of causing even more creative havoc (again, always undetected).

Things may have improved since then, but there was a long way to go from a position where a school that would have been comfortably among the top 10% in the UK didn't even know the skills it needed in an IT teacher, let alone how to design a curriculum.

Re:Nice idea but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38663704)

Remarkably and Oddly, I also went to a well respected private school in the 90's and coincidentally, while there was a technology department that taught other areas in technology very well (technical drawing was branded as design and communication, metal and woodwork was rebranded as design and realisation and electronics were rebranded as design and technology) ICT was still taught by the school vicar, The Reverend Hulme.

I'm guessing that this is because his religious studies classes left him with a lot of free time and he wasn't qualified to teach Latin/Maths/English etc, etc (oddly most of our PE department were qualified to teach Maths otherwise I guess they would have been Teaching IT with thier physio qualification from Trent Poly or some such).

Likewise, My friends and I were technically literate and used the IT lessons to dick about causing havoc as frankly learning how to flood fill in paint was beneath us and a few years of Spectrum ownership had made mavis beacon's typing tutorial unnecessary.

By the fifth year (Year 11?), three of us had decided to take city and guilds qualifications in C outside of the school at an FE college as it was the only way to learn any thing decent.

Re:Nice idea but... (1)

randomlogin (448414) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663834)

It's a great idea, but the execution is the only thing that matters and I just don't see them pulling it off. Who is going to teach these kids programming?

The kids can teach themselves. That may seem like a rather flippant comment, but I was impressed that Gove was aware of and referenced Scratch. One of the nice things about Scratch is that it comes with a whole bunch of 'self directed' learning materials which encourage hands on learning. It means you don't need a teacher with a C.S. degree to run an introductory programming course, just one who is sufficiently technically literate to get to grips with Scratch themselves.

Pixel function multiplies interest in programming (5, Insightful)

Twinbee (767046) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663072)

I hope that the plot(x,y,r,g,b) function is featured as part of their lessons, because that can easily multiply a student's interest by a factor of 10.

There's nothing quite like being able to control any part of the screen. When I started off on the ZX spectrum, I was just drawing dots, lines and circles. And it looked rubbish, but it felt amazing, especially when animation came into play. Today, I'm doing more this kind of stuff [skytopia.com] , but at the heart of it is the plot(x,y,r,g,b) function.

Re:Pixel function multiplies interest in programmi (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38663304)

most people don't get a woody when something happens because they pushed a button

Re:Pixel function multiplies interest in programmi (1)

s_p_oneil (795792) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663356)

I like to think it depends on what device the button is connected to.

Re:Pixel function multiplies interest in programmi (1)

Hooya (518216) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663386)

I had the exact same feeling and I was on a ZX spectrum too! It was awesome changing one little variable to change the colors in a for loop etc.. you're absolutely right, that really got me hooked on programming.

Re:Pixel function multiplies interest in programmi (1)

Twinbee (767046) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663488)

Indeed - what I would've done for a faster plot or circle function back then :)

And we mustn't forget about sound too. Just instead of the x and y, we have time and volume/pressure, which can of course be represented by the x and y again. I was in awe when I realized I could 'draw' the wave of a sound with simple maths and have it played back (that was on the Amiga and in AMOS). Some surprisingly effective sounds can be created using very little knowledge of maths and sheer experimentation.

Re:Pixel function multiplies interest in programmi (1)

s_p_oneil (795792) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663444)

I agree, but it's even better to give them a basic set of 2D primitives (point, line, rect, oval, poly, text, textured sprite) and a range of music and sound effects. Let them play with their own sprite textures, animate them, move them around on the screen, and play silly sound effects. Some of them will be creating their own silly graphics demos or side-scrollers in no time.

Re:Pixel function multiplies interest in programmi (1)

hughbar (579555) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663468)

I agree about the 'control' aspect. I taught my son in about 1988: 10 print "hello" ; 20 goto 10 ; [as one does or did then] just the stupidity + the power [because computers are basically leverage of some kind] was very attractive. These are things that you can do immediately, control the machine. So graphics, logo, messing around, mindstorms will probably be attractive to many, even those that can't deal with discrete math etc. etc.

Also, if the policy and schools are actually intelligent, peering learning: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learning_by_teaching#Peer_Learning_and_Teaching_in_Higher_Education [wikipedia.org] can play a big part in this, that's how most professionals and open source people expand their range, they look at other people's stuff, get help, ask questions and, above all, explain to others [meaning that they explain to themselves].

It's all in the implimentation (2)

Karmashock (2415832) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663074)

If this is well done then it will be great. If not, then it will be a disaster.

So... here's hoping they don't cock it up.

Re:It's all in the implimentation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38663436)

Nah, really i's all in the spelling.

Wrong sponsors (5, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663122)

can the new system break away from the old product-centric regime when it will apparently be sponsored by companies including Google and Microsoft?

Sponsors are fine. The correct sponsors for a programming curriculum are my personal favorites microchip.com and xilinx.com, not The Mighty GOOG and MS. Give the kids a Spartan-3 FPGA starter kit, a PIC32MX1 starter kit, and a whole lot of tabs of acid, or at least 2 of the 3, and they'll do just fine.

Note that a "real CS curriculum" is a lot of discrete math and database theory (Codd normal forms, etc) so about 50% to 75% of a real CS curriculum just needs a whiteboard, no hardware, and optionally a box set of Knuth. This confuses the hell of out people who can't tell the difference between IT and CS, just like its easy to confuse the hell out of people who can't tell the difference between education and training.

Somebody..... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38663124)

......in the ministry of education has just woken up -- drunk!

What the heck do they mean by compulsory programming lessons?

Programming is one part of several things you can do in IT and not all people are cut out for it. Idiots!

I don't hold much hope (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38663152)

My ICT lessons at school 97 - 02 consisted of how to use Microsoft office, how to type but mostly (like 90% of my lessons) it was how to draw with the turtle in LOGO. I always wanted to get into programming but no one was around to show me how. I welcome this change but without teaching staff who understand the very basics of a subject we are still going to have 16 year olds drawing squares and circles and not understanding why.

England, not Britain (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38663160)

Gove is the Education secretary for England not Britain. Wales and Scotland have devolved powers on education and therefore their own education ministers (Leighton Andrews AM and Michael Russell MSP, respectively)

England != Britain, Britain != England.

Re:England, not Britain (1, Offtopic)

ledow (319597) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663624)

If you cannot understand that the:

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

is different to:

Great Britain

which itself is composed of:

England, Scotland and Wales

then there are a vast number of ways to go wrong.

Unfortunately, most foreigners get them all confused all the time (especially annoying when they confuse the UK for the others - does "United Kingdom" not suggest something, in the same way that "United States" is made up on lots of states?). Every time they do this, I refer to Texas as a country and Seattle as a state. If they don't realise their error from there, walk away.

Don't even get me started on counties, either....

Re:England, not Britain (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38663714)

But Texas is a country. At least that's what Texans keep telling me.

And not before time! (5, Funny)

asdf7890 (1518587) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663224)

And not before time!

Though please don't rush overly on my account Mr Gove: one of the advantages of the current system from my PoV is that it wasn't training up any young enthusiastic replacements for me, so I might be able to keep my career moving when I get old(er) and (more) belligerent!

Can, but will? (3, Insightful)

djchristensen (472087) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663340)

but can the new system break away from the old product-centric regime when it will apparently be sponsored by companies including Google and Microsoft?"

Yes, it can, but whether it will or not is probably an open question, especially on Microsoft's part. Both Google and Microsoft have a vested interest in creating the software developers of the future, but I can see Microsoft having a hard time not trying to use the opportunity to create more Microsoft product users at the same time.

"Open source" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38663342)

I saw an alarming reference to this initiative as "open source", using the words entirely differently from their usual meaning. Doesn't bode well . . .

Scratch (2)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663362)

Included with the OLPC computers for children was Scratch [mit.edu] , referenced in the article. Even Google App Inventor for android was based on it. For me looked lgreat, something that even a primary school children could use to do from very small to somewhat complex things. Also included are turtle art, a logo interpreter (simpler, but is so close scratch to it that not sure if worth teaching it) and a python interpreter (but it should be for more advanced/grown up childrens). Something like this should be adopted in schools, not particulary to teach about computing and programming, but on thinking, solving problems in ordered ways.

There is no framework for this to work (2)

cmonkey_1973 (844398) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663388)

The vast majority of UK teachers "delivering ICT curriculum" are late-middle aged business studies teachers only capable of showing kids where the bold button is and this is the fundamental problem.

Even that phrase should terrify you - they deliver the curriculum (i.e. hand out workbooks) and then patrol the shop floor for slackers and the curriculum is "ICT". Something so divorced from real computing its got its own TLA that only really exists in education.

There are exceptions of course, real geeks with a passion for the subject trying to push the boundaries, but the fact that the ones driving this forward seem to be totally unaware of them just makes the whole thing look even worse:

"we could have 11-year-olds able to write simple 2D computer animations"
We already do - and more, Kodu , Alice, Muvizu and thats just the free ones I can think of off the top of my head.

I've been to conferences filled with these people bemoaning the death of computing and asking "what's gone wrong". They've usually even got one of the innovators doing a "look what I'm doing with the kids!" presentation that's lapped up by the audience. Not one of them takes it any further.

5 Raspberry Pi articles in 5 days (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38663570)

Why slashdot is using known marketing techniques to hammer this product on our collective minds? you are friends with one of the founders? well FUCK Raspberry PI, maybe it was a very good product but now I wont touch it, because I dont want things jammered in my mind.

Besides there are hundreds of similar project, but none of you know about it right?

Re:5 Raspberry Pi articles in 5 days (1)

Crookdotter (1297179) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663706)

I agree with the reposting, but not with the reason and the anger. There is a buzz around it - they aren't selling at a profit really. People are just excited about this product. If you know of other projects that are as good or better, submit them. I for one want to hear about them as well. But lay off the R Pi AC, it's looking good so far!

Re:5 Raspberry Pi articles in 5 days (1)

Lincolnshire Poacher (1205798) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663914)

> There is a buzz around it - they aren't selling at a profit really.

Yes, yes they are. They have explicitly said that they are assembling in China so that they make a margin on each unit sold for future R&D. Just because they are a charity does not mean that they do not want to make a profit.

Anyway, once a school factors-in a TV to be connected to each Pi then it's not such a bargain.

Other projects, as requested: Bifferboard [bifferos.co.uk] and Beagleboard [beagleboard.org] . Both longer-established and actually in production. Bifferboard costs the same as Raspberry Pi Model B.

Re:5 Raspberry Pi articles in 5 days (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38664170)

With a measly 150mhz 486sx , 32 megs of RAM, no SD card slot, no HDMI, no I2C, no SPI, etc... there is no comparison between the Bifferboard and RPi yet they cost the same. That's why people are so excited about RPi. The closest thing is the BeagleBone which has a better CPU but costs 2-3 times as much.

Where will the teachers come from? (3, Interesting)

fantomas (94850) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663614)

Nice idea, but are you going to find X thousand teachers capable of teaching programming by September? or be able to *properly* train the current ones?

I assume if they are working up the new curriculum now, it will be ready in a couple of months (if you're lucky), which gives you about 3 months to distribute the curriculum to schools before they all go off on their summer holidays. 12 weeks then to get the teachers up to speed on the new courses.

I am not saying it's impossible - teachers are amazing, and incredibly dedicated. But declaring you're going to teach something which isn't currently being taught has a lead in time to get the schools up to speed. Or expect the teachers to work their evenings and weekends on an extra unpaid task (which will mean you will get highly variable results).

Unless of course you throw a major company like Microsoft or Google a blank cheque, tell em to take as much money as they want and give you a bunch of passwords to some website (probably based on a foreign country's curriculum, e.g. USA, which might not align with the UK curricula) and get your students to drag themselves through some automated lessons.

I think its political rhetoric. It can be done, and it would be cool to give some students programming skills, but I think it will take more than a few months to change the education system for a whole country and retrain the teachers.

Re:Where will the teachers come from? (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663980)

Well, I guess a lot of it can be done from worksheets. This is what we did with the BBC Micros when I was at school.

There are other problems as well though. You already mentioned the curriculum? What language? Is the computer equipment up to the task? Solvable problems, but getting it done by September is a challenge

Re:Where will the teachers come from? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38664092)

Nice idea, but are you going to find X thousand teachers capable of teaching programming by September? or be able to *properly* train the current ones?

As always, trivial "facts" like that are irrelevant to the bureaucrats and administrators that came up with this Great Idea.

I failed as a high school teacher back then... (2)

gwolf (26339) | more than 2 years ago | (#38664162)

I got my first job teaching computing in a high school, for the 15-18 year old groups. And yes, I probably got that job because the school's administration thought it was a dummy subject: I was 20 year old by then, and had absolutely no knowledge on how to stand in front of a group of 20 bored kids and keep their attention. That was, yes, the main reason that made me fail as a teacher.

However, there is another important reason: I was told to teach them Office software. The problem was, I was only mildly familiar with it. Yes, I had done some nice stuff with a word processor - but my Excel knowledge was very low. And it took me quite a bit to understand what was Powerpoint all about.

Yes, today we have loads of Office teachers. But they came from *somewhere*, didn't they? And if the curriculum changes, probably it will not be them who are best suited to teach - They might be better off as office assistants as a general case. There are people with qualifications needed to teach basic programming. Some of them might be frustrated current teachers trying to teach something more interesting than the way to color Excel cells.

I'm an ICT teacher.... (3, Interesting)

Crookdotter (1297179) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663672)

I'm an ICT teacher who was roped into doing it (I'm 70% science, chem/phys, 30% ICT now). It has almost exclusively been excel and powerpoint training which is deadly dull. I enjoy programming in my spare time but nothing extensive (BASIC on the speccy, then VB when I got a PC, and am getting into C with the use and help of my Arduino). I also do CGI, with PS, modeling, animation, etc etc as well as HTML, flash coding and just about any other bits n peices I come across

For so long ICT has been MS based. There are some exceptions - scratch is a simple programming language that is used in a small way for example. I doubt the capability of ICT teachers with programming and CS. I mean, I do electronics and programming as a hobby but do I have the extensive knowledge to teach it right? Unsure, but I bet I could punch through it. Other ICT teachers I'm not so sure about. I'm a fairly stereotypical geek with some social ability.

If you're a decent coder and EE, why would you go into teaching? From the sciences (like me) I can understand - very low pay, low reward to work ratio. You'd do it for the love of it. If you're a decent coder you should be coding I'd say. I don't think we have the body of people to teach it in this country.

But I hope it does change and I get to have a crack at it!

Re:I'm an ICT teacher.... (1)

Svartalf (2997) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663962)

But I hope it does change and I get to have a crack at it!

Heh... End of month, possibly first part of next, the hackers get a crack at the Raspberry PI's to start forming some of the concepts and possibly even helping form some of the advanced concept portions of an ICT/beginning college curriculum with the R-Pi (Some are contemplating GPGPU ideas and others are thinking cluster computing and similar as a teaching the concepts idea...I'm part of the clustering crowd over in their forums. It's not going to make a blazing cluster without something GPGPU to tie into the fairly powerful mobile GPU as a co-processor- but it's going to be able to allow people to understand how varying cluster models work and be able to tinker with them on the cheap.) I'm hoping that the R-Pi Foundation does succeed. It's a win for as many as that takes this, what is basically a gift to the world, and runs with it.

Re:I'm an ICT teacher.... (1)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#38663970)

The majority of students won't become programmers but office biobots in which case this knowledge comes very handy. There is a need to teach the use of office software to people who are not technically-minded enough to figure it out. So I won't say it's useless, it's just not a substitute for an IT course.

As for finding teachers, the payment is a big issue, the industry pays far more than a school will. But I've seen a solution in some schools where informatics teachers were also the sysadmins, thus receiving double pay.

Re:I'm an ICT teacher.... (2)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | more than 2 years ago | (#38664198)

Many of the generation of programmers I'm in were self-taught.

At my school, we had no structured lessons involving computers, but we did have a computer lab packed with BBC Micros on a network (I went to a reasonably posh private school). My career is based on something I have zero formal schooling in - just the proclivity to muck about with computers, and the opportunity to do so. Couple that with computers that are sufficiently primitive that you are *forced* to learn stuff about them just to get them to do something interesting, and you have an environment where you can learn.

I believe the Raspberry Pi is trying to recreate these conditions but I'm not sure how successful it will be. This was a different era, when there were only four channels on television and about an hour or two of dedicated children's programming a day. Computers were both primitive AND expensive - the BBC Micro was £335 back then, about £1,100 in 2012 pounds, and you needed an extra TV if you weren't going to annoy your parents too much. But they were the most interesting thing around, which certainly contributed to their charm.

The Pi makes it cheap to obtain a powerful computer - but it's *already* cheap to obtain a powerful computer ; for just a shade under £400 I recently bought the family a Core i3 laptop with a full HD screen and 4GB of RAM. The lives of children are already filled with "boxes that go bing" ; adding one that has significantly less "bing" out of the box may just leave them nonplussed.

I'll still be getting one though, and "playing with it" in front of my daughter, if only for the sake of nostalgia.

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