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A 'Radical Manifesto' For Computer Teaching In English Schools

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the it-clicks-the-mouse-or-else-it-gets-the-hose-again dept.

Education 108

00_NOP writes "Everybody (or almost everybody) in England agrees that computing teaching to kids in high school is broken. In response the government promised a radical overhaul and a new curriculum. But then last week it was discovered the government had scrapped the bit of the education department that would develop any such curriculum. Not to be deterred, John Naughton, the Cambridge University academic who wrote the Short History of the Future, has now published his own 'radical' manifesto on how computing should be taught."

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I don't know (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39539551)

I used to know everything.

God says...
C:\LoseThos\www.losethos.com\text\WEALTH.TXT

of the colonies
more than of any other. It not only excludes as much as possible all
other countries from one particular market, but it confines as much as
possible the colonies to one particular market; and the difference is
very great between being excluded from one particular market when all
others are open, and being confined to one particular market when all
others are shut up. The surplus produce of the colonies, however, is the
original source of all that increase of enjoyments and industry w

Fuck you Slashdot (-1, Flamebait)

ThurstonMoore (605470) | about 2 years ago | (#39540055)

Fuck you and April 1st.

LIVING IN A SHACK UP IN UTAH !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39539553)

Manifestos are so unabomerish !! Unabomber ?? WTF is a unabomber !!

here's my radical manifesto (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39539569)

1. Don't teach computing;

2. Instead, improve teaching of the basic subjects: mathematics, English, science and at least one foreign language, to pre-Thatcher standards, i.e. before the national curriculum and privatisation of exam boards and replacement of O-levels with GCSEs destroyed secondary education;

3. Well-prepared minds will be able to build on this foundation to do anything they want in their spare time or later years, including computing.

Re:here's my radical manifesto (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39539609)

This so much. We have so many problems with basic education at the moment, and the great advances in computing in England came before there was some daft "IT" or "computing" curriculum at school. I see it's been modded down by people who have missed the point entirely.

Re:here's my radical manifesto (4, Insightful)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | about 2 years ago | (#39540157)

It's a different world ; the culture of "bedroom programmers" we had in the UK grew up in the wake of the 8-bit home computer revolution.

The computer systems sold today emphasise pre-packaged software and it's utility. The computers of the 8-bit era emphasised experimentation and learning - they all shipped with a programming language and a manual. Most of them booted straight into the programming environment.

The Raspberry Pi is an attempt to recapture some of this culture. But it has so many other things to compete with. Back then, kids TV in the UK was only on 2 channels and occupied only a few hours a day. Once it stopped, all you had to do was read, or use your computer. Now there are multiple channels that run for much longer hours, an internet full of possibilities, games consoles, portable devices, etc.

It's much harder to get a hook into that natural childlike curiosity. It's much easier for parents to use the pre-packaged computer systems to occupy their children, and much more likely, because they have better marketing budgets. Part of the reason RasPi is gaining the traction it has, is because those of us who remember the BBC Micro are interested, but I would bet you it's not even on the radar of most of the younger generation (unlike Moshi Monsters). I know that curiosity is there - my 7 year old daughter was charmed yesterday by the ability to control a flashing LED from an Arduino - but how many parents these days are geek enough to have an Arduino lying around, or have the time to help their children work it out?

Back in my youth, simple computers that you had to understand to use were the only game in town, now the best games in town are in full 3D. I think the Young Lady's Illustrated Primer had this right - you have to start simple.

We made our own entertainment in them days (0)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 2 years ago | (#39540767)

kids TV in the UK was only on 2 channels and occupied only a few hours a day. Once it stopped, all you had to do was read, or use your computer.

Well, there was this thing called playing outside. It involved kicking & throwing different sized & shaped balls and also riding something called a "bike".

Of course the weather was only really good enough for about six weeks of the year, but at least it was safe because pediodiddlerists hadn't been invented yet.

Why stop there? (4, Insightful)

F69631 (2421974) | more than 2 years ago | (#39539687)

Why teach science? Surely you can only teach math and well-trained minds can pick up science on their spare time or later years?

From TFM (the fine manifesto):

We believe every child should have the opportunity to learn computer science, from primary school up to and including further education. We teach elementary physics to every child, not primarily to train physicists but because each of them lives in a world governed by physical systems. In the same way, every child should learn some computer science from an early age because they live in a world in which computation is ubiquitous.

Everything from banking to communications to public transport relies on computers these days so it seems obvious to me that everyone should have at least basic understanding of computer science concepts / how computers work, instead of viewing them just as magic boxes. I honestly can't see why that shouldn't be taught in schools...

Re:Why stop there? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39539697)

Why teach science? Surely you can only teach math and well-trained minds can pick up science on their spare time or later years?

No. Science involves observation and experimentation skills which aren't present in mathematics. To science, mathematics is a tool - it does not have primacy, and we cannot assume that something mathematically simple is scientifically correct. Otherwise we'd still be modelling the universe like Plato.

Everything from banking to communications to public transport relies on computers these days so it seems obvious to me that everyone should have at least basic understanding of computer science concepts / how computers work, instead of viewing them just as magic boxes. I honestly can't see why that shouldn't be taught in schools...

Everything in the world is built on the laws of physics, but only a small proportion of things are built on computer systems - however skewed the view appears to the technologist. A "basic understanding" of computers, i.e. an understanding which takes them beyond thinking in terms of a black box and instead in terms of mathematical and physical concepts, requires a couple of afternoons of attention from a smart, well-prepared schoolkid.

Re:Why stop there? (3, Interesting)

F69631 (2421974) | more than 2 years ago | (#39539719)

A "basic understanding" of computers, i.e. an understanding which takes them beyond thinking in terms of a black box and instead in terms of mathematical and physical concepts, requires a couple of afternoons of attention from a smart, well-prepared schoolkid.

I think you're greatly underestimating how long it will take to teach/grasp everything from the basic understanding "ok, so it's these 'logic gate' thingies that use electricity..." to the basic understanding of concepts such as databases (no matter how you try to compare them to excel), network topology, encryption (not that they needed to learn the algorithms but the basic understanding of concepts such as public keys would be pretty great), etc. etc. takes if the student has never herd of them before.

Of course, we might just greatly disagree about how much everyone in modern world should understand about computers.

Re:Why stop there? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39539771)

(Digital) electronics is a suitable branch of physics to teach - I recall science classes covering basic logic gates when I was about 11, repeated when i was ~13 by building circuits. "And computers use these". Boolean algebra is covered by discrete mathematics courses at A-level, IIRC.

The concept of a database can be taught in an afternoon. A mathematical foundation for databases including normal form, etc. seems unnecessary - unless we're planning to introduce information science into the school curriculum. The skill of finding and organising information is very widely applicable, especially when facing our modern-day deluge, so I would rather argue this as a separate (if minor) subject essential to pre-university education.

Network topology: "star or bus or mesh". A few paragraphs on each. The detail of implementation of such things is irrelevant for the purposes of school education. But basic graph theory, again, is part of discrete mathematics A-level. "And computer networks use these."

If we improved our mathematics curriculum by including number theory then some encryption would certainly be cool. I'd argue this more on political grounds than anything: teaching encryption is as teaching self-defence against corrupt persons and governments. It therefore also has a place in civics and history class. "And modern computers make it easy to use this."

Of course, we might just greatly disagree about how much everyone in modern world should understand about computers.

Perhaps we disagree about the concern that things have been dumbed down from their theoretical basis and reintroduced in elementary form as a topic of "computing". Instead, these topics should be taught in the traditional subjects where they belong (information science excepted) with the computer being mentioned as an application or a facilitator.

Re:Why stop there? (1)

Nursie (632944) | more than 2 years ago | (#39539787)

So completely ignore programming, graphics, problem analysis etc?

Re:Why stop there? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39539823)

Graphics - I'm assuming that you believe art and design should be studied at school. It is suitable to demonstrate photo manipulation, CAD, etc. here, though I wouldn't put too much emphasis on these tools as a substitute for the knowledge and skills required to do what they can do. By analogy with mathematics, it's fine to learn to use a calculator but it's not OK to think that means you don't need to employ mental arithmetic where feasible.

Problem analysis - what is that as a branch of "computing"? Every subject helps you develop problem-solving techniques, mathematics most generally (especially if you consider explicit approaches as e.g. Polya's How to Solve it). Do you mean "turning human instructions into computer instructions" - if so, that's half the exercise of "programming". And, yes, I think it is appropriate to teach kids programming. I was first taught programming in school in mathematics lessons, around the age of 10, as a means to solve simple problems on a graphing calculator (late '80s). I may have been one of about two people who already knew computing, yet no-one else seemed to have any trouble with the concepts of loops, variables and conditions.

It's hopeful that by high school people should regard simple programming as a tool for mathematics and science, not something to learn in itself.

Ah, but shouldn't people be learning more interesting programming paradigms, as offered e.g. by LISP? Or formal algorithm design/analysis? Well, yes. In high school? If they want to learn it. I'd much rather all people with supposed "computing" degrees got both these things in university, however. Looking at current bloat all written in imperative form, they don't. But an "information science" discipline (mentioned above) would hopefully cover some higher level computer languages with a view to analysing their ability to represent and convert instructions and data.

And systems-level programming, including lower-level concepts such as C pointers? No, no place in compulsory pre-uni education.

Re:Why stop there? (1)

Nursie (632944) | more than 2 years ago | (#39539873)

3d graphics, simple 3d programming, the mathematics of 3d geometry, matrix calculations etc is what I was aiming at, not design. What you taught would be very dependant on what level and age you were teaching.

Not all of what is proposed is compulsory either, beyond the age of 16 everything is optional, and pupils choose a few subjects to follow for two years before university.

And the concept of pointers/references is pretty fundamental, not an optional extra, IMHO.

I was first taught programming in school in mathematics lessons, around the age of 10, as a means to solve simple problems on a graphing calculator (late '80s). I may have been one of about two people who already knew computing, yet no-one else seemed to have any trouble with the concepts of loops, variables and conditions.

And if the average British school taught even this much we wouldn't be having this conversation.

Re:Why stop there? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39539941)

3D matrix transformations were part of school mathematics for me. I don't think eg shading/ordering is essential for a school curriculum - in the mid '90s I used what I knew to read a web tutorial called IIRC "3DICA" which allowed me to make a simple software 3D engine in my spare time on the school computers. "3D programming" is just programming using the geometrical etc concepts you've learnt.

As to pointers - knowing what they are, fine: ROM can be mentioned in digital electronics as a special case of a multivalued boolean function implemented in hardware, f(address)=value; a pointer P contains an address and dereferencing P is applying f. But actually using them effectively in C while avoiding all the pitfalls is very challenging - as decades of security problems in some of the most widely-used software have proven. I don't think school needs to dwell on this.

Yes, I went to private school in England, probably better than average. The point is that all this stuff is taught by increasing the depth of existing subjects, not cramming a new one into the curriculum. Thatcher's National Curriculum and GCSEs demolished what was left of state education after streaming(*) was abolished; privatising the exam boards removed the foundations entirely. I was headhunted by AQA at some point for some work I did and turned them down because it was so clear how their mathematics curriculum was tailored for rote learning of dumb techniques described perfectly in the books published by their parent company!

(*) I don't think it's appropriate to seal your fate at the age of 11 with the comprehensive/grammar divide, but schools should absolutely set in each subject according to ability, moving people up and down at intervals according to performance. I recall being in the top set for all classes except Latin where I was put near the bottom because I was almost a novice compared to others who had come from more traditional private schools. But I was in the top set by the next year - a satisfying sense of achievement.

Re:Why stop there? (1)

00_NOP (559413) | about 2 years ago | (#39541257)

I was taught a substantial amount of matrix maths for 'O' level - part of the "new maths" curriculum. As I am just on the cusp of the "micro revolution generation" there was no obvious connection with computers or computer graphics made and it seemed like pretty much a waste of time back then (sat the exam in 1982). For instance it was not taught at A level at all.

Now I can see its use (and obviously it also has uses in the physical sciences - eg describing relativistic space-time and so on) but not back then.

Re:Why stop there? (1)

00_NOP (559413) | about 2 years ago | (#39541285)

Incidentally you have mixed streamaing up with setting. Setting - which is "absolutely set in each subject according to ability, moving people up and down at intervals according to performance" is very much used in English secondary schools as I know from my own children's experience. Streaming is something very different - and it is a good thing it has been wiped out.

The idea that state education has been "demolished" is of course offensive nonsense.

Re:Why stop there? (0)

mikael (484) | more than 2 years ago | (#39539961)

Start by teaching the concept of Turing machines. An set of symbols representing instructions. Anything from cooking instructions, music sheets to computer programs. Then digital representation requires the use of binary to represent data, logic gates and flowcharts. Move onto microprocessors, CPU and GPU. Cover basic things like RAM, ROM, cache, registers, microcode, assembly language, high level languages and scripts. Move onto operating systems, security, passwords, the internet (clients, routers and sevets) and the need for encryption.

Re:Why stop there? (2)

dgatwood (11270) | about 2 years ago | (#39541209)

Learning about programming by learning about turing machines is like learning about how to design skyscrapers by learning about cave dwellings. In theory, they are distant cousins. In practice, learning about something so incredibly primitive doesn't really help you much unless your goal is to spend the rest of your life as a theoretician.

You can't learn programming from the bottom up because the bottom isn't useful by itself. You can't learn programming from the top down because then you get a bunch of people who think Excel macros are a perfectly cromulent programming language.

You need to learn programming from the middle (or at least from both ends simultaneously). Control flow by itself would be boring and hard to learn, so you instead start by learning I/O to a text screen and almost immediately jump down eighteen levels to cover control flow. Once you understand the concept of control flow in the context of actual, working code that does something you can interact with in an interesting way, everything else starts to look like special cases of control flow.

Then, after you've shown them that coding can be fun—that you can change things and get different results—then you back-fill with knowledge of how some of that stuff happens (RAM, ROM, etc.). And after people understand how to write basic code, then you start to introduce flowcharts for more complicated code. If you introduce those things too early, everybody's eyes glaze over, and then you've lost them.

Re:Why stop there? (1)

gstrickler (920733) | about 2 years ago | (#39540075)

You're correct. I designed and taught a computer networking curriculum. The classes were 2 hrs per day, 4 days a week, for 4 weeks. There were 3 courses, so a total of 12 weeks @ 8hrs per week. That was just computer networking, and I wasn't training them to be CNE/MCSEs, just level 2 tech support for some networked printer/fax/scanner/copier multifunction devices. I did cover specifics of Windows (95 and NT4 at the time) and Mac OS, as well as some specifics of Windows NT Server and NetWare 3.x/4.x Now, the three courses were on "Using a network", "Administering a network", and "Troubleshooting a network", so most people would only need the first 4 week (@ 8hrs/wk) course, but that's still 32 hours of training just on networking.

Re:Why stop there? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39540131)

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Re:how long it will take to teach/grasp (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | about 2 years ago | (#39540219)

I'll go a step more basic and say that just basic file handling from documents and using application features up through basic password security (no, don't "leave me logged in for two weeks"), basic printing ("will you stop sending "fit paper to pdf page size" 8.06 X 11.35 paper requests to my print queue?") etc.

When they can do that stuff properly then let them have the clever theory.

Re:Why stop there? (1)

zAPPzAPP (1207370) | more than 2 years ago | (#39539749)

And programming involves (or should involve) engineering skills.
It is hard to find a subject in school, that involves actually making something. You have arts and then the rest is just theory and mostly passive. Even experiments are spoon fed and outcomes are predetermined.

In programming class, you will at least have an endproduct, something you made yourself. Most importantly it can stand on it's own. You know if you have succeeded.
Not like some essay that is only as good as the teacher rates it.

Re:Why stop there? (1)

Serious Callers Only (1022605) | more than 2 years ago | (#39539931)

No. Science involves observation and experimentation skills which aren't present in mathematics.

The same holds true for programming (algorithms and data structures do not just fall out of mathematics, they are an art in themselves), which was the parent post's point in making this provocative statement. Just because you could in some meaningless sense reduce the entire world to maths, does not make it worthless to study other disciplines (this is what you are arguing). What holds true of science holds true of programming (this is what they are arguing, by analogy with Science, and in fact you unwittingly support the parent's point).

Everything in the world is built on the laws of physics, but only a small proportion of things are built on computer systems - however skewed the view appears to the technologist.

Actually, no, everything is not 'built on the laws of physics', the laws of physics are an approximation of the physical world we see around us, not the other way around - these laws are constantly changing as we better understand the real world. And nowadays almost every object we create depends on computers - from rfid tags to the internet you are using to post your thoughts to the phone system you use to communicate, to the machines which created almost all the objects sitting around you where you are now. None of those objects were created without computers, and all the things listed by the parent now rely on computers entirely - all are vital to our present society.

A "basic understanding" of computers, i.e. an understanding which takes them beyond thinking in terms of a black box and instead in terms of mathematical and physical concepts, requires a couple of afternoons of attention from a smart, well-prepared school kid.

This is true in the same way that learning to write poetry can be taught in a couple of afternoons to a smart child - of course the basic tenets can be understood, but there is a lot to learn about computers, and the subject should emphatically *not* be limited to teaching what can be taught in an afternoon (or two) or the use of Microsoft Word, which is what it amounts to now in UK schools.

Re:Why stop there? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39540001)

The same holds true for programming (algorithms and data structures do not just fall out of mathematics, they are an art in themselves)

Algorithms certainly do fall out of mathematics, in a fairly formal sense since Leibniz. Mathematics seems an obvious place to begin creating simple algorithms on a graphical calculator (dedicated or computing package) to solve problems well before your teenage years. Data structures are better studied in the more general context of information science, as above.

in some meaningless sense reduce the entire world to maths, does not make it worthless to study other disciplines (this is what you are arguing).

No it isn't, and no more so just because you say it is. Re-read what I've said - particularly the other anon posts in my style in this thread which are probably also me :-).

the laws of physics are an approximation of the physical world we see around us,

You're being obtuse. The laws are not "constantly changing" - they are being refined for more general cases. Or, if you like, I'm using "laws of physics" in the Swarzian sense: the universe behaves in a certain way regardless of what humans want to happen, whereas the progress of computing is very much for humans to direct.

And nowadays almost every object we create depends on computers

It also depends on humans dependent on their psychology and their politics and their language and their philosophy and their sociology and their laws and their economics, using tools which depend on mechanical and electrical engineering.

to the machines which created almost all the objects sitting around you where you are now.

With the exception of the electronics, I'm sitting at a desk I built surrounded by furniture half of which pre-dates the electronic computer. Directly behind the LCD is a beautiful painting. The house is over 200 years old. So, no. The majority of objects around me were not built by computer, and they're all going to last much longer than all the objects around me which were built using a computer.

and the subject should emphatically *not* be limited to teaching what can be taught in an afternoon (or two) or the use of Microsoft Word, which is what it amounts to now in UK schools.

Right. The computer should be considered as a tool and applied as needed. Imperative programming per se needs teaching as above, i.e. probably as part of mathematics - and can then be applied in all other classes as needed.

Re:Why stop there? (1)

Serious Callers Only (1022605) | about 2 years ago | (#39540749)

You're being obtuse. The laws are not "constantly changing" - they are being refined for more general cases.

Talking of the laws of physics as if anything is built or based on them is misleading and, if you'll forgive me, somewhat myopic. They are our current best approximations for the world, not some unchanging set of rules which the world is based on - that's a very important distinction. Just in the last few centuries they have changed almost beyond recognition (not as a set of refinements, but in a set of massive shocks which changed our worldview forever), and a few centuries before that the concept of science as we know it did not really exist.

With the exception of the electronics, I'm sitting at a desk I built surrounded by furniture half of which pre-dates the electronic computer. Directly behind the LCD is a beautiful painting.

So you're choosing to ignore the clothing, pens, plastic objects, books, machined objects, printed material, and electronics which no doubt also surrounds you? I take your point that we can live at a certain level without computers and some things are untouched by them (primarily things created before their invention), but they really are intrinsic to our current lifestyle, and are only going to become more important. I highly doubt even 50% of the things in your room (if you look at them honestly) were not dependent on computers at some stage in their life.

It also depends on humans dependent on their psychology and their politics and their language and their philosophy and their sociology and their laws and their economics, using tools which depend on mechanical and electrical engineering.

I wouldn't seek to deny that, why would you think it is important to mention it?

Imperative programming per se needs teaching as above, i.e. probably as part of mathematics - and can then be applied in all other classes as needed.

The curriculum is split up for a reason into different subjects - of course you *could* teach programming as part of mathematics, but frankly I think you're missing the poetry inherent in programming and seeing it in a very limited way as some sort of adjunct of logic and mathematics - algorithms are not limited to the maths which they use (as a tool) to manipulate concepts, they also live on a higher level of the abstract ideas they represent. Programming is not all about the technicalities of manipulating data on some basic level, it's also about manipulating ideas.

Re:Why stop there? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39541363)

They are our current best approximations for the world, not some unchanging set of rules which the world is based on - that's a very important distinction.

No, not really. The most valuable aspect of a school science curriculum is the scientific process. And the fact that specific theories may be generalised - although usually not to the exclusion of the old ones - does not depart from the utility of learning some basic laws of physics. It is far more important to learn how F=ma can be shown and interpreted than it is to learn that F=ma. But it is still important to know that F=ma, and far more important to know it than equations of relativity or QM.

So you're choosing to ignore

No - I obviously didn't mention every item, like a handmade rug or a home-built bookshelf or a couple of light-fittings that are about 40 years old or another that's only a decade... etc. I was trying to be representative.

the clothing,

Well, half of what I am wearing was handmade by my grandmother, who knew the value of self-reliance - and, it seems, choosing materials which last.

pens,

This Parker has got to be at least 40 years old. Certainly involved precision tooling. Doubt it involved a computer.

plastic objects,

Yeah, a protractor and a ruler and a biro. I hate biros, but I need them to fill in forms.

books,

Well, the books vary from excellent old mathematics texts to modern books on the subject of the latest computer language fad and which are already unsaleable junk. But on balance, most of my books by volume will certainly have been printed with the help of a computer.

electronics

Well, I mentioned that stuff specifically. Although, if you'll indulge me, the favourite thing on my desk is a 1980s Yaesu HF receiver which is very analogue and very lovely. I wish I had the time (and talent?) to study and understand its schematics in full.

and are only going to become more important.

Are you sure? Does it matter? National debt management is also going to become important (because the people have no balls to renege and start again with the principle of self-reliance) but I don't think that means we need to teach college economics to schoolkids.

I wouldn't seek to deny that, why would you think it is important to mention it?

Because there's so much more important and fundamental to society than the computer but which doesn't seem to demand a new subject in the curriculum.

X is not all about the technicalities of manipulating data on some basic level, it's also about manipulating ideas.

FTFY. Your statement applies to every subject. There's nothing special about programming. You can study almost anything in its own right but that doesn't mean you have to.

Thanks for your considered response, btw.

Re:Why stop there? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#39547367)

everything is not 'built on the laws of physics'

No, just everything that doesn't immediately fall down.

Re:Why stop there? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39540239)

To carry the argument slightly further, why teach mathematics? Surely you can only teach logic and well-trained minds can pick up mathematics and the rest on their spare time or later years?

As someone who actually does teaching, I assure you that the "teach the basics and well-trained minds will pick up the rest as they need it" principle _practically never_ works. And therein lies the fundamental conundrum of modern education. There are more and more small factoids that seem useful to know, and as small factoids are easy to teach. There isn't time to do everything in schools, and so the easy and the quick drives out the slow and substantial. It's a sort of Gresham's Law of education.

No serious progress will be made until there is a consensus about what can be discarded so that the rest can actually be learned. And since I can see no way for such a consensus to develop, I think ignorance is our children's future, along with the unhappy consequences that will likely bring.

Re:Why stop there? (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | about 2 years ago | (#39540913)

No. Science involves observation and experimentation skills

Jeez, what skills do you think I used to load up SNES emulators and ROMs on every computer in the computer lab? How do you think my mates got a pirated version of TFC/Counter-Strike/Half-Life installed on every computer in the AutoCAD lab?

Re:Why stop there? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 2 years ago | (#39541849)

Google, then copying verbatim what someone else had done? NGOML.

Re:Why stop there? (0)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#39539747)

I mostly agree with you except that computer science has little to do with how computers work.

Re:Why stop there? (1)

Nursie (632944) | more than 2 years ago | (#39539763)

Sorry? WTF?

Can you justify that comment? Because it sounds like nonsense to me.

Re:Why stop there? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39539807)

Computer science is logic, graph theory, information theory, complexity theory, set theory, and game theory, with some psychology and a bit of electronic engineering. Computers are just tools. The Dijkstra quote of relevance is:

Computer science is as much about computers as astronomy is about telescopes.

Re:Why stop there? (1)

Nursie (632944) | more than 2 years ago | (#39539811)

Sure, but all those things are applicable to how the tools work, and how best to use the tools.

Re:Why stop there? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39540957)

So what? Did Babbage, Turing or [insert name of whoever it is that 'merkins think invented the computer] have CS degrees?

Re:Why stop there? (1)

Nursie (632944) | about 2 years ago | (#39541007)

No, but they were pioneers of computer science (as was Ada Lovelace), and what they did certainly falls within that view at the moment.

Do you have a problem with the science behind how computers work being called "Computer Science"?

Or do you just have some weird inferiority complex because you don't have a degree (hint - you're the first one that mentioned degrees)

Re:Why stop there? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 2 years ago | (#39542063)

but they were pioneers of computer science (as was Ada Lovelace), and what they did certainly falls within that view at the moment.

The point is a) that nobody taught them it and b) there wasn't anything that we'd recognise as computers at the time they were working. How can be CS be only (or even mainly) about computers, if major figures in the field didn't have one?

Do you have a problem with the science behind how computers work being called "Computer Science"?

Somebody already mentioned telescopes and astronomy.

Or do you just have some weird inferiority complex because you don't have a degree (hint - you're the first one that mentioned degrees)

Do you wear a crinoline? (hint - you're the one who mentioned Ada Lovelace).

I do have a degree, though not in CS (and not from DeVry), so your snide comment falls at the first hurdle. And FWIW, my room-mate was a CS major, and he spent more time writing what looked like hieroglyphics - on paper - than he did near a keyboard.

And unlike some, I don't have a superiority complex either, though perhaps given your total lack of reading comprehension I'd be justified if I did.

Re:Why stop there? (1)

Nursie (632944) | more than 2 years ago | (#39545407)

The point is a) that nobody taught them it and b) there wasn't anything that we'd recognise as computers at the time they were working. How can be CS be only (or even mainly) about computers, if major figures in the field didn't have one?

They laid down various parts of the theoretical frameworks, that's how. CS is about the theory (and in the case of many degrees in CS the practice) of how computers work and how to program them. Without CS we likely wouldn't have computers, or do you dispute that the design of operating systems and programming languages comes under CS?

Somebody already mentioned telescopes and astronomy.

Yes, and I questioned that, given that CS degrees I know of cover things like data structures, algorithms design and complexity estimation, which are directly applicable to real world programming.

I do have a degree, though not in CS (and not from DeVry), so your snide comment falls at the first hurdle.

Not really, I was just wondering aloud because you (assuming you are the AC) took a snipe at degrees apropos of nothing. I'm not from the US so I have no idea what your snipe about DeVry means.

And FWIW, my room-mate was a CS major, and he spent more time writing what looked like hieroglyphics - on paper - than he did near a keyboard.

Then he was concentrating on the theoretical aspects. Courses vary by insitution and which specialisations the student chooses.

And FWIW, my room-mate was a CS major, and he spent more time writing what looked like hieroglyphics - on paper - than he did near a keyboard.

I'm not really even sure what you mean by this, it's you that seems to have misapprehended almost everything. You seem to discount the usefulness of CS degrees based on the fact that pioneers in the field didn't have them, which is about as faulty as thinking comes - they were breaking the new ground, there was no degree available to them. Then you accuse me of lack of reading comprehension for calling you on it.

I don't have a superiority complex. My degree has been useful to me. Some of the best people I've worked with haven't had them, others have. I have worked with PhDs who have been brilliant and PhDs who have been useless. However I'm still not the one making stupid comments about the pioneers of a subject having or not having degrees in a field that didn't exist at the time.

Re:Why stop there? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39541641)

Do you actually have a degree in computer science is the question. Do you? If not, you're talking out your behind.

Re:Why stop there? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 2 years ago | (#39542153)

Firstly, one doesn't need to be a bat to know that they are flying mammals with leathery wings.

Secondly, the truth (or otherwise) of his remark is independent of whatever qualifications he may (or may not have). After all, if I say that med school does not consist of poetry recitals and jujitsu katas am I talking out of my behind just because I'm not a doctor?

Thirdly, having read a fair few of his posts, I suspect the odds are that he either does have one, or has equivalent practical experience.

Are you TheRaven64? No. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39542765)

I didn't ask you. I asked TheRaven64. He can answer himself.

Thirdly, having read a fair few of his posts, I suspect the odds are that he either does have one, or has equivalent practical experience. by Hognoxious (631665) on Sunday April 01, @02:26PM (#39542153) Homepage

Since you seem to feel you're a good judge \ expert on the matter of who has a computer science degree or experience in that area, do you yourself have a CSC degree?

Lastly, perhaps you ought to mind your own business, since you were not asked the question (but I am asking it of you now though since you have me curious also).

Re:Are you TheRaven64? No. (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#39547385)

I'm not an international rugby referee, but I know that Alain Rolland is a moron.

Oh, and until such time as you are crowned king of the internets I'll answer whatever posts I want to, on behalf of anyone I choose. Got that?

You avoided the question ("gosh, why?", not) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39547597)

Same here, I'll post as I like - YOU, however, avoided a simple question, didn't you? Yes, you did... and, so has "TheRaven64" as well! Gosh, color me "not surprised" because it appears your "guesstimation" of his status of having a degree in Comp. Sci. appears to be in error via his avoiding answering. Got that? Oh, of COURSE you did... just like anyone else reading has (while they laugh @ you, amateur).

Re:Why stop there? (1)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544863)

Computer science is the mathematical theory behind programming, you will never really need it unless you design a language or write a compiler. In most universities CS courses are extended to provide a general theoretical background to pogramming, but those courses still lack the practical elements.
First of all, the knowledge that every children will need is user knowledge, learning how to use electronic devices for their needs. You can also teach them programming, to introduce them a profession they can choose later, but you won't need any theoretical background for school-level coding. Even if you decide to teach them some math they will be better off with stuff that has practical applications in programming like linear algebra or graph theory.

Re:Why stop there? (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 2 years ago | (#39539847)

Everything from banking to communications to public transport relies on computers these days so it seems obvious to me that everyone should have at least basic understanding of computer science concepts / how computers work, instead of viewing them just as magic boxes. I honestly can't see why that shouldn't be taught in schools...

I think that logic would equally justify teaching to all school children plumbing, electrical work, HVAC, and basic lightbulb manufacturing.

Re:Why stop there? (1)

rtaylor (70602) | more than 2 years ago | (#39539937)

It wouldn't hurt to teach the basics of electrical work and plumbing in grade 7/8.

My school taught wood working, metal working (welding, folding, etc.), cooking, sewing, etc. in Grade 7/8. I've found those skills to be more useful as a software developer than a large number of things we were taught in math.

Re:Why stop there? (4, Funny)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 2 years ago | (#39539953)

Well, sure, but we can't all have jobs developing CNC software that controls the machinery that makes wooden salad bowls to be used in clothes-making factories!

You insensitive clod.

Re:Why stop there? (1)

coastwalker (307620) | about 2 years ago | (#39541149)

Completely agree. I learned set theory, venn diagrams, ladders slipping down walls and eventually solving second order partial differential equations thirty years ago. I've had to teach myself statistics and compound interest in order to make stuff to sell and feed myself. There has been and still appears to be a bias in British education to teach abstract fashionable academic things rather than something that a filthy capitalist worker might find usefull to make money out of. British education is run by sponging elitist left wng academic swine who go from private school to oxbridge then the civil service and have been fucking up this country since the begining of the last century at least. Our nice chap but appearing increasingly useless Prime Minister Cameron is all you need to look at to see that this is probably true.

At least the set theory makes normalising databases intuative...

Well, yes and no (1)

F69631 (2421974) | about 2 years ago | (#39542027)

In order to maintain democracy, the electorate needs to be familiar with the current issues. They include more and more issues that relate to computers and networks: Your privacy online (requires that you understand basic datamining concepts), electronic voting, political buzzwords such as "cyber warfare", to what extent can companies be held responsible when they're hacked and your data is stolen, should unmanned cars be allowed in traffic, etc. etc... These are all completely new issues that didn't exist a while ago. Most people simply aren't able to make educated decisions about them and my argument is essentially "These are important issues that people should understand".

I don't oppose schools adding basic electrical work or plumbing to their curriculum and in fact I need to call a plumber tomorrow... But these are more isolated issues. The fact that I don't know much about plumbing doesn't (as far as I know, at least) interfere with me being an educated voter, for example. I think that plumbing is more analogous to knowing how to create excel macros: It's useful skill but if you don't know it, you can hire someone to do the job for you.

Who here didn't teach themselves how to computer? (2)

dpqb (2608183) | more than 2 years ago | (#39539705)

I'm not talking about majoring in computer science. I'm talking about basic knowledge of computers through using them and your own inquisitiveness?

  One of the misconceptions about education is that you can teach intelligence, curiosity or interest. Not everyone is the same nor born equal and on the same note, not everyone belongs in college especially not if it means going tens of thousands of dollars in debt, whichever humanitarian thought that was a good idea, good job. So, not everyone belongs on the computer and there's Windows and Mac for them :p

Re:Who here didn't teach themselves how to compute (4, Interesting)

Nursie (632944) | more than 2 years ago | (#39539779)

I taught myself because my education failed me, then I went to university and studied them. If I hadn't had a friend who was interested in them and who exposed me to the idea they did more than play games, I probably wouldn't have even known that computer programming was a thing that you could do.

Your own inquisitiveness is good, but you need to at least expose people to the basic concepts to trigger it.

Re:Who here didn't teach themselves how to compute (4, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39539813)

Schools teach, but they also demonstrate your ignorance to you. The best education is the one you give yourself, but that's of no use if you don't know what it is that you don't know. I had a few programming classes in school when I was 7. It wasn't enough to give me a detailed knowledge of programming, but it was enough to let me know that it was something that I was interested in learning and to motivate me to learn most of the rest on my own time.

Re:here's my radical manifesto (3, Insightful)

Nursie (632944) | more than 2 years ago | (#39539767)

Computers are now ubiquitous. That so many people think of computers as black boxes is a crime.

As is this ludicrous strategy I keep hearing on slashdot that we should just teach 'the basics' to kids. It completely backwards. You should teach kids as wide a range of things as possible in their early years, giving them exposure to as many different subjects and as many different facets of life as we can manage. Later they use that grounding to pick their way to a specialism.

What's destroyed secondary education in the UK is the bizarre insistence that everyone be put in the same class, regardless of ability, so the smart kids get bored, the less academically inclined get frustrated and everyone loses.

Bring back per-subject streaming, expand the network of grammar schools, and watch things pick up.

Re:here's my radical manifesto (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39543287)

The best education system in the world - Finland - has a fully comprehensive system. Yet you are advocating returning to a system that puts 80% of students on the scrap heap at the age of 11. Indeed even one of the biggest arguments for grammar schools, that they give disadvantaged children a "head start", isn't relevant as existing grammars generally have a 1 to 2 % intake of disadvantaged students. A fully comprehensive system, with no selection on aptitude, religion or any other type of selection should be the target, with all students getting the best in education should be the target, not introducing more selection.

Re:here's my radical manifesto (1)

Nursie (632944) | more than 2 years ago | (#39545433)

No, I'm not advocating putting people on the scarpheap at age 11, that's your thinking, not mine.

I'm advocating teaching kids of different abilities separately, because children learn differently. I don't think the kids that don't get into a grammar school are on the scrapheap. That's a spin put on it bu others.

In the end I don't care that much about a separate school, but separate classes are a must or everyone loses.

Re:here's my radical manifesto (1)

KevReedUK (1066760) | more than 2 years ago | (#39546089)

separate classes are a must or everyone loses.

How unfortunate a turn of phrase... I realise (or should I say, hope) that you meant "class" as in school class, but when you bring grammar schools into the conversation, the word class suddenly becomes dual-purpose. I would hope you are not advocating further widening of the gap between grammar-educated kids and comp-educated kids.

Whilst I would concur that grammar schools exist with the best intentions, they do lead to a situation where there is a perception that those who did not manage to get in were too thick, and hence they are quite often less favourably looked upon by recruiters. You end up with groups of friends from primary school being separated from each other by their peers into thickos and posh kids in a way that separation between two secondary schools never seems to. I can say from my own experience that this perception and division is a reality, and I certainly feel that it is counter-productive.

The thing is, grammar schools could avoid a lot of this division. Whilst I was in the grammar school system, I found the whole atmosphere of the place to be way to rigid, officious, antiquated and far from welcoming. With a few notable exceptions, the people weren't any better. There was an overwhelming sense of entitlement, coupled with a rather unhealthy dose of arrogance in most of the people I met there, and within days of starting the school, even the new kids were showing signs of being indoctrinated into that ethos.

Luckily, in my case, my family moved halfway across the country shortly after I started at the grammar school, and we moved to an area where there weren't any grammar schools within a reasonable distance. I can remember that, at the time, I felt like an outsider and a fraud going there. Not because I felt that I wasn't academically worthy, but because I didn't share that institutional arrogance, and I hoped that I would move to another school before any of it rubbed off onto me.

So, to summarise:

Creating per-subject sets? A necessary evil with practically no social disadvantages.
Providing those children who are more academically inclined with additional stimulation? Essential.
The grammar school system as it stands in the UK at the moment? Probably doing more harm than good.

Re:here's my radical manifesto (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39546657)

No, thats the truth of the matter and why the comprehensive education system was bought in - you specifically said you wanted more Grammar (and by inferance, less comprehensive), You're argueing for a system that put 80% of students on the scrapheap at the age of 11. That was, and to a certain extent is, in areas still selective, the result.

At least those "poor" students that don't get into Grammar school have an opportunity of sitting exams, whereas at one point they wouldn't have taken any ...

Re:here's my radical manifesto (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39544541)

What's destroyed secondary education in the UK is the bizarre insistence that everyone be put in the same class, regardless of ability, so the smart kids get bored, the less academically inclined get frustrated and everyone loses.

There lays the irony. The common class is functioning as cultural melting pot and yet, the tendency of multiculturalism and separation of societies is strongish (sorry) in the UK from a foreign perspective. Although a school system has its academic goals, the preparation of a child to an increasingly complex society is an equally important job for a school system. The parents are not able to provide this help for assimilation as they are part of the problem, so to speak, with their own religions and values.
  I think it was a German research which pointed to improvements in learning mathematics by increasing the level of abstraction and reducing the rudimentary calculation on a math course. A tie-in with language studies from the early on might benefit the students of all capabilities as not everyone has the caring parent who read challenging stories from the early on. This would benefit computer science studies as well.

Re:here's my radical manifesto (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39539905)

2. Instead, improve teaching of the basic subjects: mathematics, English, science and at least one foreign language, to pre-Thatcher standards,

Just as long as one of the language subjects is a programming language.
Seriously.
It's ridiculous the amount of time wasted in school forcing everyone to learn a foreign language when they have no interest in it.

Re:here's my radical manifesto (1)

hawkinspeter (831501) | about 2 years ago | (#39540187)

What I hate about UK schools teaching languages is that they do it so badly. They start late and then completely fail to teach even a basic level of conversational French.

I don't care whether kids are interested in it or not, but if you're going to teach a language, do it properly. It's embarassing how bad the UK is compared to other countries. We should copy the Dutch - I've never met someone from Holland who can't talk perfectly in at least 3 different languages.

Re:here's my radical manifesto (1)

mikael (484) | more than 2 years ago | (#39539925)

We used to havd SYS Computer Studies as well as Physics and Mathematics. Mathematics covered vector-matrix algebra, while Physics covered topics like the electromagnetic spectrum, photons, refraction, gravity and Keplers laes of motion. Writing little animation programs to denonstrate your understanding was the best way to learn.

fra (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39539573)

First

Worry about language first (0, Flamebait)

gmhowell (26755) | more than 2 years ago | (#39539589)

How about the English first worry about how few of their schoolchildren speak English [telegraph.co.uk] ?

Priorities people, priorities...

Re:Worry about language first (3, Insightful)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 2 years ago | (#39539605)

So, it's a Bad Thing that they speak Punjabi as a first language? And yes, if it was Welsh or Gaelic then it would be a great example of progressive education saving their heritage...

Re:Worry about language first (4, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39539623)

You say that they don't speak English, but the link you reference says they don't speak English as a first language. You need a very strange set of priorities to consider a million school children being bilingual is a bad thing.

Re:Worry about language first (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39540263)

>*You need a very strange set of priorities to consider a million school children being bilingual is a bad thing* //

Every child in Wales has to learn Welsh at school - it's given position as the most important subject above and beyond all others. Primarily, if any of those children actually use Welsh outside the classroom, it will be to speak with someone who they already share a common language with. Moreover, unlike other language learning this language will not help them to have an outward view and learn about foreign peoples and cultures, IMO it only goes to reinforce rampant nationalism; which is ironic given that Wales isn't really a nation in and of itself any more than Yorkshire or Cornwall, or wherever.

So it's not quite a million school children but IMO it's a very bad thing.

Perhaps I have a very strange set of priorities but what I want first and foremost in the language education of children in my country (Britain) is ability to communicate as broadly and effectively as possible. If children go on to chose esoteric languages for later study then more power to them it's a very interesting field. /rant

Re:Worry about language first (1)

outsider007 (115534) | more than 2 years ago | (#39539731)

Exactly. English first. Then Php. *Then* maybe Java or python or ruby

Re:Worry about language first (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39540031)

Java?

As a parent, I demand pupils learn a language in which they have to tidy up after themselves.

Automatic garbage collection indeed. Pffft.

The UK, not England... (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 2 years ago | (#39539601)

... although I wouldn't expect timmeh to know the difference.

No, England (4, Informative)

ebcdic (39948) | more than 2 years ago | (#39539631)

There are similar issues in the rest of the UK, but this particular story is *not* about the UK as a whole. Education policy is devolved to the Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish parliaments/assemblies. The manifesto is addressed to Michael Gove, who is the Secretary of State for Education in England.

Re:No, England (3, Informative)

00_NOP (559413) | more than 2 years ago | (#39539735)

Actually he's Secretary of State for the whole UK and has some duties in this regard, but yes, he's responsible for the curriculum only in England, so the story is correct to focus only on England.

Re:No, England (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 2 years ago | (#39541025)

If we set kids a homework task of producing a Venn diagram showing what parts of policy belong to the UK as a whole, the Skirts, the Wails and the Irates they'd gain a darn good understanding of set theory.

That or they'd shoot themselves.

Re:The UK, not England... (0)

loufoque (1400831) | more than 2 years ago | (#39539991)

It has been acceptable practice to refer to the UK as England since its creation.
It's only in the latter half of the 20th century that people have started showing concern that this might not be politically correct as it might hurt the Welsh and Scots.

Re:The UK, not England... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39540137)

It has more to do with being correct rather than politically correct

Great Britain = England + Scotland + Wales
United Kingdom = Great Britain + Northern Ireland
Ireland = Northern Ireland + Republic of Ireland
British Isles = Great Britain + Ireland

So from the equations above, England != UK any more than Russia was equal to the Soviet Union.

Maybe they should shift the capital from London to Bermuda, so that the capital of the UK is in none of these countries, and people stop making that association.

Worry about government intentions (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39539637)

UK government have to keep people thick where computers are concerned or how would the implement this http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-17576745

/. should have it's pink style today (-1, Offtopic)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 2 years ago | (#39539639)

Shouldn't /. have pink 'OMG PONNIES' style today?

I expect a ton of stories, and I immediately treat all of them with suspicion and probably for a good reason. I won't bother reading TFAs either. If /. wants to be taken seriously today, it has do to do something extraordinary. For all I care today is a day when /. clowns are especially rampant.

Re:/. should have it's pink style today (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39539681)

You are a total retard. Did your grandma show you ponies? Chuck Norris?

Re:/. should have it's pink style today (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39539913)

It's unclear why you're still here in this socialist infestation, but you should at least follow the last link of the summary. It's got pix of ostensibly British youths who are interested in "computer science" and jeebus they look like dorks. What most Slashdotters must look like.

"Computing teaching" (2)

Psychotria (953670) | more than 2 years ago | (#39539701)

What the hell is that even supposed to mean? "Teaching computing" I could understand, but "computing teaching" is a very odd thing to say or write. It doesn't say what it's meant to say!

Re:"Computing teaching" (1)

mikael (484) | more than 2 years ago | (#39539977)

Sometimes they mean IT skills, like switching a computer on, using a word processor, reading and sending E-mail, using a spreadsheet application and printing documents. In some deprived parts of the UK school-leavers don't even know how to do those things.

Re:"Computing teaching" (1)

Psychotria (953670) | about 2 years ago | (#39540011)

Sometimes they mean IT skills, like switching a computer on, using a word processor, reading and sending E-mail, using a spreadsheet application and printing documents. In some deprived parts of the UK school-leavers don't even know how to do those things.

Yes, but do "studying teaching" and "teaching studying" mean the same thing? I could come up with a bunch of examples. "Researching teaching" vs "teaching researching"; "creating teaching" vs "teaching creating"; "finding teaching" vs "teaching finding"; "cunning teaching" vs "teaching cunning"; "creating teaching" vs "teaching creating"; and so on, and so on. All these have different meanings, as does "computing teaching" vs "teaching computing".

Re:"Computing teaching" (1)

doshell (757915) | about 2 years ago | (#39540313)

"Computing teaching" is correct (despite sounding unusual) if you assume "computing" is a noun and not a verb (as in "maths teaching", i.e. the act of teaching maths). But it does lend itself to confusion.

Rational, not radical (1)

Node (9991) | more than 2 years ago | (#39539887)

I find the title of this story troubling. I think some people have confused the word "radical" with the word "rational". If this manifesto is what is considered radical then we are in serious trouble.

This is not radical (2)

cuby (832037) | more than 2 years ago | (#39539911)

This is obvious. Like in England the "CS" curricula in Portugal (where I am) teach how to use Windows or Word and not the science behind computers. Piking in a analogy used in the manifesto. Teaching specific this commercial software is like teaching how to listen songs of Lady Gaga in a music class.

Re:This is not radical (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39539995)

Once uppon at time England was way ahead of Portugal
Portugal just did not seem to want to change at all with no cs degrees in the 80's and England seemed far ahead
Strange to think that England with all the advances it had with spectrums, arm risc machines and ql should fall behind closer to portugal
Does not help that the Americans saw to it that franti the producers of the ula's where put out of business, but hey that's capitalism, so that's ok, I'm being sarcastic

fp dolL (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39539919)

= 14500 NetBSD

TEDxTokyoTeachers Presentation (2)

wynand1004 (671213) | about 2 years ago | (#39540093)

I can't agree with this more - programming is one of the key literacies of the 21st century. Programming is as vital a subject to teach as music, art, or poetry. The skills gained by learning programming are applicable in almost any domain - skills such as analysis, abstract representation, and logic.

I recently gave a presentation at TEDxTokyoTeachers [tedxtokyo.com] on this exact subject entitled "The Guitar and the Smart Phone [youtube.com] ". In it, I use the guitar as a metaphor (analogy?) for the way we are using computers in education and why that approach falls short of teaching the skills students need for the 21st century.

What can England do? (0)

AHuxley (892839) | about 2 years ago | (#39540195)

The days of cheap computing via Sinclair and the BBC Micro where squandered and are long lost. The USA now owns computing.
If the UK wants to rule computing again they have to find the hunger and arrogance of been a small island facing a big Spain or France again.
Work out what England wants, change the rules and win.
If all the USA can offer is "program or be programmed" i.e. digital slavery built in distant sweatshops, find a Wilberforce, abolish the trade and rule a new eworld.

Re:What can England do? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39542979)

Franti the ula maker was allowed to be put out of business by an American company

Where will the teachers come from? (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | about 2 years ago | (#39540209)

As soon as you train up people (they won't be teachers unless they actually start teaching children, read on ... ) to be competent in computer or IT skills, they'll immediately go into better paid and more rewarding jobs using those skills - rather than passing them on to the children they were intended to teach. That's how the country got into the mess with all technology or science subjects: Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach (and those who can't teach, teach teaching).

So the end result will be a lot more IT people who also have a teaching qualification that they have no intention of using.

Until teaching certain subjects is moved outside the pay scales and working conditions of cash-strapped schools (and classes full of hostile "yoof" who have no will to learn, and can get a teacher fired just by making an unsubstantiated complaint against them) and made closer to the professionalism and salary structures of industry and commerce, there is little hope of getting talented people fronting up classrooms.

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

acefsw (2608289) | about 2 years ago | (#39540975)

First time posting, non geek...I'm in the US, my "programming" teachers were my maths teachers and I'm not sure why, as far as programming goes, this should not be the case. That said, last time I did any programming was mostly on papertape and cards in the 1970's when I was in grades 7-9, (junior high). At some point during that time, (and my math teacher was as excited as a child in a candy store when it arrived), we acquired a tandy, commodore, or some such. The only thing I remember was that we were required to write a BASIC game---mine was Tic Tac Toe--in order to pass. It was taught in conjunction with our elementary algebra/trig, (7th), geometry, (8th), and algebra/trig, (9th). Theory of how they physically worked was covered in science/physics. I'd think this would be a workable model without losing instructors in droves.

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

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#39547485)

As soon as you train up people (they won't be teachers unless they actually start teaching children, read on ... ) to be competent in computer or IT skills, they'll immediately go into better paid and more rewarding jobs using those skills

Not really, because the vacancies aren't there in any great numbers.

Even then, the alternative solution would be to take people with the IT skills and fast-track train them as teachers. A similar thing was proposed a few years back with maths and/or science IIRC.

I teach at my 7 year old sons school and... (1)

Cute Fuzzy Bunny (2234232) | about 2 years ago | (#39540867)

...teaching technology in k-12 is pretty much a complete waste of time, and it always has been.

The reason is that to teach kids this young, you're going to need good current equipment (which is expensive and schools have no budget, so they buy crap), and exceptionally talented teachers with both the technical chops and the ability to manage a classroom full of kids and explain their knowledge to them. Those guys can make six figures with their feet up on a desk and would therefore have very little interest in this kind of job.

Then you have a bunch of old crappy cheap hardware and software, and maybe a couple of guys to do the "IT" stuff that would be challenged to get a job at Bestbuy.

When I was in high school and took computer classes, we were being taught to punch cobol programs onto card decks and feed them into an old minicomputer with the results dumped to a line printer. It was ten year old tech then and useless once you graduated. Except for 2-3 colleges, most of the computer science programs were also teaching largely old useless stuff.

But my kids California school has a cool new approach. They bought millions of dollars worth of ipads for the students. The ipad has a questionnaire on it they answer when done reading a book. Except you cant get the kids to read the book because they want to play with the ipad. Then they get out of the questionnaire and into a game and it takes me 2 minutes to get it back to where its supposed to be, by which time the kids have derailed the rest of the ipads. At the end, we have to copy their answers off the ipad onto a piece of paper, because there is no IT infrastructure at the school to develop a cohesive way to integrate the ipad into the school work. So its a little fun for the kids, a pain in the ass for the teachers, and there is absolutely zero technology learning except for how to poke a capacitive screen.

The really fun part? We only get 5 ipads per classroom and all the reading groups in the area that I've worked with were groups of six. So one kid has to sit on their hands while the other 5 finish, then they get to do the test. This is usually the time I'm cleaning up and getting ready for my next group, but now I have to entertain a bored kid thats being kept from the toy, then go through the whole thing with them individually.

The good news is we got rid of the PE teacher and cut the library hours in half to meet budget constraints.

Re:I teach at my 7 year old sons school and... (2)

acefsw (2608289) | about 2 years ago | (#39541403)

Well, that sounds like a really stupid implementation of technology. Really though, I see no need why everything has to be cutting edge to understand the basics. We were taught some very elementary COBOL and BASIC, and if you wanted to learn more, FORTRAN was also an option. I had quite a few of my peers go into the tech/programming industry and I think being exposed young piqued their interest and having learned a language enabled them to tackle the languages taught at university because they already had a good grounding in the concepts of implementation. For instance, having learned Cobol/Fortran probably geared them to be able to learn C at university, and later in life/work picking up another program language like Python/Java or whatever is probably not that hard because your mind is accustomed to thinking in those terms regardless of the various syntax used. Just my .02. Personally, as a non-geek, it at least allowed me to use the IBM PC Jr, (POS, later got the XT), my Dad gave me for college--manipulating my autoexec.bat, etc. was not formidable because I had at least an elementary idea of what was going on, to RTFM if need be, and those concepts proved helpful for learning to use later DOS versions, etc. Plus, while hardware may have changed since, I still think those beasts accustomed me to being able to use the latest new thing now without trepidation--at the very least, I don't have to bother some geek to clean my registry, try out Linux for fun, change a hard drive, add a card, etc. Basically, I think it only needs to prepare the mind to think in those terms and not necessary to have mastered the latest language. Teaching kids SIMPLE or some such in elementary school would aid this and then later a more complex language--heck you could probably still teach BASIC and it would serve the same purpose.

Re:I teach at my 7 year old sons school and... (1)

Cute Fuzzy Bunny (2234232) | more than 2 years ago | (#39545147)

I agree. But the hardware has to work, it has to be reliable and have reasonable performance, and the implementation has to be able to take a room full of kids beating on it. I learned all the major languages back in the 70's and 80's pretty much on my own, and it was nice that the school offered some computing resources I could use to that end. But we turned out a lot of students that spent all year learning to do something that had no use or applicability.

Things dont have to be cutting edge, but the thing is that except for bluebird idiots who want 5 school children in each classroom to explore the bliss that is owning an ipad just like they do. Sadly the infrastructure and people to do something useful with them simply dont exist in our public school system.

I spent less than the cost of an ipad to buy a box of really good computer parts, and my son and I spent the weekend putting it together with a million questions. I did make him leave the room for 5 minutes while I made win7 activate on it using an old upgrade disk, because I knew there would be some foul language involved. Then we put a bunch of stuff on it like Scratch and I showed him the basics. Good launching point. I just wouldnt expect that to happen in a public or most private schools.

Re:I teach at my 7 year old sons school and... (1)

acefsw (2608289) | more than 2 years ago | (#39545705)

You sound like a good parent and you are definitely giving your child a good start as regards computer tech. I take it for granted that this the type of attention that you bestow upon your child will not be replicated in school. As far as public school finances, and especially in California, I'll agree that many states/communities don't have the will, (the penal system has more money allocated), or money to appropriately fund their school systems. That, to me, is a community/social failure and has no bearing on whether it can be done, because it can be done and is done quite successfully. Some communities do in fact give every child a laptop, (Radnor, Pa), which is rare, but most districts in my area have several computer labs which are used similarly to any other science lab environment e.g. class time x hrs a week, lab time x hrs.

Personally, I see no reason for every individual class of 7 year olds to have pcs/laptops/ipads in the classroom, (maybe a whiteboard), when it should be a computer lab room treated more along the lines of library time. They do in fact make hardware that can take abuse, (and I've seen worse behavior in some college labs). My point is that simple orientation, basic uses simple understanding of a language, (pick one, it doesn't matter which really), implementation, and basic understanding of architecture/circuits can be taught and it needs to be done in an age appropriate manner. The fact is that many in society do not wish to spend the money and many in charge are idiots--5 ipads to a classroom just to read and answer questions? That's what books and paper are for. Integration is key, but it should be relevant. Obviously, your school's implementation is not.

Personally, when I learned programming, we had 2 papertape, 1 punchcard, 2 line printers, and later 1 commodore, (?, maybe Apple or Tandy) with a keyboard and monitor that sat in the back of our math classroom in Junior High. We spent very little time using the equipment, most time was spent understanding the language. I have no idea what the High School had because I never took any of the computer classes offered. We were only required to learn some COBOL and BASIC in conjunction with math between 7th-9th. Understanding of circuits, etc. was taught in science. Computer science/programming was not treated as a separate discipline until H.S. Most likely, this methodology is all that the general population needs in order to be informed citizens, while at the same time encouraging children who have an aptitude for the subject. Frankly, I feel sorry for the kids being short changed while some of their peers seem to have everything.

Re:I teach at my 7 year old sons school and... (1)

KevReedUK (1066760) | more than 2 years ago | (#39546583)

Glad to see that out of date tech and teaching staff that can't get their heads around how to integrate it into lessons effectively isn't just a UK thing!

I, too, have quite a bit of experience of school computing (albeit on this side of the pond). I've been through it myself, I've worked as the IT support for a fairly large school with a budget large enough that we had an advantage over other schools in the area, and now I'm with my wife, I get exposure to how things (haven't) moved on in the last decade+ as her four daughters have all been through it far more recently than me.

Back when I was in school, we'd just got a "brand new" network put in. Fast Ethernet was not only available at the time, it was commonplace, yet our school opted to throw in a nice new 10-BASE-2 network (remember those). Our exposure to the computers was limited, to say the least. There was no dedicated computing curriculum, the IT department was one (part time) guy, and what little access we had to the computer rooms as kids was hamstrung by the teaching methods.

In mathematics lessons, we were introduced to LOGO. When I say "introduced" to it, I mean we were told exactly what to type to get the pretty pictures with no explanation of syntax, structure, or even what the commands actually did. We were not told how to modify the "programs" we were given to produce results other than those with which the teacher had furnished us, and if any of us figured any of the basics out for ourselves and tried to be creative and get it to do something new, it was seriously frowned upon.

In Science lessons, we were exposed to Excel. Not for formulae, or anything sensible like that,. but because it was the easiest way our teacher knew of to make pretty tables to put the results from our experiments in. We were, again, told where to click and what to type. None of us were given any understanding of just how powerful a spreadsheet could be (let alone that there were non-Microsoft ones available, too.).

In English lessons, we got let loose on Word and Publisher. I say "let loose". What I mean is, we could choose what text we put in, but when it came to anything more than simple typing, we were told what to click and when. No reasons why, no underlying theory, just copying and following instructions.

When it was time to select my A-Levels, I didn't have the option of choosing Computer Science. I had to pick a full complement of classes, then supplement with night classes at a local(ish) college to take my CS A-Level. WOW, were my eyes opened. The lecturers were from the real world, not academia. We covered the how-tos that the school had touched upon, but supplemented it with understanding of what each function was, what it does, why, etc. and also were exposed to the underlying theory. We dabbled in Pascal, but the thing that really had an impact on me, and made me decide that computing was to be my chosen career, was my new-found affinity for relational databases.

Roll the clock on to when I worked for a school and the reasons why the teachers never gave us the understanding to go beyond the simple instructions became almost immediately clear. They'd never been taught computing, either, save for the simple little tasks that they were showing us. For example, our IT department was two people. My boss, who was a mathematics teacher by trade and had never worked in the industry. He taught the Computer Science and ICT curricula, held the purse strings, and had the final word on anything strategic in terms of the network. The other was me, fresh out of school and in my first full-time job. The other teachers all had to bring classes into the computer rooms as well, due to guidelines on percentages of contact time to be spent in school ICT suites. Few of them understood anything about simple off-the-shelf office packages besides the few (very) simple tasks they had had to pick up to survive their time in academia. All but a few of them grumbled about not knowing what to do with the kids once they got them into the suite, and even those that did have a clear plan of how they wanted to spend their time in the computer room needed me to take them by the hand and help them get their classes through it step-by-step. The situation was so bad that network admin had to take a back seat, to an extent, because alongside booking diaries for each of the suites, they also had one where they could book my time to help with their lessons and that was, in contrast to those for the suites, always full.

Halfway through my time there, the government came up with a wonderful idea. Lets offer all the teaching staff and librarians (not support staff, mind you, just the teachers and librarians) subsidised ECDL courses (which, at the time, were only modules 1 - 7). Uptake in my school was as near to zero as to be practically unmeasurable. Anecdotally, it appears that the same was true of most schools in my area. The government also gave teachers and librarians the opportunity to buy certain laptops or desktop computers at a subsidised price from certain authorised suppliers (anyone want to guess which supplier had the lions share of that trade?). I never did find out what was considered so special about librarians!

Needless to say, I found a better job and jumped ship. It was obvious that the computing education system was unfit for purpose, but what was I going to be able to do about it in an entry-level, non-teaching position?!? Luckily, it only took me two years to get out of there and into the juicy world of the Ministry of Defence. Better hardware, better software, loads of in-house stuff and staff who actually had a clue what to do with it all (well... most of them... I'll leave those anecdotes for another occasion!).

So, has the situation improved in the time since I left the school? Well, if my step-daughters' experiences are anything to go by, the answer is a resounding NO. Interactions with computers in the school is scripted, and they come home with little, if any, understanding of how to deviate from the script to get different results (a different pattern in LOGO, bold instead of italics in Word, calculating averages or sums automatically in Excel to name just a few of the obvious ones). It seems that the local kids leave school so used to following a script when in front of a computer screen, that the dominance of call centres in the local economy almost becomes understandable. If a kid has spent their entire school life learning by rote, they're perfectly prepared for life as a script-monkey!

So how do we solve the problem? For a start, we need to get teams of trained techs in schools to run the networks, and they need to hold the purse-strings to the departmental budget. After one or two years, with the proper investment, you'll have flexible, fit-for-purpose networks in the schools, rather than the limited modular alternative you end up with when you use the one preferred supplier. IT infrastructure benefits practically all subjects, so it should have a separate budget, rather than one budget for both infrastructure and IT teaching. Mandate that all teaching staff who will be taking lessons in the computing suites have at least ECDL modules 1 - 7 level knowledge of the systems. Perhaps, make ECDL a target for pupils to attain before leaving school, rather like they try to get all pupils to take English, Maths & Science? (That one I'm not so sure about...)

Without wishing to sound anti- or pro-Microsoft, I also think kids should be educated that there are alternatives. I'm not saying that schools should be forced to either abandon or embrace Microsoft products against their will, they should use whatever is most suitable for the job. What I am saying is that it should be made clear to the kids that just because the school uses a particular package, doesn't mean it's the only game in town (let alone the best game in town).

Education should also cover life in the modern digital space. Things that come to us as second nature (Ethics, "netiquette", privacy, safety and security). Most schools have a Code of Conduct covering use of the schools IT systems (I know mine did, after a little arm-twisting by me), but as far as the kids (and parents) see them, this is just the schools laying down the law and controlling their own networks. There is no attempt made to instil an understanding of the reasons for the rules in the code. If there was, then not only would adherence within the school be less patchy, it may even extend to home computers and, by extension, parents and siblings.

That's all the difficult stuff. Now onto a new name for it. If we're going to have one curriculum for the teaching of computing in the UK (or just England, but preferably the whole of the UK), we need to do away with all the different names and just settle on one. It can be one of the ones we already have, or something new, but there should just be one name. We currently have CS (Computer Science), IT (Information Technology), ICT (Information and Communications Technology, despite the fact that the internet is the only "communication" involved, and even that is a lesser part of the course), IBS (Information and Business Systems - I thought it stood for Irritable Bowel Syndrome, but obviously not!), BS (not what you're thinking... Business Systems) and IS (Information Systems)! (have I missed any?). Why not just do away with the alphabet soup and just call the damn subject "Computing"?

I'm somewhat ashamed to say that I don't think most schools get this, let alone the government, so what hope do we have of turning such a situation around? There are some brilliant teachers out there who are being failed by the quality of the tech in their establishments. There are others who have been failed by their training, or haven't been given the opportunity to update their skills. There are skilled Techs, Network Managers and Systems Engineers who, if the money was right (which is another sore point of mine. I know public sector pay is sub industry standard, but not normally by that much! Why do support staff always have to be the lowest of the low?!?), would jump at the chance to take the reins of a school's IT infrastructure and actually get it to a stage where it's helping, rather than hindering, learning. The saddest thing of all, and the least excusable, is that we have kids out there who, if exposed to IT in the right way, could be some of the brightest minds in computing over the coming decades.
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