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Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, and Lately, Coding

samzenpus posted about 7 months ago | from the show-and-tell dept.

Education 125

theodp (442580) writes "The NY Times reports that the national educational movement in computer coding instruction is growing at Internet speeds. 'There's never been a move this fast in education,' said Elliot Soloway, a professor of education and computer science at the Univ. of Michigan. But, cautions the NY Times' Matt Richtel, it is not clear that teaching basic computer science in grade school will beget future jobs or foster broader creativity and logical thinking, as some champions of the movement are projecting. And particularly for younger children, the activity is more like a video game — better than simulated gunplay, but not likely to impart actual programming skills. 'Some educators worry about the industry's heavy role,' adds Richtel. 'Major tech companies and their founders, including Bill Gates and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, have put up about $10 million for Code.org,' which recently announced its CS programs will be rolled out to more than 2 million students — nearly 5% of all U.S. K-12 students — at 30 school districts this fall. Among the 20,000 teachers who Code.org says have signed on is Alana Aaron, a fifth-grade math and science teacher who, with her principal's permission, swapped a two-month earth sciences lesson she was going to teach on land masses for the Code.org curriculum. 'Computer science is big right now — in our country, the world,' she said. 'If my kids aren't exposed to things like that, they could miss out on potential opportunities and careers.'"

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Computer science? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46974339)

Once again, another ignoramus has the false idea that coding is all there is to computer science. I don't expect the actual 'education' to be all that great, as usual.

Re:Computer science? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46974363)

Mathematics is key; yet we have the blind leading the blind..

Just like there's a difference between being a code monkey and an engineer.

Either way you'd be better off teaching your kids to be accountants, lawyers, doctors, or just about anything else. Programming is not a profession, and programmers and technology workers in general are exploited by those who control the finances.

I'm happy I left the cube world behind, and can do what I wish now.

Understand compound interest, or you will pay it to those who do..

Re:Computer science? (1)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | about 7 months ago | (#46974441)

Understand compound interest, or you will pay it to those who do..

History shows that if you "win" with compound interest, you will later be executed by your fellow man. And, rightly so.

Re:Computer science? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46974613)

You keep believing that, and I'll keep enjoying my early retirement. Hope the cube farm lets you wear some more flair.

Learn to code? Sure. Run the hell away from the technology space if you can. Military, finance, medicine, law.. anything.

Re:Computer science? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 7 months ago | (#46975801)

If shove comes to putsch you can always hire half the plebs to kill the other half.

You pay in arrears of course.

Re:Computer science? (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 7 months ago | (#46975029)

Mathematics is key; yet we have the blind leading the blind..

Coding is also key. CS is a lot more than just coding. But writing code is a fundamental skill. So is math. The difference is that if there is a flaw in your mathematical proof, you may not know it. If there is a flaw in your code, it doesn't work. Coding is better for teaching logical thinking because you get immediate feedback, and you can't fake it.

Re:Computer science? (1)

garyisabusyguy (732330) | about 7 months ago | (#46974373)

There are elements of coding that require planning, logic and completeness that have impacts far beyond computer science. Teaching people to rack servers and install operating systems becomes for focused and resembles learning a trade. While there are plenty of positive outcomes of learning a wide range of computer science skills, I see the effects of learning how to code as having a wider positive effect

Re:Computer science? (1)

Guy Harris (3803) | about 7 months ago | (#46974715)

There are elements of coding that require planning, logic and completeness that have impacts far beyond computer science. Teaching people to rack servers and install operating systems

Neither racking servers nor installing operating systems are elements of coding. They may be useful skills, but they have nothing to do with coding.

Re:Computer science? (1)

narcc (412956) | about 7 months ago | (#46975051)

That's what he said. Did you miss it?

Re:Computer science? (1)

Guy Harris (3803) | about 7 months ago | (#46975163)

That's what he said.

What he said was "There are elements of coding that require planning, logic and completeness that have impacts far beyond computer science. Teaching people to rack servers and install operating systems becomes for focused and resembles learning a trade."

This says nothing about the latter two items not being elements of coding, so, no, that's not what he said.

He doesn't explicitly say they are elements of coding, but he mentions them in a sentence immediately following a sentence that mentions elements of coding, and does so in a comment to an article discussing coding, so, if he thinks they're not elements of coding, it's not clear why he bothered to mention at all.

Re:Computer science? (0)

narcc (412956) | about 7 months ago | (#46975471)

Well, I can't argue with a guy who has trouble with basic reading comprehension. Enjoy pretending that you're right.

Re:Computer science? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 7 months ago | (#46975737)

Well, I can't argue with a guy who has trouble with basic reading comprehension.

Neither can I. Goodbye!

Re:Computer science? (1)

Guy Harris (3803) | about 7 months ago | (#46975813)

Well, I can't argue with a guy who has trouble with basic reading comprehension. Enjoy pretending that you're right.

Nope, so I won't bother arguing with you any more.

Re:Computer science? (1)

garyisabusyguy (732330) | about 7 months ago | (#46976579)

If you look at the original post, the AC was disparaging the article for focusing on coding over the 'rest' of computer science

My intent was to point out that coding involves a set of skills that have a wider general application than just focusing on computer science, which could be likened to training a person for a trade

I thought that I was being clear, and other posters seemed to get it, but you missed the point and essentially repeated what I said

Thanks for playing

Re:Computer science? (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 7 months ago | (#46974405)

Coding is basic to technology.

What's worse then a 'computer scientist' that codes? A 'computer scientist' that doesn't!

But engineers and scientists all need some coding skills. If only for problem solving. Coding is necessary to competently use a computer to solve problems.

Basic coding should be picked up naturally by kids going into any STEM track. It's a natural fit along side math. Start simple and mechanical...

Stuff an English major can do (1)

just_a_monkey (1004343) | about 7 months ago | (#46974805)

What's worse then a 'computer scientist' that codes?

Oh, I know, I know! A computer scientist that doesn't know the difference between "then" and "than"!

Smarter parser, faster menner (1)

tepples (727027) | about 7 months ago | (#46974811)

Or better yet a computer scientist who creates a smarter parser to distinguish "then" from "than".

Re:Smarter parser, faster menner (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about 7 months ago | (#46975143)

Easy: a computer scientist who would like to create a smarter parser to distinguish "then" from "than," but doesn't code, and so writes a spec outline instead. (Presumably in Word.)

Re:Stuff an English major can do (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 7 months ago | (#46975751)

Nah. How about one who writes a sentence with no verb?

If only for problem solving.

What an oik. Anybody would think he graduated from a UK university.

Re:Computer science? (3, Insightful)

Zmobie (2478450) | about 7 months ago | (#46975165)

Coding is necessary to competently use a computer to solve problems.

I have to strongly disagree here. I work as a software engineer and I have seen both sides of this coin. I have seen multiple people working as software engineers that could model and create respectable algorithms that couldn't use a computer beyond that to save their lives. CS =/= IT. I have also seen people that couldn't write "Hello World" if I gave them Eclipse and had it auto-create and format the shell for them, but they could do stuff with Excel and other pieces of software that I was unaware that software even had those features.

I am all for this movement of we need more software developers, because we have tons to be done and no where near enough people (course this kind of works in my favor, but that is neither here nor there), but bottom line is software development is not some elementary skill that you should teach every kid in the world. Some people are just not geared to do it. That doesn't mean that software developers are inherently better or something, just different. There are still plenty of things these people can do. I just feel like we should make sure the opportunity is there (which in a lot of cases it is not right now), not try to cram it down everyone's throat (like what some of these movements are doing, and in many cases they seem to only have a rudimentary understanding of what they are trying to do).

Code.org specifically I am on the fence about still, but there are quite a number of these other movements that are just plain hogwash ("learn to code in a year, in your spare time!" yea, right).

Re:Computer science? (4, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | about 7 months ago | (#46974527)

"Coding" is nothing more than translating what computer science created into what a computer understands. Equating computer science with coding is like equating architecture with putting down bricks to build the house.

Re:Computer science? (3, Informative)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 7 months ago | (#46975077)

"Coding" is nothing more than translating what computer science created into what a computer understands.

You are using a very narrow definition of "coding". Decades ago, a "computer scientist" would design an algorithm and perhaps draw a flowchart, then a "programmer" would implement it with pen and paper in a language such as FORTRAN, then a "key-punch operator" would key in the program and print the Hollerith cards. Today, nobody does it that way. Algorithms are designed directly into a high level language, and typed directly into the computer, by a single person. When people like Bill Gates talk about "coding" they are encompassing the entire process of algorithm design, implementation, and testing.

Re:Computer science? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46975851)

"Computer science" is the science of finding iterative solutions to abstract problems. It existed long before computers (as we use the word today) did.

Further, there is a world of difference between being able to use code to glue several third-party components together, and being able to create novel algorithms that solve hard problems. I have interviewed several candidates for senior level software development positions where I work, and some candidates with impressive resumes cannot, during the interview, define an object that can serve as a node on a tree, and then write a recursive algorithm to traverse it.

While it is true that in a modern dev environment, is rarely necessary to understand recursion, senior level candidates where we work need to be able to do some very creative work that can't always be solved by hitting Google or buying another third party component. That kind of problem-solving ability needs to be "on tap" if a developer will be successful here.

Re:Computer science? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 7 months ago | (#46975823)

Big hairy rat knackers.

I've taken the beancounters' rules for posting depreciation and coded it without there being a computer scientist near the building.

Re:Computer science? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46974539)

Without coding, there wouldn't be modern computer hardware.

Re:Computer science? (2)

nbauman (624611) | about 7 months ago | (#46974593)

Once again, another ignoramus has the false idea that coding is all there is to computer science. I don't expect the actual 'education' to be all that great, as usual.

The problem is that we have billionaires leading our education system into the latest fads rather than having educators and scientists leading our education system using what has been proven to work (and avoiding what has been proven to fail).

Re:Computer science? (3, Interesting)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 7 months ago | (#46975175)

having educators and scientists leading our education system using what has been proven to work

Where is the "proof" that what we are doing works? I live in California, and the three big things the "educators" are pushing are 1) Common Core, 2) Credentialed Teachers, and 3) Smaller classes. Here is the number of controlled studies that I have seen that show that that "Common Core" is effective: 0. Teachers with education credentials have been found to be LESS effective than teachers with degrees in other subjects. Teachers with advanced degrees in education, have found to have NO improvement over teachers with bachelors degrees in education (both are inferior). Lastly, there is astonishingly little evidence to show that smaller classes improve student performance, considering the billions spent on implementing them. Smaller class sizes have been shown to be beneficial in only narrow circumstances, specifically poorly performing students in lower grades. And in even then, there is some evidence that the real benefit is quieter classrooms rather than smaller classes. For brighter kids, the smaller classes often reduce performance, because they are more likely to be compelled to follow along with the class, rather than read ahead. So please tell us, where is the evidence that educators are using what has been "proven to work"?

Re:Computer science? (4, Informative)

nbauman (624611) | about 7 months ago | (#46975621)

having educators and scientists leading our education system using what has been proven to work

Where is the "proof" that what we are doing works? I live in California, and the three big things the "educators" are pushing are 1) Common Core, 2) Credentialed Teachers, and 3) Smaller classes. Here is the number of controlled studies that I have seen that show that that "Common Core" is effective: 0. Teachers with education credentials have been found to be LESS effective than teachers with degrees in other subjects. Teachers with advanced degrees in education, have found to have NO improvement over teachers with bachelors degrees in education (both are inferior). Lastly, there is astonishingly little evidence to show that smaller classes improve student performance, considering the billions spent on implementing them. Smaller class sizes have been shown to be beneficial in only narrow circumstances, specifically poorly performing students in lower grades. And in even then, there is some evidence that the real benefit is quieter classrooms rather than smaller classes. For brighter kids, the smaller classes often reduce performance, because they are more likely to be compelled to follow along with the class, rather than read ahead. So please tell us, where is the evidence that educators are using what has been "proven to work"?

I didn't say all educators and scientists were using what was proven to work, I said they should lead with what was proven to work. Some educators and scientists are doing that.

My major sources of information that has proven reliable over the years are:

(1) Science magazine. They regularly publish evidence-based reviews of what works in science education and education generally. I subscribe and most of it is paywalled, unfortunately.

One of the things that works in science is organizing students into study groups. That may seem obvious but most teachers don't do that and a lot of students aren't in study groups. Science had two special issues on minorities in education and they published the research on what works and doesn't work in science education.

They also reported on the studies of preschool, which does seem to work, although it has to be done carefully. One thing that doesn't work is teaching kids to read (which George W Bush thought was the purpose of preschool). The benefit of preschool seems to be teaching kids how to socialize, so that when they do learn to read they won't be discipline problems. By the time kids are in Kindergarten and first grade, most of the damage has already been done.

Science also examined high-stakes testing, and everyone agreed that the tests in No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top were not validated and so they're not showing student progress the way they're supposed to. For one thing, they're only valid for large populations, not for individual teachers. It's like firing teachers by throwing dice.

(2) Diane Ravitch, who used to be assistant secretary of education in both the GHW Bush Administration and the Clinton Administration. She used to write op-eds on the Wall Street Journal editorial page, and the WSJ loved her, because she was a conservative and came out for high standards, high-stakes testing, against unions, etc.

Then she said that after she reviewed the data, the evidence didn't support NCLB and RTTT. She said the one factor that was most strongly associated with academic achievement was family income. So if you want to judge teachers by their results, you should bring everybody up to the starting line and increase their income.

Second, she said, high-stakes testing didn't work. It didn't reflect the teacher's teaching ability. It merely reflected the student's family income.

Third, she said, charter schools didn't work. When the data came in, they were doing worse, on the whole, than the matched public schools and unionized schools they were intended to replace.

Fourth, she said, community schools are important, and shutting down community schools, some of which have been in the neighborhood for generations, and replacing them with school "choice," had bad results.

Ravitch has written a lot which is available on the Internet, so you can find it all with a Google search. Her articles in the New York Review of Books might be the best place to begin.

Re:Computer science? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 7 months ago | (#46975789)

But if we let bureaucrats and so-called eggheads make decisions that's communism and it makes baby jeebus cry.

Whereas skateboardface is by definition the smartest person ever because he's got loads of money. Yay AMERICA!

Re:Computer science? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 7 months ago | (#46975703)

Aye diddly aye, duly seconded!

On top of that, "at internet speed"? What the cunting fuck is that even supposed to mean? Is that like literally even more than totally exponentially fast?

Re:Computer science? (1)

Khashishi (775369) | about 7 months ago | (#46976411)

These are grade school kids we are talking about. Arithmetic isn't all there is to mathematics, but you have to start somewhere. Do you really expect to go into computer science theory to a bunch of kids?

Curriculum (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46974347)

Having technology classes would be fine, but I'd rather see perhaps 30 minutes 2-3 times a week in middle school, and 2 years tops in high school. Perhaps pass/fail, with students being able to choose the topic. From keyboarding, to powerpoint-type programs, to programming, hardware and simply how to navigate different operating systems. And it shouldn't be a requirement to pass, but to simply attend, if at all.

keyboarding is fucking stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46974507)

unless you want to become a secretary. if you have to take a class to type, you are the wrong type. It is a waste of time where the class time could be used for something productive.

When I look at a resume of a potential hire for a development row - if they don't have their WPM, I trash it. Well, that would make me an idiot. Taking a class to learn keyboarding to be a good secretary, or maybe we start doing high school internships at fast food places. A bit of a stretch, I know, but - it is not far from the truth.

And person with a function brain can type. No one cares if you are going for a real job, not some secretary bullshit. Yeah, I don't like the time waste. And the time is so limited which is why it pissed me off. Imagine paying 1200 bucks for a typing class. Now - typing classes are great if you are a lazy teacher.

Re:keyboarding is fucking stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46974669)

If you can type fast (without errors), you are better at communicating.

Reason:
- It is easy to start writing the mail/message, rather than let the issue be, because it takes so little effort from you.
- You can reply quickly.
- You can be more verbose.
- Once you have written something, you don't have that much value on it, because it didn't take effort. So once you read it, if you don't like it, you trash it. And perhaps rewrite.
- Your text contains less errors, because you can read it while you type.
- When writing code, you are more likely to write comments, again because it takes less effort.

So it is not so much about speed (except it makes conversations in a chat much more fun), but it is how you experience the effort to write. As you don't need to think about typing, you can use the brain power to something else.

One could argue that you could talk instead of typing, but that usually works only on 1-1 conversations. Being able to write HOWTOs and tutorials lets you help much wider audience (sure you could record your talk and play it as a video, but people generally hate watching videos if they just want to have quick answer for a small problems. But videos are great for other purposes of course.

Re:keyboarding is fucking stupid (1)

BilI_the_Engineer (3618871) | about 7 months ago | (#46974851)

Do you have evidence for any of that, or is this one of those cases where people trot out vague nonsense?

And where I work, your ability to solve complex logical problems is far, far more important than being able to do something utterly inconsequential like typing 'fast'.

- When writing code, you are more likely to write comments, again because it takes less effort.

Rather, I write comments because they help clarify why certain code exists in the way it does, and in some cases, what it's doing. Have some mercy on the next guy who has to work on it.

Re:keyboarding is fucking stupid (1)

Zmobie (2478450) | about 7 months ago | (#46975211)

- When writing code, you are more likely to write comments, again because it takes less effort.

Rather, I write comments because they help clarify why certain code exists in the way it does, and in some cases, what it's doing. Have some mercy on the next guy who has to work on it.

There are actually quite a few instances where you can put too many comments in the code. Often times if there are lots of comments to explain what a logic block does, rather than just explain design decisions, that means you are not using meaningful class-variable name structuring. There has actually been a very good movement at my company the past year or so to drastically improve coding standards and that was a big point that was brought up (I am quite glad too, between that and the damn hungarian notation in a strongly typed language some of our legacy code was just ugly as hell for no reason).

Re:Curriculum (2)

nbauman (624611) | about 7 months ago | (#46974545)

Curricula should be designed by science teachers and scientists. They shouldn't be designed by billionaires pushing their latest fad.

FTA: "swapped a two-month earth sciences lesson she was going to teach on land masses for the Code.org curriculum."

Coding is nice (although it's only a part of computer science). But what are you going to take out of the curriculum to make room for "coding"?

logo fills that bill;-) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46974757)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logo_%28programming_language%29

time 2 dust off my trusty ol ti99a & plug in the logo cart 4 the grandkids;-)

Gym? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46974899)

Well I'm sure a geek wont miss gym class?

seymour papert (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46974913)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seymour_Papert

captcha: compute:-)

If You Add... (1)

DexterIsADog (2954149) | about 7 months ago | (#46974349)

...the rudiments of organizing work into a series of logical steps, some dependent on others, then maybe this will help the kids.

The world doesn't need more code monkeys, but kids who have technical skills AND project management skills may get further.

Re:If You Add... (1)

garyisabusyguy (732330) | about 7 months ago | (#46974383)

start with learning logical foundations, then offer specific implementation skills if they desire it

at least you would end up with admins that have some foundations in development skills, rather than admins who memorized the manual for their favorite tech stack

Re:If You Add... (1)

xtal (49134) | about 7 months ago | (#46974515)

The people doing the funding there most certainly need more code monkeys..

Re:If You Add... (2)

PRMan (959735) | about 7 months ago | (#46974615)

My daughter is taking this right now and she showed it to me. Basically, then start by moving a character. Then they have to automate the moving of the character. Then, they have to make if thens and loops to move the character. I was actually pleasantly surprised.

try turtle graphics;-) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46974767)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turtle_graphics with logo

Concerned taxpayer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46974351)

Cant...Just Teach...

Hammer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46974359)

Meet screw.

Re:Hammer (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 7 months ago | (#46974537)

More like screw, meet ball.

Internet Speeds (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46974379)

growing at Internet speeds

So, really fast for anyone who can afford a decent education and unbearably slow for everyone else?

Add it to math curriculum? (4, Interesting)

Hussman32 (751772) | about 7 months ago | (#46974409)

It seems to me if you add coding to math curriculum, it would enhance both. In my high school during the '80's, boolean logic was not discussed at all, nor were principles like recursion, numerical approximation, and general algorithms. If those were added to algebra, geometry, and shown how computers help solve normally unsolvable problems (e.g. the simple pendulum without the law of sines approximation), the students understanding of both math and computer science would synergistically increase.

Math is hard! (1)

xtal (49134) | about 7 months ago | (#46974423)

..for average high school teachers.

Re:Math is hard! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46974565)

I know a guy with a physics degree from a pretty decent school who teaches high school. Sometimes people don't feel like going all the way to Phd and just want to get on with their life and start a family etc. so they stop with a bachelor's and go teach. Sure, he's not doctorate smart but his math skills are way beyond anything you will see in a public high school including AP classes.

Re:Math is hard! (2)

mysidia (191772) | about 7 months ago | (#46975021)

..for average high school teachers.

This is because they have education degrees, not Engineering or Mathematics degrees.

You don't really need to know math to get your Education degree. You just need to B*S* and/or cheat your way through one or two math courses.

Re:Math is hard! (2)

Zmobie (2478450) | about 7 months ago | (#46975253)

To be fair, unless you actually GET a STEM degree, that is pretty much what everyone does. It was rather pathetic when I took my math placement test for college, out of the entire probably 300ish people that were taking it during my introduction block/week, about 2 maybe 3 of us (I know because the lab tech told me) tested out to Cal 1 which was the highest you could get (Me and another guy were from the same high school class and both took our AB Calc exams, already had credit). 70% tested either college algebra or one class higher. When reviewing other course catalogs, there was not hardly ANY requirement to get to Cal 1 unless you were doing a STEM degree.

Hell, when I did digital logic, half the class was fucking horrible at boolean arithmetic of any form and they WERE engineering students. I quickly discovered most of them were cheating off of the handful of us that actually understood how to do it.

Re:Math is hard! (1)

mysidia (191772) | about 7 months ago | (#46976349)

Hell, when I did digital logic, half the class was fucking horrible at boolean arithmetic of any form and they WERE engineering students. I quickly discovered most of them were cheating off of the handful of us that actually understood how to do it.

Wow.. and those were engineering students. I specifically suspect that it is freshman level College Algebra (non-calculus), that the non-STEM majors mostly cheat at -- or get through without actually properly learning the material to a reasonable level of competence that their college's accredited curriculum requires them to have taken.

It's just one course. It's a lot easier for a student to get through one low-level course without learning the material, than to take a series of classes with a variety of professors, including some one-on-one interactions. These freshman Math classes are usually very large classes, often graded by computer via scantron as multiple choice tests, with most likely no quizzes.... Proctoring a test in an auditorium-sized room can be quite a challenge. Will they detect obvious copying? probably not.

There are also more subtle 'cheats' though, which may not even be a violation of academic dishonest --- just, any mechanism for exploiting a test without really having learned the material.

The bar is usually a "C or higher," and that happens to not be a very high bar, yet there are plenty of students who take and withdraw from the course multiple attempts; eventually a good number of "D" students are bound to brute force their way to a C without having understood the material or developed the problem solving abilities, probably, despite visiting TAs during office hours to pelt them with questions about the upcoming test -- just by good luck, memorization of certain problems, and good test taking skills.

Re:Add it to math curriculum? (2)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 7 months ago | (#46975753)

It seems to me if you add coding to math curriculum, it would enhance both. In my high school during the '80's, boolean logic was not discussed at all, nor were principles like recursion, numerical approximation, and general algorithms.

Coding isn't math. Nor is it boolean logic, recursion, numerical approximation, or algorithms. Coding is writing a program and that program may or may not include those things.

Re:Add it to math curriculum? (1)

s.petry (762400) | about 7 months ago | (#46976311)

Exactly! This is what we don't do most of the time in education, and can't usually because we focus on taking tests. Algebra introduces the basics of variables, and Algebra based Physics should be introduced at the same time as Algebra. Trig is visualized by Music, but kids are not required to take any type of music and when they do, it's to learn an instrument and not musical theory. Calculus is visualized by Calculus based Physics. Logic is introduced in Rhetoric, as is Debate. Programming logic is not very different from Philosophical Logic, so could be learned at the same time.

Long ago, we called this the "Classical Education System" and it was overturned for the Prussian Industrial Education system. Welcome to American Politics!

Silicon Snake Oil (3, Insightful)

nbauman (624611) | about 7 months ago | (#46974569)

http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejou... [vt.edu]

Stoll re-emphasizes his belief that the most comprehensive educational programming and technology systems could never replace a quality teacher. He recalls his own experience in a graduate physics class. The professor is discussing radiative transfer as Stoll is daydreaming in the back of the classroom. The professor realizes that Stoll isn't quite following the lecture and pauses to ask Stoll a few questions. Caught off-guard, Stoll has to think quickly and come up with a valid response. Fumbling through his first few questions, Stoll is skillfully led to the answer by a talented professor, using the only educational tool available; the Socratic method. Stoll states that there are plenty of computer programs that calculate radiative transfer, and even admits to writing some of them. However he believes that there are no software programs which could have taught him "as effectively as goofing off in Professor Marty Tomasko's class did" (p. 120).

Re:Silicon Snake Oil (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46974787)

I'm not so sure...if the program is structured so that you don't move to the next screen and the next level until you've mastered the present one, and are referred back to remedial material and demanded responses before getting back to where you were, it seems pretty interactive/Socratic....Tomasko didn't catch Stoll for a few minutes...a structure program wouldn't let that slide...

Re:Silicon Snake Oil (2)

Zmobie (2478450) | about 7 months ago | (#46975287)

There is always a way to game the system. In my own anecdotal experience I agree that the professor makes a massive difference. In both CS and non-CS courses I understood subject material so much better when I had an engaging professor. Hell when I took data structures the concepts that I was shaky on from discrete math became substantially clearer thanks to the instructor I had (and he was just a teaching fellow!). I can program and automate a lot, but a proper teaching program? I believe there are way too many cases to make it truly effective without some crazy break-through in something like adaptive AI and human simulation.

Re:Silicon Snake Oil (1)

timeOday (582209) | about 7 months ago | (#46975231)

Yeah, so? Is it your contention that adding programming to the curriculum will lower the quality of instruction for some reason?

Re:Silicon Snake Oil (2)

nbauman (624611) | about 7 months ago | (#46975685)

Yeah, so? Is it your contention that adding programming to the curriculum will lower the quality of instruction for some reason?

No, it's my contention that good teachers know how to teach and can introduce programming (or not) into the curriculum in ways that will contribute to the educational process.

It is my contention that when programming (or anything else) is introduced to the curriculum by billionaires who are handing out money for the latest untested fad, it will lower the quality of instruction.

It is my contention that Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg don't know much about education, aren't qualified to decide what belongs in the curriculum, and shouldn't set priorities like this.

Re:Silicon Snake Oil (1)

timeOday (582209) | about 7 months ago | (#46975785)

OK, but what is the snake oil?

Re:Silicon Snake Oil (1)

nbauman (624611) | about 7 months ago | (#46976031)

OK, but what is the snake oil?

Clifford Stoll used that title for his book which argued that computers in education were being hyped beyond the evidence.

Re:Silicon Snake Oil (1)

timeOday (582209) | about 7 months ago | (#46976199)

But this story isn't about throwing computers into the classroom to improve performance in other areas. It's about teaching programming for its own sake, mainly because it's an employable skill.

Re:Silicon Snake Oil (1)

Bite The Pillow (3087109) | about 7 months ago | (#46976637)

Statistically speaking, no student will ever be in a class with a professor like Tomasko. I assume there is a backup plan for the teachers who manage to make the student hate something they liked?

Wow! Hello World is relevant? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46974575)

Really? I would be impressed with the study if it actually specified Non-Pathetic (let alone non-trivial) programs.
Yes, it is useful to get kids interested in computing.
No. Hello World is _NOT_ going to achieve that. This needs to be a deeper program.
Speaking from personal experience, my interest in computing in high school was solely due to more complex programs.
These days, I modify LLVM and our Chip simulator and get paid for it.

Precluding Whiners/Snipers: Yes, I've been around computing for quite a while. Yes, I do have a couple of patents issued as inventor; No, None of those are business/process patents.

Re:Wow! Hello World is relevant? (1)

narcc (412956) | about 7 months ago | (#46975421)

No. Hello World is _NOT_ going to achieve that. This needs to be a deeper program.

Most classes tend to get past the first day.

I'm curious as to what you expected. Did you honestly think even the least competent instructor could stretch that out to 6 weeks?

idea is OK, but how will the execution be? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46974583)

Will we teach kids a bunch of propriety toolchains that will be obsolete and disused by the time they get into the real world? Guessing yes.

Will we teach them sound theoretical backgrounds? Guessing no.

Will they be exposed to actual fundamentals of computer architecture, and building on that? Guessing no.

Will they be taught (from the start) languages that hide the machine from you? Not that these are bad, but it's bad to ONLY know them? Guessing yes.

We'll see, but I'm not optimistic, once moneyed interests get involved.

Re:idea is OK, but how will the execution be? (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | about 7 months ago | (#46974717)

Will we teach kids a bunch of propriety toolchains that will be obsolete and disused by the time they get into the real world? Guessing yes

The answer is to teach them COBOL. That seems to keep running and running.

Re:idea is OK, but how will the execution be? (1)

Kittenman (971447) | about 7 months ago | (#46975573)

Will we teach kids a bunch of propriety toolchains that will be obsolete and disused by the time they get into the real world? Guessing yes

The answer is to teach them COBOL. That seems to keep running and running.

Hey, I'm working at a site that uses COBOL, you insensitive cl.. oh, I'm sorry. Yes, it does just keep going. God knows why, meantime I'll just bank the cheques.

Re:idea is OK, but how will the execution be? (1)

narcc (412956) | about 7 months ago | (#46975437)

Will we teach them sound theoretical backgrounds? Guessing no.

Yeah, they're totally going to skip loops, variables, conditional branching, etc. and focus exclusively on visual studio's UI.

No kidding (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 7 months ago | (#46974601)

"Some educators worry about the industry's heavy role"

That's because the industry wants only one thing, plentiful programmers, which equates to cheap programmers. This is a barefaced attempt to flood the future programming market and depress wages. Obviously it also means that a lot of kids, almost certainly the majority, are being taught skills of little to no value. So much for potential opportunities and careers.

Re:No kidding (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46974727)

All education dilutes the value of the knowledge workers who have already been initiated. "I've got mine" so now take the ladder up behind me? Code-monkey is the new factory worker. If you can't hack together some code, enjoy competing for the table scraps.

-If you are competing for table scraps: you're a drain on society or too impoverished to create work for service workers.
-If you don't like a trend of being unable to extort high salaries for doing menial CS labor: enhance your skill.

Society under capitalism is a brutal rank & yank. If you don't want to be homeless: either get the required capital & skills to become an employer and enjoy the benefits of people competing for a paycheck, become a social welfare recipient(and use your voting power to increase your quality life via a basic income), or be the best at whatever it is you do.

There are too many hungry people willing to do your job for you to get away with complacency, and trying to keep your skills a secret will just make the transition to homelessness or welfare recipient that much more painful when the levee fails.

Re:No kidding (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 7 months ago | (#46974949)

There are too many hungry people willing to do your job for you to get away with complacency, and trying to keep your skills a secret will just make the transition to homelessness or welfare recipient that much more painful when the levee fails.

Socioeconomic commentary like the above works better when the companies involved aren't being brought up before the courts on charges of artifically trying to keep worker wages depressed.

Re:No kidding (1)

narcc (412956) | about 7 months ago | (#46975459)

Well, programming is ridiculously easy. I'm sorry, but being able to write computer programs does not make you special, indicate that you're above average, or whatever else it is that supports your ego.

Perhaps you should have also developed other skills?

Re: No kidding (3, Insightful)

russotto (537200) | about 7 months ago | (#46975721)

Actually, judging from the proportion of people who can't do it (even among those who claim they can), being able to write computer programs does make me special. But you could say the same for wiring a light switch or installing a faucet. Most people have no technical skill at all.

Re:No kidding (1)

Hadlock (143607) | about 7 months ago | (#46976119)

The average person has trouble diagnosing network problems on their home PC; programming a computer to do things it doesn't already do, or even scripting a sequence of events is beyond most people who aren't already in IT. Putting together a dashboard for ten or twelve of our critical processes is so far beyond most people in our company that the old one wasn't able to be maintained and I'm having to write a new one from scratch. Being able to see how things are put together, then rearranging them to meet your needs can be taught, but as a natural gift is actually rather rare, which is why we never got around to mechanical computers until the last 120 years or so.

That supply/demand curve (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46974635)

... is not going to deteriorate itself. H1Bs are the short term strategy for keeping the salaries low. This is the long term strategy. If there were so many great opportunities in IT, surely people would be flocking to get degrees in IT.

Wrong skills, too early (3, Insightful)

petes_PoV (912422) | about 7 months ago | (#46974665)

miss out on potential opportunities and careers

If you teach a 10 year old to write "code", that won't help them in 8 or 10 years time when they try to apply for a job. The "code" technology will have moved on in that time, so the stuff they learned a decade ago will be obsolete. The knowledge that a professional programmer has, has a half-life of a few years: maybe as long as 5 years in some areas - possibly as a short as 1 or 2 in rapidly developing fields of work.

Since nobody can tell what skills will be needed in the next decade, learning a particular coding language, the "learning to code" is almost certainly teaching the wrong language to children. It would be far better to teach them basic maths, basic logic and how to think in abstract terms - rather than focusing on tangible, here and now, stuff that will produce children who can blink an LED on a Raspberry Pi today, but will have no clue about hw to deal with the "AI on a chip" they might be faced with when they start their professional careers.

When I started my first job after graduating, the job description didn't even exist when I started my university course. So what is the chance that teaching 5 or 10 year children a specific computing skill will be relevant to their career prospects in 10-15 years time?

Re:Wrong skills, too early (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46974977)

I didn't put knowing my multiplication tables on my resume. Stuff you learn when you are 10 isn't supposed to get you job security, its part of a learning process that will include more stuff in the future (Like vector calculus, and 20 other programming languages).

I was taught coding when I was ~8 or so. Sure that language didn't end up as one of the ~20 programming languages on my resume when I graduated, but it really helped get me started thinking in logically robust ways, and learning other languages. Also, my coding was the main driver behind my learning: symbolic algebra (you need that for coding) trigonometry and geometry (you need that for games), numerical integration and further calculus (you need that for programming motion) linear algebra (that's needed for physics, graphics and more) and lots of other things. Learning to code young is plenty useful. In addition to giving you ways to apply your knowledge from other fields, it helps you think logically, and if you are interested can get you started learning other useful things, be them computer science related or others. Its not hard, and I see no reason not to provide the opportunity.

If everyone knew basic coding, physics and math classes could be structured to take advantage of it. Knowing to code really helps emphasize whats important: If you need to solve a class of geometry problems (say you get some parameters for a triangle and need to compute the others) coding up an application to do this can make sure you know about all the different cases, and when you are done you have something pretty useful. Coding is great for calculus (numerical methods) and physics. My advanced physics class in high-school got a bit into coding to do some simulation which was a great project, but would have been trivial to do if everyone new very basic coding concepts (they are language independent). I haven't done much chemistry, but I can basic coding being useful there too.

There is a reason that I got an intro to coding from 6 departments at my university (Statistics, Math, Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, Applied Mathematics and Physics): Its so useful that even non computer science related fields covered it since it aided their teaching and the ability of the students enough to be worth it. If everyone has a basic coding background, those classes wouldn't have spent half the time on coding just so they could use it. Getting that over with once in middle school or highschool (or earlier) would allow these advantages to be available for much more of peoples education.

Re:Wrong skills, too early (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46975071)

What a pathetic collection of cliche's! `Coding is great for calculus', '... it would help students understand' ... . This is so ridiculous but sounds sooo academic, I am laughing and crying at the same time. Giving students a general idea of what a computer does and how it does it is not so bad. It does not take a `coding' class though. This new fad is simply following the usual `students like applications' line of thinking. I have got news for you: they do not. They like easy grades, that is all.

Re:Wrong skills, too early (2)

Your.Master (1088569) | about 7 months ago | (#46975953)

Your problem is that you're thinking that coding is an end unto itself.

That's a possible use of education, but this discussion is about programming as a tool to be used in math and science classes. And I have news for you -- it already is. In University science classes, you need to code, right from the first year. Maybe you use Matlab rather than a "serious, production-quality" language, but Matlab is still coding.

Even in high school, it was often most effective to use a spreadsheet, and that's what we were encouraged to do even back in 2000 -- that's not exactly coding but it's not exactly unrelated either.

For math it's even more stark -- a computer is basically a souped-up calculator. For analytic courses, you don't need either (though at the University level, Maple or Mathematica are quite useful for analytics...). For numerical courses, if you deny the use of at least a simple calculator once you're beyond teaching simple long division, then you're a bit of a dinosaur.

So why is there a startling disconnected between first year University and final year high school in terms of programming? One of those things has to be wrong. I suggest that it's the high school that's wrong. If you don't teach kids to code, then there is a world of exploration and experimentation that is either unavailable to students or put behind arbitrary barriers, and it also doesn't give a realistic insight into how science is done in the modern age.

As for it being a fad -- where I grew up, I learned to code with logo in elementary school. Can't remember the exact age I was but I think I was 8 when it was introduced, which would have been 1992. Things like Hyperstudio etc. encouraged us to seek out computers and make simple programs of them on our own time. The first "real programming" was when it got optional, and started at age 15 with C. I'm kind of stunned at how people expect so much less than I got in a rural middle-of-nowhere town, even now in 2014.

Need Logic (2)

mx+b (2078162) | about 7 months ago | (#46975623)

I think some have pointed out that coding develops logic skills, but I think that's reversing the "real" direction -- that logic skills help develop coding (and numerous other technical skills! and even just plain mathematics understanding). And yet, I have not seen any discussion about logic in our rush to improve education. AFAIK, Common Core doesn't even mention logic ( I browsed through the standards once for a couple hours but I don't recall ever seeing it).

Basic propositional/symbolic logic should be taught and reinforced over and over in high school, particularly your last few years. I'm not an expert on childhood brain development, but I have the suspicion our middle school kids could do it fine too.

At university, I was appalled by how many students were completely dumbfounded in a basic logic class. We're talking problems understanding if-then statements, and why affirming the consequent is bad. We didn't even get to symbolic logic that much, it was mostly analyzing simple sentences. I'm sure everyone could, and ultimately did, learn it, but you shouldn't even be able to get into a university without knowing logic. And that isn't all the students' fault -- that's the failure of the adults for not pushing for appropriate curricula. After that class, I became pretty convinced that its not that our kids are bad at math per se, but that they have a really hard time following logic arguments and therefore, mathematical arguments.

Re:Wrong skills, too early (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46976323)

A child that took an introductory course in Java 10-15 years ago would be well-served today.

Re:Wrong skills, too early (1)

StormReaver (59959) | about 7 months ago | (#46976591)

Since nobody can tell what skills will be needed in the next decade, learning a particular coding language, the "learning to code" is almost certainly teaching the wrong language to children.

Teaching several languages is just a vehicle driving all of the things you mentioned; they are all the natural results of learning multiple programming languages. Each language contributes to a person's understanding of abstract terms. Teaching multiple languages will even mitigate against the stupidity of "teaching the keystrokes" that currently infests most "introduction to computers" classes.

Re:Wrong skills, too early (1)

Bite The Pillow (3087109) | about 7 months ago | (#46976689)

I learned Basic, visual basic, C, C with function pointers, C++, and of course others before my first job. Other than the framework, I've been learning the fundamentals of C# all along.

Similar with scripting languages, for databases, for all manner of jobs.

There are completely new ideas like NoSql, but it is hard to generalise irrelevance 20 years out. Did I learn C first? No, but I had to learn a throwaway language so I could generalise and apply when learning C. Ah, I can write my own MID function. I could write my own libc. Someone did. It's turtles all the way down. Bootstrap? Asm. x86, 6502, PPC, 68k. Now I get it.

I had to start somewhere, these kids have to as well. Or should we just skip to a negative 15 year old language to teach?

Hpw about (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46974667)

cancer reseachers? How come we don't get a lot of requests for H1-Bs for cancer reseachers? Hm? I see no problem with 150,000 H1-Bs for cancer reseafchers. But nooooo. They got to be for programmers. Fuck programmers and the horses they ride on.

Re:Hpw about (1)

Your.Master (1088569) | about 7 months ago | (#46975973)

There are H1-Bs given to cancer researchers; some cancer research corps are actually on the "exempt list" meaning they aren't subject to the cap on the number of H1-Bs.

This said -- does the US actually have a lot of open cancer research jobs to give to foreigners? I expect not, given how infamously out-of-whack researcher salaries are compared to the expected education level. You can think it's important, but it doesn't do any good to have a million visa slots available if you can only use them to fill a half-dozen jobs.

Next? (1)

StripedCow (776465) | about 7 months ago | (#46974685)

Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, and Lately, Coding

So, what would be next?

This is good!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46974689)

This is good!!... if you enjoy your every computer move to be remotely viewed by your micromanaging boss!

Logic is important. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46974921)

Any activities that help kids to develop their logic and reasoning skills will help them in their future. The coding itself is just a framework for learning logic.

Early exposure to programming (2)

dthirteen (307585) | about 7 months ago | (#46975017)

My school district provided early exposure via apple II computers. They showed up one summer with an extracurricular summer workshop and then one to two per classroom, and a computer lab in Jr. High. And while there was an Atari computer at home, I basically had all of my meaningful early exposure to programming via the school district, and the teachers who were willing to spend extra time learning about and then sharing how to use them. Starting at probably age 8 or 9, I used basic and then later logo. The logo continuing off and on until 8th grade when I was using functions/procedures, getting user input, redrawing the screen, etc. By 8th grade my programming was beyond the scope of the curriculum or programming knowledge of the teacher. These skills then lay dormant for 4-5 years resurfacing in college with the first two years of CS course work. Which then led to computer support employment and then high end systems/networking employment.

It is impossible to attribute my skills to nature v. nurture, but I believe that any meaningful early exposure to computer languages, problem solving, or independent exploration of programming to solve a problem or provide something new is a worthwhile investment.

Yes. Replace some of the math curriculum with it (1)

MacTO (1161105) | about 7 months ago | (#46975209)

As with others, I do see teaching programming in the early grades as a bit counter productive. However, teaching problem solving skills at an early age is valuable. Furthermore, using code to teach problem solving skills offers opportunities for visualizing problems. While that isn't useful for all learners, it is certainly useful for some learners.

There is something else that we should consider. Computers are going to be introduced into the curriculum whether we agree with it or not. Some of that is going to be the perception of keeping the curriculum relevant or to appear progressive. Some of that is going to be due to slick sales pitches from educational publishers, both of the textbook and software variety. If we go around nay-saying this, we are very much removing our voice from the table. Rather, we ought to be looking at what we want education to gain from the introduction of technology and to try to steer the education system away from counterproductive implementations. (For example: focus upon transferrable skills rather than pandering to industry interests.)

Code.org (1)

westlake (615356) | about 7 months ago | (#46975311)

K-8 Intro to Computer Science Course (15-25 Hours) [code.org]

Free to all, not a sampling, and includes all resources needed for off-line instruction and activities.

Basic programming concepts are introduced in the second session ("The Maze") using graphical building blocks. You can expose the equivalent JavaScript code.

First Three (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 7 months ago | (#46975475)

If you can't do the first three, what makes you think you'll get the Forth?

reading writing arithmetic & CHESS (2, Interesting)

johnrpenner (40054) | about 7 months ago | (#46975493)

what would really help prepare children better than writing code is playing chess — it will help them learn how to think logically and consistently — if they learn it in chess first — learning all the various changing semantics of languages that may come and go will be trivial — if they got a good grounding in thinking properly through chess. a couple years of chess for grades 5-10 should be mandatory in every school curriculum.

chess is even more important than learning to how to code — because to get anywhere with code, you have to immerse yourself in a language, an API, an IDE, and a way of thinking that is large, legacy, and arcane. by contrast, chess gets it down to the critical skills in a pretty efficient way.

teach chess, then code later will be a piece of cake — because chess teaches the essential skills of grasping clear thoughts/moves in a facile way with the mind — and this mind muscle can be brought to higher level of logical consistency and clarity of thought with chess. something that is simple, yet lends itself to the greatest sophistication.

another reason to teach chess is science standards — lack of critical thinking in regards to science is a reflection of a nation that has lost its ability to think clearly upon basic subjects. chess is the remedy for a lack of clear and lucid thinking on many subjects.

one must work the mind, or it becomes weak, and unable to judge things very well — and then tends to be easily manipulated by political and emotional cues.

2cents

Logic and Critical thinking (3, Interesting)

Kittenman (971447) | about 7 months ago | (#46975605)

This topic comes up once a quarter, or so. I agree with the gent above suggesting 'Chess' but in a different way. Teach the original abstract, not the implementation. If we've time and room in the curriculum, teach the kids logic. This will let them code, play chess, think, reason and analyze no matter what the end up doing for a crust in later life.

And 'Critical thinking' - which someone had taught me that at Scumbag High. I had to work a lot of it out myself in later life. With Critical thinking around, we'd have a lot less homeopaths, psychics, spiritualists, gamblers...

Let them be! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46976085)

"If my kids aren't exposed to things like that, they could miss out on potential opportunities and careers"

Translation: If they don't learn what I think they should learn, they won't get the money I want them to get.

Sheesh. Why can't we just let kids learn what interests them?

I don't remember much of anything about Spanish class, yet I enjoy mexican food. FYI: There was no class about mexican food in school, just home economics, which was mostly about money saving, spending habits, and healthy eating/cooking preparation.

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