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glenn66
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Re: Getting Teachers Onboard (UK)

Mon Nov 28, 2011 9:51 pm

First post...

I've spent the last 12 years working as an ICT advsior for a local education authority in the UK. I'm excited by the RaspberryPi project at a personal level (I have an MSc in Microelectronics), but I'm wondering how much impact it will really have in UK schools?

Over the last few months Google, Microsoft et al have been (quite rightly) bemoaning the fact programming is no longer being taught in any great amount in UK schools. First of all, this isn't strictly true. Every primary school teaches basic programming using BeeBots, Roamers and Logo and over the last 3 years I have seen a significant and growing interest in MIT's Scratch in primary schools in my authority. What we are not seeing is a progression in skills when these children reach post-primary (secondary) school. There is a definite skills gap at Key Stage 3 (11-14 for anyone outside the UK), which in turn is affecting exam course choices at Key Stage 4 and beyond.

In my work I have seen a steady decline in the number of specialist ICT teachers coming through teacher training and many who do have followed the 'ICT' route so have little or no programming experience. The specialists are mainly working at the post-16 end ('A'-level Applied ICT, Computing, etc) with some teaching GCSE, but in my area the bulk of teachers taking ICT are non-specialists, everything from Business Studies teachers to Home Economists.

There has been a lot of discussion on this forum on the language(s) that will be available on the RP and everything from Python to machine code has cropped up, but in the real world very few teachers that I have worked with are going to take any of this up due to time constraints and a lack of resources to train them. As an example we have struggled to get schools to take up GameMaker for the Games Programming element of GCSE and still have schools using Excel to create a quiz for this element, which isn't exactly stimulating.

As a school programming tool for the masses it is going to need to be something reasonably simple, applicable and linked to exam syllabi. As most of the teachers I work with use Visual Basic, I would suggest Gambas as a serious contender for the 'school' language of choice for the RP. Gambas is as close to VB as anything open source I have seen so teachers already using VB should be able to transfer to Gambas relatively easily and in fact I have already got someone to try this and all went well.

So my question is, will the RP be able to run Gambas? If so, I could start making tentative plans to support this.

obarthelemy
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Re: Getting Teachers Onboard (UK)

Mon Nov 28, 2011 9:56 pm

Thanks for a very clear exposé.

Request to everyone: please do use ages, as above poster is doing, instead of grades/levels/classes, so that we can talk across borders and school systems.

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Re: Getting Teachers Onboard (UK)

Mon Nov 28, 2011 10:01 pm

Quote from glenn66 on November 28, 2011, 21:51
So my question is, will the RP be able to run Gambas? If so, I could start making tentative plans to support this.


I've installed Gambas2 from the Debian repos and ran various example applications on my alpha board. It runs great.

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Re: Getting Teachers Onboard (UK)

Mon Nov 28, 2011 10:03 pm

Quote from glenn66 on November 28, 2011, 21:51
In my work I have seen a steady decline in the number of specialist ICT teachers coming through teacher training and many who do have followed the 'ICT' route so have little or no programming experience. The specialists are mainly working at the post-16 end ('A'-level Applied ICT, Computing, etc) with some teaching GCSE, but in my area the bulk of teachers taking ICT are non-specialists, everything from Business Studies teachers to Home Economists.Non-specialist computer science teachers isn't necessarily a bad thing as long as they are enthusiastic. The level won't reach that high anyway and it is better to have teachers relating to real world problems.

Gambas is available is most Linux distros (and certainly Debian and Fedora, which is relevant for R-Pi).

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glenn66
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Re: Getting Teachers Onboard (UK)

Mon Nov 28, 2011 10:11 pm

Quote from asb on November 28, 2011, 22:01
I've installed Gambas2 from the Debian repos and ran various example applications on my alpha board. It runs great.

"Outstanding, Red Team, outstanding! Get you a case of beer for that one."

That's what I wanted to hear, now I can start 'selling' this thing to the Luddites :)

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glenn66
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Re: Getting Teachers Onboard (UK)

Mon Nov 28, 2011 10:22 pm

Quote from kme on November 28, 2011, 22:03
Non-specialist computer science teachers isn't necessarily a bad thing as long as they are enthusiastic. The level won't reach that high anyway and it is better to have teachers relating to real world problems.

I can't argue with that KME, but enthusiasm is currently in short supply so the 'teaching language' needs to be relatively familiar and easy-to-use.

I think once the RP becomes embedded teachers will try new things with it, but at the start it has to be very accessible. I have a sneaking suspicion that the Technology and Design people may become the beacons for this.

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Re: Getting Teachers Onboard (UK)

Mon Nov 28, 2011 10:40 pm

My employer has a lot of clients in the educational sector, they supply software to several London Borough Councils for their Schools. We have a customer contact agent who spends a lot of time visiting sites to glean requirements for updates to the software. Basically to generate repeat business for us. He speaks to teachers a lot and from what he tells me, most teachers without the required IT experience are unlikely to take time out of their schedule to learn things themselves so they could teach it to their pupils. So that could represent the biggest barrier to uptake within UK Schools it seems.

To quote the late Frank Oppenheimer, "the best way to learn is to teach".

I don't know where this reluctance comes from, but I have never been a teacher - so I won't profess to fully understand their situation. I used to know a guy who worked in some inner city London schools as a supply teacher. He told me it was hell on earth. I learnt from his wife he used to come home some nights and just cry. A grown man this is!

We have a problem in the UK with a certain piece of legislation which leaves teachers powerless to control disruptive children. This is the Child Protection Act. While the Act was designed and intended to protect children from abuse (which it does) it has also made them totally untouchable by people who should have authority over them. It has given us the phenomenon commonly known as chavs. So I take my hat off to any teacher in secondary education who has to deal with this kind of thing on a daily basis.

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scep
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Re: Getting Teachers Onboard (UK)

Mon Nov 28, 2011 11:10 pm

glenn - if you've not already seen it, you might want to take a look a Computing at School

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glenn66
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Re: Getting Teachers Onboard (UK)

Mon Nov 28, 2011 11:37 pm

Scep, I've seen Computing at School and think it is a great idea, but I don't think it is for beginners and unfortunately as far as programming goes that's where most of the teachers delivering ICT are. I was talking to a guy today who is a non-specialist ICT teacher, a real wiz on MS Access (he's my go-to guy when I get stuck on it!), but has never programmed and said he wouldn't be comfortable teaching programming at the minute. I think 'comfort zones' is part of the problem.

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Re: Getting Teachers Onboard (UK)

Mon Nov 28, 2011 11:57 pm

Hi

I am an old school 8bit programmer who is kind of bemused that computing has dissapeared from schools. I learned to program when i was a teenager as a kind of hobby. I have never worked in IT etc. and went on to study fine art!! But programing is something that stayed with me (i guess a bit like latin does) and i eventually ended up teaching interactive media and publishing software on iphone.

Plus i am now studying postgrad physical computing.

I also teach in an FE college and am keen to encourage my students to explore programing.

I do think it will take government initiative as nothing changes in education with out government say so.

kieron

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Re: Getting Teachers Onboard (UK)

Tue Nov 29, 2011 12:06 am

commenting on somethings mentioned above.

I have no formal qualification in programming or computing (i did a BA in Fine Art) but am frequently astounded at how low the knowledge of ICT trained lecturers is in areas of programming and scripting. Part of why i am doing a masters in physical computing is because without a formal qualification in a relevant area you are not really recognised for your skills in education.

I would love to see a return to something like microcontroller programing in education, simple accessible fun teaching.

kieron

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Re: Getting Teachers Onboard (UK)

Tue Nov 29, 2011 8:57 am

It's because ICT training is NOT ABOUT programming or scripting. It on how to use Microsoft products. (Windows, Office etc).

It should be, but it isn't.

My five year old just came home with a computing certificate from school. His teacher looked at it, read what he could now do, and said, "I think there are some staff here who can't even do that. In fact, I know there are..."
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Re: Getting Teachers Onboard (UK)

Tue Nov 29, 2011 11:10 am

Quote from jamesh on November 29, 2011, 08:57
My five year old just came home with a computing certificate from school. His teacher looked at it, read what he could now do, and said, "I think there are some staff here who can't even do that. In fact, I know there are..."
This is a very good point. It is possible for the kids to actually be ahead of the teachers in terms of their understanding and knowledge of the technology. Something which could make life incredibly difficult. Teachers are used to always being right and here we have a situation that threatens that. So no wonder some people have a bit of a Luddite attitude here, they might even be worried about their job security. Perhaps we can take from this that we need to educate the teachers first. :)

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scep
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Re: Getting Teachers Onboard (UK)

Tue Nov 29, 2011 11:24 am

Quote from glenn66 on November 28, 2011, 23:37
Scep, I've seen Computing at School and think it is a great idea, but I don't think it is for beginners and unfortunately as far as programming goes that's where most of the teachers delivering ICT are. ...CPD for non-specialists who would like to / need to teach Computing is one of the major problems that CAS is currently working on. A nationally recognised and delivered course(s) is the goal. And members on the board are a friendly lot who are more than happy to give help and advice re CPD, resources etc.

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Re: Getting Teachers Onboard (UK)

Tue Nov 29, 2011 11:40 am

I was just thinking.
How about the teachers that would geek out on Raspberry Pi being the ones to target.
The formal ICT teachers have their hands full with the official curriculum and I expect for the program to work a lot of enthusiasm will be needed to get things started.
So, the teachers that live tech and gadgetry may be more interested in going on the journey with the students. The may not be the experts but they might be the facilitators.
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Re: Getting Teachers Onboard (UK)

Tue Nov 29, 2011 11:49 am

scep, long shot here but were you ever known as sceptic in a former online life? Just a similar name and job area to someone I used to know.

I would have PM'd but can't see a way to on this forum?

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Re: Getting Teachers Onboard (UK)

Tue Nov 29, 2011 2:38 pm

Quote from tek-monkey on November 29, 2011, 11:49
scep, long shot here but were you ever known as sceptic in a former online life? Just a similar name and job area to someone I used to know.

I would have PM'd but can't see a way to on this forum?PM sent :D (drop down under the 'Forum' menu - might be you can't PM less than certain # of posts?). A small world!

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Re: Getting Teachers Onboard (UK)

Tue Nov 29, 2011 10:33 pm

For promoting Rpis in the context of schools, one has to wonder if the teachers are the first target.
Sure getting some enthusiastic support from teachers from that area might help in the process, but at least here in Germany the teachers are rather bound to the official curriculum and don't have that many holes to fill with additional stuff.
So either some sort of Programming lessons are already in place, which would suggest the existence of some computer hardware, or they would have to change the curriculum to add programming to the routine.

In both cases decisions higher up are in order to support a larger scale use of the rpi hardware (aside from some demos perhaps).
Sadly, what a teacher thinks or what an average person might qualify as reasonable has little or nothing to do with the decisions made in our school system. ;) ( perhaps a bit cynic view but not far from the truth :) )

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Re: Getting Teachers Onboard (UK)

Tue Nov 29, 2011 10:49 pm

Asgo, you have very good points there.

There has been a sudden interest in iPads in a few schools where I work which has come solely from the enthusiasm of one or two individuals who are Apple fans. Now personally I'm far from convinced that iPads in schools are a good idea, especially where some schools are asking parents to shell out over 500 GBP for their kid's tablet, but as always I maintain an open mind and hope to see evidence that they have enhanced the learning outcomes for the pupils.

The same thing has happened with other software (Moodle for example) and hardware (iPaqs at one point a few years ago) without any intervention from policy makers.

Now RPi may fall into the same category. If the fanboys and fangirls in the teaching profession get hold of RPis early on and demonstrate them in their schools they will probably take off, especially at 15 GBP/US$25 rather than $500+!

In the current dire economic climate schools are unlikely to make costly buying decisions until they are convinced by tech evangelists that a given piece of kit has educational value.

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Re: Getting Teachers Onboard (UK)

Tue Nov 29, 2011 11:52 pm

iPads are passive, consumer items -- just watch the latest ads (or teenagers swanning about the corridors of schools with them under their arms using them as a "chat up line"). And they do not enhance learning any more than interactive whiteboards have ever done in my experience.

Raspi on the other hand is a creative item. I am convinced that the Pi will be huge, absolutely huge, but it will never be as popular as an Apple product because it is not a lifestyle product. And most people are happy to consume and not create.

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Re: Getting Teachers Onboard (UK)

Wed Nov 30, 2011 3:51 am

My background consists of 16 years of engineering computing and control engineering. My role involved engineering bespoke control systems to meet the clients’ needs. My current role is an educator of 7 years, with a keen interest in promoting programming and system design in schools. We currently include programming during Year 7 & 8. Most students enjoy the experience but lack the patience needed. I hope raspberrypi would allow students to continue their programming interests at home.

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Re: Getting Teachers Onboard (UK)

Wed Nov 30, 2011 6:36 am

Hi, Mr Morris,

I am an English Teacher with an interest in programming. I am trying to set up a Python programming club in my school. I'm interested in what you said about Y7 and Y8 lacking the patience needed for programming. If you have any advice / thoughts to share, I'd be very interested.
I've set up a little blog for my club:
http://teampython.wordpress.com/

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Re: Getting Teachers Onboard (UK)

Wed Nov 30, 2011 8:04 am

How old is y7 and 8 ?

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Re: Getting Teachers Onboard (UK)

Wed Nov 30, 2011 8:14 am


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Re: Getting Teachers Onboard (UK)

Wed Nov 30, 2011 8:16 am

7 and 8 is mostly 11-13, although there are occasionally people who are bumped up a year. For example when I was in year seven, there was a girl in my tutor group who was 10 (and went on to do better than most people in the year above her…).

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