westwell
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Re: Teaching Programming - How will it all work?

Sun Jan 08, 2012 11:33 pm

There seems to be a fair amount of discussion now about the possibilities afforded by the Pi for teaching

programming. What I'm not clear about is how it might work in reality, given the hardware I can see currently

available.
Here's are some initial ideas how things might work, but does anyone have a clearer picture?
Teacher selects programming language and development environment capable of running within the Pi spec.
Each pupil has a Pi device to him/her self. Since many (most?) pupils now have mobile phones of considerably greater

cost, then it doesn't seem unreasonable to think they might buy their own.
Presumably a school-ready Pi device would require a case or it wouldn't last long.
Would input devices and user interfaces be the existing school stock (of keyboards and displays)? I don't know how

the model goes here. If that's the case then, given that there might be initial incompatibilities to conquer, some

might find it easier to load an IDE onto existing school computers, many of which would be running MS-Windows. I

suppose therein lies another discussion. What is it about Pi devices that pupils might be enthused when they are not

when confronted by a desktop Windows computer? Is it the possibilities for real-time programming or something else?
The starter pack of IDE etc. would presumably have to be available through a network or on an SD card.
Pupils write programs in school, then take them home and develop the programs further. What sort of programs are we

talking about : simple toy apps? Internet or mobile apps? real-time hardware control apps?
A bit of a long post, but I'd like to find out what others are thinking.

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Chromatix
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Re: Teaching Programming - How will it all work?

Mon Jan 09, 2012 8:51 am

There is quite a lot of discussion about it all over the place.  Probably the only consensus is that different sets of people will use it in different ways.

The choice of starting language, in particular (for teaching programming) is a hot topic and will probably vary depending on the age and a priori interest level of the students.  Everything from LOGO and Scratch, through BASIC and Python to Pascal and assembly language has been suggested.  It might even act as a catalyst to introduce a new language specifically designed for the purpose, given that BASIC has outlived it's welcome in many places.

In other cases, teaching programming might not be the primary goal - rather, making sure that everyone has their own computer and is therefore not excluded from the benefits of computerising the classroom.  The R-Pi can just as easily be used for word processing as programming, as long as the chosen software can fit with it's limited resources.

The question of where to get keyboards and displays for these things is an interesting one.  Fortunately, basic computer peripherals probably make a much better investment than PCs, since they last for more than a couple of years before becoming obsolete.  It should be much easier to convince beancounters of the value of this.
The key to knowledge is not to rely on people to teach you it.

solutionmania
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Re: Teaching Programming - How will it all work?

Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:15 pm

I'm not sure schools which are already kitted out with equipment will be the primary audience for the Pi.

I think that the Pi will be an affordable tool which can be used to spark enthusiasm amongst young people outside of school.

I grew up with a BBC Model B and started to learn programming when I was 6 by copying listings out of magazines (such as 'Micro User'). I learnt basic debugging skills by finding the typos I'd introduced in the code.

The listings I completed were usually for quite rudimentary games - but the satisfaction of having 'created' them myself was great!

Many young people have TVs in their bedrooms which are used to play games on a console. For the cost of one XBox game, they could get an entire development platform to learn to program on! Sure - it won't be for everyone - but I would have loved this when I was younger!

The other opportunity is for less fortunate families who can't afford a full size PC.

As for perhipherals, you can get a full USB keyboard online for £2.99 and a power supply for a little over £10. Add a couple of cables and you're done.

One thing I do think will be valuable for education purposes will be a software distribution setup specifically for the purpose. My feeling is that if new users have too much choice in terms of tools, distributions, etc - the learning curve will be too steep.

It needs to just switch on and be ready to go, with accompanying documentation which doesn't need to say things like, "First, make sure you have this version of this, with this installed in such and such a place and if you've already installed this, then read this first..."

If this can be achieved, then anyone will be able to write articles and documentation to support the true beginner!

yabba
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Re: Teaching Programming - How will it all work?

Wed Jan 11, 2012 8:41 am

I'm reminded of 2 things about being at secondary school in the UK, which, from my sons attendance today I don't believe have changed that much.

1. Every school has a piano. I never recall any pupil touching it, although I assume an extremely tiny %age may have been granted this privilege unbeknownst to me. All I learnt about music and pianos at school is that pianos are not there to be touched.

Years later, at some event or another at my son's school, near the end I played a few notes on the similarly unused (except for the single teacher whose job it is to accompany the kids "singing") school piano, and got a look of such disdain from one of the teachers as though I'd committed an act of unbelievable evil by playing the piano.

Perhaps I might have encouraged one of the kids to play the piano and where might that lead! Anarchy and chaos

Similarly, it always amused me how much fancy equipment and various interesting devices our school had that were wheeled out to impress parents and new starters at "Open day" – Devices and fancy equipment that I can state with complete honesty I never once used as part of any lesson after joining the school and never saw again, except for the 4 or 5 times I spent, as part of the open day, showing a new round of kids and their parents how cool the music / science / art  or woodwork department were because of this cool equipment the school had.

My son's enthusiasm when he went to the open day at a secondary school and he saw the stuff reminded me of this. Although I refrained from comment and hope things are better. I can't help the feeling that the needs of the curriculum outweigh the possibility of anything interesting appearing in a subject studied at school however much the teachers might wish things were different.

2. When computers were introduced to my school I was in the penultimate year. This meant that we were locked out of the school at break times.

We solved this problem in a variety of ingenious if dishonest ways. Stealing keys to the computer room, getting our own copies cut so we could open the door. Leaving bolts on side doors undone so we could pull the door open (so long as the teacher or "5th year" who locked us out only fastened the main bolt) Or by leaving window catches undone so that we could get into the school.

After which, once inside we'd sneak around from this unauthorised entrance place to the computer room, hoping not to get caught before we reached the goal.

The point of this, of course, was so that we could sit and program and mess around on the computers our school had (Initially a Northstar horizon system – if my brain remembers correctly – later a few BBC Model Bs)

At no time during lessons, even lessons for computer studies, did we use the computers. Therefore, what we learnt at school about computing is that you have to steal time on them – and also, there's no real point worrying about people who don't steal time on them. They aren't interested and probably are no more likely to be programmers than I would have been a footballer if you'd invented a new cheap set of goalposts that you hoped schools, and maybe parents would buy their kids to try scoring a goal because Man Utd et al are struggling to find British players and are having to get them from abroad.

School equipment is either broken or you're prevented from using it so that it won't be. The one time the teacher is in the room and you're studying the subject you expect to involve using said equipment, instead you spend an hour reading some terse drivel about Hollerith doing the 1890 US census using punched cards (I remember that, which no doubt means QI will tell me it's not actually true at some point in the future)

And being patronisingly told that the job of a computer programmer is nothing like you expect when you're playing on your micro computer at home, but is, in fact, as terse and full of drivel as their coursework and involves these punched cards)

Sure it did :rollseyes:

I think things are better these days. PCs have been seen in schools. Perhaps a less taboo attitude towards letting kids use them too, albeit not really for programming.

Programming. The new latin? What about the old latin? They didn't teach us any. Which I predict is in fact likely to pan out. If you're at a school that teaches or taught Latin sometime since we said Romanes eunt domus (or is it Romani ite domum) , then perhaps you'll hit upon some programming during your school life.

The rest of us, as you can see, learnt more Latin from Monty Python.

So I don't hold much hope for any programming course introduced into secondary schools, with or without raspberry pis accompanying it (as it seems the various stories on the BBC about the NY mayor, the new latin and the raspberry pi all seem to be pushing towards this goal – we have no programmers try and get everyone to be one, until a few years later there'll be stories saying 'there are too many programmers, comp sci graduates can't get jobs')

Although the stories today are already saying this problem with new graduates is already happening, because everyone wants to be a "game programmer", whatever that is, and so they jump on a bandwagon course at a "university" that used to be an outdoor swimming pool, play TF2 for a bit, use a tool that lets them write a 3d game by pressing the 'create game' button and then apply to be John Carmack II.

Let's face it, anyone good at programming, especially games, is going to fly to the US and work at Valve aren't they? That's the real problem the UK has. It sucks. And the games companies in the UK suck and seem more interested in whining in the press about having to pay tax than developing a business. So, not surprisingly, they get the choice of people who can't fly to the US and get a job at Valve (or indeed the people that realise you get more money being a dork in many corporate IT departments than you do for being a whizzy programmer in a UK game company)

The thing is, programming is about problem solving and it's incredibly difficult to do.

The fact many of the 45000 people who have written IRC clients for linux think that programming is easy is because they learnt programming by being shown the syntax for a high-level language with which they then "solve" a problem that has already been solved (and that didn't really need a solution in the first place) believing, in the process they are learning some vital or difficult skill by writing in a new language.

But, even the most mumble-mouthed halfwit drooling monosyllabic English has learnt something far more complex than the syntax for a programming language and could do that when he was at primary school (it's just a pity many of us stopped learning at about that point too)

To this end, you don't turn out a nation of programmers by teaching kids basic. Or cobol. Or C. Or lisp. Or logo. And definitely not at school with the big pile of equipment packed away for open days.

Sure, there are lots of 10th rate programmers writing code in IT departments in British businesses that do no more than this (I've been one, perhaps some of you have too) and they make good money doing it (compared with at least the general pay in the same office and what you might expect to earn if you spend 8 years in medical school and then start in the NHS)

The irony is that anyone would think there is a shortage of these skills, when you could train a potato to do it. If only it weren't for the humerous way they try and recruit.

Agencies sell these people's "skills" based upon the same moronic idea that a list of specific languages and versions "vax vms, oracle 7, forms 4.5" matter or took years to learn and masters, when most of them couldn't solve a real programming problem if the job they got required it (which luckily for them it usually won't)

Programming is hard. Knuth said that. Teaching problem solving skills is more key to solving the problem (if there is one in the first place)

But there are lots of cool uses 20,30 and 40-somethings have for these devices.

Prometheus
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Re: Teaching Programming - How will it all work?

Wed Jan 11, 2012 9:21 am

yabba said:

Similarly, it always amused me how much fancy equipment and various interesting devices our school had that were wheeled out to impress parents and new starters at "Open day" – Devices and fancy equipment that I can state with complete honesty I never once used as part of any lesson after joining the school and never saw again, except for the 4 or 5 times I spent, as part of the open day, showing a new round of kids and their parents how cool the music / science / art  or woodwork department were because of this cool equipment the school had.
I'm really sorry, as I really don't have anything useful to add here. I just wanted to say that this made me laugh, because it's so true and reminds me of my own experiences.

stan4th
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Re: Teaching Programming - How will it all work?

Wed Jan 11, 2012 10:13 am

Hi,

although I've got opinions on this topic as a software engineer myself, all of this has coincided with my son's schooling - he'll be choosing his secondary school options.

I hear that they are looking to change the curriculum and involve various external "partners".

I also read somewhere about a voluntary means of getting involved in this, would anyone be able to explain how I might approach this and what options there are - as a "knowledgeable" parent I would like to be involved?

Thanks.

Martin Angove
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Re: Teaching Programming - How will it all work?

Wed Jan 11, 2012 12:27 pm

stan4th said:


Hi,

although I've got opinions on this topic as a software engineer myself, all of this has coincided with my son's schooling – he'll be choosing his secondary school options.

I hear that they are looking to change the curriculum and involve various external "partners".

I also read somewhere about a voluntary means of getting involved in this, would anyone be able to explain how I might approach this and what options there are – as a "knowledgeable" parent I would like to be involved?

Thanks.


Can't say I have any specific information for you, but you might be pleasantly surprised at the reaction you get if you find the right teacher to approach. Schools are always looking for volunteers to help in various ways, the problem is managing to get involved without making people defensive. I have a nice niche in my current employment writing teeny little utilities in BBC BASIC for Windows. They're not examples of excellent style but they work. If you (as a professional software engineer) got a job as my "other half" (I'm part-time) I would probably feel threatened.

Same with teachers (having once been one). My children are all in primary school at the moment and the school does have volunteers helping when they "do" ICT in the "computer room". As far as I can tell though, all the volunteers do is stuff like find the minimised Word window when a child has accidentally pressed the wrong button. If I were to volunteer and offer to do some work that wasn't Word-Excel-Powerpoint-Explorer, the poor ICT co-ordinator who probably has an arts degree and a couple of training courses behind her wouldn't know where to start.

It doesn't have to be like this though. My mother – who spent six years in India as a missionary after teacher training and bible college and came back to start a family and work as a nursery teacher – had her 3 and 4-year-old nursery children in the late 1980s from one of the slightly deprived South Wales Valleys programming a Valiant Roamer (a robot turtle with a LOGO-like language built-in, bit like an educational BigTrak) to draw pictures using a marker pen, and producing artwork on a colour printer that the PTA had to raise money for because the LEA couldn't see why a nursery wouldn't want a black-and-white 9-pin dot matrix. She certainly wasn't one who put the kit in the cupboard after open day(*)!

My father who started life as a mechanic with the RAF and in newspaper printing made excellent use of the Concept Keyboard and an early touchscreen connected to BBC Master computers in his work with mentally and physically-handicapped adults (not sure what the current Politically Correct phrase is), much of that software included sequencing and problem solving.

And yet my children's school buys Nintendo DSes and the kids get to use them if they finish their work early… and a whole class-worth of MacBooks because "there are things you can do on a Mac with graphics and video that you can't do on Windows".

AARGHH!!

And (slightly at a tangent) they show endless Disney films at the end of terms instead of running a FilmClub (http://www.filmclub.org/)

M.

(*)As for the piano, here in Wales you are probably thought somewhat weird if you *aren't* musically inclined. At my secondary school, not only did we have pupils playing the piano in assembly but the headmaster bought a second-hand pipe organ and had it assembled in the hall and used by some of the more-able older children. That same headmaster insisted that most students took Latin in (what is now) Y7 – Y9 and a half dozen of my year took Latin O-level. My abiding memory of Latin lessons is said headmaster (who also taught) prancing up and down with a Lead organ pipe in his mouth, getting us to chant verbs…

solutionmania
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Re: Teaching Programming - How will it all work?

Wed Jan 11, 2012 12:57 pm

Is whole-class teaching even the right approach?

I think teachers are under quite a lot of pressure as it is to deliver the basics (reading and writing) in amongst all the other required subjects. Unless there is a change made right at the top, I don't think it's realistic to expect entire classes to be given programming lessons.

Another aspect is that there will be a certain proportion of class members who don't have, and will never have any particular interest in programming.

I would have thought a school's role here would be to introduce the topic and get children excited about the prospect, then allow them to learn by themselves. The school could provide equipment and educational materials, or the student could buy one for themselves.

Perhaps lunch-time or after school clubs would be a more appropriate environment?

Trevor
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Re: Teaching Programming - How will it all work?

Wed Jan 11, 2012 1:20 pm

solutionmania said:


Is whole-class teaching even the right approach?


I am in a fortunate position that I work in a year 1 to 10 (6 to 16 year olds) school in Western Australia. My whole timetable is teaching computing. Year 1 - 6 students get an hour a week, 7 - 10 two hours a week.

The students start programming in year 1 with BeeBots, using the programming cards, then we move to ProBots and Lego/Logo in year two.  Year 3/4 they learn Scratch.

In years 5 and above I start GameMaker development, and C programming to some students who want to learn it. (Gert, you're awesome)

Thankfully, because not many people understand what I do at the school, I have almost free run in what I teach, because in Western Australia we have a very un-restrictive curriculum in computing (ie NONE).  The problem with that is that some people think that I should be teaching Office products, which I do, to support my 'computer science' curriculum.  My year one students know the parts inside a computer, and can even tell you how to put one together. I then get them to create a PowerPoint pres on the parts of the computer.


Another aspect is that there will be a certain proportion of class members who don't have, and will never have any particular interest in programming.


Get them in year 1 and show them if you do this, this happens and you will find that they ARE interested.  For example, I had a class of year one students use the BeeBots to pass pencils ect around the class because I and the classroom teacher would not allow them to get out of their seat If they find a reason, then they will do it.

This is why I almost wet myself when I saw the Gert board in action on youtube.  My year one students will be able to see concretely what happens when you send a command to light an LED.


I would have thought a school's role here would be to introduce the topic and get children excited about the prospect, then allow them to learn by themselves. The school could provide equipment and educational materials, or the student could buy one for themselves.


This will allow the 'I want to do this anyway' sort of student, though the one who needs to get a little bit of a push, and then make something great, might miss out.

solutionmania
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Re: Teaching Programming - How will it all work?

Wed Jan 11, 2012 1:25 pm

@Trevor - all good points!

What you're doing in Australia sounds awesome! It'd be great if we could do that sort of thing here.

My sister is a primary school teacher here in the UK and, from what I've heard, the timetable is so prescriptive that the thought of spending even one or two hours a week on another compulsory subject might just tip her over the edge! ;o)

agingpenguin
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Re: Teaching Programming - How will it all work?

Wed Jan 11, 2012 1:32 pm

yabba said:


And being patronisingly told that the job of a computer programmer is nothing like you expect when you"re playing on your micro computer at home, but is, in fact, as terse and full of drivel as their coursework and involves these punched cards)

Sure it did :rollseyes:

I think things are better these days. PCs have been seen in schools. Perhaps a less taboo attitude towards letting kids use them too, albeit not really for programming.



But there are lots of cool uses 20,30 and 40-somethings have for these devices.



Very funny and informative post Yabba.

I came to this part of the forum wondering how Raspberry Pi will actually get the Raspberry Pis (if that's the correct plural) into the classroom and get teachers using them for something useful.

From trawling around other bits of the forum, I got the impression that there are lots of clever hardware and software engineers posting, but not too many ICT teachers.

My daughter's experience of ICT in school has been very much that described by our dearly beloved Tory Education Minister in an article in the Grauniad today:

pupils "bored out of their minds being taught how to use Word and Excel by bored teachers"

(http://www.guardian.co.uk/poli.....it-lessons)

Reading the article gets your hopes up for a minute with mention of an open source approach and allowing teachers to start teaching some real computer technology, and then you read on to find that the government is getting Microsoft and IBM to develop a new GCSE curriculum [sic].

So the question remains, how will Raspberry Pi get teachers who have spent their whole careers showing pupils how to use Word, Powerpoint (and if they're lucky Access) to teach some real programming (or anything else non-Microsoft-office related), and perhaps more to the point who will train the trainers?


Trevor
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Re: Teaching Programming - How will it all work?

Wed Jan 11, 2012 1:34 pm

solutionmania said:


@Trevor - all good points!

What you're doing in Australia sounds awesome! It'd be great if we could do that sort of thing here.


I can't say that what I do is normal in Australia, because you don't normally get a teacher with a computer science degree, and that is going to be the problem Australia and the UK is going to find when we move to a completely different curriculum is Computing.  Who has the capability in teaching it.  Sure anyone can teach ICT (what I call Internet research and office) though it takes a completely different teacher to teach robotics, programming, hardware and systems software etc.

What I have noticed is that you need to get the kids when they are young.  I was TOLD by an Early Childhood deputy that year 1 students could never understand robotics and programming.  After 10 weeks, she came into my room (which is never silent) and was shocked that year ones were manipulating robots.  She even asked my weakest student how they work and the student showed her how to use the programming cards and how to enter the commands into the robot.


My sister is a primary school teacher here in the UK and, from what I've heard, the timetable is so prescriptive that the thought of spending even one or two hours a week on another compulsory subject might just tip her over the edge! ;o)


Yes, we have that here, I work in whats called a District High School (in a semi country area) thus a high school teacher (me) gets to teach all the primary years and lower high school.  In a normal primary school in the city would not get a high school computing teacher.

andyl
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Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:05 am

Re: Teaching Programming - How will it all work?

Wed Jan 11, 2012 2:12 pm

solutionmania said:


Is whole-class teaching even the right approach?

[snip]

I would have thought a school's role here would be to introduce the topic and get children excited about the prospect, then allow them to learn by themselves. The school could provide equipment and educational materials, or the student could buy one for themselves.

Perhaps lunch-time or after school clubs would be a more appropriate environment?


Well an introduction could be whole-class.  It would include a very basic level of how things work, macros, and simple programming issues - variables, flow control, looping etc.

When I was at school in the 80s we had lunch-time clubs.  Did plenty of interesting stuff both software and hardware - but we did have a keen teacher.  I remember one day we had the school PETs, someone had brought in a NASCOM-1, there was a Acorn Atom and UK-101 from what I remember.  There was no directed learning (but then there didn't need to be) and little supervision.  We organised ourselves and there was a lot of trying to impress the others with our mad skillz.  Rather like Yak (Jeff Minter) details on http://minotaurproject.co.uk/l.....story1.php however we were younger than he was.

alpaca
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Re: Teaching Programming - How will it all work?

Wed Jan 11, 2012 2:23 pm

During the reading of this thread, I am impressed with the enthusiasm and intelligent talk strewn around, but I can't help but feel that the question the thread asks is not answered. (or am I wrong here?)

I'd like to know how my youngest nephew will learn to program on the credit card sized computer his school will buy for him. (If Rpi ever comes to Belgium).

Will there be a Minstorms-like block interface that makes LEDs on a Gertboard twinkle? Will they get a boring theoretical babble about variables, loops, classes and objects and thrown into the deep with an IDE like Eclipse? (Most of them will drown. Most 18 year olds drowned that way in our first year)

Shall they program directly into the command line with a script-like language? Or do they get a colourful interface and a pseudolanguage with a supereasy syntax?

I do support the Rpi idea, but in my time here lurking, I failed to find any concrete implementations of the lofty ideas about teaching the new generation what a computer is...

solutionmania
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Re: Teaching Programming - How will it all work?

Wed Jan 11, 2012 2:28 pm

@alpaca - I couldn't agree more - it almost feels as if the hardware is 'done' now - the success from here lies in getting a solid platform on which beginners can start to program.

To my mind, if a new user even has to hear the words 'Linux' or 'Distro' then we're doomed to failure. There needs to be a standard piece of software which can be rolled out that everyone knows how to use so that books can be written, people can share code, etc - without having to worry about what's installed on your particular Pi.

That said, I wouldn't want to see it 'locked down' so that people who wanted too couldn't get 'in amongst' it a bit more!

thesynapseuk
Posts: 55
Joined: Thu Jul 28, 2011 11:21 am

Re: Teaching Programming - How will it all work?

Wed Jan 11, 2012 9:46 pm

@alpaca,

I also agree. My feeling at the moment is that there aren't enough teachers here on the R-Pi forums to contribute to the educational discussion.

Delivering programming teaching etc. to children in our schools is really nothing like teaching adults in a business, yet it feels like some people view it that way and that simply.

For us in the UK, now that the government has recently decreed that programming is going to be brought back into schools (although I'd be impressed if they could get the turnaround in curriculum quick enough for September), it will be a case of appropriate resources being made.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not anti-programmers and anti-engineers who are excited about the R-Pi. We teachers REALLY need them! They will be the ones who will help R-Pi get going, sort out issues when they arise and establish the community. But to take it into the educational sphere? It's a far more complicated problem than many people realise.

It's even cost particularly - of course because the R-Pi is so cheap and peripherals are also cheap. It's having teachers with the correct knowledge, it's having lesson plans, resources. Most importantly, it's giving the teachers TIME to get to grips with things. How that's going to work out I don't know.

steveking
Posts: 12
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2012 10:10 pm

Re: Teaching Programming - How will it all work?

Wed Jan 11, 2012 10:53 pm

yabba said:


I"m reminded of 2 things about being at secondary school in the UK, which, from my sons attendance today I don"t believe have changed that much.

1. Every school has a piano. I never recall any pupil touching it, although I assume an extremely tiny %age may have been granted this privilege unbeknownst to me. All I learnt about music and pianos at school is that pianos are not there to be touched.


I'm a teacher, and we too have a piano in the school hall... however most lunchtimes and often after school there are students playing on it, it's nice to hear! I don't think there's anything formal about this arrangement.



Similarly, it always amused me how much fancy equipment and various interesting devices our school had that were wheeled out to impress parents and new starters at "Open day" – Devices and fancy equipment that I can state with complete honesty I never once used as part of any lesson after joining the school and never saw again, except for the 4 or 5 times I spent, as part of the open day, showing a new round of kids and their parents how cool the music / science / art  or woodwork department were because of this cool equipment the school had.


I'm sort of guilty of this in that my classroom has an Interactive Whiteboard in it. When my room was made I said I'd never use one and didn't want one but regardless one was put in.  The only time I've used it in the last 5 years was to take a photo of a kid using it for the prospectus.  To be fair, other teachers use interactive whiteboards in their lessons, but I can't see the point (but if you dared take my actual whiteboard or my projector away there'd be blood!).


Programming. The new latin? What about the old latin? They didn"t teach us any. Which I predict is in fact likely to pan out. If you"re at a school that teaches or taught Latin sometime since we said Romanes eunt domus (or is it Romani ite domum) , then perhaps you"ll hit upon some programming during your school life.


Er, yes... we do teach Latin, it's compulsory for two years.


Programming is hard. Knuth said that. Teaching problem solving skills is more key to solving the problem (if there is one in the first place)


The new GCSE computing is trying to teach this; one of the coursework tasks is to make a division program using the Little Man Computer simulator (which, if you don't know, can basically only do addition and subtraction).  This is going to make them think about what division actually is, and how on earth they can break down the big task of dividing into lots of smaller chunks.

timmyclub
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Re: Teaching Programming - How will it all work?

Thu Jan 12, 2012 9:53 pm

Some interesting (and entertaining!) thoughts and opinions on this thread.

I'm a science teacher who's been roped into teaching 'ICT' (PowerPoint lessons) from time to time.  I have a minor interest in programming - mainly simple perl and bash to 'get jobs done'.  Not something particularly stimulating for most of the kids I teach, sadly!

We're in the fortunate position that we have 18 'mobile' (they weigh a tonne!) laptop cabinets with 20-30 machines in each.  They are crippled by bloated software and badly configured AD though!

Although I'd love to tinker with a RPi myself and would like to see them used in an educational setting, it's difficult to envisage how they would fit into a school that is already equipped, as part of any push towards teaching kids 'programming'.

We're in a relatively 'deprived' area and the idea of giving them to pupils who might not normally have access to a computer at home is appealing but for use in the classroom, we'd need to get hold of a serious number of displays/input devices.  Seems superfluous alongside the laptops, which *could* support a child friendly development platform.

I suppose learners could work on the laptops in school and the RPis at home if they were creating Scratch projects for example.

I'm quite excited about the idea there's going to be some computer science taught but I too would approach it from a 'problem solving' perspective.

patrickhwood
Posts: 27
Joined: Wed Aug 31, 2011 2:12 am

Re: Teaching Programming - How will it all work?

Thu Jan 12, 2012 10:38 pm

Of you could use the laptops to connect to the RPis.  If you have the ethernet-enabled RPis, you can use ssh or telnet and avoid using keyboards/monitors.  If the laptops have USB ports, there's probably a way to plug them into a usb hub along with the RPi and get them to talk (sounds like a programming project).

ElectroRich
Posts: 1
Joined: Fri Jan 13, 2012 7:38 pm

Re: Teaching Programming - How will it all work?

Fri Jan 13, 2012 8:39 pm

Well I read Yabba's post and I found myself nodding to everything that was said. Programming is hard, and boring – unless you're of the kind of mindset the enjoys the challenge of bending a machine to do your bidding.

I come at this from the point of view of a family learning teacher  a software engineer and educational retailer. Admirable though this project is, it seems currently to miss it's target audience.

What a teacher needs is a machine that when they plug it in, they get a screen with a flashing cursor that allows them to type

10 Print "Hello World"

Run

Yes I know it's fashionable to berate BASIC, but it's by far the easiest way to start learning how to program.
Remember too that not only are they dealing with kids who want to learn, but many who have no interest in the subject and would much rather be 'on' Facebook. They're already fighting a battle with them, trying to teach a cryptic language like C will simply turn them off.

Can a teacher take this device and plug in a screen and keyboard and use it straight out of the box? Not from what I'm seeing, no.
In the real world teachers need things that they can plug and go. They haven't got time to read and try and understand reams of Swahili before they can get started.

Linux is great, but totally lost in schools who, as a rule, use Windows.

I understand completely what Westwell is asking. So far I don't see a product with an educational path at all. What I see is a funky version of the Arduino, and we can buy and learn to program those already…

JulieMilliner
Posts: 4
Joined: Fri Jan 13, 2012 11:07 pm

Re: Teaching Programming - How will it all work?

Fri Jan 13, 2012 11:26 pm

Hi there

I am an ICT Teacher, I did my PGCE 6 year ago and yes, I am a computer Science graduate (1989 - 1992). I spent over 10 years in industry before having my children and deciding that teaching was for me.  However you can imagine my complete and utter disappointment when I realised whilst on the PGCE course that I would only be teaching the students how to use office software.  What about all the skills I have in programming ??  what a waste I thought.  There is nothing more satisfying that writing a piece of code then trying to work out why its gone wrong (that was how I spent most of my time at Uni - and love it).  Therefore imagine my sheer delight when I heard the news from Michael Gove that someone who can do something has realised that ICT teachers are bored (of which I am one) and the students are also bored.

I love the thought of rasperry pi.  I have also looked into other options available to get the students into programming. I teach from 11-18 and would love to offer an alternative to ICT to these students.  My background is that I started programming in Basic, then moved onto Pascal, fortran, modular 2, cobol then C.  In my experience I believe that although people do not like Basic, it is a great place for children to start and would be reachable to most students regardless of ability.  I like the idea of students being able to write a simple command

10 'Hello World'

which then provides instant results for the students.  We need simple building blocks to teach, start with a small amout of theory about what each hardware part does and start with small simple statements and build on those.  However to make Raspberry Pi easily usable within a school we would need lesson plans or some resources, preferrably in Basic to get them started.

So to summarise, Basic for Years 7 and 8, then perhaps move onto say Java or C for Year 9-11.  However I would need resources or an accompanying book, to bring my skills up to date due to the brain cells I have lost from teaching secretarial skills these last 5 years in my ICT lessons !

Thoughts anyone ?

Thanks

Crippen69
Posts: 10
Joined: Fri Dec 23, 2011 3:08 pm

Re: Teaching Programming - How will it all work?

Sat Jan 14, 2012 12:57 am

Hi all.

When I was at school back in the 80s", we started out with Basic on old PET 2001s". When we took GCE Computer Studies O Level, we had to write 4 programs as part of the course. IIRC, first was a simple input 2 numbers, choose add subtract etc and then get the result. This covered basic use of inputting data and variables. Then came a compound interest calculator, which expanded on what the first program taught and introduced For-Next loops. This was then followed by a bubble sort routine involving string variables read in from a data file. Once you understood how these three programs worked, you had to write a phonebook type program, which combined everything.

This "small step" approach worked well for most, but for those with a real interest in computers could be boring. Structuring courses will really depend on the interest level of the kids involved. If you take it too slow you will lose some, likewise if you take it too fast. But the small steps approach may still work.

Crippen69
Posts: 10
Joined: Fri Dec 23, 2011 3:08 pm

Re: Teaching Programming - How will it all work?

Sat Jan 14, 2012 12:57 am

Sorry double post.

Trevor
Posts: 21
Joined: Sun Sep 25, 2011 1:56 am

Re: Teaching Programming - How will it all work?

Sat Jan 14, 2012 1:53 am

Crippen69 said:


This "small step" approach worked well for most, but for those with a real interest in computers could be boring. Structuring courses will really depend on the interest level of the kids involved. If you take it too slow you will lose some, likewise if you take it too fast. But the small steps approach may still work.


Not being rude, though have a look at moodle.  What I am designing, is a three stage, self directed with teacher assistance, computer science course for lower high school.

Actually all of my teaching, from year one to year 10 is on my moodle site, because it allows parents, students when THEY feel capable, and I to know what they are doing, and what I need to focus on.

So what you could do is have an intro 5 weeks that EVERY student must do, so you can get some common assessment done, then the students can then branch out depending on their skill level.  For example, a basic programming subcourse for students who are just learning, to a more complex PHP or C course for those who have experience at home. Also, because it is online, they can work at their own pace and you can move around the class assisting students who need help, and not have to worry about the other students interrupting your one to one lesson.

alpaca
Posts: 29
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2012 1:28 pm

Re: Teaching Programming - How will it all work?

Sat Jan 14, 2012 1:55 pm

And because it is on line, the other tabs will be youtube,hotmail, facebook and 9gag and no real work will be done. Kids love to program, but they love even more not to program (we did, and I'm still young).

So programming, certainly entry level, should be done off line with no real distractions until the child in question has tasted the feeling of a task well done when hello world comes up on the command line and a led or two blinks on and off.

For more advanced programming, internet is absolutely a requirement, but I wouldn't call courses to an average group 7-12 year old 'advanced'...

just my 2cents

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