So many posts that I can relate to!
Just before leaving teaching I had a job interview teaching 'Control' where I basically did Logo with the kids, without a computer (my PGCE mentor always recommended to at least have a non-PC backup lesson or just plan without the computer incase they go wrong). Which they reckoned was outstanding </trumpet>, (un?)fortunatly I went off to do other things.
Mike is spot on in many respects, industry might be saying they need people with C#.NET skills etc, but a lot of that is driven by poor IT recruitment. I see internal job specifications that require 5+ experience years in a programming language as a normal developer, or 6 years experience in some obscure technology. It takes a decent programmer a week to pickup the basics of a language and start producing code at a reasonable rate. A lot of programmers at the moment will have moved on from x+ years in C++ etc, and only have a couple of years experience of C#.NET or Java (or none at all). If they are worth their salt they will be productive even if you throw them in at the deep end.
If you have learned that kind of mindset you can take apart most pieces of code and work out roughly whats going on without ever having seen the language before. After leaving teaching, and not having really done anything but scraps of programming I started as a developer in C# and it was 2 months before they got round to sending me on a training course which I didn't really need at that point (although it did help to focus my attention on some more advanced stuff I could start using).
Pseudocode is used in business, because writing out the code when you are explaining to the designer or whomever is too time consuming. It isn't used on a day to day basis but is a decent informal way to get across concepts. Plus its much better to write an algorithm from pseudocode than it is to copy and paste it for learning purposes. It doesn't need to be taught extensively but is a useful teaching tool especially at the early stages imo.
All the formal UML, flowchart stuff is a pile of unhelpful turd for the most part, and you get that feeling of distaste when you are a programmer when a diagram has to been produced for everything and that is almost always driven from the top down. Sure some high level concepts are good expressed as a diagram but really the code designs the system, not the pictures. The compiler does the building (http://martinfowler.com/articl.....nDead.html
There is no restriction in what is taught at KS3 ICT the national curriculum is purposefully vague so that a wide breadth of study can be introduced (this was well reinforced to me by my great PGCE mentor!). I think the KS3 National Curriculum Program of Study is generally really well written (vaguely) to cope with future developments:
Pupils should be able to:
select and use ICT tools and techniques appropriately, safely and efficiently
solve problems by developing, exploring and structuring information, and deriving new information for a particular purpose
test predictions and discover patterns and relationships, exploring, evaluating and developing models by changing their rules and values
Basically teach whatever programming you want from that. Want to do it on a smartphone? sure if its the right tool for the job
Unfortunately schools use KS3 to gear up for GCSE (see response in 1a: http://www.itte.org.uk/system/.....2%2012.pdf
), and the GCSEs most schools study are not GCSE Computing, or ICT. They are DiDAs and OCR Nationals for easy league table grades. A level Computing is practically dead in mainstream schools, I generally only notice it at Grammar schools.
MS office might be the general application of choice, but tbh, if you can type, you can use a word processor. It doesn't take much more than that for the basics. That skill is infinitely transferable from free software to MS Office. Like Mike says this is training not education and it isn't going to exercise any critical thinking in people's minds!
Spreadsheets in open office etc are almost identical to MS Excel up to what you'd teach in KS3, although I haven't looked at Macros etc. Most kids wont remember how to use the advanced spreadsheet functions they require in a job when they actually get there. Only a small percentage will probably be using very advanced spreadsheet stuff.
Most other subjects drag pupils into the computer rooms enough times to write stuff up it doesn't need to be taught discretely and often spreadsheets lend themselves to the sciences or maths. Presentation software should be done in English or Drama where the kids are actually forced to present using it. Presentations are better if they are basic anyway (often better without the computer!). Most kids get enough keyboard exposure to type well with a few pointers, and have enough technology around them that they dont need the same familiarisation some older generations still require.
I think most of the current ICT stuff that is done should be forced into other subjects which give it better context and ICT (or Computing) lessons should be far more technical. They'd still cover some things like online safety etc, but can incorporate that with some encryption, anonymity concepts and focus on how things work like science or D&T subjects.