TheManWhoWas
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Re: Home v School

Thu Apr 05, 2012 9:28 pm

Back in the 80s my school had about 10 BBC Micros. This was the computer lab where about 30 of us would have the occassional lesson which mainly involved using software written by our Physics teacher.

I don't recall ever being taught to program until I did a Computer Studies O-Level, and by then most of us kids already knew more about programming than our teacher.

So when I first heard of the RPi and the idea it was the 21st equivalent of a BBC Micro, I naturally thought in terms of a new "home computer" i.e. something that kids would learn to program with in their own time, because that is how I and most of us brought up in the 80s learnt to program.

But I can see the Foundation and Mr Gove and lots of teachers assume it will be the schools that take the primary role in teaching the kids to program.

This leads to two quite different approaches: in the school version, RPi's can be quite "boring" and kids can be taught very traditionally using command lines, text editors, standard computer algorithms, and programs that do exciting tasks like bubble sorts. So the RPi can just be more or less a replica of a BBC Micro as it was 30 years ago.

In the "self-learning at home" version, the RPi needs to be "compelling" and attract kids away from the myriad other things they could choose to do with their time. So it needs to embrace the new and be a 21st century reimagining of an 80s home computer, using 3D, web dev, game coding, robotics, and proper tools like IDEs and GUIs.

Most of my thoughts expressed on these forums have assumed the RPi should aim for the latter, as home is where I did the vast majority of my "training", but I can see a significant proportion of posters take the contrary view, especially those who think "what was good enough for me is good enough today".

So which is it to be?

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nick.mccloud
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Re: Home v School

Thu Apr 05, 2012 9:52 pm

TheManWhoWas said:


So which is it to be?


Why not both?

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Jim Manley
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Re: Home v School

Thu Apr 05, 2012 10:01 pm

As someone in another thread posted, "Keep the R-Pi systems away from the kids and make repeated, loud, official pronouncements that kids must absolutely, positively not be caught programming them. We"ll have them slinging code on street corners every hour of the day and night in no time at all."

Somewhat more seriously (if Plan A above doesn"t work), I am unofficially heading up a skunkworks project, discussed in another thread here, to encourage contributors here and kids (when enough R-Pi systems finally escape into the wild) to build a network-distributed game system that will only run on the R-Pi. It would be modeled on the massively multi-player on-line role-playing games (MMORPGs) that any number of players can participate in, but with a twist in that science, math, and programming skills will be needed in increasing difficulty as they ascend in levels of game play. I"m calling it Pi-finity! as a placeholder name until someone with real marketing skills can come up with something less memorable.
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TheManWhoWas
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Re: Home v School

Thu Apr 05, 2012 10:16 pm

nmcc said:

Why not both?
Because making the RPi engaging and attractive to kids outside of school is much much harder, and so requires an active and concerted effort to achieve.

You can't just make a bunch of educational stuff and expect kids to choose to engage with it outside school anymore than most of them spend their spare time reading their school text books.

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Re: Home v School

Thu Apr 05, 2012 10:35 pm

Schools didn't teach programming when i was learning, but my school did have quite a few BBC's. But mostly I taught myself at home.

I don't think that would work now. How I see it going - schools teach children and get them started. Children who are interested enough are able to buy a Raspi very cheaply, so now they can do stuff at home as well.  That's where decent tutorials and teaching guides are necessary.

So, in answer to the OP, one then the other.
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Galaxynik
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Re: Home v School

Thu Apr 05, 2012 10:43 pm

I am a science, Physics, engineering and one time computer studies teacher in a seondary school, I enjoyed teaching A level computer studies/science but the students found it HARD like they find Physics, maths and chemistry hard.

The Government league tables killed computer science/studies in our school, students did not do well enough because students with the wrong sort of expectations of the course atempted it.

I applauded the government which introduced ICT for all because I think that all students should have a rudimentary knowledge of the usefulness of computers but unfortunately this has been done to death and with a few exceptions the non-specialist nature of the teaching has made this a less than inspiring subject albeit only compulsory up to KS3.

Computer science/studies is not ICT.  I fevently believe that 'programming' and Hardware aspects of computers should be a part of the ICT course so that students with aptitude can then select a computer science/studies course to GCSE and possibly AS, A2 level with some understanding of what its about.

I currently work on the curriculum and timetable in our large college and I am worried, in discussions with the senior management, that the latest initiative will end up as 'programming for all' at the chalkface. This is NOT suitable for the majority of students.

I applaud the RPi foundation and can see that some students will benefit both at school and at home from this technology, indeed I and my 9 year old are quite excited at the prospect of its affordability.  My 9 year old is keen on the possible interfacing it with the 'real' world.  He can currently program the E18 etc series of genie boards without too much trouble .

I can understand that the dicipline of algorithm development can be a useful tool in solving real world problems but its no more applicable for ALL than methodologies in engineering or indeed the awful 'solving technological problems' that we had as an educational fad in science in the early '90s.  I am worried that we are in the process of swappng ICT for all to programming for all which to me is educational 'fadism' new word ??

It takes a certain skill/perseverance to learn to program - I couldn't afford a bbc micro and being of a certain age heh I ony came across them when at post grad level I had to develop and teach courses for town planners and builders - for those who read the Wilt by Tom Sharpe books think of meat 1 brickies 2 etc completely inappropriate ....

I am concerned that the of the 4/5 current teachers of ICT in our school, 4 will consider any variety of Linux to be a fascinating skin disease - in our situation the raspi will be of more use in the engineering dept if it survives the culling of the diploma by the government who has not listened to the bosses of big engineering industries like JCB in their appreciation of the worth of such courses.

Where will it fit in - I don't know

JoeDaStudd
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Re: Home v School

Fri Apr 06, 2012 8:10 am

I think due to the price point the Raspberry Pi has the potential to do both.

From an educational point of view I can see the R-Pi being used in other subjects, if the schools can spare the time to integrate it.
Resistance materials (wood, metal and plastic work) along side graphic design could have a term making a case for the R-Pi.
Systems and Control (electronics) could be making devices that communicate via a gertboard (or similar).

On the home side you always have the fall back of installing XBMC and using it as a htpc. However I can see the R-Pi being used for hobby projects like carputers, diy robots, automated tasks (lighting, garage door, cat/dog feeder, etc) and so on.

Personally I see the school side being the more software and theory based learning with the home side being the more practical side.

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Re: Home v School

Fri Apr 06, 2012 8:32 pm

JamesH said:

Children who are interested enough are able to buy a Raspi very cheaply, so now they can do stuff at home as well.  That's where decent tutorials and teaching guides are necessary.
So, in answer to the OP, one then the other.


I agree with this - I am not much of a programmer (did a bit at A Level) but I learnt pretty much everything I know about computers at home because I was interested and people with interest will also learn with the raspi.

TheManWhoWas
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Re: Home v School

Sat Apr 07, 2012 10:23 pm

I get the ideal scenario, but is it reasonable to expect kids to want an RPi outside of school if they primarily encounter it in school and use it for "educational" tasks?

I genuinely don't know the answer, but I do wonder if I had been surrounded by modern tech in the 80s, and encountered this RPi thing in the classroom, whether it would have excited me enough to want to buy and play with one at home.

It feels like to bring the "home computer" experience properly up to date and make it something lots of kids want to own *outside* of school requires quite a slick environment (i.e. more than the text editors and command lines of yesteryear) and I don't think this follows automatically from providing an educational experience aimed at schools.

But maybe it doesn't matter, and it will be enough to get a greater percentage of kids interested in taking computer studies further + a certain percentage will buy one because they've heard it is designed to teach you to program and they have that desire.

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scep
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Re: Home v School

Sat Apr 07, 2012 11:28 pm

TheManWhoWas said:

It feels like to bring the "home computer" experience properly up to date and make it something lots of kids want to own *outside* of school requires quite a slick environment (i.e. more than the text editors and command lines of yesteryear) and I don't think this follows automatically from providing an educational experience aimed at schools.
Lots of kids (think that they) want "slick" devices like iPads and iPhones. They'd happily spend every single evening on Facebook, Angry Birds and txtn each uthr.

This doesn't mean that we should stop trying to teach them to read using tree books.

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clive
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Re: Home v School

Sun Apr 08, 2012 12:30 am

Galaxynik said:


The Government league tables killed computer science/studies in our school, students did not do well enough because students with the wrong sort of expectations of the course atempted it.


No - your senior management killed it. The government have a lot to answer for but they don't run your school. Your SMT let students sign up for A-level Computing even though they lacked the ability to succeed at it and then they chose not to offer it again when the students bombed! (The passive phrase, "students with the wrong sort of expectations of the course attempted it." says loads ).


I currently work on the curriculum and timetable in our large college and I am worried, in discussions with the senior management, that the latest initiative will end up as 'programming for all' at the chalkface. This is NOT suitable for the majority of students.


What initiative? If the National Curriculum is disapplied,  "programming for all" will be the last thing on most SMT's agenda. Trying to sneak in cross-curricular ICT (good luck with that!), perhaps, but "programming"? Ask your management team what programming even is .

Computing and computational thinking is the thing to push in schools (in five years' time it will hopefully be taught from year 1. Please!). Programming is not computing. Programming is just a part of it and the RasPi is just a tool to help teach it.

N.B. If anyone is still worried that "computing for all" will be compulsory at KS3 even though not everyone has an aptitude for it (or even enjoys it) - just replace the word  "computing" with "music" in any such discussion. Few people would say that music shouldn't be on the curriculum just because most of us won't go on to become professional musicians or that it takes "a certain skill/perseverance" to learn to play an instrument. Exposure is everything. Fun is everything.

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Re: Home v School

Sun Apr 08, 2012 5:53 am

clive. said:


N.B. If anyone is still worried that "computing for all" will be compulsory at KS3 even though not everyone has an aptitude for it (or even enjoys it) - just replace the word  "computing" with "music" in any such discussion. Few people would say that music shouldn't be on the curriculum just because most of us won't go on to become professional musicians or that it takes "a certain skill/perseverance" to learn to play an instrument. Exposure is everything. Fun is everything.


If "computing" had been taught the way music was when I was in school, I'd never have become a programmer because I would have avoided computers at all costs after such an experience.

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clive
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Re: Home v School

Sun Apr 08, 2012 9:05 am

W. H. Heydt said:


If "computing" had been taught the way music was when I was in school, I'd never have become a programmer because I would have avoided computers at all costs after such an experience.


That's  a red herring. All you are saying is that at music was taught badly at your school.

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croston
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Re: Home v School

Sun Apr 08, 2012 10:42 am

Every competent musician I know (and that"s a lot) learnt most of what they know about music outside school in private lessons and by doing home practice. The eager musicians at school were all involved in extra curricular activities organised by the school such as the school band.

Computing at every school I went to (primary and secondary) was close to non existent (1980s/early 1990s). I am self taught. (I taught myself Pascal and C at the age of 10 by following my Dad"s university course handouts and tutorials).

The thing in common between Music and Computing (programming) is that to be good at both takes work outside school lessons. I"m sure this applies to many other subjects as well.

The difference between now and then is that for 20 years (after 8-bit computers) we have had nothing at home that makes programming accessible to children. Enter the RPi...

Andre_P
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Re: Home v School

Sun Apr 08, 2012 10:42 am

I have an alternative perspect that 'might' be something to consider.

The CS teachers at school (Mrs Thom, Mr Storey and Mr Hughes) used to stay at the school after hours to do various admin type stuff.

I think what happened was that a CS lesson was at the end of the day and some of us just continued on doing stuff. We weren't being taught we started doing our own thing but if we had an issue we could call one of the teachers over to ask what could be wrong.

So we would then just gather after hours and carry on, even eventually being asked to lock up and hand the keys in (imagine 'unsupervised children' being treated like responsible adults !!!).

These were teachers from a time prior to the limitations presently imposed on teachers, I also think they had 'previous' experience in a programming environment. So they had a lot of skills in debugging and still an appetite to 'play'.

If a present day teachers could do something like this then you would have an (IMHO) ideal situation, non defined and imaginative self learning with occasional back up for queries.

However you do need to have a teacher who can put the time in, be allowed to break out from the preconfigured doctrine and have the level of curiosity required.

Note this is NOT an attack on teachers of today, I think they are just as frustrated by the bean counter, all children are all isoforms attitude that various governments have had in the UK.

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Re: Home v School

Sun Apr 08, 2012 12:39 pm

JamesH said:


Schools didn't teach programming when i was learning, but my school did have quite a few BBC's. But mostly I taught myself at home.

I don't think that would work now. How I see it going - schools teach children and get them started. Children who are interested enough are able to buy a Raspi very cheaply, so now they can do stuff at home as well.


Yep, your experience was pretty much the same as mine.  We didn't even have any CS lessons.  We did have a computer club that met at lunchtimes (and sometimes in the hobbies lesson - I bet no school has one of them now).  Those of us who were interested, managed to learn programming at home - some of us didn't even have a computer at home - and brought in listings to type into the PETs.  Someone even managed to bring in a tape of a space invaders game he had written.

What I would expect is that the CS teacher will get them started.  The basics of programming.  Let's face it if it is entire class teaching I doubt they will be able to teach to the level that some people want.  Once kids have the basics, those who have an interest, may well buy a Pi (or use a PC if they have one) to continue programming and learning at home.  Hopefully the CS teacher will have a good enough handle on things to be able to cope with questions coming from the keen kids doing stuff at home.  Either having answers themselves, or know how to find the right tutorials and resources on the web if they haven't.

TheManWhoWas
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Re: Home v School

Sun Apr 08, 2012 2:58 pm

OK, so sounds like the same story from a lot of people: during the 80s there wasn't much computing being taught in schools (despite those BBC Micros) apart from a few enthusiastic teachers doing school clubs. So most people actually learnt to program at home as a hobby on their home computers.

Then in the 90s home computers died out... but why? As I recall it was because of the arrival of a new generation of dedicated games consoles from Japan. As most kids were only using their home computers to play games, they swapped them for a SNES or MegaDrive.

So if kids went off cheap, accessible home computers at the end of 80s, then to get them coding *outside* of school in 2012 is surely going to be a lot harder than just providing a cheap, accessible machine again isn't it? Or will the novelty be enough to hook some?

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Re: Home v School

Sun Apr 08, 2012 4:47 pm

clive. said:


W. H. Heydt said:


If "computing" had been taught the way music was when I was in school, I'd never have become a programmer because I would have avoided computers at all costs after such an experience.


That's  a red herring. All you are saying is that at music was taught badly at your school.



Schools--plural--when I was young my father worked as civilian contractor with the US military and we moved every couple of years.

Rather simply put, programs like music and sports catered heavily to kids that really liked the subjects and not at all to the ones indifferent or who--for whatever reason--disliked it.

There was no risk at the time that computing would be screwed up that way because, when I was in high school, high schools didn't *have* computers...not even for the school administration. (I graduated from high school in 1966.)

lew44
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Re: Home v School

Sun Apr 08, 2012 5:38 pm

nmcc said:


TheManWhoWas said:


So which is it to be?


Why not both?



I'm with you.  The R Pi may have been conceived with one purpose in mind but it's taken on a life of its own.  There is no way the Foundation is going to even attempt to limit its use to their original purpose.

To those of us old enough to remember, the original 4-bit LSI "computer chips" were actually designed as "controllers" for use in cars.  It took the "hobbyist" to take those chips and create the first "general purpose" micro-computers.

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Re: Home v School

Sun Apr 08, 2012 5:51 pm

TheManWhoWas said:


OK, so sounds like the same story from a lot of people: during the 80s there wasn't much computing being taught in schools (despite those BBC Micros) apart from a few enthusiastic teachers doing school clubs. So most people actually learnt to program at home as a hobby on their home computers.


Well I did my O levels in 1983 - so home computers had only just started to hit the big time.


Then in the 90s home computers died out... but why? As I recall it was because of the arrival of a new generation of dedicated games consoles from Japan. As most kids were only using their home computers to play games, they swapped them for a SNES or MegaDrive.

So if kids went off cheap, accessible home computers at the end of 80s,


I'm not exactly sure why the home computer 'craze' began to die out.  There was still plenty of activity in the late 80s as people moved to the ST and Amiga and Archimedes.  However I think too many focused too much on their current machine (hence stuff like the SAM Coupe and Elan Enterprise), others moved to games machines as that was all they were interested in, and of course it was a time when the IBM PC was beginning to dominate in the business world.


then to get them coding *outside* of school in 2012 is surely going to be a lot harder than just providing a cheap, accessible machine again isn't it? Or will the novelty be enough to hook some?


I'm not so sure.  Kids today have two main things in their lives which we never.  Web content (which includes casual games) AND smart phones.  I don't know if this is enough of a draw to get them interested in learning to code but it can't hurt.

AndyInSurrey
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Re: Home v School

Sun Apr 08, 2012 6:07 pm

I was lucky enough to in my late teens at the start of the computer revolution in the 1980"s (it wasa great time). I didn"t own a BBC micro but bought a Commodore VIC20, C64, Amiga, and on these fantastic machines thought myself to program. I started first, as was the norm in those days to teach myself BASIC which was quite easy, moving on to 6502 Assembler, and then Modular 2. With this knowledge I completed a degree in Computer Science. While studying for my degree I learnt to program in C and then C++. The degree course did cover languages such as Smalltalk, Java, and C++, but I learnt most of what I use today (I am a Senior Software Engineer, programming in C++) from my own hacking and general self teaching. So, i would suggest that if any youngsters today wish to learn to program, that I believe they will learn most from learning to program, with any language (as a starting point) by teaching themselves. Admittedly a higher level or degree course will obviously help and teach them such topics as cryptography, multi-process time-slicing etc...

tritonium
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Re: Home v School

Mon Apr 09, 2012 5:56 pm

Some people like stamp collecting, others train spotting some even (dont know why) like football! As soon as I saw the first tele-tennis game I could not sleep until I could build my own. We're all different! The thing is, how many people that MIGHT like to program actually know that they can do it with their home PC?  If they did see it demonstrated they might have a go and get hooked.

I was dead keen and joined every computer club I could but they were awfully dissappointing - most only joined to exchange games that had been hacked. Try to get anyone to program and they didnt see the point. I suppose there were two or three out of twenty or thirty and we just started a club of our own, meeting at each others houses - still see them occasionaly after 30 odd years. In a way I think students should choose their own subjects; I was forced to do history and geography and hated every second and was ALWAYS bottom of class, but maths, physics, science, even metalwork woodwork art and english I excelled at (yep a secondary modern) - we're all wired differently.

I say give everyone the OPPORTUNITY and then only encourage the ones that get bitten; these days I dont think school children get the opportunity - perhaps I'm wrong?

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Re: Home v School

Mon Apr 09, 2012 6:29 pm

andyl said:


I'm not exactly sure why the home computer 'craze' began to die out.


A fascinating question, why do trends appear and disappear? I feel if we could answer that we would understand much more about the Universe than we do today. I suspect there is something to do with Chaos theory.

Logically, we have more computer resources available now, why do we not have more kids into programming? Kids seem to automatically seek out stuff that is "cool", generally novel things which their parents don't like or understand. Perhaps when PCs went mainstream, computers became the domain of adults and were no longer novel. The image of the "computer nerd" became established which didn't exist before, and is an image that puts off boys as well as girls.

I remember my brother buying one of the first video "pong" type game consoles, and it seemed incredible, despite the fact it only played tennis or squash, we played it for hours on end. There were few electronic devices in the house, and games and toys then meant Monopoly or Lego.

I suspect the great era of the BBC micro et al has passed, but I guess unless we try, we won't know for sure.




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Re: Home v School

Mon Apr 09, 2012 6:33 pm

I"m going to suggest the 80"s home computers got squeezed out in a pincer movement between affordable PC"s (such as the Amstrad PC1512) and Games consoles like the Sega Megadrive & the NES. Home Computers were trying take on both markets (Productivity/Programming and Games). In the end the dedicated devices won because they were better in their niche and then programming died on the PC side because it got too hard (in Windows)
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Re: Home v School

Mon Apr 09, 2012 7:55 pm

I'm a little surprised that no one has mentioned 'code hero' (http://primerlabs.com/codehero) - or at least a cursory search didn't show it up.

It seeems that a game that teaches javascript and a cheap and simple coding environment would be made for each other.

Is there a facility in the OS images to include a list of favourites or similar?

ttfn

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