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liz
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Re: UK Government: Children to be taught programming

Thu Sep 15, 2011 1:39 pm

This isn't directly about Raspberry Pi, but it's *fantastic* news. I wouldn't normally copy and paste an entire article to this board, but the only coverage I've been able to find so far is from the UK Times, which is behind a paywall most of you won't be able to get past. The URL for subscribers is http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/.....165320.ece

Discuss below!

********

Secondary school children are to be taught computer programming skills under a new pilot initiative that will ultimately develop GCSEs and A levels in the subject, David Willetts, the Science Minister, announced today.

GCSE pupils at about 20 schools will take part in the Behind the Screen project, which aims to transform the information technology curriculum so that children can learn not only to use software but also to write computer code for their own purposes.

The pilot, which will start in November and run until the end of the school year, is supported by several computing companies including IBM, Google, Capgemini, Microsoft and Cisco, which will contribute to course development.

While information and communication technology is a compulsory part of the national curriculum, computer scientists and programmers have long argued that this course does not meet the demands of the digital economy as it does not offer opportunities to learn to write computer code.

The new pilot will instead develop a course that will teach computational principles, software development, computer coding skills and logic, so that pupils develop the ability to create software for themselves.

Mr Willetts, who launched the initiative at the British Science Festival in Bradford, said he hoped the pilot would begin to address criticisms of the ICT curriculum raised last month by Eric Schmidt, the chairman of Google, in his McTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh Television Festival.

Mr Willetts recounted how Mr Schmidt said: ‘Your IT curriculum focused on teaching how to use software but gives no insight into how it’s made. You’re throwing away your great computer heritage.’”

Mr Willetts continued: “That’s a point that has been put to me and my colleagues in the Department for Education a lot over the past few months, and I can announce today that it’s being tackled.

“There’s going to be a live pilot over two terms in schools of a programme that is going to transform the IT curriculum, away from computer literacy, which we believe mnay young people can do earlier, to move instead towards how they can develop software, computational principles, how they can create their own programs. We think that’s exactly what Eric Schmidt was calling for.

“We hope that after the pilot, where industry will be providing a lot of the learning resources, there will then be a programme that the examining boards, who support this in principle, will be able to use to support the construction of new GCSEs, new A levels. That in turn will improve the flow of pupils with these kind of skills into universities as well.”

Mr Willetts said: “I want to see the ability to create software, to write programs, that is one of the key functional skills for the 21st century, and young people going through school, college and university should have the opportunity to take part.”

The project was welcomed by computer scientists. Tom Crick, senior lecturer in computer science at the University of Wales Institute Cardiff, said: “There is a perception that ICT and computing are the same thing, but there is a big difference between using a computer and understanding it. Kids tend to think of computers as magic black boxes: they can use the software, but they don’t learn how to write it. If we want to drive digital innovation in the economy, we need to have these skills.”

John Graham-Cumming, a programmer who is campaigning for coding to be taught to primary school children, welcomed the pilot. “Children first need to learn to be literate, then they need to learn to be numerate and finally they need to learn to be ‘algorithm-ate’,” he said.

However, he added that ideally children would be introduced to computer programming at the age of 9 or 10. “We know that the core ideas can be learnt by little kids. If you taught reading really late people would form the view that it’s really hard and it’s the same for programming. If you don’t show children what it is they’ll develop the view that it’s hard, or even worse, dull by the time they’ve reached GCSE,” said Dr Graham-Cumming.
He said IT and programming were different skills. “IT is such a dull-sounding subject that conjures up helping someone out because their printer doesn’t work. It’s terrible that in the public’s mind programming is the same thing, because actually it’s like painting or writing in that it’s creating something new. Microsoft, Apple and Facebook were all started by people who knew how to programme.”
Director of Communications, Raspberry Pi

Lakes
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Re: UK Government: Children to be taught programming

Thu Sep 15, 2011 1:55 pm

In a Dalek Voice Algorithmate! Algorithmate!! :)

Thanks for the copy n paste Liz, really good news. never heard of Capgemini, had to Google them!

MDC
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Re: UK Government: Children to be taught programming

Thu Sep 15, 2011 3:18 pm

Is that a gap in the market I see for the R-Pi.

Run for it R-Pi team.

I would be phoning David Willetts ASAP and follow him up on what he said.

stuporhero
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Re: UK Government: Children to be taught programming

Thu Sep 15, 2011 3:24 pm

That's what I like to see! Awesome news!

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liz
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Re: UK Government: Children to be taught programming

Thu Sep 15, 2011 3:33 pm

We're already talking to one of the people mentioned in that article, and have some meeting set up, so things are on track.
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reggie
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Re: UK Government: Children to be taught programming

Thu Sep 15, 2011 3:56 pm

That is great news, so we might now actually end up with programmers that can deliver working software within budget to our public services in 5-10years :)

blc
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Re: UK Government: Children to be taught programming

Thu Sep 15, 2011 5:49 pm

Brilliant news indeed, and if the foundation can get in on this now it would be a massive boost.

Tide
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Re: UK Government: Children to be taught programming

Thu Sep 15, 2011 8:33 pm

Just to play the advocatus diaboli: is getting in bed with IBM, Google, Capgemini, Microsoft and Cisco really such a good idea?
Reminds me of Hyman Roth's famous "What I am saying is, we have now what we have always needed, real partnership with the government"
While I'm by no means anti-Microsoft per se or an Open Source zealot I do have my doubts over their agenda.

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liz
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Re: UK Government: Children to be taught programming

Thu Sep 15, 2011 8:41 pm

I think it would be terribly, terribly naive to discount the usefulness of any efforts big business goes to to improve the pipeline of programmers that's coming through school at the moment just because they're big businesses. The fact that so many kids leave school never having written a line of code is a big problem for advancing this country's economy, standard of living and technological provision; it's also a big recruitment problem for companies like those mentioned above. They'd be daft not to act in their own best interests and support an initiative like Behind the Screen. What's good for Microsoft isn't necessarily bad for you and me - if we end up with more engineers in the UK, it's a win for everyone.

I like to think of what we do at Raspberry Pi as a kind of anarcho-capitalism - we're firm believers in the idea that entrepreneurship keeps the world spinning, and we're trying to make that happen with a very tiny, very cheap computer.
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obarthelemy
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Re: UK Government: Children to be taught programming

Thu Sep 15, 2011 9:14 pm

When I was working for Novell, I actually collaborated with MS on getting older students into "certificating" courses, via universities or equivalents (vocational schools, continuing education...). There's really several sides to the coin.
1- yes; companies mainly are interested in training people to their products, in the very realistic hope that they'll keep using, recommending, buying them forever.
2- yes, they're prepared to offer really really good deals to achieve that.
3- the alternative is relying on free or bargain-basement stuff, regardless of whether it is up-to-date and used at all outside of academia. I've been accused of favouring "training to the job" once already (about Java), but my take still is that
+ a good teacher using sponsored stuff will manage to teach the theory as well as that particular implementation, maybe present alternatives (though less hands-on). The students will come out brilliant with the sponsored stuff, and OK with the non-sponsored stuff.
+ a bad teacher will do nothing, the students will come out so-so with the sponsored stuff. I's still better than so-so with stuff no one's ever heard of in the industry.

The one twist to the tale is that the way the French public education system is regulated, students *have* to be exposed to alternatives. IT classes cannot be turned into MCSE certification curriculums, thus forcing teachers to do theory, and several implementations. A very good thing IMHO.

Tide
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Re: UK Government: Children to be taught programming

Thu Sep 15, 2011 9:17 pm

Oh, I'm quite aware of the usefulness. What I'm not so sure about is whether Steve Ballmer's ready to embrace Open Source projects and open architecture, last I heard from LiMux that didn't seem to be the case. But again: I'm not anti-MS and of course their move is legitimate. Could even turn out to be win-win and certainly a great return on investment for them. Where would the Rasp fit in?

jacklang
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Re: UK Government: Children to be taught programming

Thu Sep 15, 2011 10:34 pm

According to http://www.ukti.gov.uk/uktihom.....94640.html:

e-skills UK and a partnership of employers right across the economy,
including IBM, the BBC, Capgemini, Cisco, Deloitte, HP, John Lewis,
Microsoft, National Grid and Procter & Gamble, are launching “Behind
the Screen”, a programme to transform the IT curriculum. New GCSE and
A-levels will cover computational principles, systemic thinking,
software development and logic. Coursework will develop deep
analytical, problem solving and critical thinking skills.
Industry-backed challenges will encourage creativity, entrepreneurship
and team work. Teachers will be supported by employers, and students
will have access to a rich online resource pool - including online
lessons from national and international experts.

tangobravo
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Re: UK Government: Children to be taught programming

Fri Sep 16, 2011 7:28 am

Great news. I'm just coming to the end of a PhD at the Engineering Department at Cambridge, and was a "demonstrator" for the undergrad programming courses. The students are given a tutorial-type guide to work through and demonstrators wander around helping with problems. It was astounding the range of ability when they came in, and especially how many people had never written a line of code before, and were just floored by the very basic concepts. The "C++" course (mainly C really, OO isn't touched on) is only 4 weeks with 2 hours a week, so there really isn't time for people to get comfortable with the concepts if they've never come across them before.

barnaby
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Re: UK Government: Children to be taught programming

Sat Sep 17, 2011 7:32 pm

Hi,

As a 16 year old who has just left school to pursue a career in musical instrument making, I am only cautiously excited about this. IT education is something I care greatly about, but have had nothing but bad experiences with. The course I was forced through in years 10 and 11 was abysmal (how to use Microsoft word, and make tasteless banner ads in flash). I would have been proud to fail it, but didn't try hard enough.

I do not honestly think that mainstream education can offer a successful software development education at the secondary level. Why? Quite simply, many teachers are not capable of it. The ones who are (I had the pleasure of being taught by one for part of my course) are bogged down in the kind of rubbish I mentioned above.

There is also the problem that: "if you want to make something unpopular, make it compulsory in schools". This is true for maths, and to a certain extent the sciences. I have no doubt at all this would happen for software development too, unfortunately.

I realise this is turning into a rant :) I will sum it up: There are fundamental problems with the education system that need to be solved before education in general (and IT in particular) enriches children's lives to the extent it should.

And that is why I love the fact that raspi are choosing to sell to everybody, not just schools!

Cheers,
Barnaby

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Re: UK Government: Children to be taught programming

Sun Sep 18, 2011 12:03 am

I agree with the concept but dread the interview process with these new age programming kids. It's hard enough with uni graduates with their 'Im a Masters in IT' attitude, to now have a 16 year old now having the same attitude and the to demand salery equal to the Prime Minister.
Education proves compitancy and education needs to educate that to the graduates i see on a regular basis looking for jobs - they arent smart - they arent jesus and whilst they have learned some skills they need to understand how they are used in the real world, and to stop listing technologies they have heard exist but know little about.
Personally i'd even say I'd employ a hobo from the street than an IT graduate in the majority of cases.
Why - cos I dont get the attitude - and giving some one a chance they can be more productive and while learning to the required level will perhaps take slightly longer. But they bring more to the table and show more loyalty.
(sorry for the rant)

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Re: UK Government: Children to be taught programming

Sun Sep 18, 2011 8:01 am

The problem we (my department) have isn't attitude, it's aptitude. Based in Cambridge, UK, our office is filled with people from all around the world, because finding people recently educated in the UK with an even half decent skill set if not easy. CV boosting seems common place (actually from most applicants, not just UK, and one country in particular - why? They get picked to pieces in the interview anyway, so why put stuff on your CV that isn't true?) We have had a couple of good interns decently, but being able to choose people from Cambridge University probably helps.

It's at this point where the excellent phrase 'when I was a lad...' comes out....!
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MarkSmith
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Re: UK Government: Children to be taught programming

Sun Sep 18, 2011 8:46 am

While I agree that in an educational environment the open source ethos may be a better fit. Getting people on and through the learning curve is primary concern.

In my home...
General Browsing and homework is performed on Windows based machines.
Games usually on the Playstation , Xbox, DS and sometimes windows.
Android and iOS on the Mobile phones.
Music on iOS.

I have a 12 year old, who in her own words is a computer expert because she can use all the above and install drivers when adding USB devices.

I also who a 14 year old, who in her own words is a genius, as she duel boots Ubuntu and Windows 7 as well as all the above and currently costing me a fortune at sparkfun with Arduino parts and sensors.

I don’t really care what tools they choose, so long as they are using them.

st599
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Re: UK Government: Children to be taught programming

Mon Sep 19, 2011 3:23 pm

So, basically, they're re-opening the BBC's fantastic Micro program? I can remember taping computer programmes off the radio.

Firefox
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Re: UK Government: Children to be taught programming

Tue Sep 20, 2011 9:06 pm

That's good news... However, I'd echo the sentiments expressed in the last few paragraphs that Liz quoted - children should start learning to program when they're nine or ten so that the basic concepts become second nature to them. GCSE and A-level age is probably not the best time to try to introduce fundamental concepts as kids are wrapped up in their social lives then.

On a related note, do kids still play with turtle graphics and the like at primary school?

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Re: UK Government: Children to be taught programming

Wed Sep 21, 2011 7:27 am

Firefox,

Many primary schools have a robot called 'roma' that is programmable on a very basic level. I don't know how it's used in other schools, but at my primary school we used it once, and then (despite loving it) never touched it again, and were taught how to use Microsoft office in IT lessons.

This is actually pretty similar to what happened at secondary school — The school had a bunch of Lego Mindstorms NXT kits that I helped assemble, being in a science club at the time. They are barely ever used in lessons, and even at the 'robot club', they rarely used sensors, just made it move around - similar to Roma at primary school!

Again, this is personal experience, it might be great at other schools.

Thanks,
Barnaby

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Re: UK Government: Children to be taught programming

Wed Sep 21, 2011 8:37 am

@ jamesh:

The problem in general is that there are too many people chasing a small pool of jobs. Recent graduates will not have fallen into the clutches of the organisations tasked by the government to get people into employment by any means possible. Unemployed graduates with more than 6 months unemployment under their belts will be in a more difficult situation. Here the measure of jobseeking effort is measured by the number of applications made per day, for suitable positions or not. Any vaguely relevant post will be pounced upon and this is where CV boosting comes in as it is the way people are taught to write CVs, maximising the importance of everything they've done just so it looks impressive at the first cut of the interview stage.

The second problem is in the job advert itself. There is a tendancy for organisations to mention as many programming languages/software packages/methodologies as possible that an individual may be exposed to. I've seen jobs for junior developers, pitched at an £16-18k level that desire competency at with so many technologies, that I wonder who would actually have that skillset and could be bothered to apply for a job at such a pittance.

I don't know why employers do this. Is it that they're trying to show what a wonderful technically advanced employer they are? That they're trying to look better than their competitors? That HR/Personnel (being staffed by technical illiterates) have misunderstood the departmental job requirements? Whatever, it leads to unsuitable candidates "improving" their CVs to try and get a foot in the door.
I'm just a bouncer, splatterers do it with more force.....

stuporhero
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Re: UK Government: Children to be taught programming

Wed Sep 21, 2011 9:51 am

Heh I'll never forget the day when I was unemployed, see a job for trainee sound engineer, went for it to be told I couldn't go for it because I hadn't been unemployed for 6 months...

What I'm saying I guess is government shouldn't interfere and let people with the right skills go for the right jobs... And focus on giving people the skills to begin with!

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crundy
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Re: UK Government: Children to be taught programming

Thu Sep 22, 2011 12:40 pm

Back to the original topic: I was surprised recently because my Nephew (doing his GCSEs) said he has a project for school which involves them learning some Python, which is pretty cool. When I was at school there was absolutely no programming whatsoever (the main reason I went into biomedical sciences rather than IT) and if you wanted to do some coding you had to do it in your own time in the evening on one of the 3 machines that someone (read: me) had installed a trial version of VB5 on. That's if you could get on one of those machines, as they were the "multimedia machines" and always had kids on them messing around with the CD drives.

obarthelemy
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Re: UK Government: Children to be taught programming

Thu Sep 22, 2011 1:21 pm

Outside of the computer club at school, and programming problem solvers to "help" with maths and stats (and geograpy, history, latin.. ^^), I actually got my first whiff of programming at 18 in business school: dBaseIII, and Framework macros. That was... 25 yrs ago. And thing have actually gotten worse since:
My 18yo niece who is studying for the entrance exam to an engineering school (competitive stuff, very selective, and more techie than business) hasn't done any programming ever, I'm not even sure they're using Mathlab or such.
An 18 yo quasi-nephew (what do I call a cousin's kid ?) just switched study choices from nursing to programming (...) but hasn't ever done anything either. I even had to do his World of Warcraft macros for him, and he was not in the least interested in my explanations... Can you smell impending disaster ?
I hope the Pi will be an enabler, but at those ages kids need more than hardware. Most will already have access to a PC (though having a separate one will certainly save on negotiations and timeshare disputes), but need to be bootstrapped and motivated by fun and social stuff. How cool would it be to make a WoW mod ?

barnaby
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Re: UK Government: Children to be taught programming

Thu Sep 22, 2011 4:03 pm

I was surprised recently because my Nephew (doing his GCSEs) said he has a project for school which involves them learning some Python

Nice! That would come as a surprise to me too, having just finished. Did he do a full GCSE in IT?

Thanks,
Barnaby

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