Wooloomooloo
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Re: UK Government: Children to be taught programming

Thu Dec 15, 2011 9:12 pm

Well, for what it's worth, IO is absolutely necessary to make a computer interesting for me too. But hey, I'm in embedded stuff, so no big surprise there.

But the fact remains that back then it was awesome to stick two DACs on the parallel port (also known as a "Covox") and hey presto have sound coming out of a beige box when one would only dream about buying an Adlib or a Sound Blaster (GUS was reserved for the gods themselves, as far as we were concerned); sticking various numbers of LEDs and switches and relays was also pretty neat, as was measuring a position of something with a potentiometer stuck straight onto the game port. And later on, designing a PCB that one could actually stick right into an ISA slot inside said beige box and actually have it work (like a boss) instead of obliterating everything in the room (well, on the mobo anyway) was in fact seven kinds of awesome.

Except, you know, all of these windows got closed: the only remaining IO - the USB - won't let you stick anything anywhere without a SMD adapter chip or a USB capable MCU and a doctorate in a few thousand pages long spec, and I wouldn't seriously think of interfacing anything with a PCIe bus in any of my saner moments.

And that's a damn shame. Because without arbitrary IO, the computer is limited to interacting with the world through a screen and a keyboard, which is to say, it hardly goes past being an intellectual exercise (granted, a very elaborate and in itself tempting one - and an indispensable global communications/access tool, these days). It cannot control the robot or quadcopter in your room, or the hobby CNC / makerbot on your desk, or the lights in your home, or the 1200 baud modem of your CB radio, and so forth. Yes sure, you could/can buy most of that pre-built. But the fun was in doing it yourself and actually succeeding...

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scep
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Re: UK Government: Children to be taught programming

Thu Dec 15, 2011 9:42 pm

Quote from Wooloomooloo on December 15, 2011, 21:12
But the fact remains that back then it was awesome to stick two DACs on the parallel port (also known as a "Covox") and hey presto have sound coming out of a beige box when one would only dream about buying an Adlib or a Sound Blaster (GUS was reserved for the gods themselves, as far as we were concerned); sticking various numbers of LEDs and switches and relays was also pretty neat, as was measuring a position of something with a potentiometer stuck straight onto the game port. And later on, designing a PCB that one could actually stick right into an ISA slot inside said beige box and actually have it work (like a boss) instead of obliterating everything in the room (well, on the mobo anyway) was in fact seven kinds of awesome.I must have missed that ICT lesson ;)

Except, you know, all of these windows got closed: ...And that's a damn shame.Not to the average school pupil it's not. It's a damn shame that they don't get taught how to make a computer do stuff until they are 16, and even then have to take a leap of faith to do A-level Computing because they don't even know what Computing is (and nor do their parents or senior management)

So no, I don't think that the USB being the only remaining IO is a shame. It's bugger, yes. But a shame? Let's leave the shame to the National Curriculum, schools and exam boards.

nichobb
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Re: UK Government: Children to be taught programming

Thu Dec 15, 2011 10:05 pm

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/educ.....n-16157519

Basically ofsted said 20% schools really bad at itc. And pupils don't want to take it further and numbers are dropping.

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scep
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Re: UK Government: Children to be taught programming

Thu Dec 15, 2011 11:23 pm

Quote from andywe on December 15, 2011, 20:24
Do you have any suggestions for a Computer Science curriculum for ... secondary school and beyond ...

As it happens, I do. (Or at least, Computing at School does.)

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liz
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Re: UK Government: Children to be taught programming

Thu Dec 15, 2011 11:25 pm

Scep's very heavily involved in CAS, and he's one of the team that is helping to put together learning materials for Raspi, which will be used by teachers in the UK (and, I hope, elsewhere). He's also a dab hand at using ellipses and paragraphs properly, which makes for a lovely rest for the old eyeballs.
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pvgb
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Re: UK Government: Children to be taught programming

Fri Dec 16, 2011 12:42 am

Back in the day, Byte magazine ran an inside the back cover piece about what would happen to the earnings potential for musicians if there was legislation to force organisations to have a band.

One of the reasons that we are all interested in Raspi is so that we can get people interested in programming again. Why ? Because there aren't enough programmers !

If there aren't enough programmers, one of the places you won't find programmers is in the schools. Do not try and tell me that you can teach programming if you cannot program yourself. ( I have seen it tried - it didn't work )

The UK Government have decided that programming is back on the curriculum. I fully support the idea.

Where are they going to find the people(programmers!) to do all this teaching ?
(Remember, we are short of programmers ... )

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liz
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Re: UK Government: Children to be taught programming

Fri Dec 16, 2011 12:46 am

We think a lot of work is going to be done, at least initially, in after-school clubs, with some of the slack taken up by (for example) maths and physics teachers who know how to program. You're right, it's a problem. We're also very interested in self-directed learning, like a lot of us turned to in the 1980s. (My IT teacher taught us how to type. I learned to program from magazines and library books.)
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gatto
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Re: UK Government: Children to be taught programming

Fri Dec 16, 2011 6:52 am

Coming from an 18 year old, I really wish they decided this much sooner, or rather never decided to abolish it in the first place. Throughout my entire IT education we were never taught anything about hardware, or anything more advanced in software than learning how to use Microsoft Office. In fact, the only two things I ever remember doing were mundane things in MS Office and very basic web page creation in some terrible program. And yeah, I did take IT as a GCSE.

Arhenius
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Re: UK Government: Children to be taught programming

Fri Dec 16, 2011 7:57 am

I got into 'Computers' (as it was refered to) in the 80's. The Maths teacher taught us about binary and hexidecimal and thats about it as far as computers went. Everything else was magazines and friends. As soon as you learnt something you told your friends and knowledge built up quickly. I was hooked on games. An learnt how to use computers so I could play. Programming at first was just copying someone elses code to make a game, but then because we had the code, we could stay fiddling with it. We left the teachers behind within days - because unlike them, we could spend all day and most of the night working on stuff. Writing code in our books during other classes. So I dont think is such an issue that schools need to have great programming teachers - yeah it would be cool, the most important thing is to give the kids the opportunity to learn and experiment.

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lobster
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Re: UK Government: Children to be taught programming

Fri Dec 16, 2011 8:20 am

self-directed learning

Here is my suggested curriculum:

1. Programming: The Dark Arts
Hacking: White. Grey and Black Hats

2. The Matrix has you:
Create a web site, from any device
Cloud tools

3. Card counting, stock market scams, programming your first billion

Homework:
With only a Raspberry Pi and a BASIC programming language
create the console for TARDIS 2 8-)

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scep
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Re: UK Government: Children to be taught programming

Fri Dec 16, 2011 9:51 am

Thanks Liz, I never remember to add disclaimers :)

P.S. Dear everyone, sorry if I was a bit prickly last night, it was a result of having to bake and individually decorate a batch of gingerbread men for my form group instead of watching the final of Masterchef :D

xkxx
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Re: UK Government: Children to be taught programming

Fri Dec 16, 2011 3:05 pm

16 year old here -- I do have computer programming class in my school which teaches Java. I learned my first programming language C++ in 6th grade, and I remembered it was not hard (actually, it was very easy, partially because my dad is an engineer. I lay on the coach and read an ancient C++ book from 1990s that belongs to my dad, and ten days later I learned programming). Now I'm devoted to HTML5, and sometimes I do python. My point is that programming is really not hard as long as you have the interest and you don't have to be a genius to learn it. Even brainf**k is not hard to master; yesterday I wrote a script in bf that outputs "Happy Birthday" for my friend in a hour. I think programming is nowadays mystified, and all we have to do is to uncover it, that's all.

jamesh
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Re: UK Government: Children to be taught programming

Fri Dec 16, 2011 4:03 pm

Like any 'job', programming has it good, bad and ugly people. Even the bad ones can program, but the results are ugly, The ugly ones can program and the results are bad.

It's the good ones that we need to find and improve from good to genius. There are genius programmers. In my career in programming (25 years), I think I have worked with about 3.
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pvgb
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Re: UK Government: Children to be taught programming

Fri Dec 16, 2011 10:32 pm

I propose honorary Hero status to all of those teachers who stay behind with the after school clubs to improve programming skills ( and frankly who teach them as part of the day job ). With hindsight, I was perhaps too dismissive of the programming skills of some teachers - apologies for that.
Ironic isn't it - we are also probably short of Maths and Physics teachers as well, but they get drafted in.

I find myself hoping that programming is going to be an option - not everybody has the mind set to be a programmer, and we don't want to put more people off.

andywe
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Re: UK Government: Children to be taught programming

Wed Dec 21, 2011 12:03 am

Quote: (from scep) As it happens, I do. (Or at least, Computing at School does.)
I've taken a look at both links ...
A social observation ...
High percentage of grammar school, fair smattering of oxbridge types and a well know "functional programming language" guru ...
Where are the comprehensive school teachers ?
Where are the arts, history and geography teachers ?
Where is the "cross curriculum" input .... ?
Neural networks, genetic algorithms and immuno-computing are very (IMHO) quite poor examples of biologically inspired computing ...
Or is this going to be "another cosy club" for "academically talented" .. "fenland dwellers" ?
With a "school teacher", "university teacher" , "technical trainer" hat on it all seems very worthy ...
but, forgive me, I didn't feel any "excitement" ... or "any subversive undertones .. "
I could, in my minds eye ... see "volumes and volumes" of clever little "Letts" and "Dorling Kindersley" revision and "cramming" books ready to "leap from the presses" ...

Just out of curiosity ... I did a search in the document referred to in the first link for "symbolic" ... hoping that there might be some mention of "symbolic computing" ... but nothing turned up ...

I also tried a search for "concept" hoping that something like "concept mapping" might turn up ... again no joy ...

A search for "semantic" drew a complete blank ... hence no mention of e.g. semantic web, or ontology ...

"reasoner" also drew a blank ...

I know this sounds very critical ( in the sense of criticising ) ...
I suppose that one of my dreams is for teachers of all backgrounds to use computers more creatively ... so that computers and computing is perceived as a "useful tool" and a "useful technology".

Maybe, to paraphrase Churchill (I hope correctly) 'Technologists should be on tap and not on top' ... and this most certainly could apply to politicians, bankers and professionals of all sorts ...

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scep
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Re: UK Government: Children to be taught programming

Wed Dec 21, 2011 12:46 am

Quote from andywe on December 21, 2011, 00:03
Where are the comprehensive school teachers ?
Here [raises hand from back of class]. I even used to be working class you know -- tripe for tea, the lot!

I suppose that one of my dreams is for teachers of all backgrounds to use computers more creatively ... so that computers and computing is perceived as a "useful tool" and a "useful technology".
I suppose that one of my dreams is ebony and ivory, living in perfect harmony ("Oh lord, why can't weeeeeee?").

In the meantime I'll keep actively pushing to get the teaching of ICT and computing changed, and despite your strange inverted snobbery and veiled ad hominem attacks, CAS is one of the most effective and successful organisations doing this. If it's good enough for the likes of Google, Microsoft Research the BCS and even the Government, it's good enough for me. As long as I tug my forelock and keep my eyes down of course.

P.S. In view of your dream, I assume that you saw the National Curriculum review expert panel report today. CAS helped inform that. And last time I looked the National Curriculum applied to state schools. In fact....

jacklang
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Re: UK Government: Children to be taught programming

Wed Dec 21, 2011 12:54 am

CAS is actually an open and quite diverse group.

I think before you can meaningfully discuss concepts like "symbolic computing" or "concept mapping" ("what is a concept?" is a hard philosophical question) or "semantic web" you need to get across ideas like variables, assignment, functions, types and data structures...

andywe
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Re: UK Government: Children to be taught programming

Wed Dec 21, 2011 11:35 am

Re jacklang and scep observations
Thank you for the criticisms ... they are well taken.
I am glad to hear that CAS is an open and quite diverse group ...
I also take the point about "inverted snobbery" ...
I did not intend an "ad hominem" attack , veiled or otherwise, ... apologies for that ..
It still seems to me to be the case that CAS is predominantly represented by grammar school / public school teachers and computer science academics and, of course, a very eminent Microsoft researcher ..
I do not, however, get the feeling that there is a particularly diverse set of contributors from outside of computing ...
In connection with "inverted snobbery" ... my failure for not making the point I was trying to make particularly well ...
When I was studying for a computer science diploma at Birkbeck, in the evenings whilst working as a clinical biochemist, one of my fellow students, who went on to complete a very distinguished PhD on spelling correction software, had a background in social work, and had written a wonderful paperback about his experiences with setting up a playground in a relatively deprived part of London, which happened to be in a borough containing some very affluent areas ... and his struggles to get the "local inhabitants" to "take ownership" of the project ... as opposed to , no doubt very well intentioned "upper middle class types" , taking the lead ...
I would like my "inverted snobbery" to reflect a wish that computing in education is seen as an "empowering" tool ...
In connection with "grammar schools" .. I live in Sutton, where we are "cursed" with a large excess of grammar schools, which, I think have a detrimental effect on the local comprehensive schools ...
[even though all my children went / go to the local grammar schools ... you can't fight a professional and determined middle class mum .. !!! .. and, yes, I can be accused with some justification of
being a middle class hypocrite ... though I try not to be one .. ]
If the computing curriculum in schools ends up as one producing quite challenging 'A' levels that can be best taught by well endowed and privileged grammar and public schools, and also provide a convenient selection mechanism for "Russell group" universities, then, in the broader social sense, it will have failed ...

In connection with symbolic computing and concept mapping ... it is not necessary to go into the hard philosophical background ... there are several very good mind mapping / concept mapping tools (open source also) that can be used for e.g. helping to organise ideas in preparation for a discussion, or project, or as revision aids ...

Similarly with symbolic computing, it is not necessary to understand the finer points of MACSYMA or REDUCE .. to be able to use such tools in a teaching context, e.g. to help with learning calculus or algebra ... What would be needed is an intuitive interface ...

I'm sure that this forum contains people more expert than me in the use of e.g. SAGE, http://www.sagemath.org/, for teaching maths ...

I have yet to try some of these ideas out ...
However, last year I ran a GCSE maths evening class for a small group of adults (only nominal fees charged .. ) .. who wanted to get a maths GCSE ... , I did make use of "little programs" that I hoped would make some of the concepts clearer, and also made use of some of the very nice BBC GCSE maths revision programs ... (inventing modified clones sometimes ... )
I learn a lot about teaching from my students ..
- the questions they ask
- the mistakes they and I make ...

Teaching computing to e.g. a top stream Grammar school class should be fairly easy ...
Teaching computing to a more general ability class in a comprehensive will be much more difficult ...
Surely one of the goals of this project is to reach and inspire those children ...
The bright ones can probably pick up computing themselves without too much effort ...
Are there any trade union representatives on CAS for example ?

andywe
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Re: UK Government: Children to be taught programming

Wed Dec 21, 2011 12:12 pm

Quote:P.S. In view of your dream, I assume that you saw the National Curriculum review expert panel report today. CAS helped inform that. And last time I looked the National Curriculum applied to state schools. In fact....

I have now gone through (first pass only) ... the primary and secondary education ICT sections of the National Curriculum Review ...
I do appreciate how difficult it is to come up with a national curriculum ...
I have yet do research similar curricula in other European countries ... e.g. France, Germany, Sweden, ... but, when I have some spare time will do so ...
The US STEM initiatives I track ... partly because of the generosity of many US universities and schools who make their work and software so widely available ...
Thanks for pointing me to the National Curriculum Review ...
I will also take a look at the Science and Maths sections ... when I have a moment.

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scep
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Re: UK Government: Children to be taught programming

Wed Dec 21, 2011 1:44 pm

@andywe

Your continued argument against CAS based on the demographics (and social status :? ) of its members is completely bizarre. Other comments such as " provide a convenient selection mechanism for 'Russell group' universities" suggest that you haven't the faintest idea what CAS is actually doing or what it has already achieved.

There is a Guildford Hub meeting on 22 February 2012 at The University of Surrey. You might want to go along and dispel some of your misconceptions (or reinforce them?). You might even want to get involved (we are specifically on the lookout for trade union reps at the moment, as we have far too many well intentioned "upper middle class types").

P.S. The comparison of CAS to a bunch of posh people designing a playground for underprivileged kiddies did make me laugh. Cheers :)

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glenn66
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Re: UK Government: Children to be taught programming

Wed Dec 21, 2011 2:16 pm

Once again, the question needs to be asked how this is going to be paid for? I'm not talking about the equipment, but the training of those teachers who are going to deliver this programming curriculum. I've been working as a local authority ICT advisor for over 10 years and the number of teachers who can teach programming is small and getting smaller every year as the younger teachers have been exposed to less programming at college themselves. This leaves a huge training implication that needs to be addressed, especially as programming is not a simple or 'core' skill and some people on this forum need to remember that; for many people it is very difficult to master.

The reality is that the public sector and particularly education is being squeezed like never before and school budgets are being slashed to the point where in-service training is becoming a luxury for many schools for the forseeable future.

Willets is just reacting to the critisisms from MS, Google, the BCS and so on because the government must be seen to do something, but I would be (pleasantly) surprised if this comes to anything concrete and measurable. I'm also wondering why Willets is being quoted and not Gove.

Call me a cynic, but I've seen this too many times to get overly excited about it. Ironically the government killed off BECTA to save £90m instead of looking at what the agency did and re-directing that money more efficiently. I was no fan of BECTA and I think it was responsible for much of the watering down of school ICT to where it is now, but the issue now is that there is no leadership.

Until I see otherwise, I'd say this is 90% spin.

bradburts
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Re: UK Government: Children to be taught programming

Wed Dec 21, 2011 2:20 pm

Like any 'job', programming has it good, bad and ugly people.

I've been told that I am in the last group.

It's the good ones that we need to find and improve from good to genius. There are genius programmers. In my career in programming (25 years), I think I have worked with about 3.

The process has got to be self sustaining & so material & support will need to be relevant for followers through to leaders.
Hopefully some will put something back in.
We need to bring out the potential from all, but I agree the programme should not be limited to lower achievement grades.

Which is why ....

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scep
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Re: UK Government: Children to be taught programming

Wed Dec 21, 2011 2:32 pm

Quote from glenn66 on December 21, 2011, 14:16... but I would be (pleasantly) surprised if this comes to anything concrete and measurable.
The ICT curriculum is about to undergo its biggest change in 15 years. So there is scope for change at least.

we are not entirely persuaded of claims that design and technology, information and communication technology and citizenship have sufficient disciplinary coherence to be stated as discrete and separate National Curriculum ‘subjects’. - Expert Panel for the National Curriculum review, 19/12/11

So - ICT reclassified as part of the Basic Curriculum; requirement for cross-curricular ICT (of course there always has been ;) ); investigation into the teaching of computing.

The question of training is a huge one of course. And one they didn't think about in 1997 when they just grabbed the nearest maths/tech/science teachers and made them Heads of ICT. Which is partly why we are here now...

andywe
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Re: UK Government: Children to be taught programming

Wed Dec 21, 2011 2:54 pm

Quote:
My argument is not against CAS per se. ...
It is about "empowerment" and about social inequalities ...
Guildford is a very rich and privileged area ...
It and its surroundings (e.g. Godalming) have some fine grammar and public schools
And, I actually taught in one of the better known local public schools there for 3 years ...
and also took an MSc in Spectroscopy at the University so I know the area pretty well.
I don't know what the demographics of CAS are ... and would be most interested in the relevant statistics if available ...
The comparison between posh people designing a playground for underprivileged kiddies and CAS is not the point I was trying to make ...
The point was about "empowerment" and trying to understand what the needs of pupils other than the fairly gifted are ... and about preventing the social gap between the well off and the not well off from widening.
I am afraid that , owing to teaching commitments I will not be able to make it to Guildford on the 22nd Feb. I do however, attend Guildford Meeting for worship regularly on Sundays and would be more than happy to meet up with you for a tea or coffee ... some Sunday.

When training as a Clinical Biochemist at Barts I did join Clive Jenkins union (as was) ... in response to a remark from our top grade Biochemist about "turning the hoses on the strikers" ... who were the folk who cleaned the wards and looked after the premises when they were having a meeting in the hospital grounds ... even though Biochemists have their own "trade union(s)" ... the Royal College of Pathology and the Association of Clinical Biochemistry. I was not as good a trade union member as I could have been .. but at least I joined ... at least I cared ...

bradburts
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Re: UK Government: Children to be taught programming

Wed Dec 21, 2011 2:54 pm

Quote from scep on December 21, 2011, 14:32
The question of training is a huge one of course. And one they didn't think about in 1997 when they just grabbed the nearest maths/tech/science teachers and made them Heads of ICT. Which is partly why we are here now...


Unfortunately that has been the history of computing; you can type, you're a software engineer!
Or worse still domain experts running software projects, nurse, its happening again!

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