IT/Computer Education - A New Hope?


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Message 1402779 - Posted: 13 Aug 2013, 21:39:26 UTC
Last modified: 13 Aug 2013, 21:43:04 UTC

Here in the UK, "Computer Science" being taught as a subject was abandoned to be replaced by what I see as was a "Microsoft office skills" 'ITC' blunder.


Since then, we have the Raspberry Pi newly on the scene and new hope for spurring the introduction oncemore of teaching Computing to children and adults alike:


Learning Python using Codecademy and Raspberry Pi Minecraft: a resource of great note

... we got to talking about teaching using Raspberry Pi Minecraft. For a while I’d harboured a plan to write some proper teaching resources for it and had scribbled a few notes but hadn’t had time to develop it. Craig had had the same idea – yes, it was just like Darwin and Wallace – and we decided to get our heads together. Shortly afterwards Craig sent me what he had been working on...


Raspberry Pi Minecraft server

... What I really liked about Edwin’s blog are his final comments. Whether you are hacking Minecraft or building a media server or sending them into near space or messing about in Scratch, this is why we do what we do:

"You really have to admire the whole idea of the Raspberry Pi. They are brilliantly cheap, low power servers and whilst I may not have learned much about coding with them so far, I sure have learned a lot about the world outside of Windows, and just how much you can get out of very low priced hardware. The Pi represents a great deal of opportunity for all sorts of people with the ideas for all sorts of projects. I implore you to think of your own and give it a go, you won’t regret it." ...



Cue a freely usable device, FLOSS freedom, killer apps, and enthusiasm. How can any proprietary corporate types slap that down again?

Hopefully we have a new hope for computer and IT freedom as opposed to user exploitative enslavement.


IT is what we make it and what we allow it to become,
Martin
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Message 1402827 - Posted: 13 Aug 2013, 23:25:17 UTC
Last modified: 13 Aug 2013, 23:27:09 UTC

Here in the UK, "Computer Science" being taught as a subject was abandoned to be replaced by what I see as was a "Microsoft office skills" 'ITC' blunder.

Oh rubbish!

Martin, The employers Federations and Chamber of Commerces all over the country were asked what skills were lacking in school leavers. They all said, we want them to be proficient on day 1 in a new job with L2 ability in, word processing, basic spreadsheets, and a graphics package. An appreciation of databases would be an advantage. What is the industry standard? Microsoft Office. Why do you think the ECDL was brought in? Why do you think it is so popular throughout the world?

Were you ever an IT teacher? Did you ever talk to employers who pay wages about what they actually want? Well I was, and I have, and you are talking tosh. If people want to be experts in computer science such as programming, there are plenty of HND and degree courses that they can take in that niche industry.

Knowledge of Raspberry Pi's will not get you a job, an ECDL and knowledge of MS office will. End of story.


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Message 1402829 - Posted: 13 Aug 2013, 23:27:38 UTC
Last modified: 21 Mar 2014, 20:46:51 UTC

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Message 1402833 - Posted: 13 Aug 2013, 23:32:18 UTC
Last modified: 13 Aug 2013, 23:44:30 UTC

C++ and J++ are the high level languages. I learned Pascal many years ago with the OU and enjoyed it. The whole idea of eduacation whether at school level or FE level is to equip the student to be able to get a job and earn a living. The employers say what they are prepared to pay wages for, Martin says stuff that, lets teach them things that aren't any use to anyone.

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Message 1402835 - Posted: 13 Aug 2013, 23:37:42 UTC - in response to Message 1402827.

Here in the UK, "Computer Science" being taught as a subject was abandoned to be replaced by what I see as was a "Microsoft office skills" 'ITC' blunder.

Oh rubbish!


I agree with you here Chris. My company has recently undergone a reorganization to better position themselves in the marketplace during the recession, and we've recently hired a bunch of new coders (programmers) to re-write a lot of our customer software applications and to improve on them. These latest new hires are all complaining they want Macs because that's what they used in school (and thus are more familiar with), and most of them know very little about the Windows environment. This has caused in increase in support tickets because they don't know anything about the new Windows environment and how to write applications for it. There's been some grumbling about these new hires and a loss in trust that they have the competency required to lead the company forward.

...and we write for/use a Windows environment because that's what our customers use.


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Message 1402839 - Posted: 13 Aug 2013, 23:44:28 UTC
Last modified: 21 Mar 2014, 20:46:42 UTC

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Message 1402869 - Posted: 14 Aug 2013, 1:50:44 UTC - in response to Message 1402835.

These latest new hires are all complaining they want Macs because that's what they used in school (and thus are more familiar with), and most of them know very little about the Windows environment.

How the he|_|_ did HR offer them a job?

First language for me was FORTRAN IV. Then a smattering of APL, didn't have the math then to really get it. Went next to IBM 1130 assembler. That actually rounded me out a lot. Some Honeywell 635 assembler and whatever FORTRAN was on that system. At one point around there I knew enough COBOL to write a hello world program. Also picked up FORTRAN G and FORTRAN H on a IBM 360. Yes, they are different. Got in BASIC on a PDP-11, also hacked that one, and HP 3000's SPL. Must have been a version of FORTRAN I was using on a DEC-10 where I first learned TECO. From there 6502, 8080 and Z80, Pascal. Recently picked up C and since I have a Mac a bit of Objective C. Haven't gone for C++ yet.

What I know is that you aren't a programmer until you have learned more than one language and done real programming on more that one O/S and hardware architecture.

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Message 1402873 - Posted: 14 Aug 2013, 1:57:14 UTC - in response to Message 1402869.

These latest new hires are all complaining they want Macs because that's what they used in school (and thus are more familiar with), and most of them know very little about the Windows environment.

How the he|_|_ did HR offer them a job?


The prevailing hypothesis is that, since this is a completely new department built from the ground up during the reorg, that they were willing to hire just about anybody to fill positions and get the project off the ground. Indeed most of them have been given nearly everything they have asked for so that they cannot come back and say the company did not give them the resources needed to be successful if they were to fail.

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Message 1402967 - Posted: 14 Aug 2013, 8:15:08 UTC

Pascal was my first computer language and it wasn't that far of a leap to C++. I don't know why Pascal kinda dropped off the map.

I really must try c++ one day. As far as I understand it Pascal based on AGOL 60, was thought to be mostly suitable for a teaching environment and not mainstream commerce. Something to do with the language not allowing procedures or functions to be passed as parameters to predefine the expected type of their parameters. But many major development such as for the Apple Lisa and Macintosh, heavily depended on Pascal (to the point where the C interface for the Macintosh Toolbox had to use Pascal data types).

Very few find a job working for one of the big software companies (like MS, Google, Cisco, etc.) But you'd be surprised how many niche software companies there are out there.

The fact is that there are more jobs wanting general office software use than there are for programmers. We don't have typing pools any more these days, managers write their own letters and stuff, and make presentations to senior management using charts and graphs. Unless you are a Director of course.

Apple gives schools computers... why? They are trying to increase market share. It IS possible to write software with a Windows interface on a MAC, but testing isn't reliable unless it's on a Windows box.

Schools tend to get heavy educational discounts, and if Apple gives them the best deal it's hard to say no. Also government Depts of Education often offer a national scheme at even better prices. Apple Macs are mainly used in the newspaper, magazine, and Desktop Publishing areas where they are best suited to that job. 9/10 general offices use a Windows platform and MSOffice software or a free equivalent like Open Office.

The whole point of Education is to equip people to earn a living, you don't teach stuff that is not needed. Do chauffeurs need to know how to strip and rebuild an engine to do their job. No. Does the average office worker need to know how to program windows to use a word processor? No. Those that think schools should revert to teaching computer science, rather than a generation of secretaries, don't understand the job Market place. We have enough trouble as it is with people falling out of Uni with soft/easy degrees like media studies or leisure & travel etc, then finding no one wants to employ them.

Of course we need programmers as well, that is why there are HND and Degree courses in the science. This commputer science in schools business reared its ugly head about 18 months ago, and flushed out all the head in the sand types. I see it still goes on. The Raspberry Pi is seen by many as the BBC Micro of the 21C, and actually runs BBC Basic the first program I ever taught myself. And one of the aims at $25 each is for every school child to have one. Why do I see that as a potential money spinner for someone, rather than educating kids with skills that wont get them a job. If a student wants to go on to a degree in application programming then a PI could be a useful tool to cut their teeth on.

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Message 1402993 - Posted: 14 Aug 2013, 9:12:10 UTC

The only language I took a course in is PL/I. I did not understand a single thing and, since I was 44, I thought I was too old to learn computer programming. Then, having changed job and company, I was given a copy of the "white book", the C language manual. I read the first chapter and found I could understand it. I never tried C++, I am too old now, and you can't teach new tricks to an old dog.
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Message 1403004 - Posted: 14 Aug 2013, 9:48:16 UTC

I never tried C++, I am too old now, and you can't teach new tricks to an old dog.

Sorry I disagree, I am definitely going to have a bash at that and I am in my late 60's! Learning a new computer language is just like learning a new spoken language. The trick is knowing what you want to say in the first place in one language. Then you simply convert it to another to say the same thing. e.g. Good morning in English becomes Bonjour in French, or Guten Morgen in German.

To be fair PL1 is mainframe stuff and is accepted as a difficult one.

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Message 1403023 - Posted: 14 Aug 2013, 10:28:49 UTC - in response to Message 1402869.

... First language for me was FORTRAN IV. Then a smattering of APL...

Very old and grumpy and crusty then?


What I know is that you aren't a programmer until you have learned more than one language and done real programming on more that one O/S and hardware architecture.

Agreed.


IT is what we make it,
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Message 1403029 - Posted: 14 Aug 2013, 10:41:44 UTC - in response to Message 1402967.
Last modified: 14 Aug 2013, 10:59:21 UTC

... As far as I understand it Pascal based on AGOL 60, was thought to be mostly suitable for a teaching environment and not mainstream commerce. Something to do with the language not allowing procedures or functions to be passed as parameters to predefine the expected type of their parameters.

An important part of the ethos of Pascal was to eliminate the dangers of "pointers" and the debug fun they can cause in such as C. However, that also does away with the cleverness that can be done with data structures and object templates as used in C++.

Regardless, Pascal is still very capable. However, my own preferences are with other languages.


The fact is that there are more jobs wanting general office software use than there are for programmers. We don't have typing pools any more ...

Then have a specific subject for that. Importantly, teach to use a range of software packages spanning more than one vendor. It really is excruciatingly painful to see new starters panic-stricken when faced with even just the different versions of Microsoft systems. They are lost if the names are not exactly so and even more lost if the menus are in a slightly different position!

In contrast, the one saving grace for Apple Macs is the rigidly enforced consistent GUI. However, that can be just as bewildering when the menus don't quite fit the Apple proscription. It also encourages the users to become passive and ever more ignorant for the use of IT, incapable of learning anything 'new'...

Teach methods and what-to-do. Not Victorian rote following of screendumps!!


Apple gives schools computers... why? They are trying to increase market share...

That should be stopped as fraudulent.


The whole point of Education is to equip people to earn a living, you don't teach stuff that is not needed. ...

WRONG! VERY WRONG!

Teach what is 'needed' yes. You must ALSO teach children how to learn for themselves and to be inspired to do more than just become the same old robot repeating each day the same as the previous day.

Teachers need to be inspiring so that a few extras can be included to encourage at least some children to be innovative in whatever small ways.


IT is very much what we make it and what we allow it to become,
Martin
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Message 1403031 - Posted: 14 Aug 2013, 10:45:03 UTC - in response to Message 1402993.

... I am too old now, and you can't teach new tricks to an old dog.

Never.

And sometimes you can ;-)


Keep searchin',
Martin

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Message 1403032 - Posted: 14 Aug 2013, 10:52:16 UTC - in response to Message 1403004.
Last modified: 14 Aug 2013, 10:53:31 UTC

... Learning a new computer language is just like learning a new spoken language. The trick is knowing what you want to say in the first place in one language. Then you simply convert it to another to say the same thing. e.g. Good morning in English becomes Bonjour in French, or Guten Morgen in German. ...

That's one way that is rather restrictive and only works well if the differences between your two languages is merely "syntactic sugar". That works fine for example across the evolutionary improvements of different versions/releases of the same computer language.

Usually, different computer languages have different ways of doing things. Indeed, the whole philosophy underpinning a computer language can be very different to another language. Those "different ways" are usually the reason why there is a different language in the first place...

Hence, far better is to look at what grammatical/syntactic 'tools' and 'structures' a language offers and see how your task can be expressed to the best advantage of that language.


(And then there is the old joke that computer programmers can write C styled code in ANY language :-( )


IT is what we make it,
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Message 1403035 - Posted: 14 Aug 2013, 10:59:27 UTC - in response to Message 1402827.

The truth is that computer science should not have been dropped in schools.

The fact that employers etc want school leavers to be proficient at using a compute is an entirely different subject. And considering how much work is done by children in schools that also require those skills then basic computer proficiency should be taught before they are 14, if not earlier.

Which would leave ECDL or a GCSE equivalent as a vocational subject and Computer science as an academic subject.

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Message 1403036 - Posted: 14 Aug 2013, 11:07:07 UTC - in response to Message 1402827.
Last modified: 14 Aug 2013, 11:08:37 UTC

... Knowledge of Raspberry Pi's will not get you a job, an ECDL and knowledge of MS office will. End of story.

Knowledge of and the enthusiasm for a Raspberry Pi could well differentiate someone from all the other boring HR tick-boxes.

A Raspberry Pi could well drag some poor unfortunate out from serving greasy burgers on a zero-hours slave job.


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Message 1403046 - Posted: 14 Aug 2013, 11:35:26 UTC
Last modified: 14 Aug 2013, 11:37:13 UTC

I used to program in LOGO, both on my TI99/4A and my AT&T Olivetti UNIX PC aka PC7300, It is a subset of LISP, with graphic capabilities (see A.Disessa ,H.Abelson, "Turtle geometry". But I am 78
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Message 1403082 - Posted: 14 Aug 2013, 14:52:36 UTC
Last modified: 21 Mar 2014, 20:46:07 UTC

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Message 1403095 - Posted: 14 Aug 2013, 15:42:47 UTC - in response to Message 1403023.

... First language for me was FORTRAN IV. Then a smattering of APL...

Very old and grumpy and crusty then?

That is when your cousin was berating me for being smarter than he was and stealing my stuff to make up for it.

Oh, APL will make you old and grumpy ... :)

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