Archive for March 4, 2010

British experts blame lack of IT professionals on schools

At an “E-Skills” event a couple days ago, the UK IT industry was bemoaning the lack of enough professionals — same issues as in the US.  Interestingly, the British Computer Society CEO thinks that the problem is with the schools.

However, British Computer Society chief executive David Clarke believes that more ICT professionals and those with high IQs can be encouraged into the sector only if the teaching of IT at school is changed.

“Young people could not be more engaged in IT. They are more switched on than the rest of us, so what’s the problem?” he said.

via Skills experts bemoan poor IT teaching – V3.co.uk – formerly vnunet.com.

I used to believe that Clarke is right, but as Eric Roberts convinced me, it’s at most a secondary effect.  Our curriculum and teaching style hasn’t changed that much since 2000/2001 when we had lots of students.  Now, when things are bad, poor teaching and bad curriculum may have more of an effect.  But given how few high school CS teachers there are (only about 2000 AP CS teachers in the US, so around 40 per state — and they’re not uniformly distributed), and how few students are going into our CS classes, it’s not clear how poor teaching could be influencing that many students.  I’ve heard the argument, “Students talk! High school students hear from the College students what it’s like!”  Not that we can trace.  Sure, it happens some, but not very much.  Teachers, parents, peers, and media (social and network) all have much bigger influences.

Poor IT teaching may play a role in low numbers of professionals, but even great teaching is unlikely to drive up the numbers.

March 4, 2010 at 11:55 am Leave a comment

SIGCSE Preview: Variations, Influence, and the Future

I’ll finish up my  SIGCSE Previews with three quickie mentions of panels and special sessions.

  • Media Computation was originally developed as an approach to engage non-computing majors in computing.  Since then, it’s gone in a wide variety of directions: From Beth Simon’s use with majors, to the Luther College crew’s CS1 using of PIL (Python Imaging Library), to Barb’s use as a special-effects studio for Alice, to Sam Rebelsky’s Scheme-based image manipulation, and to the Bryn-Mawr folks’ use of Media Computation with robots and Processing.  The session Thursday at 10:45 will be five-minute madness of several of these approaches, and an art gallery of some of the students’ work with these approaches. We call it “Variations on a Theme.”
  • David Kay has an interesting idea — the best way to figure out what were the most influential papers of a field are 10 years later.  He’s gathered a panel of opinionated, er, thoughtful computing educators to try to identify what papers before 2000 have been the most influential in the SIGCSE community.  Yours Truly will be one of those recommending papers, Thursday at 3:45.  Come see the debate!
  • Last June, the ACM Education Board hosted a meeting of about a dozen professional IT-related organizations concerned with computing education, including IEEE, AIS, and NCWIT.  We called it the Future of Computing Education Summit.  A report on that meeting and what’s happening as a result will be Friday at 10:30 am.

Okay, now I’ll get back to my normal ranting and raving.

March 4, 2010 at 11:31 am 2 comments


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