Posts tagged ‘computing at schools’

Australia Labor Government: An education for the 21st century means teaching coding in schools

Australia may become the next country to teach computing in all schools, if a Labor Government gets elected.  I hope that, if it happens, it’s done well.  It’s expensive to get real CS education into every school.  It’s cheap and easy to declare that any course that teaches how to use software is “CS.”

Bill Shorten’s recent announcement that, if elected, a Labor Government would “ensure that computer coding is taught in every primary and secondary school in Australia” has brought attention to an increasing world trend.

There is merit in school students learning coding. We live in a digital world where computer programs underlie everything from business, marketing, aviation, science and medicine, to name several disciplines. During a recent presentation at a radio station, one of our hosts said that IT would have been better background for his career in radio than journalism.

There is also a strong case to be made that Australia’s future prosperity will depend on delivering advanced services and digital technology, and that programming will be essential to this end. Computer programs and software are known to be a strong driver of productivity improvements in many fields.

via An education for the 21st century means teaching coding in schools.

July 20, 2015 at 7:30 am Leave a comment

Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, and Lately, Coding: But mostly a video game (Elliot Soloway)

Elliot gets it right in his NYtimes quote from this last weekend.  Young kids who code are probably not learning much computer science that might lead to future jobs.  Rather, they’re “programming” as if it’s a video game.  That’s not at all bad, but it makes less believable the argument that we need coding in skills to improve the future labor force.

The spread of coding instruction, while still nascent, is “unprecedented — there’s never been a move this fast in education,” said Elliot Soloway, a professor of education and computer science at the University of Michigan. He sees it as very positive, potentially inspiring students to develop a new passion, perhaps the way that teaching frog dissection may inspire future surgeons and biologists.

But the momentum for early coding comes with caveats, too. It is not clear that teaching basic computer science in grade school will beget future jobs or foster broader creativity and logical thinking, as some champions of the movement are projecting. And particularly for younger children, Dr. Soloway said, the activity is more like a video game — better than simulated gunplay, but not likely to impart actual programming skills.

via Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, and Lately, Coding – NYTimes.com.

May 15, 2014 at 8:38 am 10 comments

Teaching Code in the Classroom – Room for Debate – NYTimes.com

Remarkable debate on the NYTimes website about “Should coding be part of the elementary school curriculum?”  All the debaters have very short statements, and they’re disappointing.

  • Hadi Partovi claims “By high school, it can be too late” and “Students learn fast at a young age, before stereotypes suggest coding is too difficult, just for nerds, or just for boys” — I don’t agree with either statement.  We have lots of examples of women and under-represented minority students discovering CS in high school. It’s not at all clear that students learn everything quickly when they’re young — quantum physics and CS might both be beyond most second graders.
  • But John C. Dvorak’s claim that “This is just another ploy to sell machines to cash-strapped school districts” is also clearly wrong.  The computer manufacturers are not playing a significant role in the effort to push computing  into schools.

Take a look and see what you think.  It’s exciting to have this kind of debate in the NYTimes!

Despite the rapid spread of coding instruction in grade schools, there is some concern that creative thinking and other important social and creative skills could be compromised by a growing focus on technology, particularly among younger students. Should coding be part of the elementary school curriculum?

via Teaching Code in the Classroom – Room for Debate – NYTimes.com.

May 14, 2014 at 8:37 am 12 comments

Coding in schools: A is for algorithm | The Economist

The Economist does a nice job of capturing succinctly the history of teaching computing in schools, the explosion of interest worldwide, and the greatest challenges to making it work.

Above all, the new subject will require teachers who know what they are doing. Only a few places take this seriously: Israel has about 1,000 trained computer-science teachers, and Bavaria more than 700. Mathematics and computer-science graduates generally choose more lucrative trades; the humanities and social-science graduates who will find themselves teaching coding will need plenty of support. Britain is skimping: it is introducing its new curriculum in a rush, and preparing teachers has mostly been left to industry groups such as Computing at School, which helped put together the syllabus. If coding is to take its rightful place in the classroom, it cannot be done on the cheap.

via Coding in schools: A is for algorithm | The Economist.

May 7, 2014 at 9:12 am 1 comment

Microsoft providing UK teachers with content and professional development for new curriculum

There’s a new computer science curriculum rolling out in the UK for elementary school students (thanks to the Computing at Schools effort), and Microsoft is making a big push to help the adoption.

Steve Beswick, senior director of Education at Microsoft UK, said: “We welcomed the news of the new computing curriculum alongside others in the industry because it is absolutely critical for the future success of our young people. The challenge now is to ensure that primary teachers are equipped to deliver it by September.”

“That’s why we are launching our First Class Computing programme now, which, through new materials, teacher training, and our ongoing work with the education community, can help a new generation of teachers inspire young people.”

via Microsoft unveils primary school suite for new computing curriculum teachers.

February 17, 2014 at 1:55 am Leave a comment

CAS’ latest SwitchedOn Newsletter includes Media Computation and Pixel Spreadsheet

The Computing At Schools effort has a regular newsletter, SwitchedOn.  It’s packed full of useful information for computer science teachers, and is high-quality (in both content and design).  The latest issue is on Computational Thinking and includes mentions of Media Computation and Pixel Spreadsheet, which was really exciting for me.

Download the latest issue of our newsletter here. The newsletter is produced once a term and is packed with articles and ideas for teaching computer science in the classroom.

This issue takes a look at the idea of Computational Thinking. Computational thinking is something children do, not computers. Indeed, many activities that develop computational thought dont need a computer at all. This influential term helps stress the educational processes we are engaged in. Developing learning and thinking skills lies behind our view that all children need exposure to such ideas.There is something of interest to all CAS members and the wider teaching community. Resources and ideas shared by teachers, both primary and secondary. There is also a section on the Network of Excellence for those new to CAS who aren’t familiar with current developments.

via Computing At School :: Computing for the Next Generation ….

January 14, 2014 at 1:18 am Leave a comment

Where are we going to get the teachers: UK Version

The biggest challenge to computing education in the United States is finding the teachers.  Turns out that the issue is the same in the UK.  I read on the Computing at Schools discussion boards, and part of the explanation for the ‘collapse’ described below is confusion about the curriculum.  What’s going to be offered?  ICT or Computing?  The bigger picture remains — just as we’re having a hard time getting the students engaged about computing, we’re having a hard time engaging the teachers, too.

The government’s plans to revolutionise computer science in schools are in jeopardy after a “collapse” in the number of applications to teacher training courses, experts have warned.

Graduates are shunning courses designed to prepare teachers for a new curriculum backed by technology giants including Facebook, Microsoft and IBM, figures reveal, despite scholarships of £20,000 for the best recruits.

The number of people applying for computer science PGCEs in England is down by a third compared with applications for the old ICT course at the same time last year. The number of applicants last year was itself down by more than 50 per cent on 2011, which suggests a continuing crisis in recruitment.

via ‘Collapse’ in trainee numbers threatens computing plans – news – TES.

March 4, 2013 at 7:56 am 4 comments

Defining the role for computer science in a national curriculum

The UK has achieved something that the US has not yet accomplished (but is trying through the Computing in the Core effort). Computer science is now included as part of a national UK curriculum.  Computer science is not yet part of most US state curricula.  Neil Brown does a great job (in the blog post linked below) considering the strengths and weaknesses of the new curriculum.  In particular, he considers seriously what every student needs to have — certainly some CS (like in the CS:Principles effort), and trying out programming, but with ICT and digital literacy as probably the most critical for everyone.

At the core of computing is the science and engineering discipline of computer science, in which pupils are taught how digital systems work, how they are designed and programmed, and the fundamental principles of information and computation. Building on this core, computing equips pupils to apply information technology to create products and solutions. A computing education also ensures that pupils become digitally literate – able to use, and express themselves through, information and communication technology – at a level suitable for the future workplace and as active participants in a digital world.

via Computing in the National Curriculum | Academic Computing.

February 25, 2013 at 1:22 am Leave a comment

Special issue of ACM TOCE on Computing in Schools

The ACM journal Transactions on Computing Education is going to have a special issue devoted to Computer Science Education in K-12 Schools.  Well worth exploring.

Recent activities in several countries, for example in the USA, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and South Korea, show a growing awareness of the importance of rigorous computer science education (CSE) for a successful, self-responsive and self-deciding life in the modern world. Consequently, serious efforts are made to introduce or to improve CSE in schools that will be followed by other countries, as we hope. Yet, for any country that wants to improve CSE in schools, it would be advisable to learn from the experiences that were made somewhere else. Nevertheless, those experiences were gathered under preconditions and circumstances that usually differ strongly from country to country. Unfortunately, the short format of conventional scientific papers prevents most reports about such experiences from covering all relevant aspects of the respective context. To produce relief, this Special Issue of TOCE aims to collect extensive, detailed case studies that discuss as many relevant aspects as possible, for example regarding the category system that was proposed in 2011 by the ITiCSE Working Group about Informatics in Secondary Education [1].

via Computer Science in Schools Solicitation Letter.

February 7, 2013 at 1:33 am Leave a comment

Vint Cerf urges computer science to be included in EBacc

Interesting that the ACM is taking an active role in this education public policy issue. I’ve seen them do this in the US before, but not in the UK. It’s great to see!

Vint Cerf – the founding father of the internet – is backing the BCS’s call for computer science to be included in the English Baccalaureate (EBacc).

In 2015, the EBacc is set to replace the current GCSE examination system in five core subjects: English, maths, a science, a foreign language and one or other from history or geography. Students wishing to take subjects outside of the EBacc will continue to take GCSEs until new syllabuses for other subjects are constructed.

Cerf, the vice-president and chief internet evangelist for Google and a distinguished fellow of the BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, decided to air his views following the publication of The case for computer science as an option in the English Baccalaureate report from the BCS.

via Vint Cerf urges computer science to be included in EBacc.

December 11, 2012 at 7:01 am 1 comment

Draft ICT Programme of Study now available for comment

The process that started with the Royal Society’s report on the state of computer science education in UK schools has now resulted in a new draft program of study, available for comment. It’s interesting to contrast with CS:Principles and Exploring Computer Science as two US curricula aiming to, similarly, give students the computing knowledge and skills that they need for modern society.

In his speech to BETT on 11 January, the Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove responded to the call from industry by starting a consultation on withdrawing the existing National Curriculum Programme of Study for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) from September this year. The intention was to allow the development of innovative, exciting and rigorous new ICT courses in advance of the launch of the new National Curriculum in 2014. Following consultation, the government confirmed on 11 June that it was their intention to proceed and that ICT would be a compulsory subject up to Key Stage 4 with its own Programme of Study.

In late August 2012 the DfE invited BCS and the Royal Academy of Engineering to coordinate the drafting of a new Programme of Study for ICT. In discussion with DfE, BCS and the Royal Academy of Engineering decided to follow the following process

  • Form a small working party to write a first draft.
  • Publish this first draft in late October, and seek broad comment and feedback.
  • Revise the draft during November and December in the light of that feedback.
  • The DfE will publish the revised draft, along with the Programmes of Study for other subjects, for full public consultation in the Spring of 2013.

The working party included several school teachers, together with representation from Naace, CAS, ITTE, Vital, and NextGen Skills. The group’s membership appears below. It met for the first time on 19 September, and completed the draft by 22 October as required by DfE.

We are now at Step 2 of this process. The current draft should be regarded as a first step, not as a finished product. It has not received widespread scrutiny, and it is not endorsed by DfE. It is simply a concrete starting point for wider public debate.

via Draft ICT Programme of Study | BCS Academy of Computing.

November 29, 2012 at 7:09 am 1 comment

The UK Version of Computing in the Core

Many Americans I’ve met don’t realize that the United States doesn’t have a national curriculum, and that the Federal government is prohibited (in the bill establishing the Department of Education) from ever creating one. States control curricula. The new “Common Core” standards are interesting because they’re being established by the state Governors — the states can work together to develop a common set of standards and curricula, but the Federal government cannot create such a set. Computing in the Core is an effort to get the Governors to consider computer science in those core standards.

There’s a parallel kind of effort going on in the UK. Their new secondary school standards are called the English Baccalaureate (EBacc), and the English Education Secretary, Michael Gove, has indicated a willingness to include computer science in the new EBacc. As covered by the BBC:

Mr Gove indicated that computer science could be added to the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) list of key academic subjects that teenagers are encouraged to study at GCSE. He said: “Computer science is not just a rigorous, fascinating and intellectually challenging subject. It is also vital to our success in the global race.”

A working group from the British Computer Society (BCS) has now completed a report making the argument for CS in the EBacc. It’s an exciting effort, supported by a coalition of corporate and higher education interests. I don’t know how to estimate which effort (Computing in the Core vs. CS in the EBacc) is more likely to succeed or how quickly. My sense is that CS in the EBacc has the advantage in that it only has to convince a single Department for Education, as opposed to the Computing in the Core effort which has to convince a coalition of state governments.

November 20, 2012 at 6:53 am 1 comment

£3m investment in Computer Science and Digital Literacy in Wales

New Zealand, Denmark, Israel, Computing at Schools England, and CS10K here in the US — there is a growing movement to improve computing education at the national level. Wales just announced a large investment to improve computing education there, too.

Computer science touches upon all three of my education priorities: literacy, numeracy and bridging the gap. It equips learners with the problem-solving skills so important in life and work.

The value of computational thinking, problem-solving skills and information literacy is huge, across all subjects in the curriculum. I therefore believe that every child should have the opportunity to learn concepts and principles from computer science.

Indeed, computing is a high priority area for growth in Wales. The future supply and demand for science, technology and mathematics graduates is essential if Wales is to compete in the global economy.

It is therefore vitally important that every child in Wales has the opportunity to study computer science between the ages of 11-16.

via £3m investment in Computer Science and Digital Literacy in Wales « Computing: The Science of Nearly Everything.

November 13, 2012 at 7:20 am 4 comments

Planet CAS: Blogs About Computing At School in the UK

I’ve been enjoying the Community pages for the UK Computing at Schools effort — so much going on there!  I just saw a link from Michael Kölling referencing the blog linked below — an aggregator of UK computing education blogs.  Really interesting set!

This is a blog aggregator collecting together the latest content from various blogs relating to computing in schools in the UK. The aggregator is maintained by Neil Brown (@twistedsq), who decides which blogs to include. Roughly, the inclusion criteria are that the blog should:

be related to computing (not just ICT or the use of technology) at school, with a UK focus,

be at least semi-regularly updated (a new post at least every 90 days),

have several posts already,

feature original content (not just links or quotes).

via Planet CAS: Blogs About Computing At School in the UK.

September 27, 2012 at 9:06 am 3 comments

Let’s call It “Computer Science” AND “Programming”: The fat line where most people will be

Who knows why meme’s start, but one of the big ones in the Computing Education blogosphere today is “Let’s not call it ‘Computer Science’ if we really mean ‘Computer Programming.'”  Based on Neil Brown’s excellent response, I suspect that it’s the UK “Computing at Schools” effort that is leading to this question.  If you’re going to define a computer science curriculum, you’re going to have to define “computer science.”  Both Neil and Alfred Thompson do a great job of helping us define kinds of computing and understand the goals of the different kinds of curricula.

I’m more interested in the assumptions in the original blog about what the “regular people” are going to do.  Jason Gorman claims that 99% of people involved in computing are just “users.”  “I believe that what’s needed is a much more rounded computing education for the 99%, with IT blending seemlessly and ubiquitously into everyday lessons as well as home life.”  They need computational thinking, but not programming, argues Jason.  Jason sees that only 1% of students should get programming. “For the remaining 1%, of whom some might become software developers, we need programming in schools (and out of school). Lots of it. ”

That sharp distinction is not how people work today.  Chris Scaffidi, Mary Shaw, and Brad Myers explained this in 2007. For every software developer in the world, there are four more professionals who program, but aren’t software developers, and there are another nine other people who are programming, but don’t recognize that.

  • A lot of Jason’s 99% are going to write SQL queries.  That’s where much of the world’s data lives today, and lots of people need to get to that data.  SQL queries require variables, conditionals constraints, an understanding of data abstraction, and oftentimes, a model of iteration. Looks like programming to me.
  • A lot of Jason’s 99% are going to create spreadsheets: Same variables, conditionals, models of iteration.  Oh, and testing.  One of the common themes in all the end-user programming literature is that new programmers don’t realize how many things can go wrong in writing programs, and how much time they’ll waste in debugging if they don’t develop good testing practices.  There is a real economic cost to all those end-user programmers losing productive time to bugs.  Is testing in the “Computer Science” side or the “Computer Programming” side?
  • All scientists and engineers will program: Maybe just in Excel, many in MATLAB or R, and a surprisingly many in both.  Greg Wilson just sent me a great paper yesterday about all the ways that scientists and engineers code.  They’re not professional software developers.  They use programming to achieve their goals.

Jason’s worldview has this giant country of “Computer Users,” and this tiny Lichtenstein of a country called “Computer Programmers” next to it.  The problem isn’t that the border between them is thin, porous, and maybe more gray than well-defined.  It’s a really fat line, and that’s where most professionals will live.  It’s really another whole country, lying in the border, and it swamps the other two.

What people do with computing is changing, and growing. Programming is a medium, a literacy, a form of communication and expression.  More and more people will use it.  Jason also raises the issue that self-taught programming is just fine.  Someone yelled at Alfred in his blog for not recognizing the greater value of self-taught programming.  Neil Brown called it right: Emphasizing self-taught programming is another way of shutting women out of computing.  I look at the issue from a literacy perspective.  Some people can teach themselves to write on their own, but you can’t count on that to achieve literacy in your society.  If a literacy is worth knowing, teach it.  Computer programming is a literacy, and everyone should be taught it — and computer science, too.

Think of computing as a pyramid. At the base, we have computer users, who will probably make up about 99% of the pyramid. The next level up is people who write software (let’s ignore people who make computers – that’s electronic engineering, which a CS education won’t help you with), and they might account for the next 0.9% of the pyramid. Finally, at the top, are computer scientists – people who advance the concepts, design the programming languages and “push the envelope” for the 0.9% of us who write software day-to-day.

via Let’s Not Call It “Computer Science” If We Really Mean “Computer Programming” – Software People Inspiring.

June 6, 2012 at 8:08 am 33 comments


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