Computing at School


Today Michael Gove announced that from this coming September schools in England would be able to teach IT and Computing however they liked. I’m personally hoping that there will finally be Computer Science taught in the classroom, not pointless and uninteresting IT. You don’t need 5 years at school to learn how to use a Word Processor or Spreadsheet, yet that’s what IT education has consisted of in England since I was at school in 1992-1997.

I was lucky in that our Design & Technology classes included an aspect of control programming – plugged in to small drawing robots or lights and a ‘fake’ railroad crossing. Still, I taught myself most of those languages – no one was teaching, or capable of teaching, the fundamentals of the theory of computation. This is why Universities don’t require a Computing A level – most aren’t particularly useful.

I’ve been told about the Computing at School (CAS) scheme. This aims to build local grassroots groups in communities in the UK taking in teachers, business and university’s in order to develop and share local ideas and resources on how to teach Computing in schools. Every term each ‘Hub’ has a meeting, with more regular virtual meetings possible too, to discuss ideas and share experiences.

It’s a great idea, although my nearest group is 80 miles away! I feel a few phone calls coming along. If anyone fancies creating a group in the Eastern Peak / Derby / Sheffield kind of area, let me know. In the meantime, check out that site.

I heard Gove’s announcement on Radio 4 whilst driving to work. Made me wonder if any ‘visual programming’ tools were up to a decent standard. Prior to today the best one I’ve found is the Automator built in to Mac OS X. Thankfully MIT have created a programme called Scratch. This enables quick visual programming and has it’s own vibrant ecosystem or developers and shared projects. You can download, re-use, merge and enhance existing Scratch apps to do new things. It’s a great idea.

Also found the group Apps for Good. Sounds like an interesting idea, but a bit focused on mobile apps which are somewhat more complex to create. I like the idea of students with a bunch of tablets working on drag/drop components, sending them to a shared application library space, and integrating them in to full on pieces of software. Rapid Application Development (RAD) as it should be.

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About adamfowleruk
I'm a Principal Sales Engineer with MarkLogic in the UK. Big NoSQL geek, but not a mindless fanboi! Author of the upcoming 'NoSQL for Dummies' book from Wiley. Also love Node.js, particularly for real time situational awareness application stacks where timely information is a must. Love Node.js packages to run http servers, supporting WebSockets on HTML5 apps, and linking to IM platforms like Jabber. I'm the creator of MLJS and MLDotNet, wrappers in JavaScript and .NET, respectively, for the MarkLogic REST API.

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