Computer science in schools - advice and arguments needed.

You may have heard that UK schools will be teaching Computer Science from September, instead of teaching ICT (= "how to use Microsoft products").

Most people will agree that this is a good thing, since the basics of Office can be grasped in an hour or so, and hardly need the current years of study.

However, last year, whilst several thousand people qualified as ICT teachers, only 3 people qualified as Computer Science teachers.  Many existing ICT teachers only ended up as ICT teachers by chance.  That group includes me, but I am fairly sure that I will be asked to teach Computer Science next year.

So, here's the thing:  I am not confident that those with a grasp on the purse-strings know enough to make an informed decision regarding the route to follow in September, investment-wise, and  I know I'm not.

Possible routes that occur to me;
  1. The school teaches programming etc on PCs, using software to model the device being controlled by the programmes children write.
  2. The school invests in Arduino or Arduino clones, and forges closer links between the ICT and Technology departments to teach Computer Science through the medium of robotics.
  3. The school invests in Raspberry Pi, plus the required peripherals, and teaches programming of computers from the ground up.
  • In all three cases, the existing ICT suits would remain as a resource for other departments to use.
  • In 2 & 3, I would like to see the hardware being treated as a consumable, much like printer ink or wood.
  • In all three cases, nobody currently employed has any skill in those areas and has no time to be formally trained in those areas, so would need to learn alongside the pupils.


What do you think?

Which of these routes should I encourage my school to go down?  Why?

What other options are there?




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tim017095 years ago
There are many issues that people overlook. I'll try not to ramble...

For the past 10 years the "ICT Strategy" (launched by the government to improve teaching ICT to make it more relevant) tried to move away from software specific learning into a more balanced and multimedia 'product production' type of learning.
This meant a focus on Audience and Purpose; choosing the correct tool for the job instead of adapting Word to create a poster.
In my LEA we were shown how to make podcasts using audacity, movie editing in digital blue, creating websites using open mind and www.webs.com, making interactive web based solutions using open office or MS office, using magnetic darts in the class, then using the computer suite to generate a score keeping solution that gave you a 'finish' using google docs, making cool computer games using scratch and 2simple diy, animating using blender and xtrnormal.
We still taught the basics of office, but based them on, for example, murder mysteries using access, letters of complaints about the design of the school website using word etc.

Then the OCR National qualification was introduced.

Lots of schools in my LEA abandoned the KS3 PoS and taught Level 2 qualifications to EVERY 11 to 14 year old kid(Level 1). This raised the results for the schools and now almost every school in the area teaches this! Students missed the fun of using ICT to make cool things in favour of a course that made the school look good on results day.

NOW to counter act this, the government have decided to forget the strategy focus, remove these 'basic office etc' courses and replace them with computer science. Back to programming code, making text 'guess my age' games and getting qualified in geek. A 180 degree turn and back to the early 90's.

I dont mind this, but just when we were getting kids back to enjoying being creative using tools, they will have to learn how to make the tools they once used. This is turning off students from choosing ICT, therefore even less students will leave with ICT basics other than making posters and using proxy websites to access facebook.

I'll never forget my mentor at college
"Education is just like ballroom dancing. You go around in circles to someone else's tune"
Goodhart5 years ago
Kiteman (author)  Goodhart5 years ago
Unfortunately, there's a hardware issue (the factory fitted the wrong jack), so none have hit the wider public yet....
Yes, but here, at least a few individuals could test them, right? Or does the hardware problem preclude that?
Kiteman (author)  Goodhart5 years ago
No idea. I've signed up, though.

We have a "proper" ICT teacher starting in a few weeks, so we'll see what happens then.
Good, I hope things work out for the best for you all.
whatsisface5 years ago
I'm hoping that Office will still be taught alongside this. While the arguments against it are numerous, it's still my most used piece of software even on an engineering degree.

(I'm aware this isn't especially helpful to your situation, just thought I'd make my two-monthly comment).
You can learn Office in a weekend. It's stupid to have an entire semester long class on it, let alone _years_ of it.
I was required to know Excel like the back of my hand when entering university, and knowing what I was doing put me ahead of quite a view classmates straight away. When spending all night trying to work out the optimum design for a pipeline using Excel, you're glad to know what you're doing.

The "years of Office" image that's portrayed isn't accurate. I had a good amount of teaching in Office, but spent an entire year long course learning to use Flash and Fireworks. The IT course I did was a total joke, but not because I was taught Office. I'd say Office was the most useful thing I became proficient in over the course of my IT education.
My cousin works for a major international technology company, and has basically survived the last five years by creating a series of supply inventory metrics, which run on Excel.

His data-driven analyses are viewed daily by plant managers around the globe.

This is especially interesting since he's an engineer, and has been project manager for several products manufactured by the same company. He developed the software to help him in the job, and later discovered it was useful for others.
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