back to article Schoolteachers can't teach our kids to code, say engineers

ICT teachers will need extra training to teach the new IT curriculum that science minister David Willetts announced this month, says the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET). Under the "Behind the Screen" initiative, students in 20 trial schools will be taught to write software as well as use it. But Dr Martyn Thomas …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.

Page:

Silver badge

How about ...

... teaching kids basics, instead?

You know, like reading, writing and arithmetic?

Fondling an iFad is not computing, regardless of what the marketards of the world might have you think ... or not think, which is probably more to the point.

15
6
Silver badge

Basics

If the 'kids' are to learn computing then the 'reading, writing and arithmetic' bit is also required.

8
0

If the kids...

Are taught to program android apps or games (or other such activities) then the need for correct spelling, to be able to read and how numbers work becomes far more apparent.

The problem today is that all of the fun is drained from a subject and the constant exams and 'league table' mentality stops kids from finding out why they should be learning in the first place.

ttfn

11
1
Anonymous Coward

The article referred to encouraging students to write apps for their mobile devices by way of inspiring them. That seems reasonable to me, one of the challenges for educators is making it seem relevant and therefore interesting to the students.

On a more general note, I agree that training of teachers is a concern. Far too many of the ones I know only seem to come in to work because they've run out of windows at home to lick.

3
2
Gold badge
Mushroom

Some of the code I've reviewed recently would seem to contradict that.

Back in the day, the only godawful spelling and grammatical howlers were in the comments. Then they crept into the error messages and now they're in the bloody UI!

Also if you're trying to write code to calculate something, it helps to have a basic clue about how the calculation in question works. I've seen some serious FAIL there in the process of translating a spec into code....

6
0
Silver badge
Headmaster

Teach kids skills, not knowledge!

@jake, Bang on the money!

I was never taught to code, my teachers who taught me Computing ( ICT, my freakin arse! ) didn't really understand coding but they understood logical thought. I taught myself to code.

They taught us simple ideas using electronic circuit components to illustrate how a complex system works, and when broken down into the components, how that made it work.

They taught us how to put something together, how to troubleshoot it correctly using logical thought, then how to fix the problem.

They taught us how to think correctly and as jake says, we learned the 3Rs so we could communicate those logical thoughts.

All these basic tech skills I still use today, because my teachers gave me learning skills, not knowledge. The skills they gave me, allowed me to source the knowledge I have and I will be eternally grateful to them for that.

3
0
Anonymous Coward

Robots!

Everyone loves programming robots, even undergraduates who should be interested in coding as a whole. It's nice to have something tangible to interact with rather than just pixels on a screen.

It's not that expensive either if you use something like the mindstorms kit, which people have written c compilers for.

1
0

I'm an IT Teacher!

The General Teaching Council stats miss out a huge sector of teachers - College Lecturers. I am a College Lecturer with a Cybernetics and Computer Science Degree, and was a technical architect building software worth millions of pounds before changing careers. I teach A-Level ICT and BTEC qualifications, and know from my own experience that teachers in colleges have to have a qualification in the subject they are teaching, and / or a high level of experience.

I whole-heartedly agree with the initiative, and see a good way of going forward would be for schools to utilise this resource in our colleges and other Higher Education establishments - make links with the local colleges and universities and get fully qualified teachers with high levels of real-world experience helping younger students to achieve their potential.

8
0
Holmes

Ok, could you then please

...list what you want to teach your pupils ? Does it include algorithms and data structures ? Do your pupils appreciate the concept of a type system ? Is it more than Excel-Macro hacking ?

0
0

Much more than Excel Macro Hacking - I took a group of 8 year olds through C# using Visual Studio 2010 to build a character that jumped around the screen. We did the basics - variables, conditional statements and loops designed via a flowchart. You can explain types via "Lockers", physical objects they understand (Lockers of different sizes store different types of information) - it all boils down to how well the teacher can explain their craft.

1
0
Silver badge
Thumb Up

C# is probably a good language to use as well. Quite easy to program but with a lot of complexity for the eager student wanting to know more. Do you explain that not all environments use garbage collection and cover the pros/cons?

Personally I've had more trouble with C# garbage collection than I ever did with C++ and the heap. Once you know RAII the heap is far less daunting and store usage tends to follow program flow automatically. And a lot more closely than garbage collection.

But if I was teaching programmers I'd want to stick C++ style generic programming in there. A lot of programming is generic and you can save a lot of time if you good at spotting the fundamental types and operations.

Oh and I'd also teach comments as 'Something you need sometime but only if your code is not clear enough in the first place. Fixing the code is better than writing a comment' :)

0
0
FAIL

Ahahaha. Yeah.

I'm with jake here.

I work in a school and spent most of the morning logging on for kids that can't handle the concept of username and password, even with both written on a slip of paper for them.

Teaching them to program? As well teach a labradoodle quantum physics.

12
2

While that is true, even with college students on IT courses, teaching students the basics through something like Scratch from MIT (http://scratch.mit.edu/) can get them to grasp seemingly complex concepts such as Event Driven coding without too much pain. I've manage to teach 5 year olds how to build simple programs through scratch, then be able to translate that into simple flowcharts for a design. It isn't much of a jump, once the initial concept is grasped, to start learning the grammar that makes up a programming language and creating simple programs.

2
0
Anonymous Coward

Labadoodles?!?!?! Simon, sorry that's because you work in a zoo not a school. Real kids can figure out passwords, how else do ya think they gonna get on Facebook?

4
0

Its like you work here.

1
0
Anonymous Coward

'Real Kids' tick the 'Keep Me Logged In' box and store the password in their browser so they never have to remember a password.

'Real Teachers' suck donkey balls at most IT related subjects but I fail to understand why any parent would want their kids to work 'In IT' these days, the wages are crap for all but a very small number of people and the majority of work is dull as dishwater dealing with idiot users who have to store their passwords in their Internet browser so they can get onto Facebook.

4
0
Silver badge

@AC 13:40 GMT

They were lead throught the registration procedure and never ever logged off since?

4
0

Teaching kids to code != preparing kids for a career in IT

Take a look around you. Consider how many of the devices you can see (and those you can't) have embedded processors. Now consider that someone, somewhere, has to have written the code running on those processors. These programmers aren't employed by IT departments, nor would they describe themselves as IT workers, and in general (at least as far as the UK goes) if they're any good at writing embedded code then they can earn pretty decent salaries.

Then take a look at your computer. How much of the code running on that do you think was written by someone who has "looking after networks and users" as part of their job spec? Programmers working on desktop systems might be more inclined to describe themselves as IT workers, they may even be part of the IT department, but they're still often a long way removed from the sort of IT worker you're describing.

And even if you don't want to make a career out of writing code, it can be damned useful to understand the basic concepts of coding. Think about the office worker bashing out a short bit of VBA to make their day to day tasks a bit easier, or the scientist putting together a Matlab/Octave program to analyse some data.

3
0
Joke

Wouldn't you be better off teaching a Cat quantum physics?

I imagine that once you hit Schroedinger it'd be a lot more alert... and keep out of enclosed spaces with hammers!

2
0
Happy

Labradoodles and quantum physics

@Simon Neill - But at least when teaching labradoodles Quantum Physics, they do learn it (but, they also don't at the same time). The real problem with this situation, though, is that they might chase Schroedinger's (US Spelling) cat.

0
0
Bronze badge

Apparently, that sort of thing is hard.

Or the teaching/explanation is dreadful.

People vary. I hit a brick wall on math somewhere about the details of calculus, but username/password is right down at the level of basic literacy and numeracy.

0
0
Silver badge
Black Helicopters

Sadly true. Good technique and design goes out the window the day you have your first meeting with the Project Line Manager. You know you're screwed as soon as someone says the dreaded 'schedule'.

The motto here seems to be:Don't worry if the code is crap - we can fix it in the next project. If we want.

0
0
Silver badge

@Simon Neill

"As well teach a labradoodle quantum physics."

Actually, so-called "designer dogs" are a symptom of the problem at hand. There are no magic pills, people. It takes work to get anything useful done ...

0
0

Professional Software Engineering?

But they wouldn't be teaching professional software engineering, in the same way that they don't teach civil engineering in high school either.

Learning the basics - variables, functions, maybe some OO - to put together a simple (memory-managed!) app would not need a teacher with a degree in Computer Science.

I got taught BBC-BASIC and then Q-BASIC. It sparked the interest and led to me now being a "professional software engineer". The learning how to do it properly and professionally bit came later, and will be on-going for the rest of my career.

9
0
Thumb Down

I disagree

If you want to teach math above a basic level, the consensus is that you must be a mathematics graduate. Why is it acceptable to compromise in Computer Science/Informatics ?

0
0
Silver badge

not so sure...

i think these days all you need in the UK to teach maths is to not be a paedophile....

or at least not a convicted one at least

0
0

Re: I disagree

You need* a qualification in the subject that you are teaching that is one level higher than the level you are teaching at. So, if you are teaching at GCSE you need an A-Level, if you're teaching at A-Level you need a degree.

If you're talking about teaching KS4 or lower kids coding then you really don't need a degree in it. In fact it could well end up being counterproductive ("omg how can you not know what double dereferencing is?!!?!?? Are you 12 or something? Ah, ok fair do's")

---

* in theory of course. My lass teaches A-Level psychology and has....ummm... no qualifications in that subject. She does of course have a degree in her "proper" subject.

0
0
Silver badge

Whilst I agree that teachers will need more training to implement the curriculum, I take task with a couple of the quotes in the article.

"Professional software engineering is as big a step up from school programming as civil engineering is from Lego."

Well, yes, of course it is, but the problem is that the children in school DON’T DO PROGRAMMING AT ALL. (mostly) – there is no school programming to step up from. It’s all teaching MS Word and Excel (which also needs to be done, but preferably with LibreOffice as well)

"For example, all the kids are running around with iPods and iPhones, why don't they get them to write applications for them? They need to inspire students."

Well, HIS children might be running around with iPods and iPhones (overpaid father trying to make up for not being at home with his children?), but as generalisations go, that’s pretty sweeping.

4
0
Mushroom

Just lock them in the room with a reference manual

Why not use the same method us fogies used to learn to code when we were 7!

Give them some magazines with listings of games in them that they can type in ... the listings inevitably have bugs in them requiring the students to either debug the code, or admit to having wasted hours on typing the stupid thing in!

Give them a reference manual and let them sort it out for themselves - they will be better coders for it!

4
0
Silver badge

Except they cannot use the school PC's to do all that stuff, because they might break them. These machines don't even have compilers on.

Biased, but Raspberry Pi.

1
0

Indeed

Give them an Acorn Electron and all 52 issues of Input magazine (complete with the errata, just to be evil) and once they've mastered that, they can move on to an Amiga 500 with a copy of Devpack and the big blue bible.

Happy days....

2
0
Silver badge
Thumb Up

Re reference manual

Yes, but how do you expect kids with the attention span of a mayfly to cope with a reference manual?

0
0
Silver badge

Or do like I did...

... I learned 6502 assembler on the BBC Micro by initially using Exmon to hack games for infinite lives!

(Of course these days kids don't play vertically/ horizontally scrolling shoot-em-ups, don't know they're born, mutter, mutter...)

0
0
Thumb Up

@ James Hughes 1

"Biased, but Raspberry Pi."

Well worth a mention. The project seems to be shaping up pretty well and should free up some budget to re-skill said teachers.

0
0
Thumb Down

But before that...

The preceding question that needs to be mentioned is how do you expect kids that are unable to read+write well to cope with a reference manual?

0
0
Devil

those teachers

Those so called teachers many times who teach kids from books many times have never used a computer.

Those same teachers try to get a secretary position and one was hired and never used a mouse. Because she did not know how to use a mouse she was fired.

0
0
Ru
Mushroom

What school programming?

"Professional software engineering is as big a step up from school programming as civil engineering is from Lego."

Wrong.

You can draw parallels between lego and civil engineering. You can do robotics with lego. You can make mechanisms with lego. Hell, you can even do 'art' with lego.

School ICT teaches you how to use Word. Whilst I'm sure that's a super useful skill, it is almost totally and utterly unrelated to software engineering or computer science in any way, shape or form. Seriously. It isn't even as applicable as learning how to type. There's a closer relationship between learning handwriting and journalism.

I'm practically incoherent with rage; remaining civil at this point is surprisingly challenging. ICT as currently taught is almost entirely worthless, except as a way to discourage people from choosing computer science type courses or careers in future.

14
0

I must agree....

I teach A-Level ICT alongside BTEC computing (to different groups of students) - A-Level ICT has no relevance at all in learning to become a computing professional. It doesn't involve programming, and is more about "Problem solving in the Digital World" and identifying what types of network existed before we moved on to our bus TCP/IP Ethernet connections. I cannot really see the point of offering A-Level ICT (I know, the irony!) and yet my BTEC computing students go on to university and find that everything they learn in their first year they have already covered as a matter of course.

Students do GCSE ICT / DIDA and learn about how to use computers. They do A-Level ICT expecting the same, and are short-changed with a hodge-podge of some technical but mostly flowery talk surrounding computers and their place in society, that has no genuine use in the real world. Others do BTEC computing and are shocked to find a world of maths, binary, coding and network management, when they just wanted to format some letters.

Teach ICT right at a lower level - show people what the technical looks like, rather than just how to use office. You would end up with a lot less confused students taking IT courses because they enjoy playing on facebook.

4
0

Yes Word may be unrelated to software engineering but I assume they still teach Shakespeare as "English" - with a translation on the opposite page.

0
0
Thumb Up

ITEC -B-TEC

Those lofty techie sounding abriviations sounds remarkable wow!

Sounds like you must be ceritified almost to pronounce them.

I have zero certification at all and I am in the IT field 20 years and I do find problem solving networks and pc problems be they any flavor windows,switch,hub.

Besides programming is super easy. its just a bunch of simple tiny programs that when taking a look back looks like a complex program when you see the completed code. Same goes for electronics.... jus a bunch of simple tiny circuts combined to make a really big complex circut.

It just depends on knowing that and looking at the tiny picture.... Newbies who look at the big picture usually get intimidated and leave that profession all together.

1
1
FAIL

Garbidge in, Garbidge out

Wow, I must be unusual, because I have two IT degrees and I'm training to be a teacher. Funny that, because everyone else on my PGCE teacher training also had IT degrees!

And why not teach students to make apps for iphone; because Apple charges a small fortune, and you can only do it on an expensive Mac computer.

It's not a good policy, and there isn't the funding either. These are more "real" reasons why.

Also, how can students learn to program without being administrators of the computer, and the last thing you want is a bunch of 15 year old boys with administrator level rights!!!

0
14
Silver badge
Thumb Down

Huh?

***"Also, how can students learn to program without being administrators of the computer,"***

Huh? You claim 2 IT degrees and ask that?

Not degrees relating to system administration or software engineering, then?

12
0
Anonymous Coward

F*** me.

You are training to be a teacher? Does that include learning to spell Garbage?

My son's old primary school teaching couldn't spell or use proper grammar either.

I do agree with your other points though.

E&EO

3
0
Headmaster

"Garbidge"?

I hope you're not training to be an English teacher...

2
0
FAIL

Admin rights - to program?

I assume you're thinking of Windows here - I'm pretty sure QuickBasic will run in a DOS window without admin rights.

Real programmers would of course use an OS with a sensible permission philosophy...

5
0
Gold badge
Facepalm

"...I have two IT degrees and I'm training to be a teacher."

Hmm. You'd think that given the importance of the term "garbage" in the world of IT systems, you might have at least learned how to spell it at some point.

3
0

"Also, how can students learn to program without being administrators of the computer, and the last thing you want is a bunch of 15 year old boys with administrator level rights!!!"

The last thing you want anywhere is programmers with elevated rights. I've lost count of the cock ups that have occurred when testing software that will only run with domain admin rights simply because a programmer couldn't be arsed to figure out how to do it properly.

Our developers are now only about one step up from a standard user on their own desktops and at the same level as a standard user elsewhere.

2
0
Anonymous Coward

Garbidge what?

spell much?

3
0
Anonymous Coward

When I moved from IT support to IT production

they offered me (because I came from support) full admin access on the Windows box I am required to use for work. I flat refused - coming from a *nix background I know that being logged in as admin for day-to-day use is not only unnecessary, but plain crazy!

Besides, keeping my Windows box running is THEIR job (a job I was happy to finally find a path away from).

0
0

.

I thought he had intentionally spelt it wrong to emphasis the statement....

1
0

Page:

This topic is closed for new posts.

Forums