back to article Australia should head-hunt Michael Gove

Over in Blighty, there’s an outbreak of sanity that puts at risk years of work by the computer industry to place itself at the centre of the education budget. If stories coming from the UK are accurate, the government has discovered that the IT sector’s vision for computers in schools amount to little more than an industry-wide …

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Vic
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I'd advise caution...

What Gove has proposed certainly looks interesting - but he's a politician. And a British politician, to boot.

Expect lies and half-truths.

If he delivers, things might be looking up. But I'm sure he'll be equivocating within the week :-(

Vic.

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Megaphone

Well I for one....

...hope that http://www.raspberrypi.org/ give these IT companies a bit of a bashing and get kids doing what I learnt to do when I was 8 or 9 years old, just messing about and learning and programming. Nobody ever taught me to program, I had to work it out (much to my fathers bemusement) from the manual and magazines. Now, clearly that isn't the best way to learn quickly, but its given me a mindset that I still have some 30 years on. 'just go do and work it out'

Now, the next problem is that most teachers just don't give a shit about computers from a programming and how they work point of view. My wife (a teacher) doesn't understand why anybody needs to know binary, what good is that to anybody. While, yes, we don't use it every day to 'code', an understanding is required to some extent. Knowing how it works, makes programming make sense. (iykwim)

So, how do we get this stuff taught in schools. Well, that is a good question, we need people from industry like myself who have the experience and the passion but I don't have the time to become a teacher, and they certainly aren't going to pay my considerably higher than teacher wages. Yet I do still have the passion I first had when I first got my hands on a ZX81, then VIC 20 and PSION brick that my dad used to borrow from work. And this raspberrypi has got me very very (slightly over) excited all again. I can't wait to show my 9 year old son it and get him into it.

I hate to say I just think this is just a politician spouting hot hair. We've fucked up teaching IT certainly well before I left school in the late 80's. By the time I left, I was a more advanced programmer than the teacher (and he was reasonably good as i remember). My thirst (and to be fair, my abundance of free time compared to his) probably allowed me to be so, but this is a resource we should have been tapping into a good 20 years ago when we are best suited to learning. Is it too late? time will tell.

My rant over, I'm off for a lie down.

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Raspberry Pi *is* exciting

Its so cheap, it comes with your choice of Linux on an SD card. Visit the site. I'm so getting one with loaded with Debian. I get the impression from their website that they're sensibly steering clear of big(or any) corporate involvement, and retaining total control. Which is great, because you know what would happen once the big sponsors weigh in. Suddenly it costs £350 & it runs Windows ;-)

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I'm probably getting a TrimSlice for myself.

I need a bit more oomph than the Pi can give me.

But I will be be getting two dozen RaspberryPi for the classroom here. They give a bit more hands-in than the TrimSlice can give the students. Particularly with that GertBoard!

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the best way to learn

errr... i think youll find it is the only way to learn.

teaching kids to program?

first youll have to teach them to think, can you imagine how expensive that would be, not to mention flying in the face of 30+ years of UK Govt. policy! - schools are there to train people to pass exams, and failing that a bung to the examining board will achieve the desired effect.

i only came in here cos someone said that gove's head should be hunted....

with hounds i hope :-)

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I agree

And better yet, it need cost no more than its face value plus a short Ethernet cable. Even the schools' current PC and the thing it calls an OS remain useful because the RaspberryPi needs a display and keyboard, but thats easy: use the cable to connect the two machines together and run PuTTY on the PC. Job done.

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Boffin

Why run putty from another box?

Just attach the display, keyboard and mouse to the Pi directly! It can drive an HD display, it's got USB and HDMI, job done.

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I'm confused...

Did I accidentally write the above post under the name HollyHopDrive?

Everything you've said is what happened to me (apart from the PSION).

I hope we are going to see a radical shake up of the entire curriculum, starting with Computer Science and then moving onto the other sciences; and that this leads this country back into an era of innovation.

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That implies you have a spare keyboard and display. I bet most schools don't have the industrial quantities of them that would be needed to equip a programming class. Using Ethernet cables lets the RaspberryPis share the peripherals already attached to a roomful of working PCs and will certainly cost much less than buying the dedicated ones needed for direct attachment.

When I get hold of a RaspberryPi, I'm expecting to connect it to my local network, hide it in a corner somewhere and access it via ssh or telnet/Kermit. Apart from being able to access it from any other computer in the house, this will save both desk space and the cost of an extra keyboard and screen.

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Anonymous Coward

Reading the RPi site they have said that they had to send out the orders to the Far East, as importing components into the UK and building them here was way too expensive due to import tax. Fully built units coming in are not taxed.

At a time when the UK economy needs a kick up the arse and we are taxing charities attempting to fall in line with the Gov's need to boost the UK electronics knowledge pool.

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FAIL

re: Well I for one....

"By the time I left, I was a more advanced programmer than the teacher (and he was reasonably good as i remember)"

I got refused access to the A level computer studies on the basis that I hadn't done the O level.. When I pointed out that I'd been programming in Z80 assembler (hand-assembly - yay! Our Nascom 1 didn't come with an assember so we had to save up and buy one..) since the age of about 13 and understood more about programming than the A level syllabus required I was told that that wasn't the point..

And this was in the mid-80's. So not much has really changed..

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Returning to the roots of computing

Back in the late 70s and early 80s before the rise of the IBM PC and compatibles, schools taught pupils about computers. We learned Boolean algebra for crying out loud. The understanding of the principals of computers prepared us for an industry where you will succeed if you can self educate. Teaching students to use MS produces prepares them for a life of drudgery and servitude with little way out. Other countries would do well to model their computer literacy on what the UK is planning and get away from the idea that a computer is just an electronic typewriter or adding machine.

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Linux

No, you can keep him

I hardly think any of the "new" IT policies originated with a gimp like Gove. He is an absolutely appalling man. He should be head-hunted - literally. By real head-hunters - the sort with machetes.

Of course, few to none of the teachers currently teaching "ICT" would be able to teach programming, and not many pupils will want to learn programming. The question, as always, is what do you teach those who are clustered around the middle , i.e. the vast majority.

However, as long as we get away from the ICT= "learning to be an MS Office user" , anything is better than that. We've got a proud history of computing in the UK, but it got chucked out with a lot of other good stuff from the 60s & 70s.

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Anonymous Coward

We actually had access to cars for drivers ed. It's not an optional skill on this side of the pond.

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Do not get to excited, he will not actually force schools to implement the new curriculum, and it will certainly not be ready by next year not in actually schools anyway, as that would go against his other policies.

He does not reward schools that teach IT or ICT or whatever you want to call it well, as ICT or technologies subjects does not count towards the school league tables places, which meant that schools have cut these department budgets even further and invested that money into subjects that does count toward league table places, many of them were already waiver thing anyway, there are wood and electronic labs at my old school which goes unused because they do not have the teachers who can use the equipment or teach subjects or the money to hire them, they were thinking about converting them into normal classrooms. Some schools have few if any dedicated ICT teachers, the ICT classes are often taken by part timer who also do other subject such English or History.

He also have not said where he is going to find all these programmers to teach kids how to programme according to his speech he has less than 9 months to find them, hire them and train them, 3 computer science graduates were trained as teachers last year, I am shit poor at maths but even I know that not enough teachers to cover a 1000+ schools.

He also have not committed any new funds to help encourage computer science graduates to choose teaching as a career option, we already have shortages in this country and train them, to allow schools to hire them and even some new tools for them to work with, not everything is free, and why there is some great free teaching material on-line, there is little quality control, so some fund to developed course materials would be required, the last thing we want is kids being scared of by poorly written on-line articles or poorly organise sites.

It sad where you hear about students who have produce Iphone apps failing or getting low grades because their IT teacher did not understand the programming language that use to build it or any programming language and the student had to teach him the basic Objective-C to get his low grade. and waste time commenting every line of code.

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Headmaster

God help us all...

If your grasp of the English language is indicative of modern British education standards.

We're all doomed, DOOMED I tell you!

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Facepalm

...... waste time commenting every line of code

Indeed. The less time it takes to produce code to be used by someone else, the better that code will be.

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Sad but true.

Schools have become exams factories, as they are monitored on the ability to get students to pass exams.

Education, as a whole, needs a good shake up, but I don't think Gove is the man to do it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: ...... waste time commenting every line of code

"Indeed. The less time it takes to produce code to be used by someone else, the better that code will be."

Not sure if you're being sarcastic - as is the norm here - but commenting every line should only be necessarily with a language like Brainfuck.

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Anonymous Coward

Returning to how it was

20 years ago I studied computer science at a UK school. Teaching about the insides of the machines and how they worked was commonplace once, before it was all scrapped to bring about shitty ICT courses.

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Devil

Derailing the gravy train

Sounds good, but I suspect it's an excuse not to continue to invest in computer hardware in schools rather than wanting any sort of meaningful change to the curriculum. Where will that leave our beloved educational IT suppliers? RM have retreated from international waters into an increasingly stagnant and shrinking pond here in blighty and who's going to buy poor old Lord Sugars Viglen POS's? Couldn't happen to nicer companies.

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Yep, I love the idea that the corporate leeches might be kicked off the tax-payer's tit, but sadly it's not going to happen that way.

If you read between the lines of Gove's announcements, you see talk about the 'contributions' that the big IT corporates will be making.

I think it's near certain that anything that Microsoft and it's pushers (RM and just about every 'independent' education advisor) lose from the demise of ICT, will be recovered by curricula and resources devoted to teaching Microsoft-only programming languages, with Microsoft-only tool chains.

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Devil

That may be the reason for the entire bruhaha

Errr... Did not Lord S*** support the losing party at the last election? That explains a lot...

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This just in

from 1969:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/archive/tomorrowsworld/8008.shtml

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Wow...

Even with all that checking and switching, Nellie still starts up faster than my mum's PC! To be fair though, it's been ages since it's oil was checked.

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Anonymous Coward

We'll throw in a few extras

Like the rest of the cabinet. While granted, his latest appears to be a rare outbreak of common sense, Gove comes with so many caveats that he's probably comfortably outweighed the upside of his good idea with most of the rest of his short ministerial career. Not the least would be his enthusiasm for conducting government business in ways that appear to deliberately bypass scrutiny.

You may find it cheaper and less damaging to the Australian education system simply to bribe your current minister to do the right thing.

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Coat

Wow...

I always thought i lived in a bassackwards backwater country, but seems we weren't the only ones to do the stupid CS move that followed the home/hobby computer>office computer stupidity. And while the "teaching Office is teaching nothing at all" isn't news, it's a whole different angle when politicians say it too...

Also, the argument that "the majority isn't interested" is a fallacy. They aren't interested in letters and spreadsheets either, they just deal with what get's thrown at them. Difference is, teaching how to dis(assemble) stuff and read/write basic (no pun) code might just do the trick of planting the seed of "independent thought" into them.

Then again, it's not in the gove's best interest to teach people how to think, is it...

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Devil

I wish they tought office

Do they teach how to use styles, bibliography, macros, etc? Do they teach excel properly - with excel basic, functions, stats, etc? Do they teach access? Yes, indeed access - it is part of office after all and people should know when to stop being silly and drop excel for a more advanced tool.

Do they teach the stuff that really distinguishes someone who knows how to use Office from the muppet that just clicks at random around the pretty ribbons? Do they teach the stuff that saves you 75%+ of your time when working with it? Do they teach the fundamentals which allow you to move to another platform in a jiffie?

NO.

So in fact they are not teaching office either. They are teaching font-turbation.

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Mushroom

If they didn't teach the basics (this is a mouse, this is the left button, this is the right button), then businesses would get new employees showing up with no idea how to use anything that doesn't send texts. Your suggestions are a little bit advanced for most people.

And Access? Burn it with fire, it's the only way to be sure. I've never seen a sensible use of access in a business.

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I learnt SuperCalc.

My IT As Level was 100% futureproof.

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Depends on the school but many do teach the basics including Macros, Functions, etc..

Access is taught as well in most schools to give a pupil an understanding of basic relational database creation and why its necessary.

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You may not have seen it but Access 2007/2010 can create a nice simple system for many users in a small business and trust me they do use it so it's still a useful skill to learn. If IT classes no longer teach Databases/Word/Excel who will? Word taught by English Teachers? Excel taught by Mathematics Teachers I very much doubt this, as an english teacher will not necessarily know enough about Word to give enough information in lessons to be useful in later life same goes for the Mathematics Teachers (but probably in the case of the mathematics teachers that excel isn't really needed in their lessons at all compared with a calculator and a lot of formulas). Adding ICT to the rest of the curriculum will probably mean a very small proportion of the school leavers will be able to use basic Office software in any benefical way for the company they work for without teaching them everything needed which would have been taught before the change. However I am a fan of having Computing in the school curriculum (Which has been around for sometime as a GCSE and A Level as well as the older BTEC qualifications). The best thing they can do is add ICT and/or Computing to the core subjects so it counts significantly to the league tables currently it is regarded as a second class citizen by many schools and this cannot be allowed to continue if they truely want us at the cutting edge of innovation. Time will tell.

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FAIL

Development of ICT programming strategy in schools

I was in education and staff development training for 7 years and as annoying as Michael Gove can be he has hit the nail right on the head.

Schools and colleges have concentrated their ICT curriculum on teaching the soft skills of teaching office based products which, unfortunately as the article states, is embedded with the product lifecycle.

I was educated in secondary school as the BBC Micro was a part of the world of learning about computers and I learnt (mostly on my own time) how to work the machines and when I went to college the same ethos was adopted. There was no Word or Excel in the early/mid 80s we learnt how to tinker under the bonnet and how it works. This was lost in the 90s and 00s. I've seen the ICT syllabus and it's dire. It ticks one box and that's it. Yeah they know how to use a computer in a limited capacity and one that they cannot control unless it's with a gaming controller.

A Smartboard doesn't a computer programmer make. Makes good use of their hands!

Now they learn how to work a spreadsheet and a bit more but can they evidence that they have taught the Socratic method of learning to the students to allow them to continue to advance?

They haven't for many years and some teachers are very poor as well. I've seen it and something needs to be done about it. So as much as I dislike Michael Gove he's right. No messing. Finally someone with some vision for ICT.

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Need some programmer teachers before teaching programming...

The trick here is getting the teachers. Like many have said, all the teachers I knew knew faff all about actually programming. I taught myself how to program both sets of the school's computers, without any help from the nominal teacher who just supervised the kids who could barely type. Anyone capable of programming is probably going to be lured away from school by industry/university wages. Maybe that's changing with all the outsourcing to India/China though.

I'm no way against the idea, but there are some big hurdles to overcome.

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Programming Teachers

Not only do they need to know what they're talking about, they need to be good at teaching it - something that seems to be lacking a lot of the time with people teaching that subject (though it is a hard one to teach).

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FAIL

Hmmmmm

My daughter's currently at the point of choosing her GCSE options. There are two ICT (sic) options - one is "Business Studies" based and does indeed concentrate on the use of Office products - the other is all about, er, programming. Does Gove want to sweep this away, too? Or is this typical politics - make a fuss about putting something right by doing, er, nothing because it isn't actually broken to start with?

One thing I DO agree with - send Gove to Australia, one way ticket.

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I think the technical term is 'engineering'

And to be honest, I think there will be as many kids bored with compulsory engineering computing lessons as there are with office suite instruction.

Hopefully, though, they won't be the *same* kids. Engineering is imperative to understand a technological society, but the better the engineers are, the less a user has to understand.

That said - 'computer engineering' (not necessarily computer science) goes all the way from 'this is an AND gate' to programming APIs for the latest display surfaces.

(Apropos of which - has anyone else noticed that current computers have fewer and fewer external connections through which one can actually influence hardware, as opposed to talking to the web? It's getting really hard to manipulate physical objects these days - try bit-banging an I2C protocol from a laptop...)

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WTF?

So who do we blame now?

As expected the teachers are saying no. If they are so concerned about multinationals deciding the curriculum why have they not suggested something instead of being negative, as always. As for saying school I.T is not boring where is their evidence? Have they conducted a survey of the children or don't children count. I could equally say teachers are boring but it would not make it true. If the current system is so good (according to the teachers union) why is the UK I.T skills pool so parlous.

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Facepalm

Fixed the title for you...

"Australia should head hunt the civil servant who finally got their secretary of state to realise there is a problem, developed the policy and wrote the words he spoke"

You don't think he actually knows anything about IT do you?

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You can have him

It took the efforts of groups like Computing at School and the Raspberry Pi Foundation to persuade Gove of the mess we were in, and his knee-jerk response demonstrates that he still doesn't understand the magnitude of the problem. A flexible IT curiculum from September? Who's going to teach it? It's not just kids today who aren't learning computer science, most of their teachers didn't learn it either. I've read that of the 28,000 teachers who qualified in 2010 just three were qualified in computer science. Maybe he expects the Big Society is to provide, but knowing his type he'll just outsource to India.

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Anonymous Coward

You can have him...

...on a free transfer , and no returns! other than his headline grabbing announcement (with no real plan on how to do it) , you might find the rest of his ideas abhorrent and incompatible with equal opportunities for all citizens , or perhaps Aus. would like religious nutters to run their schools too?

The biggest problem with Academic Computing is educationists , the head of computing at our local computing specialist school confidently told her pupils that you couldn't create web pages with anything but dreamweaver , not that the pupils were not allowed but that no other program could manage such a task.... this is further compounded by it taking longer to approve course material then the life span of the iteration of any programming tool.

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Absolutely. Some people obviously didn't get to the bit were he says industry leaders like Microsoft and Google helping to shape the curriculum. What a crock.

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Holmes

Or they could just call the IEEE or the ACM.

But thhere should be no problem with *people from* Microsoft and Google helping to shape the curriculum, as long as they are not the people from the penetrative tentacle arm injecting requirements on products. There's good and bad in companies.

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Alert

I do not understand how R Pi will save the world

Raspberry Pi is just some hardware abet cheap.

To teach kids to program they need:

an environment that supports development

teachers with the knowledge and skill to guide the pupils

a language that will in the first instance allow quick development - with GUI

a language that can then be expanded to allow more control - i.e. lower level.

As far as I am aware R Pi is not going to supply all of that.

In teaching programing, the hardware is not important. What is important is the environment, the tools, and the teacher

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R Pi is a "me too" product

Arduino is established and cheap. it has plenty of support materials for learning , many many affordable add ons and an eco system of inventive users. it helps in the understanding of coding AND hardware. Oh and has the advantage of being open source.

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Anonymous Coward

I get the impression that Raspberry Pi, although well-intentioned, has quite a bit to do with people reliving their microcomputer era indulgences, regardless of whether kids today identify with them, plus a not insignificant amount of score-settling amongst various Cambridge area technologists who saw their favourite technology companies squander their opportunities and ultimately beach themselves in the 1990s. In some cases, some of those technologists may have played a bit part in actually guiding (or failing to guide) those companies and keep them afloat, so they might be looking on this as their second chance.

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Optional

Let's all go back in time and the first computer science taught in schools - BBC micros and BBC BASIC, that was it. "IT" developed into a bit of everything in the 80s and then morphed into "ICT" at which point we started training kids to type and do secretarial duties. In F/HE we used to teach base level electronics though to 4GLs in various guises of "IT" ... the college SHUT its IT department last year having grown into a department where 50% of the teaching was application usage, networking had been dropped and one term of a three year course was the only time you did any programming (visual basic).

It is more than time for a massive hike in IT standards and methodology - but what Gove said is dangerous. Teach kids programming methodologies and you create a programmer who can potentially write 'apps' and 'applications' for a multitude of environments. However, using Gove's words, you teach kids 'how to write apps' you create an Apple specific app writer who doesn't know Pascal from C or a database from a RAID array and, to a large extent, is probably unemployable at the end of their course as the tech they've learned is out of date ...

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Anonymous Coward

I'll put up with Gove

as long as RM go to hell.

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When do you want him?

Obviously we'd be heart-broken to lose such a popular and charismatic minister, well known for his ideology-free, consensual approach; but perhaps it would be for the best if one more toxic reptile made its home in Australia.

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Anonymous Coward

Mr Popular

Surely people aren't suggesting that if Mr Gove were dropped into a shark tank, the sharks would all jump out and take their chances on land?!

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