back to article BBC: We're going to slip CODING into kids' TV

The BBC now has a policy of attaching an educational theme to each year that will be rammed into as many programmes as possible and will run across all of its channels and websites. 2014 was the centenary of WWI, as anyone with functioning sensory organs knows, and Auntie Beeb has decreed that in 2015, we will learn to code, …

  1. Christian Berger Silver badge

    I'm all for teaching children how to program...

    it's an essential part of being a politically mature member of society as more and more issues are related to data processing....

    ... but please don't torture kids with C++

    1. boltar

      Re: I'm all for teaching children how to program...

      "it's an essential part of being a politically mature member of society as more and more issues are related to data processing...."

      Not it isn't, anymore than understanding how a steam engine worked was an essential part of being a member of victorian society. People being able to use tools is what matters, not being able to explain their workings or construct them which always has been and always will be the preserve of specialists. Twas ever thus even back in the days of flint knapping.

      1. Christian Berger Silver badge

        Re: I'm all for teaching children how to program...

        "Not it isn't, anymore than understanding how a steam engine worked was an essential part of being a member of victorian society."

        Actually if people in a victorian society understood as little about steam engines as people understand today about computers, it would have been a problem.

        I mean there are people out there who know so little about computers they believe voting computers can somehow be made to conform with democratic standards. There are people out there who believe that computer can somehow prevent unauthorized copying of data they show to the user. The problem is that such insane ideas get put into laws and contracts... with lots of negative side effects for all of us.

        Today more than ever we actually cut of children from the ability to learn about computing. If you bought a computer in the 1980s, chances were that it booted up with a BASIC interpreter... today you need to root most mobile phones to even get to the shell.

        The smallest of the issues arising from that will be a certain "brain drain", you will get less and less people who get into IT and understand what they are doing. This will, on the long term, mean worse and worse IT.

        If we don't start educating young people now, there will be no one left to design, build and maintain the exoskeleton you need to get around when you are old. We already have one lost generation.

        1. tony2heads
          Gimp

          @Christian Berger

          What about SL4A, qpython and ruboto for your android?

          Learning some scripting language on a phone is quite possible

    2. Refugee from Windows

      Re: I'm all for teaching children how to program...

      Not C++, just a little Scratch and some Python maybe. Hmm, not blowing raspberries at this one.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'm all for teaching children how to program...

      Not all children, probably very few, will be truly interested in programming.

      C, for all the possibilities of going wrong, is great procedural language to start with and really teaches people PAY ATTENTION to what they are doing.

      C++ is a wonderful OOP language with again the same stipulation, PAY ATTENTION to what you are doing.

      They are, perhaps, the hard languages, on the one hand but just a unlimited in possibilities on the other.

      So, one or two semesters of C and the rest mostly in C++.

      Once, people understand the two above the rest will largely come more easily.

    4. MrXavia
      Holmes

      Re: I'm all for teaching children how to program...

      "it's an essential part of being a politically mature member of society as more and more issues are related to data processing...."

      I disagree, the last thing we want is every user behind a keyboard thinking they can 'program' a solution because they took a GCSE in IT and did some programming... that would cause more mess than anything, users cause enough problems with just excel and how to do macros they learned in school....

      "but please don't torture kids with C++"

      I agree, if we are to teach programming, lets teach the techniques, not the code....

      Those who want to learn will make the effort and take further classes in the subject...

      I.E. lets use something akin to lego mindstorms 'visual' programming language, my 7 year old understands that, and I am using it to teach him the principles of programming..

  2. Amorous Cowherder
    Happy

    Oh for the late Iain McNaught Davis, he'd have us all programming again in a jiffy!

    1. boltar

      @Amorous Cowherder

      "Oh for the late Iain McNaught Davis, he'd have us all programming again in a jiffy!"

      Indeed. Though I think the article was a bit hard on Click. They do cover some pretty meaty topics occasionally. At any rate, its far superior to the Gadget Show which seems to be aimed at whacked out 15 year olds with a 60 second attention span and presented by a bunch of sad Kidults - especially Jason Bradbury with his "zany skater geek" persona. Which is bit pathetic for a man pushing 50.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Truth4u

        Re: @Amorous Cowherder

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Jason_Bradbury.jpg

        In this photo he looks like a plausible boiler mechanic, but I wouldn't let him into my home.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Don't forget his sidekick

      Chris Serle

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

        Re: Don't forget his sidekick

        Or Fred Harris, or even "Freff".

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Don't forget his sidekick

        Whenever I think of Chris Serle, I remember this

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SehPOYKmRI4

        In our house, to 'Chris Serle' is still a verb meaning to deliberately and blatantly do something extremely badly and ineptly so as to make it look difficult or impossible, normally to reinforce a petty point.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The problem is

    that getting a computer to do what you want it to to is contra-indicated for life in the society that the government wants you to live in.

    1. king of foo

      #slurpsvictorygin

      Existing geeks don't make good cyber warriors; we are too old and opinionated - and we remember a world before CCTV and intrusive surveillance. We are too much like Winston.

      Enter the new hip young naive pliable cyber kids who don't "get" our point of view, and probably never will.

      I imagine that's the government thinking anyway.

      Dangerous...

  4. dogged

    Oh crap.

    My lad's 17 months old and a bugger for experimenting with things. He experimented with dribbling down the headphone jack on my phone, now that doesn't work. He experimented with sticking chewed toast into the charging port on 'erself's macbook Air - thank you, home contents insurance.

    Now they're going to encourage him to rain happy enthusiastic destruction on daddy's workstation?

    That does it. Nina and her chatty Neurons are banned in our house as of right bloody now.

    1. NumptyScrub

      Re: Oh crap.

      Small children have been happily destroying important and/or expensive things since the invention of small children. I was an utter nightmare once I worked out what screwdrivers did ^^;

      The only winning move is to put everything important out of reach (high shelves, or preferably locked up in a verboten area like the "study") until some semblance of "adherence to rules" (aka trustworthiness) emerges as they get older. This varies by child, so you'll have to make your own judgement call there.

      17mo is definitely too young to be trusted with kit that isn't at least IP57 certified, drool gets everywhere ;)

      1. DiViDeD Silver badge

        Re: Oh crap.

        My eldest boy was around 3 when he discovered he could 'share' his big sister's fruit pastilles with daddy's (very expensive!) motorised load cassette deck. Place it in the tray, press down, and the deck 'ate' it and opened it's gob for another.

        Wll the thing about leccytronics in those days was they got hot. And the thing about fruit pastilles when they get hot is ... the tray comes back empty. He was delighted that he managed tp get it to eat a whole tube before the screaming started.

        1. Ian Emery Silver badge
          Childcatcher

          Re: Oh crap.

          My son was about two when I caught him taking a live socket apart using my electric screw driver, and the BED apart with a socket wrench.

          I caught my daughter dragging my large drill/driver around and trying it out on sockets at NINE MONTHS!!

          She is nineteen months now, and has already discovered a keyboard short-cut to delete all my bookmarks, as well as a number of other weird effects.

          Oh, and randomly pushed number on mummies iPhone called someone in CANADA!!

          (She hasnt figured out the unlock on my Android phone .....yet)

          Anyway, I look forwards to Old Jack hacking the NSA from the safety of the Rainbow, or Makka Pakka writing a spreadsheet for his stone collection.

          1. MrXavia
            Facepalm

            Re: Oh crap.

            ummm maybe you should keep tools far away from them?

            I sympathise with the phone thing though... and don't worry, I am sure the 19 month old will learn how to unlock your phone soon, I think mine was 2 when he started watching me unlock mine and copied me...

            the thing with infants, they learn the pattern your hand does, NOT the code, so they figure it out faster than an adult without a direct line of sight.... although you only have to unlock your phone 2 or 3 times with the kid on your lap...

          2. TwistUrCapBack
            Coffee/keyboard

            Re: Oh crap.

            "Makka Pakka writing a spreadsheet for his stone collection"

            QUALITY !! :)

      2. soldinio

        Re: Oh crap.

        As soon as my 2 year old could reach the keyboard he started creating havoc on my home desktop. I turned on the PC one day to get the error message that "boot_mgr is missing". This struck me as odd as it was there the night before, oh well it was Vista so it may have got lost and/or corrupted somewhere. 'Found' a windows recovery disk and was surprised to be greeted with the report that everything was fine. After days of slowly going mental, I finally worked out that my little darling had hit the on button then flapped at the keyboard - and somehow fluked the sequence to re-program my bios so it was booting from the wrong hard drive.

        I dread to think what he will destroy once he has a little education :)

      3. DiViDeD Silver badge

        Re: Oh crap.

        "The only winning move is to put everything important out of reach"

        The initiative I found most useful was, believe it or not, to turn the door handles to certain rooms upside down. It meant, until they were 4 or 5, even if they had worked out what I'd done, they weren't tall enough to get the handle to the top of its swing.

        Led to a few 'senior' moments on the part of their mother and I as we tried to work out what was wrong with the door, mind.

        On a related door handly note, whose bloody stupid idea was it that locking doors (bathroom, toilet) should be easy to open from the OUTSIDE? The first time my daughter walked in on me in mid sh*t was a terrifying and traumatic experience (for me, that is - she seemed to regard it as a terribly clever trick)

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The kid I saw on the BBC News this morning...

    was working with html. Maybe useful, but hardly "coding"...

    1. captain veg

      Re: The kid I saw on the BBC News this morning...

      It certainly is coding, assuming that you're doing it in some kind of text editor, but it isn't programming. The article alludes to fact that there is a difference.

      -A.

    2. Kristian Walsh

      Re: The kid I saw on the BBC News this morning...

      Just the use of the word "Coding" shows the problem. Coding is what you were doing way back when you looked up hexadecimal machine-code instructions to turn your assembly-language into executable binary. I haven't "coded" since 1990...

      ... but I've been programming for thirty years. Programming is about finding ways to make a computer do laborious tasks so that people don't have to.

      As for the lack of girls in IT, any woman I've spoken to about this has given me the same answer: "hacker" culture. It's about as far from what a 16-year-old girl would think is "cool" as you can get, and it's at age 16 that most kids make their career choice.

      It doesn't matter that it grossly misrepresents the vast majority of well-rounded, personable, friendly people who work in IT and Programming - the perception remains that we're a bunch of sullen, asocial freaks with personal hygiene issues, borderline paranoia and a superiority complex.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: The kid I saw on the BBC News this morning...

        If the problem is media stereotypes then we can presumably interest girls in 'coding' by including pink unicorns and sparkly vampires?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The kid I saw on the BBC News this morning...

        Yet in the 1960s there was a high proportion of women in the computer industry doing computer programming. It was only after companies started mandating Computer Science graduates that the industry shifted to a male predominance. As a junior support programmer on an EEC KDF9 I shared an office with three women who were senior to me. Even the System 4 system programming teams included a large number of women.

        1. xerocred

          Re: The kid I saw on the BBC News this morning...

          There is a youtube video from a Norwegian guy called the "gender equality paradox" that (I think) goes someway to explain the dearth of females in computer/engineering and their dominance in other subjects.

          Basically as society gets more equal people follow what they would like to do rather than what career might offer the best job prospects. This also gives a plausible reason why the % is higher in those countries where gender equality is not so high.

          More importantly than getting girls to do subjects they may not be interested in, I believe we should be really addressing why girls make up 60% of eu and us graduates. If we are really equal then 50% more girls graduating than boys is the bigger problem.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The kid I saw on the BBC News this morning...

            Actually that makes sense, during the war my Mum (along with a lot of girls in her generation) was welding Bren gun magazines in a factory to support the war effort, strangely as soon as the war ended she dropped welding from her list of possible career choices.

    3. Kubla Cant Silver badge

      Re: The kid I saw on the BBC News this morning...

      ...html. Maybe useful, but hardly "coding"

      I know what you mean, but HTML counts as getting a computer to do stuff and trying to understand why it's not doing what you expected, which is an important first step. Declarative programming, rather than procedural, but not inadmissable on that basis.

      The danger is that HTML takes over and the whole project becomes as vacuous as the MS Office based curriculum of the past.

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: The kid I saw on the BBC News this morning...

        HTML may not be programming but CSS certainly is and by the time you've added SVG and JavaScript I think you are well past what you could expect junior school kids to cope with.

        Based on most of the web-sites that I encounter, you are well past what the average "web developer" can cope with. (Web-devs who actually have a clue must really hate the average member of their profession.)

      2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: The kid I saw on the BBC News this morning...

        "but HTML counts as getting a computer to do stuff"

        By that argument, marking up a document in MSWord is coding.

        1. Diogenes

          Re: The kid I saw on the BBC News this morning...

          I am trying something different with a year 9 class in our Web create unit -

          step 1. they build the site in HTML & CSS

          step 2. they make the site responsive

          step 3. add a little jquerymobile (and phonegap) magic and get them to minimally recode the site as an app

          step 4. take that app and really modify it.

          HTML, and especially HTML5 can be used to learn structure in a way word doesn't I have noticed my year 9s are thinking harder about the semantic structure of their sites since I flipped over to HTML5 & coupled with CSS they are making sound logical structural choices.We are currently at step 2 and they are having to make logical choices (introducing decisions)

          1. Diogenes

            Re: The kid I saw on the BBC News this morning...

            And further to my previous comment (and only applies if hand coding) and in response to the maligning of html as not "real" programming) it is useful for teaching some underlying concepts in the most painless way I can imagine...

            HTML/CSS/JS is teaching the separation of presentation & content that becomes useful when trying to code a "proper" app using Eclipse/XCode/C#+WPF

            It gets them used to the fact computers are fussy about syntax and spelling eg <p clas="fred" will never work (Brackets highlights unclosed tags which introduces the concept of a compiler error - I call it the pink mark of shame) and that using the right sort of delimiter eg < vs { vs ( in the right place is important (and so is closing them ) and needing " at the start and end of specific strings, and forgetting semi colons will cause a world of hurt in CSS.

            There is a very limited set of commands (120 tags in html - most people can get away with only remembering about 24 ditto properties in CSS) as opposed to a humungous api

            There is virtually instant feedback (especially Brackets+Chrome combination)

            Although this is not the brightest group I have ever had we are working our way through the unit faster and with deeper understanding.Its wonderful seeing the "aha" when somebody finally gets the concept of if-else if - else as we are currently putting media queries in the CSS

            1. oolor

              Re: The kid I saw on the BBC News this morning...

              @Diogenes:

              Sound pretty cool. My only question is, why in the age of HTML5 would you not just do straight JavaScript from the beginning? The DOM interaction that many JS libraries abstract are actually the best learning opportunities. Single thread operations along with event handling can lead to some interesting logic practice.

              Regardless, I hope you find time to incorporate plain JS into the curriculum (if you already are, awesome).

              1. Diogenes

                Re: The kid I saw on the BBC News this morning...

                @oolor

                Just getting them used to the stuff I describe in my 2nd post is hard enough - I am really trying hard not to scare off the girls in the class who think programming is icky. (Think of the pot being slowly brought to the boil so the frog doesn't notice :-) ). I will be doing a "proper" software development unit with them next year and take what I am covering with them now into the realms of "pure" javascript to create simple games on the canvas and really start logic and algorithm design then.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: The kid I saw on the BBC News this morning...

          "By that argument, marking up a document in MSWord is coding."

          To be fair, he did specify "in a text editor", so doing markup, auto-insertion of boiler-plate text based in selection of conditions and interfacing to a mailing list in MSWord for DOS on a text-only screen (or WordStar, or WordPerfect, is also pretty close to "coding".

          pointy clicky GUI document formatting in MSWord for Windows is not coding, but VBScripting a complex template/form might be.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The kid I saw on the BBC News this morning...

            The absolute worst thing about the breakfast tv spot was the reporter, she was dumbing down to such an embarrassing degree it was painful, stuff like "we're not talking about what you see on the screen , but the CODE (extra emphasis) behind it which makes the program run", sigh, most adults can understand that programs contain code, there's no need to talk to people like they are congenitally stupid or a politician.

            1. Ian Emery Silver badge
              Facepalm

              Re: The kid I saw on the BBC News this morning...

              I think you are VASTLY under-estimating the average level of stupidity.

              Please remember that the national Lottery have TWICE had to remove a series of scratch cards because too many people did not know that MINUS 18C is less than MINUS 16C when comparing temperatures.

              I also know of someone who managed to force Sky into cancelling their internet service because the routers WiFi broadcast did not transfer the data at the FULL 300Mbps speed (they only had a "G" spec card in the PC).

              1. Kubla Cant Silver badge
                Headmaster

                Re: The kid I saw on the BBC News this morning...

                @Ian Emery: too many people did not know that MINUS 18C is less than MINUS 16C when comparing temperatures

                Minus 18 degrees Celsius may be colder than minus 16 degrees Celsius, but "less than" implies magnitude, in which case the smaller value (16) is the lesser. If the National Lottery phrased its question as vaguely as your posting, I'm not surprised it had to withdraw the scratchcards.

          2. DropBear Silver badge
            Stop

            Re: The kid I saw on the BBC News this morning...

            To be fair, he did specify "in a text editor"...

            NO. Perhaps some people define "coding" (ugh, that word...) as hammering away at letters on a keyboard, but I prefer to define an activity by its result, not by the means employed to achieve it; marking up a text by clicking buttons is no more different from doing it by typing lots of <> than creating a program fitting coloured blocks together in Scratch is different from entering it in C. As far as I'm concerned, the former is simply "designing a layout" (dynamic content / javascript / CGI etc. are a different matter, but that's not what you're going to teach to a beginner is it...), while the latter is "learning about decision making". Technically, writing "2" down as "0x0010" is "coding" too, but in my book both coding and programming are defined as "instructing a machine how to perform task X" - and no, that's not the same as "telling a machine to perform task X by writing <this is X>hello<end of X>".

            1. lurker

              Re: The kid I saw on the BBC News this morning...

              @DropBear

              Coding is the act of writing anything which is a code, that's pretty simple, and not really up for debate, just go and read a dictionary.

              HTML is a form of code.

              Therefore, writing HTML, is coding.

              Actually the mistake is mis-using the word 'coding' when what is meant is 'programming'. Coding is writing in code (and therfore coding is in fact an extremely accurate term for writing HTML) whereas I would define programming to be the use of algorithms to complete a task. Unfortunately programmers have taken to describing themselves as 'coders' (I'm sure I've done so myself on occasion) which is where the confusion has arisen.

    4. lurker

      Re: The kid I saw on the BBC News this morning...

      Look up the definition of the word 'code', please. HTML is a code, as are all programming languages, as is morse code, as is pig latin. So working in it is coding. As a programmer myself, I get tired of snotty programmers sneering at HTML.

      Is it a complex code? Actually, it can be, when you throw CSS and the DOM into the mix. Is it 'computer programming' such as the old farts among us understood it 20 years ago? No, not really, but it IS coding.

  6. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
    Childcatcher

    Foundations

    It's a good and noble idea in theory, but it strikes me as missing two fundamental foundation parts.

    Firstly and most importantly would it not be better actually train the teachers first before just chucking in a whole new curriculum with coding in it? It's well known that a great and inspirational teacher who knows their stuff can work wonders, but the mirror is also true and one who doesn't know or care can wreck any possible interest in the subject forever.

    Secondly before the kids are taught to program, wouldn't it be better to introduce the underlying stuff like logical thinking and planning? I recall from eons past when I was at school we were always taught to plan all the stuff out first before going near a computer, and it generally worked much better that way than freeform typing. But now of course everyone in the popular media is painting the image of expecting 10 year olds to come home and program Pi's before teatime and tablet apps that will be at the top of the app store charts by Christmas.

    As the father of bright 10 year and 8 year old girls I can see this being an area for some more parental support and extra education where I can.

    1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

      Re: Foundations

      we were always taught to plan all the stuff out first before going near a computer, and it generally worked much better that way than freeform typing

      I'm sorry, I have to disagree. I suspect that the whole "turn off the screen and get out a pencil and paper" method was originally advocated before IDEs which allowed rapid exploration and experimentation. I'm sure most kids would find it a turn-off. What are they going to put on the paper? UML?

      That's not to suggest that the paper approach isn't valid in professional development (though in 30 years' experience, I've seen little of it going on). But interest has to come first - discipline can follow.

      1. BlueGreen

        Re: Foundations

        > But interest has to come first - discipline can follow.

        absolutely agree. If any latent interest is killed, the subject's dead. If you tease that interest you can lead them to new places.

        The huge advantage of computers IMO is that it's the essential tool to bring maths alive - to take abstractions and turn them into something the kid can see onscreen.

        I don't think that coding is actually that important at all, I think maths *is*, and computers can bring them to it better than when I was at school. At least make it less of a dull, bloodless chore - and I had some genuiniely good maths teachers.

        Problem is, maths' abstraction is its profound strength but, pedagogically, its weakness.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Foundations

        "I suspect that the whole "turn off the screen and get out a pencil and paper" method was originally advocated before IDEs which allowed rapid exploration and experimentation."

        The problem with code which is built that way is that it's crap - and no amount of gilding will polish that particular turd.

        Keep the exploration and experiementation in the lab. Pencil and paper or other structured approaches are there for the same reason that we don't build bridges by the method of sticking one's thumb out front and gauging measurements that way.

        Having said that. Coding is the perfect way to start and that old favourite for kids - LOGO - is just as relevant to learning now as it was 30 years ago.

    2. king of foo

      Re: Foundations

      TEACHERS TEACHERS TEACHERS.

      You're absolutely right. Most teachers can't tell their XP from their w7 from their ms office, and rightly so. Teachers need to have a solid understanding first, and I'd say this is a completely different kettle of fish from, say, teaching kids about WW2.

      Planning? Ugh. Boring. Way to suck all the fun out of coding/programming. The best way to learn is to fail, to fail BIG, not to temporarily absorb data into your brain for the purposes of passing tests/exams, then promptly forgetting all but the least useful bits.

      However, I think what you say there also makes a lot of sense and should be a part of the curriculum somewhere... I just think it should be taught separately from the coding/programming to ensure maximum fun/engagement.

      1. Diogenes

        Re: Foundations

        A combination works best - let them hack away - and then when they are stuck get the pencil & paper . When my yr 10,11 or 12 students have a logic problem I will no longer look at code - but I get them show me some handwritten pseudo code or a flow chart - its amazing how many problems they find themselves going through the simple exercise of documenting the logic, some of the older kids have caught on and for complex stuff are starting to rough out the logic using pen and paper first

  7. John G Imrie Silver badge

    If you arew going to teach coding

    You are going to have to have at least a primer in logic first.

    1. BlueGreen

      Re: If you arew going to teach coding

      > You are going to have to have at least a primer in logic first.

      No.

      I have some slight backround in discrete maths and logic and other than De Morgan's law for working out how to express complex conditionals, and occasional expression of logical implication, I rarely if ever use it.

      There is a profound link between coding and logic, but humans can go a very long way without logic. Which leads them into the delusion that it (logic, mathematics) is worthless, but, whatever, can't cure stupidity.

      1. Steve Knox

        Re: If you arew going to teach coding

        Yes and no.

        BlueGreen, John G Imrie said nothing about a full course in logic; he said a primer. An understanding of the basics of logic (Boolean algebra especially) is absolutely a requirement for even the simplest of programming tasks.

        However, I think it would be a mistake to separate the principle and the practice in early courses, as the practice in this case is the best way to illustrate the principle. The ideal would be a series of programming projects which illustrate the different Boolean operators and principles of precedence while allowing students to create applications relevant to their interests..

    2. Alfred

      Re: If you arew going to teach coding

      if ( input != 'y' || input != 'n')

      I get asked why this doesn't work at least once a fortnight. Oh Gods, yes please, some kind of logic priming.

      1. Toastan Buttar

        Re: If you arew going to teach coding

        "this doesn't work at least once a fortnight"

        I'd have thought it worked (i.e. evaluates to 'true') ALL the time.

      2. BlueGreen

        Re: If you arew going to teach coding @Alfred, @Steve Knox

        Yes, I see what you're saying (esp Alfred given his example), I got it wrong.

  8. TheFiddler

    How do they plan to keep interest

    As someone who has been programming for the last 2 decades and quite enjoyed the time spent, I'm strongly aware that it's not exactly a spectator sport. In fact I'd go as far as to suggest someone typing seemingly random strings of crpytic text into a computer may fall into the category of dull. So I'm struggling to see how they can put together shows that will compel kids to copy the on screen programming that is taking place. The app programming seems a good suggestion but it's a far cry from some copy and paste from a magazine onto your BBC Micro that hooked us in the 80s.

    1. BlueGreen

      Re: How do they plan to keep interest

      > as to suggest someone typing seemingly random strings of crpytic text into a computer may fall into the category of dull. So I'm struggling to see how they can put together shows that will compel kids to copy the on screen programming that is taking place.

      You start with a non-text programming environment. Here's one I've used to teach a total newbie: Scratch. The big problem came after when I had to switch him from Scratch to C. My, that was hard, but it was a colourful and quick-feedback environment.

      1. MrT

        Don't copy from screen...

        ...link to a handy online repository for the code - kind of like the old tape-based mags from the 80's. Use the show to set up problem-solving scenarios in the TV show that need the user/viewer to edit the code (spot errors, complete sections, gradually building up to more independent stuff). Add competitions, time-trials, recognition for originality of solutions, etc. - it could work quite well, providing it doesn't just get farmed out to the lowest bidding producion company, or the one who kills it with too much reliance on expensive tie-in magazines.

        Scratch is okay, as is Alice, but I get more progress from a wider range of students using MIT AppInventor, at least in terms of mobile phone app development, which might be more like what Auntie is considering (rather than diving into scripting with Notepad+, LaTEX, or venerable editors like PFE).

        1. Diogenes

          Re: Don't copy from screen...

          Big thumbs up for appinventor . My students consider Scratch & Alice to be "babyish: but hey I can create an app - brilliant.

      2. Suricou Raven

        Re: How do they plan to keep interest

        Scratch is the new BASIC: It's a very quick way to get kids writing something that runs, but they'll need to learn most of it all over again as soon as they need a language that can do something less-than-trivial.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just as long as it's not.....

    Stephen Fry telling our kids how to program. That can only be bad;

    "Now then boys and girls, coding is like getting up in the morning and looking forward to going to the park because computers work like swings. When you turn a computer on, a little swing starts in there, the swing is called RAM and it's what the computer uses to show you what it's thinking and the slide is called a Hard Disk Drive Unit - A Hard Disk is called a Hard Disk because in the olden days, it was hard to use , but now Apple has made it easy. Thank you Apple."

    Sigh.

    Please don't let him near any of it.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Just as long as it's not.....

      David Attenborough could work.

      < soft voice mode > here as we explore deep in the call stack we are privileged to see the rare sight of a wild dangling pointer in its natural habitat ...

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Perhaps they can teach CS grads as well?

    At least the rudiments of problem solving?

    The last lot I interviewed had no clue whatsoever. Total and abject failure of the education system we have now.

    When I was an undergrad Problem Solving was a major part of the learning process.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Perhaps they can teach CS grads as well?

      Your own fault; CS grads are dead easy to interview - just ask them why they did CS instead of maths/physics/engineering.

      If they can come up with a convincing answer to that then they are a definite hire.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Perhaps they can teach CS grads as well?

        I hope the right answer is something like "because programming is a skill and I love being good at it"? Its certainly mine.

        Anon because I work in a tech company overpopulated by maths/physics/engineering/med-tech graduates (and doctorates) who all *think* they can author complex software systems, but our two year delayed, feature-cut barely-legally-compliant product-to-be suggests they can't. I've seen things you people wouldn't believe (in our codebase).

    2. Phil W

      Re: Perhaps they can teach CS grads as well?

      This comment tickled me. From my experience education institutions do not like teaching relevant skills. I'm a CS graduate, with decent problem solving skills which were largely acquired before starting my further and higher education.

      However during my National Diploma (the BTec ND for IT Practioners, now defunct I believe) which I studied for prior to the degree those without English and Maths GCSE at grades A-C were required to study for and take the equivalent level Key Skills exams in literacy and numeracy. The flaw in this was that they included it in the ND timetable not as a separate course so even those of us with A-C GCSEs in everything had to attend.

      When we requested to be allowed to do a different Key Skills course with the time, namely "Problem Solving", we were refused on the grounds of it not being important or relevant to our ND.

  11. Old Used Programmer

    *All* TV programs?

    Does this mean that Dr. Who is going to be using a Raspberry Pi...?

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: *All* TV programs?

      Many is the time I've seen text and graphics on a monitor on the Tardis console generated by a BBC micro in old era Dr. Who (mode 2/5 is a dead give away).

      OK, I'll bet that the 'code' shown was nothing to do with the story, but there is a precedent for using a popular micro like the RPi in Dr Who.

      1. Captain DaFt

        Re: *All* TV programs?

        "OK, I'll bet that the 'code' shown was nothing to do with the story,"

        Sometimes, it was actually the code that was run to generate the screens graphics:

        http://moviecode.tumblr.com/post/74145306311/from-classic-doctor-who-episode-the-twin-dilemma

        From the site:

        "From classic Doctor Who episode The Twin Dilemma. The source is BBC Basic, and it controls what is on the screen later in the scene. "

        In those low budget days, it was, "Waste not, want not".

        1. Suricou Raven

          Re: *All* TV programs?

          One of my favorite on-screen techie screens is from the low-budget scifi-horror movie Galaxy of Terror. Early in the film a damaged ship flashes up schematics on the screen while running a damage assessment. Pausing to examine the schematics closely, they can be identified as those for a chroma-key device. A piece of hardware that saw much use, including for that very shot. The most likely explanation is that someone searched the editing studio for something suitably technical they could display, and the chroma-key service manual was the first thing to come to hand.

    2. Spleen

      Re: *All* TV programs?

      I was quite tickled by the fact that the obligatory remodelling of the Tardis for the new series included an actual computer display for the first time that I can remember. (Albeit I only started watching Doctor Who since the reboot.) Before they were nothing but dials and gauges and flashing lights, like something out of H G Wells. There's something charmingly Victorian sci-fi about a machine that can travel through all time and space but has an instrument panel from a 1950s submarine.

      Anyway, perhaps it's not unrelated...

  12. Mage Silver badge

    Oh Dear.

    This will go badly.

  13. Tony Pomfret

    If it moves kill it!

    The answer to teaching code is to show why you need to do a certain thing with an object, in practical terms show why the ghosts in PacMan move in the way they do, or how the logic traces a bullet path to blow somebody's head off in an FPS!

    That's how I learned and it still makes me happy to perform the same programming intensive logic today.

    I suppose girls will need to learn how to shoot things first though.

  14. Daniel von Asmuth Bronze badge
    Holmes

    Let's try to see if coding works @ El Reg

    178 static int gcov_seq_open(struct inode *inode, struct file *file)

    179 {

    180 struct gcov_node *node = inode->i_private;

    181 struct gcov_iterator *iter;

    182 struct seq_file *seq;

    183 struct gcov_info *info;

    184 int rc = -ENOMEM;

    185

    186 mutex_lock(&node_lock);

    187 /*

    188 * Read from a profiling data copy to minimize reference tracking

    189 * complexity and concurrent access and to keep accumulating multiple

    190 * profiling data sets associated with one node simple.

    191 */

    192 info = get_accumulated_info(node);

    193 if (!info)

    194 goto out_unlock;

    195 iter = gcov_iter_new(info);

    196 if (!iter)

    197 goto err_free_info;

    198 rc = seq_open(file, &gcov_seq_ops);

    199 if (rc)

    200 goto err_free_iter_info;

    201 seq = file->private_data;

    202 seq->private = iter;

    203 out_unlock:

    204 mutex_unlock(&node_lock);

    205 return rc;

    206

    207 err_free_iter_info:

    208 gcov_iter_free(iter);

    209 err_free_info:

    210 gcov_info_free(info);

    211 goto out_unlock;

    212 }

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    HTML

    Am I the ONLY one thinking here, that HTML is HyperTextMarkupLanguage? Or that PHP is Pre-Hypertext Precursor?

    1. boltar

      Re: Let's try to see if coding works @ El Reg

      Newflash - cutting and pasting random kernel code doesn't make you look like a genius. An idiot maybe...

    2. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      Re: Let's try to see if coding works @ El Reg

      Goto considered harmful...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Goto considered harmful...

        There was another argument presented at the same time to say it isn't (always).

        If a control system for (e.g.) a nuclear reactor detects a critical condition should the code:

        a) Set a flag and make sure it propagates through the rest of the control flow graph;

        b) Jump directly to the critical error handler?

        Like all things, goto can be used correctly, but can also be abused.

        1. Suricou Raven

          Re: Goto considered harmful...

          I rarely have call for goto, but they have their niches. In C, anyway. They can be handy for exiting a function while ensuring some cleanup code runs.

          1. king of foo

            Re: Goto considered harmful...

            http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/G0-T0

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Pen-y-gors - Re: Let's try to see if coding works @ El Reg

        Only in the hands of an incompetent programmer!

    3. Fibbles

      Re: Let's try to see if coding works @ El Reg

      Goto?

      Do we really want to be teaching kids how to program spaghetti?

      1. Old Used Programmer

        Re: Let's try to see if coding works @ El Reg

        If kids aren't taught how to program spaghetti, how will the next generation of spaghetti get programmed?

        (To put real fear in your heart...How about teaching the kids how to write self-modifying code?)

  16. Grikath

    "Coding" may not result...

    Especially since the age group you really want to enthuse turn into raging balls of hormones (girls first, then boys) with primarily only the other gender** on the mind, at a time when you ordinarily would be able to show them why learning certain things may be a good idea for the future ( which presumably involves a lot more of the other gender, in hopefully a more practical sense.) This had always been a hurdle for any teacher, but programming or "coding" requires a dollop or two of several other subjects outside of strict programming, like maths, physics, "logic" in various forms, and electronics to make the subject actually stick. Neither of which are in any way or shape "cool"or "comfortable" for teenagers, since they require to Engage Brain, which detracts time and energy from chasing the Other Subject, making life double hard for teachers in those subjects.

    I can see where they're aiming, and you can definitely use kiddie programs to familiarise children and pre-teens with certain aspects of technology, possibly even in a Fun Way. But in the end you always hit the rocks on actual interest when it comes to choosing subjects when the kids come at an age where the System dictates they have to. Simple human biology practically ensures that any amount of pre-preparing and propaganda goes straight out the window. Unless you adopt the Asian approach, which revolves not around Teaching, but drilling and a rather gruesome internal competition, you simply won't get anywhere.

    The best you'll get out of this, within the current flavour of education in western europe, is a slightly more tech-savvy teenager, who may be better hardened against life online. But it will not increase interest in "coding".

    ** I know.. there's same-sex interest.. But even at the most inflated occurrence of some 5%, this still means that >95% will chase the other gender. Which is Significant enough by trick-cyclist rules to generalise.

    1. boltar

      Re: "Coding" may not result...

      "Especially since the age group you really want to enthuse turn into raging balls of hormones (girls first, then boys) with primarily only the other gender** on the mind,"

      Oddly enough , teenagers can and do do more than just chase the opposite sex. I learnt to code when I was a teenager and probably so did a large proportion of people on this site. Its not teenagers per-se that are the problem but the current moronic dumbed down celebrity culture where the only qualification that seems to be needed to get on in life is a look-at-me haircut and the ability to hold a mic and not fall over for 3 minutes.

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: "Coding" may not result...

        "Oddly enough , teenagers can and do do more than just chase the opposite sex. "

        Frequently using one activity as cover for another.

        Just like adults.

      2. Grikath

        Re: "Coding" may not result... @ boltar

        " Its not teenagers per-se that are the problem but the current moronic dumbed down celebrity culture where the only qualification that seems to be needed to get on in life is a look-at-me haircut and the ability to hold a mic and not fall over for 3 minutes."

        Which was different in the '70's until now exactly how? The only difference since roughly the '90's may be that there's the addition of the powergrrrls that adorn teenage girls' rooms.

        And seriously... Learning to program (and associated activities good for Preparing for your Future ) has never been conductive to get a bit of snogging in, between, say, age 14 and 18. And certainly never from the girls you (hopefully somewhat discreetly) hoped to get it from at that age..

  17. Zot

    Getting them hooked is the best bet.

    Enable them to just start typing and immediately see the results as text, lines, circles and blobs.

    Use the free Unity package, and launch them into C#, which doesn't have any horrible headers and feels less in your way. And it gives the same result on Mac/Windows/Linux so they can share their code with each other without having to think about linking libraries and all the other boiler-plate code.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: a cross between Game of Thrones and The IT Crowd would get my full attentionn.

    I've already seen the "Matrix" films, thanks. :-)

  19. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

    The fundamental premis is flawed

    I have a hard time believing coding is (or will be) an absolutely essential skill that people will need to have and find it hard to believe kids believe that either and suspect those who say otherwise are simply repeating what they have been told to believe.

    It's snake oil for the 21st century.

  20. Truth4u
    Thumb Up

    children should be not just encouraged but forced

    FORCED to code.

    And if they're too dumb, they should be humiliated by the whole school!

    This would be a beautiful world where instead of that humiliation happening to the bright kids who can code, it happens to the dumb kids who deserve it!

  21. Daggerchild Silver badge

    Hrm. Feminine coding...

    Get a facebook, twitter and youtube api. Give it to the class. Most will frown and give not-a-poopy.

    Then some spotty quiet kid will work out how you can use it schedule posts to make it look like you're somewhere doing something with others when you're secretly somewhere else, co-ordinating via means both obvious and undetectable (like image steganography).

    And then someone works out how to detect that and dob them in, and then someone works out how to detect detection and attack the snitch's online presence, or manipulate them into danger..

    Yeah, social warfare - you want to get girls into coding, I'm afraid that's the front door :)

    Boys? Show them how to write an aimbot so they can cheat in online games. Boys are simpler :)

    For extra credit, let them hack the teachers laptop and find the hidden porn folder. Only populate it with *healthy* stuff, coz Jeez, the kids these days believe the shite out there is *real* and they need some serious pointers.

  22. smartypants

    Never mind the children. It's difficult enough keeping up as an adult!

    Every time I go and learn something, 2 years later and I'm back at the foot of yet-another-learning mountain. I quite like it I suppose. Stops me drowning in a pool of my own lazy know-it-all smugness.

    But just occasionally I wake up in a cold sweat from a dream where one day I just can't keep up with all the new shit I have to be on top of to do my job, and I'm chucked out, ending up sharing a skip with bits of fax machine and wsdl file.

    Children have the wonderful advantage of not having a f***ing clue about anything, which is the only proven way to avoid anxiety attacks about the future and one's place in it. Sometimes, at work, I try to imagine myself in that state of blessed innocence once again as a coping strategy to deal with those particularly tricky days.

    It'll all be fine. Probably.

  23. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    "2014 was the centenary of WWI"

    From where I'm sitting, 2014 still *is* the centenary of WWI.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So why must there be more females in developement again?

    Lets be honest and admit that there are several fundamental reasons that most females are just not that interested in programming. It isn't anything to do with bias or even how the subject it taught, it is simply that to be a good programmer you need to get something out of it other than just money.

    There are easier careers that pay the same wage so why would a woman choose to invest time and effort in learning to program when they just do not get the same pleasure out controlling a computer as men do.

    Coding can be very fulfilling for a man, you have complete control of intricate systems and you gain prestige for a job well done, power and prestige. Most women on the other hand just don't get off on abstract power, for them power is about people and prestige is normally aimed rather than from a peer group.

    I do not have a problem with promoting the subject for anyone interested in taking it up but I don't like to see sexual bias even when it is presented as being positive. If you are female and want to program then you should have an equal chance to do so, if you don't want to take it up then it shouldn't be rammed down your throat.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So why must there be more females in developement again?

      well because they've already opted out of Digging Ditches, laying bricks, mechanics, plumbing, joinery, Driving Lorries, Cutting trees down , Roofing, fitting kitchens, gardening, Farming, Electronics, Mining, Driving Trains, etc etc

      They really need to add to the current repetoire of " Nurse or Secretary". A nice indoor sitting down in the warm job like Dev might be just the ticket.

  25. razorfishsl

    kids require skills in logical thought and basic analytical skills more than they need to learn a specific computer 'language'.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cheap TV

    The Beeb could send a crew down to follow a Code Club for a term, following what they do and how they achieve it, they could do pieces on Technocamps showing off their skills and learnng from each other.

    Peer to Peer Reality TV that might encourage participation.

  27. RyokuMas Silver badge
    FAIL

    Expectations vs reality...

    The problem with getting kids coding - as I've mentioned in other posts - is the chasm between what a lot of them expect to be able to achieve, and what they can actually achieve.

    Those of us lucky enough to grow up in the 80s had simple games and computers that came pre-loaded with BASIC - you could just switch on and start programming. It was relatively simple to write something that placed a text character on the screen at a given position, and allowed input to move that position, and from there, it was not a quantum leap of imagination to get to "game".

    Nowadays, high profile games are extravaganzas of high quality imagery and animation (usually 3D), realistic physics and positional sound. And rather than just switching a computer on and typing (with a few pauses to look up a command in the manual), you have to wade through a whole load of setup before you can even get started...

    It's like kids who watch Kung Fu panda and get all enthusiastic, then turn up at a martial arts class expecting to be black belts within a month. Inevitably, the vast majority lose interest when they discover that they're expected to do weeks of basic drills and forms before even taking their first grading exam. Similarly, kids are going to want to be able to create Call of Duty or Angry Birds within a few days and give up when they realise just how much work is required...

  28. mark 63 Silver badge

    Why would they put this on the TV? surely a school would be a better place?

  29. MSD

    33 years on

    Reminds me of my youth and the BBC sponsored computer of the same name. Perhaps they should focus on the RPi?

  30. HarshKarma

    " It has never been attempted before, let alone has it succeeded on the small screen, where “code” is the random C++ that scrolls up a display when the Evil Robotic Overlord is hacked by the noble hero"

    If the Evil Robotic Overlord is an AI, shouldn't they have used Lisp rather than C++ ?

  31. razorfishsl

    Absolutely the BEST children's TV to teach C++ is going to be the clangers,

    they just look like C++ programmers….

    The soup dragon can EASILY explain the differences between C & C++

    1. lawndart

      says:

      Clangers? I'm thinking more along the lines of:

      Bungle: Hello George. What are you doing?

      George: Hello Bungle. Zippy has created a new compression algorithm and passworded his file. I am trying to crack it.

      Bungle: Have you tried a rainbow table?

  32. itzman
    Holmes

    Teaching children *how* to think...

    ...instead of what to think, would be a huge leap.

    Never mind the coding...

    1. Ian Emery Silver badge

      Re: Teaching children *how* to think...

      Not going to happen, even the "Degree" course for pre school teachers is indoctrination rather than learning - along the lines of :- " Yes, these are all only theories, but no, you cannot question them".

      One of the reasons I walked out less than a year in.......

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I found it simultaneously amusing & sad that the article ended with the comment: "We could see a triumph like Life on Earth – or another tragically bad technothriller, as we saw in the late unlamented Bugs. ®"

    I would like to know why you at The Register feel that Bugs was unlamented - personally I was a massive fan, and believe it was the best "contemporary drama" programme the BBC made until Spooks!

    Furthermore my & most of my friends schoolboy interest in electronics & computer programming (QBASIC & Visual BASIC) stemmed from this... and if the BBC wants a model for a programme that would entice kids into IT / programming then it could do worse than repeat Bugs... or better still re-envision it with current technology and modern stars!

  34. AndrueC Silver badge

    They’ve certainly got the assets...

    [snip]

    Look at how the dull, badly paid and yucky job of police forensics has become more popular than being a fighter pilot as a result of hot TV shows like CSI.

    Which is broadcast by Channel 5 on terrestrial and Sky Living.

  35. Mister35mm

    Teach codingis good, Totally under spending BAD.

    When I was at school, I learned BASIC and ASSEMBLER.

    When I was a college, I was taught Psuedo-code, PASCAL and COBOL (I hated this) at which point I dropped out.

    I taught myself FORTH and REXX (anyone remember?) and tinkered with Turbo PASCAL and TurboProlog too.

    I reckon bright kids, say 5-10% can learn from a book. However, most children/students need quality instruction and decent teach materials or the pass rate will be appalling!

    Incidentally, I was looking around at new programming books, and the best one I found, was 'Python for Kids' which I thought was well written and structured, not to mention fun.

    Mr Goves £500k spend is a joke. Last time I paid for a selection of IT courses, I was writing out cheques for £3000 to £7000 in the good old days before IR35 when I got tax relief on technology training.

    Sending all the teachers to www.codecademy.com is just as bad, as it's just a glorified online manual. This will mean a super-low pass rate due to the many people who drop out.

    Just my 2c.

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