back to article Kids' Hour of Code turns into a giant corporate infomercial for kids

A leading education advisor to government ministers in the UK has criticised the aggressive proliferation of software in schools as a "gimmick", and called for ministers to "drain the swamp". British schoolchildren will play Minecraft for an hour as Microsoft's contribution to the global "Hour of Code", a stunt intended to …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Perhaps all that Hour of Code is really teaching is short attention spans?

    They should just use DevOps. DevOps will teach them better coding practices, make them more useful members of society, regulate their hormones and contains several important vitamins. And learning it is quite cheap, a great investment!

    DevOps! All Sing Together!

    (still waiting for that TrumpPalmFace or TrumpWildHair icon...)

    1. d3vy Silver badge

      Re: Perhaps all that Hour of Code is really teaching is short attention spans?

      Dev ops : it's got electrolyte's

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: Perhaps all that Hour of Code is really teaching is short attention spans?

        Dev ops : it's got electrolyte's

        And it appears to cause adding spurious apostrophes.

        1. Swarthy Silver badge
          Trollface

          Re: Perhaps all that Hour of Code is really teaching is short attention spans?

          Given the reference, I'm not certain that that rogue apostrophe wasn't intentional.

          ^An example of the convoluted NOT-logic that you sometimes need (and will see far more often) when coding.

        2. d3vy Silver badge

          Re: Perhaps all that Hour of Code is really teaching is short attention spans?

          "And it appears to cause adding spurious apostrophes."

          My phone seems to think that its correct and keeps auto correcting it.. I hadnt* noticed it before posting.

          * Intentionally missed this one to make up for the additional one earlier - think of it as an apostrophe offset.

    2. VinceH Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Perhaps all that Hour of Code is really teaching is short attention spans?

      Regulation of hormones is what they get from hyperconverged DevOps - not vanilla DevOps.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Interesting

    One memory that always stayed with me, one day in elementary school in the 70s our teacher said "those who do not know how to use computers will be tomorrow's illiterate people". Never paid much attention in school, but glad that day I did.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Interesting

      I heard pretty much the same thing and latched onto computers anyway I could as I was from a very poor family so my opportunities were severely limited.

      Thank god I did, but I was and always will be behind the curve. Which is still better than the alternative which was labor and trades for life and even less income security.

    2. Trilkhai

      Re: Interesting

      I guess we haven't actually reached that "tomorrow" quite yet, as we currently have a society full of people who know which icon to click to start web browsers (or in their minds, "the Internet"), but whose spelling & writing skills are on par with lagging ESL students from the '90s.

      Or to put it another way, if the average person's tech skills are the modern equivalent of literacy in the 70s, then education in our nations has been in crisis mode for a *long* time.

  3. 0laf Silver badge

    Minecraft as a way to force Win 10 in education

    MS isn't daft they're heavily promoting Minecraft for education, and teacher being teachers they are all suckers for the latest bit of gimmickry. Anything but chalk and talk.

    But MS have done their usual bit of marketing slight of hand and have withdrawn Minecraft for education for Windows 7. It will only now be available on Windows 10. So local authority and education boards now have droves of slathering teachers demanding Minecraft and by default Win10 too. And clearly all children are doomed to a life of unemployment and drug abuse if they can't prove to employers their skill in playing with a little blocky game.

    Except they haven't consider that the other 90% of ancient educational crap they still use won't work or will takes months to sort out. Thanks MS you shower of bastards.

    [disclaimer] I've nothing against Minecraft as a game, there are worse things kids can play but I object to MS using it as a way to lever Win10 and I object to teacher using it as a way to teach without actually teaching.

    1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

      Re: Minecraft as a way to force Win 10 in education

      Surely every school has a bunch of underused Raspberry Pis that will run Minecraft perfectly?

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Minecraft as a way to force Win 10 in education

        Minecraft for the Pi has been retired.

        Not sure if it was Minecraft Educational Edition or just plain Minecraft either.

        1. Old Used Programmer

          Re: Minecraft as a way to force Win 10 in education

          News to me... MinecraftPi is still part of the latest download of Raspbian.

      2. Rob 44

        Re: Minecraft as a way to force Win 10 in education

        Minecraft isn't as low spec as you seem to think.

        It actually uses a hell of a lot of resources. Using optifine and a few other choice plugins I saw it make a friends very expensive gaming rig crawl on its knees.

        1. Steve Todd

          Re: Minecraft as a way to force Win 10 in education

          @Rob 44: Erm, isn't that an enditement of Microsoft programming?

        2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

          Re: Minecraft as a way to force Win 10 in education

          One of my (now grown up) kids says that the reason why Minecraft makes *any* computer crawl is because it does not use the GPU efficiently (or even much beyond a basic frame buffer if I understood what he was saying), and uses the CPU to render into a pixmap.

          He once had an interesting hobby of capturing the most extreme way of making it grind to a halt, and then posting the videos on YouTube.

    2. Adair

      Re: Minecraft as a way to force Win 10 in education

      Just use Minetest -- www.minetest.net

      Problem of MS solved.

      1. Simone

        Re: Minecraft as a way to force Win 10 in education

        The Raspberry Pi version of Minecraft did (does) not do the same things gameplay wise as the game version of Minecraft. It has a Python interface, so you can write code to add blocks, move blocks and player, etc. Minecraft is just the visualisation tool into which you put your code.

        Microsoft has discontinued development on the Pi edition (no surprise there?) but it can still be installed, as is still in the latest releases of the Raspbian OS.

        +1 for Minetest

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Minecraft as a way to force Win 10 in education

      Who didn't expect things to turn nasty once they'd bought it?

  4. heyrick Silver badge

    Duh

    Nobody could figure this out by looking at the list of sponsors?

    You don't need Microsoft and Apple to start to teach coding. You need a teacher capable of explaining what a problem is, how to get from A to B, and how to break that into clearly defined steps. Then, and only then, should one think of touching a computer.

    As you can see, it can be a skill applicable to more than just writing software.

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Duh

      As you can see, it can be a skill applicable to more than just writing software.

      This is why the Gradgrind approach to education is now preferable to anything which teaches kids to think for themselves.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Duh

      > You don't need Microsoft and Apple to start to teach coding

      You do not need a *computer* to start coding. I learned first, with a book, pencil and paper, and only once my parents were satisfied that I knew what I was doing they went and bought me an actual computer.

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Re: Duh - coding on pencil and paper

        Back in the day, us dinosaurs used to write our code on sheets of paper called

        Coding Forms.

        {remembering not to go beyond column 72}

        Then we would give the sheets to the people who'd turn those sheets into punched cards.

        Then they'd be run as batch jobs on Mainframes from the likes of IBM and ICL.

        I still have all the cards for a few of my programs that used Punched Cards.

        We graduated to Papertape and ASR-33's.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Duh - coding on pencil and paper

          Luxury!

        2. Chika

          Re: Duh - coding on pencil and paper

          You haven't really coded unless you tried to type on an ASR33! THUNK! THUNK! THUNK! <return>

          Now those were the days!

          (And I still have some coding sheets somewhere...)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Duh - coding on pencil and paper

            >> Back in the day, us dinosaurs [blah]

            > You haven't really coded unless [bleh]

            Now you lot stop it or my butterflies and I are going to have to go for 378.

            You've been warned.

          2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Duh - coding on pencil and paper

            "(And I still have some coding sheets somewhere...)"

            Same here when I did GCE O level computer studies. We also got to type stuff in on 5 hole paper tape machines that looked like something Babbage might have used. The "blind" tape punch machines looked like ancient typewriters but the two with an actual teletype-like printer were built as an entire desk unit.

            1. Chika

              Re: Duh - coding on pencil and paper

              The "blind" tape punch machines looked like ancient typewriters but the two with an actual teletype-like printer were built as an entire desk unit.

              Sounds a bit like the ASR33s or the ITT Creeds I used to work on when I did my A level. We weren't allowed to program from scratch on those though, hence the coding sheets. They were for editing only and we had to share because there were more of us than them. I did try out the punch tape system a few times though the most punch tape I ever had was a distro kit for one of the earlier RSTS/E versions when I started working for a certain local authority back in the 80s. All gone now...

              Oi, Reg! We still haven't got that old farts icon I asked for yet!

          3. veti Silver badge

            Re: Duh - coding on pencil and paper

            Huh. Sending cards away to run on mainframes? Luxury!

            The first computer I built involved a cereal box and a pack of crayons. And homemade punch cards.

        3. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

          Re: Duh - coding on pencil and paper @Steve Davies

          You were lucky to have a punching service. I had to punch my own cards in my first job!

          Still had to use coding forms, because there was one punch machine shared between four programmers and two Systems Analysts (whatever happened to that job role?), and we weren't allowed to write the program while we were at the card punch.

    3. Chika

      Re: Duh

      Actually I saw this coming a long time ago. Consider that I grew up, technologically speaking, in the days of the 8-bit system when coding was all there was. As systems became more complex and big business took over at the reigns there was a lot less interest in developing machines that could be easily used for the teaching of coding, let alone anything else. In the UK, the biggest change happened when schools and colleges started to exchange machines such as the various Acorns for PCs, mostly advised by people with vested interests or no real knowledge of what a computer was used for in a classroom.

      As soon as the Raspberry Pi came out, it was quite obvious that it would be a boon to educators that wanted to teach a subject that, over the preceding years, had been increasingly neglected and to students that wanted to learn but at best could only turn to relics of that past age if they could turn to anything at all. An exploding market like that is like a honeypot to corporate bees like Microsoft or Apple, not to mention the multitude of people building workalikes in the hope that they could be the next big thing whilst failing to innovate anything of their own.

      Now I could put Apple to one side as they do have some sort of educational heritage but I question whether Apple now is the same as Apple back then when machines like the Apple II were big in schools. Microsoft, however, hasn't changed much in that the majority of what they do is focussed more on the making of money now rather than making a future that could turn them a tidy profit in future years, and I think that Apple has gone down the same road, particularly since Jobs passed on.

      While I agree that computers are not meant to be used solely for the teaching of coding, they should be all round general use systems that can be used for teaching many different things, an area where the PC has always been poor and mostly because the people behind it aren't really interested in making a system that could be used in that way. Yet again we see the corporate mentality at work.

    4. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: Duh

      "As you can see, it can be a skill applicable to more than just writing software." - The key to being a good to great programmer is not specific programming skills (those are easily learned) but logical problem solving. Problem solving involves knowing how to ask questions, how to interpret the answers, some trial and error to learn more about the problem until one understands the problem and its solution. None of this requires specific coding or computer skills.

      What kids should be taught is how to solve the problem, develop a solution, and then describe the problem and solution both verbally and mathematically showing how the solution logically solves the problem. One old school programming techniques was "pseudo-code" which describe the solution in a format that looked like a program but did not follow any specific language syntax.

      1. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

        Re: Duh

        Wider than that, actually. Learning how to approach and solve puzzles of all kinds. Which is, of course, dangerous to any and all established orders.

    5. Chris King Silver badge

      Re: Duh

      "You don't need Microsoft and Apple to start to teach coding".

      You do if you're too cheap to fund the programme properly and need "sponsors" to pay for stuff. Remember, this is a photo-opportunity for a minister (or two) and the companies involved, if some spotty little oik actually manages to learn something then that's a bonus.

      "You need a teacher capable of explaining what a problem is, how to get from A to B, and how to break that into clearly defined steps. Then, and only then, should one think of touching a computer".

      Exactly. But the teachers are also being taught to code in the same way in short workshops, if they're being taught at all. A couple of sessions on the basics of taking a problem and breaking it down into steps wouldn't go amiss - they know how to do this in the analog world (think about putting together lesson plans to meet curriculum objectives) but some people need more help than others taking the same steps before writing code.

    6. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Duh

      Khan Academy does it better than anyone and it's free.

      Google it.

      I'm teaching myself SQL form there. Hand coded SQL. I'm learning front end SQL from Libre Base, the database module of Libre Office. You have to search for it, but there is a free tutorial for it.

      There are more and more quality teaching software, but the old institutions are not keeping pace. As someone said, we live in a 21st century world of science and technology and large population but are still using 17th century government to manage it and it is not scaling up.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As a Dad

    I dont think rationing time is necessary as I was never rationed time on computers when I was a kid and the result is im now a competent IT guy with over 20 years of hands on experience (even though im only 33).

    However, I do think it is important to ration the software kids have access to and have faith in their curiosity.

    I didnt have access to games in the same way kids do now. My primary source of games was cover disks and competitions.

    My parents very rarely bought games for me. Usually only at Christmas.

    The rest of the time I had to make do with shareware releases.

    The motivation certainly wasnt to save money as my dad used to bring me piles of hardware to mess about with. Some of it I now know must have been shockingly expensive.

    Anyway, being starved of full versions of stuff I was forced to hack the hell out everything to build my own levels, content and extract everything.

    Doom comes to mind here and various LucasArts games.

    One of the earliest hacks I pulled off was extracting The Gone Jackals soundtrack out of the resource files from Full Throttle. I wanted that CD so badly but I couldnt find it in the UK. It was so long ago I cant actually remember how I did it but im sure I still use that mindset. All I can recall is that itntook me weeks and I had to slog it out because...no internet.

    Everytime someone sends me a dodgy attachment to analyse. I get the same excited feeling.

    I still use those ripped audio files today (even though I have since bought the actual Bone to Pick album, which still kicks ass). Oddly the quality of the files from FT are higher quality than the genuine CD.

    The point im trying to make here is spooning the concepts to the kids is not the same as forcing them to figure it out for themselves.

    Whilst I think the current push to get kids interested in tech is noble, I think they're going about it in the wrong way.

    An hour of minecraft is not the same as our entire evenings spent pissing around in QBasic.

    The excitement in tech isnt in the end result, its in the process of discovery and that is how things stick in your mind.

    Reverse engineering is something kids need to be encouraged to do. Pull stuff apart and figure out how it works fits into an average kids mentality. Thats why toddlers put biscuits and raisins in everything.

    Playing a game is fun but ripping it apart is way cooler.

    Hack the Planet!

    1. sorry, what?
      Meh

      Re: As a Dad

      I whole-heartedly agree that it is more important to limit the types of software. Limiting time is also important.

      I've got kids and they would stay glued to their digital devices to the detriment of their health if they could. And by that I mean "couch potato syndrome".

      I agree again that the process of discovery (and indeed the learning through failure) is, bizarrely, really fun.

      For me, rather than rely on shareware games on the whole, and certainly not using magazine cover disks (I couldn't afford the mags they came with), I spent my time leaning how to write games and utilities for myself using BBC Basic and 6502 assembler.

      To me code is code - statements that control logic and implement algorithms/behaviour. HTML and CSS is not code, it's content and layout. Minecraft is not code, it's a game (though the redstone mechanisms that can be created within it are kind of cool virtual engineering).

      I think that today's programming learning environments are too far removed from the fundamental principles of how computers work. Learning on a machine with a rather basic OS and diving down to the processor and hardware level really gives you a better insight into these workings and therefore removes lots of the mystery ("I don't understand how UI programming works with all these callbacks" a colleague once said, because he couldn't "see" the layers below).

      Also, having limited resources makes you, as a programmer, more aware of the need to structure code well and consider things like memory footprint and performance.

      Let's bring back small and limited machines to teach our kids on, not PCs. (Yeah, things like the Raspberry Pi are sort of in that direction, but I thought it worth making the point.)

    2. d3vy Silver badge

      Re: As a Dad

      "I dont think rationing time is necessary as I was never rationed time on computers when I was a kid and the result is im now a competent IT guy with over 20 years of hands on experience (even though im only 33)"

      Spot on, I often get told my kids are spending too much time online or messing with their laptops... I sometimes even think myself that they should get out more. Then I remember my childhood waiting for the c64 to load games and writing really simple basic programs... I think I turned out ok, I'm earning a decent amount in a job that I love because it's just an extension of my lifelong hobby... My kids can spend as much time as they want messing with computers.

    3. DavCrav Silver badge

      Re: As a Dad

      "I dont think rationing time is necessary as I was never rationed time on computers when I was a kid and the result is im now a competent IT guy with over 20 years of hands on experience (even though im only 33).

      However, I do think it is important to ration the software kids have access to and have faith in their curiosity.

      I didnt have access to games in the same way kids do now. My primary source of games was cover disks and competitions."

      I agree that it isn't necessary, but only because I don't think there's much in common between people who played a lot of games when they were children. Ignoring the fact that the plural of 'anecdote' is not 'data', of the people I know who played a lot of games when they were a child, we have

      One STEM professor (me);

      One junior civil servant office worker;

      One former bricklayer;

      One who works in a logistics company;

      One who was murdered in a gang feud with a brother in jail.

      So a bit of a mixed bag, really.

  6. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Flame

    "drain the swamp"

    Minecraft (desktop versions) has a scripting language so I'm willing to believe that it could be used to hit the sweet spot between coding and getting a fairly-immediate non-boring output which can get children interested or at the very least can be used to teach logic, much like the Pi.

    And the fact that an education "czar" has resorted to that phrase indicates to me that he's one to add to the ever-increasing list of twatdanglers politicising education.

    Did we have politicians stomping on Logo and Granny's Garden in the early 80's? No. Did this bunch of odd stuff go on to build an industry in the UK? Yes. If Minecraft works, use it. If it doesn't, don't. That's for the teachers to decide, not a politician wading in and dismissing it out of hand.

    1. Mage Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: "drain the swamp"

      However anything NOT cross platform, or available ONLY on Mac or Win10 etc is Evil.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up

        Re: "drain the swamp"

        All the kids are already playing Minecraft all the fucking time on their fucking tablets.

        Drain the fucking swamp I say.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "drain the swamp"

      scripting language? How things change, in the good old days expansions were written in cold hard java, I think there was computercraft which modded in terminals that could be coded in lua. That was a cool mod.

      My secondary school IT education was just learning to use a word processor, for 3 years, then I dropped IT.

    3. Bogle

      Re: "drain the swamp"

      Fact checking: He's not a politician, he's a teacher [http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-33150562] and he doesn't like the term "tsar" any more than you do.

      That said, his comment doesn't appear to fit with his remit of offering training to teachers in managing the behaviour of their pupils.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "drain the swamp"

        can we get el reg burnt to the ground for fake news? Seems to be the thing atm

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Here you go kids.

    If you buy an os for $50k and then license it to IBM cheaper than the alternative while stealing your rivals API then you can become a billionaire.

    Do

    Upgrade operating system

    Make a mess of it a couple of times (Windows ME and Vista)

    Get it right (Win7)

    Force upgrades to a version that is awful (Win10)

    Loop until everyone uses Linux

    I like watching Bill talk about programming because he really knows what he's talking about, my 640k memory is all I need.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Child labor?

    This badly smells that Microsoft exploits kids for QA and testing their algorithms and SW for use with people whose IT knowledge is not significantly higher than those kid.

    To bad that I think this way, but corporations hardly do any good for society well being; if they do not need free labor.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Child labor?

      Krillitane oil.

      1. Chris King Silver badge

        Re: Child labor?

        "Krillitane oil".

        You are the Doctor, and I claim my free Tin Dog.

        1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

          Re: Child labor? @Chris King

          It was really exciting to see Sarah Jane return to Dr Who in this story.

          Elizabeth Sladen, RIP.

  9. Nolveys Silver badge

    the kids got to see short videos from the likes of Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg

    The short videos also include the chainsaw scene from Scarface and the last few minutes of Requiem For a Dream.

    1. Chika

      I was going to suggest Disney's "Education for Death" but that might be a bit obscure.

  10. Valerion

    Why Hour of Code?

    Why not also Hour of Electrics? Hour of Plumbing? Hour of Cooking?

    The world doesn't just need developers.

    1. Bucky 2

      Re: Why Hour of Code?

      Yeah, they cut all that stuff. "Unnecessary," don't you know.

      Those classes were called things like "shop," "auto mechanics," and "home economics."

      1. Andrew 99

        Re: Why Hour of Code?

        I learnt woodworking and metal working in high school. Those working-with-hands lessons I under-rated, until I started to meet folks who couldn't do basic things like changing light blubs. Be it in the car or the house.

        There are a lot of important lessons growing up that are not academic but are necessary for a well-rounded individual who might actually contribute to society. Not convinced that minecraft is one of them.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Why Hour of Code?

          > Those working-with-hands lessons I under-rated, until I started to meet folks who couldn't do basic things like changing light blubs.

          Oh! Hello mate, long time no see!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why Hour of Code?

      All of those professions have established and widely available apprenticeship schemes.

      Last time I checked, IT doesnt.

      Plus IT is a wide ranging constantly evolving industry.

      Plumbing is plumbing.

      Plus given the choice would you pick a job that puts you upto your armpits in shit? I wouldn't.

      I dont consider those jobs beneath me, id just rather not do them.

      This is why immigration is important.

      Immigrants (or foreign talent as I like to call them) are the unsung heroes that allow us to have a choice. More power to them.

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: Why Hour of Code?

        BUT CODING ISN'T IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        IT is "driving a car". Coding is "automotive engineering design".

        STOP CONFLATING IT AND CODING.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Why Hour of Code?

          Coding is not an industry.

          Nor is IT coding, but coding is part of IT.

          I am an IT professional and I cant do my job without coding.

          That said you dont have to be an IT Pro to be a coder.

          In the same way you dont have to be a builder to put up a shelf.

          Coding is a skill not a profession in and of itself.

          You cant simply be a good coder. You have to understand how to apply the skill to the profession in which you operate.

          Just like putting up a shelf anyone can code but not quite as many would make decent professionals.

          The environment you code in is where the complexity is not the coding itself...thats just logic.

          There is a wide range of different types of coder as well ranging from low level driver development / kernel development to database skinning (web design) / Powershell scripting.

          I generally only code shell scripts or do automation with PHP / Python / $hipsterlang im forced to use.

          Its not the core of my job though, the core of my job is understanding the processes I need to script / automate and why it needs to scripted / automated as well as budgeting, planning and deploying.

          I cant call myself a professional coder because it is a small part of what I do, but I can call myself an IT Professional specialising in Automation and Scripting.

      2. Chika

        Re: Why Hour of Code?

        Last time I checked, IT doesnt.

        Ah but it does! I've had more than one apprentice pass through my department at one of my last jobs, and you'll find that quite a few of the larger concerns run IT based apprentice schemes, not to mention quite a few authorities. More than one run them as a way of contributing to the workforce, others run them as a way of contributing to their own workforce.

        Of course there are those that run them as a way of running their IT with cut price labour, but you can usually spot those sorts of employer.

    3. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: Why Hour of Code?

      "The world doesn't just need developers." - There was show over here "Dirty Jobs" where the host (Mike Rowe) went out and helped people doing dirty jobs showing that there are many jobs which require one to get dirty. The show was about the dignity and hard work of the people who do these jobs. Having worked in sewage treatment plants aka "shit plants", I know how dirty and smelly some of these jobs could be and how low on the totem pole most snobs treated you.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why Hour of Code?

      > Hour of Cooking?

      There was a subject at one of my schools called "house chores" (the subject, not the school). For some reason that I can't remember I never attended, but apparently your were taught how to cook, iron, clean the toilet, and stuff like that.

      The ironing bit would have been handy cause to this day I'm useless at that, and yes, I have watched every "how-to" video on youtube.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Anybody For Granny's Garden?

    Man if it wasn't for my rents getting me a BBC Micro I think my life would have turned out very different. I learned to read and write (to say I was / kind of still am Dyslexic AF is an understatement). But on top of that I learned to code on it too. Infact I still have the library book on coding games on the good old beeb.

    Granny's Garden was also used at school to help with spelling and maths! :D

    No real point to this post other than this will really help a few kids out there regardless of the shoddy corps involved.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Anybody For Granny's Garden?

      I remember granny's garden.

      Our school teacher set a challenge that if anyone could finish it in the lesson they would win £1 (back then it was worth a lot)

      If I remember rightly there was a basic loader file you could manipulate to take you to the end.

      Needless to say I didn't win the quid as the teacher wasn't stupid.

  12. TRT Silver badge

    Coding?

    Meh. Just teach people that

    1) the way to line stuff up with the right hand margin in Word is to use a right-justify tab character and not hold down the space bar until it looks about right,

    2) the way to move an orphaned section heading to a new page is to use paragraph formatting rules and not to keep hitting the return key until it jumps

    3) you can control hyphenation with methods other than the space bar,

    and the future will be a lot brighter.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Coding?

      > and the future will be a lot brighter.

      Or at least better formatted.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    To be fair

    An hour of Minecraft sounds like fun (I've never played it, mind). In my day it was an hour of whatever games and naughty BASIC scripts we could get to work on ancient BBC Micros.

  14. Chris King Silver badge

    "The excitement in tech isnt in the end result, its in the process of discovery and that is how things stick in your mind".

    And THAT went "whoosh" over their heads when they tried to shoe-horn coding into an already overcrowded curriculum. They've turned the "process of discovery" into "coursework", and that's going to extinguish the creative spark in some kids.

  15. imanidiot Silver badge

    Lets stop pushing ONE thing on all kids

    I'm quite sure that 99% of kids will show a very clear interest in certain fields by the time they get to school. Bring kids into contact with coding, sure. But stop trying to foist it on all of them. Instead encourage those who like it to better themselves while pushing the rest to finds something else.

    This "hour of code" is not the solution to getting more kids coding.

  16. nascentmc

    Like all learning, it is only really as good as the ones doing the teaching, but you'd be surprised what kids can learn from the Hour of Code, and for me, most of the time it isn't about the actual coding.

    They learn how to pay attention to the detail and to instructions given to them on a screen, which isn't always a given. They also learn about logicical sequencing and transferring real world left/right/up/down to the screen.

    I use it with kids aged from 5 to 11 years of age and they approach it differently at each stage. It is not all about Minecraft, Frozen and Angry Birds, but that does get their attention in the first place.

    I'm not an great advocate of these tools replacing core teaching methods, but as a way to reinforce a concept and as a reward activity, it works.

  17. Old Used Programmer

    Some of them did good things...

    Is it worth mentioning that one of those 'Baby Beebers" is Eben Upton? Look what he has done with that early enthusiasm.

  18. Simone

    Join Code Club as a volunteer...

    Don't get the idea that teaching coding to the 9-10 year olds (or younger / older) is easy. The Rasperry Pi Organisation have a coding initiative called Code Club. Through a network of volunteers, and interested teachers, schools are encouraged and supported to run after school clubs that focus on coding. The volunteers tend to know how to code but not good teaching practice, and the teachers know the teaching but not the coding (over generalisation, sorry). Trying to join the two groups together to provide good quality education in coding takes some doing. Why not think about joining in...

    A Code Club uses Scratch and Python for it's coding projects, and HTML/CSS to create web pages. It is not surprising that the educators don't know what REAL coding is about, nor is the swarm of companies trying to scoop up some cash from books and other 'helpful' stuff.

    The kids do see these coding session as playing, as they are usually coding games. As they create a functional part of the game, they are quite likely to get distracted by playing that bit for a while. It is probably the same set that think violent games create violent people that think kids should not spend much time coding. We don't tend to complain about kids reading a book for a few hours.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Join Code Club as a volunteer...

      "The kids do see these coding session as playing, as they are usually coding games."

      That's actually a problem as I see it. Many of the teachers doing this only ever did "MS Office training" at school, if that. Teaching the kids about how to code up real world problems is probably more useful, especially at grabbing the attention of the kids most likely to go on to an IT career. Very few will make it as games programmers, but using gaming as "coding" intros is just encouraging the "X-Factor" types who think they can be rich and famous overnight without doing any real, hard work.

      A good teacher can make anything interesting. Teachers really should not be pandering to sound-bite education of "make learning fun" without the skills or ability to understand that "fun" doesn't mean playing games or using cartoon characters for everything.

  19. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Scrap everything

    Any commercial company worth its salt is going to have people whose entire job is working out how to exploit an opportunity like this, to pitch their products in front of school-children. They have 365 days to work on it and only 1 hour to fill. Teachers meanwhile, have to full every other hour of the school year with lessons planned to the best of their ability. They have neither the time nor the expertise to counter the pitch, and no incentive if a diktat comes down from on high that they must do this. It is a scandal that companies (and not even UK ones) are given such unfettered access to our kids on an annual basis.

    Coding shouldn't even be a priority, not even for one hour. You can't *do* anything in that time and there can't be a child in the country who isn't already aware of the importance of computers and the fact that someone needs to program them. If they are interested, they've probably googled their way to the most common options for learning. If not, they won't become interested by watching a teacher discover that every other primary school in the land is also trying to access www.corporate-advert.com at this precise moment in time, or that "no, the school's internal network can't cope with every single computer in the building logging into the domain at the same time".

    Meanwhile, the curriculum continues to narrow to strangulation point. In the UK, the only things that are tested (and therefore the only things that schools are rewarded for) at Key Stage 2 are English and Maths. All that time on science or humanities that actually makes the curriculum interesting gets you no points at the end of Year 6. Any politician who actually understood the free market could predict the outcome of that selective environment, but ... sigh.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Scrap everything

      "Any commercial company worth its salt is going to have people whose entire job is working out how to exploit an opportunity like this, to pitch their products in front of school-children."

      Borland were doing this years ago with 80% discount for anyone who could demonstrate they were in education of one form or another back in the days of Paradox and Turbo C. Get the educators using your software and that's what the students will want to use in industry.

  20. ecofeco Silver badge

    Don't get me started

    Just... don't.

    Ultimately, software will be the only way to teach, but just like everything else in this modern world, it will be bastardized and derided because of the opportunists who will fuck it up at every chance.

    Even now, there are some very good on-line and free teaching websites but they don't get a lot of love although they are quietly building a very large student base. As in millions. If early age schools do not get on board, they WILL get left behind.

    1. Dr Stephen Jones

      Re: Don't get me started

      Why?

      You have fallen into the trap of thinking that Shiny New Thing is always better than Older Thing, and always obliterates Older Thing.

      The Thing here is complex: it is knowledge, but not just knowledge, it's also a desire to acquire knowledge. Which means rewards and social skills like group work.

      A classroom of kids clicking in silence through a "gamification experience" while the teacher does a crossword is not progress. It's actually what North Korea looks like. But without the technology.

      1. ecofeco Silver badge

        Re: Don't get me started

        Did you actually read and think through my post?

        Rhetorical question. I AM railing against the "new and shiny" because teaching using software will be the process of choice in the future, but right now it is still being bastardized resulting in the "new and shiny crap" we have today.

        I have also given other examples in other replies here, how it IS being done right.

  21. Long John Brass Silver badge

    Teaching kids to code is easy...

    Just tell the little blighters that the school computer has their grades already loaded. If they want an A they can change it themselves.

  22. Schultz

    Great coding lessons ...

    Let's spend time with complex programs that relate mouse clicks into virtual blocks (minecraft), or into moving stick figures (Apple contribution), that'll teach them ... what exactly?

    What happened to the bottom-up approach? Press a button to light an LED. Build a little logic to relate pressing buttons to LEDs. Use an Arduino to take over the logic. Proceed to programming a weather station, or whatever fun project you might do with the kids. Won't happen in an hour of code, but it might leave a lasting impression.

  23. goldcd

    I loved computers

    My parents didn't (I think mainly was actually my grandmother, an ex-teacher, who thought they were evil).

    I hit a run of Christmas presents that were "not what I'd asked for".

    Anyway, to my point. Yes - I wanted one to play games with, but I did try out my half-arsed coding on them. My first real qualification in IT, was when I did my Masters (couple of weeks of java and rdbms).

    I now work in IT.

    If I had a point, it's that I see no issue with children playing games, or staring at a screen within reason.

    What's important is to make them see that they can put something they've made onto that screen.

    To switch subject:

    Children read books for the stories initially.

    They are then asked to just stick something down on a piece of paper (What I did over the weekend) etc.

    Then they're asked to read books that are well written, and maybe write down why they think they're well written.

    Then they're asked to take that and apply it to what they read.

    Whole point of this, is to initially show them something that they enjoy - and then show them how they could make something like that themselves.

    That, is education.

  24. hatti

    Uninstall Minecraft and install notepad++

  25. AndGregor

    World Domination First

    An old laptop, an Arduino and some scrap parts.. Let's teach our kids to take over the world with robots. No Windows 10 required.

  26. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge
    Boffin

    i've got a plan...

    notepad++

    its free

    thats all they need

    How much money have i just saved the governmet? what no reward? thought not

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