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posted by martyb on Friday September 18 2020, @06:04AM   Printer-friendly
from the apple/raspberry-pi-a-day dept.

Around the world, formal education systems are bringing computing knowledge to learners. But what exactly is set down in different countries' computing curricula, and what are classroom educators teaching? This was the topic of the first in the autumn series of our Raspberry Pi research seminars on Tuesday 8 September.

[...] Examples of mismatches include lower numbers of primary school teachers reporting that they taught visual or symbolic programming, even though the topic did appear on their curriculum.

A table listing computer science topics.

This table shows computer science topic the METRECC tool asks teachers about, and what percentage of respondents in the pilot study stated that they teach these to their students.

[...] If you missed the seminar, you can find the presentation slides and a recording of the researchers' talk on our seminars page.

In our next seminar on Tuesday 6 October at 17:00–18:30 BST / 12:00–13:30 EDT / 9:00–10:30 PT / 18:00–19:30 CEST, we'll welcome Shuchi Grover, a prominent researcher in the area of computational thinking and formative assessment. The title of Shuchi's seminar is Assessments to improve student learning in introductory CS classrooms.

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  • (Score: 3, Funny) by MostCynical on Friday September 18 2020, @06:47AM (13 children)

    by MostCynical (2589) on Friday September 18 2020, @06:47AM (#1052638) Journal

    tldr; badly.

    "I guess once you start doubting, there's no end to it." -Batou, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
    • (Score: -1, Spam) by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 18 2020, @06:54AM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 18 2020, @06:54AM (#1052641)

      Properties in India []

    • (Score: 5, Interesting) by ledow on Friday September 18 2020, @07:30AM (10 children)

      by ledow (5567) on Friday September 18 2020, @07:30AM (#1052653) Homepage

      I work in IT in schools, and have exclusively for 20+ years of career.

      I came here to say the same thing.

      There is also a distinction to make. There is "computing", which is like driving a car. Almost everyone should be able to do it, it's not technical or difficult, it just takes a little practice. Computing is a basic skill that everyone should have, like arithmetic or reading.

      Then there is "computer science", which is like building/repairing the car. Most people will never be good at this. They'll pay someone else to do it for the majority of their lives. The people who do it themselves are more skilled. Not everyone can - or should - do this.

      But in many countries there is no difference perceived and they lump them all together. Sorry, yes, you can "teach everyone to code". Same as you can teach everyone advanced calculus. But it's pretty much a waste of time, they'll never understand it and never use it and will always question why you spent time on it with them. Meanwhile, the gifted will lap it up of their own accord anyway, as a secondary skill, to achieve what they want to do... it's merely a way of expressing bigger problems and they'll clear that hurdle then go and get lunch to finish off the problem they actually cared about.

      We only need to teach everyone computing. It should be different. Call it "IT skills" or something. Then teach it everyone. Put all the nonsense that just requires repetition to learn into it (keyboard skills, use of a search engine, writing a document, navigating a filesystem etc.).

      Then we teach those who actually want to learn more computer science. Coding, theory, and - ironically - coding theory. Not everyone will care about it.

      I've seen too many parents who shove their child towards university CS courses from a young age because "they're good at computing, they wired up their new playstation without any help", when the child has no obvious aptitude for CS and has no differential to their peers in their IT skills.

      I've seen too many teachers who think that "including IT in their lessons" means that they press Google and search rather than do proper research in a library or a journal site or whatever.

      And I've seen too many teachers who are telling parents what their child should go into on the basis that the TEACHER doesn't know how to do things, because the children in their class do it for them.

      And the next generation of those kids are going to become teachers, like the previous ones I've witnessed. Teachers who can't work out why their JPEG in a DOCX in a Google Slide saved as a PDF isn't a good way to send you a photo. Teachers who cannot plug their monitor back in when the cable is removed. Teachers who have no idea how to upload to a website, or determine which of those Google links looks SO DODGY just from the summary that they shouldn't click it. Teachers who can't function without Flash materials from third-party websites written 20 years ago to teach their core subject (because they have no idea how to create their own content in any way, or find alternatives). Teachers who think that "computing" is the height of computer science, that being able to plug cables in or type fast is some mystical magical art that will mean you're good at programming.

      If anything, we are gradually spiralling down to almost-no IT knowledge in the average teacher.

      25+ years ago I was taught CS by a maths teacher, who could program in PASCAL and FORTRAN at least. The CS teacher was a physicist.
      And yet they knew more than the vast majority of IT/CS teachers I've seen since.

      I've met precisely 3 teachers who I would trust with any kind of network privilege whatsoever, or to be able to explain an arbitrary CS concept once it was explained to them.
      One was a former COBOL programmer who used to work for banks. They taught primary school.
      One was a former industrial control specialist who worked in industry for 20 years.
      One was a mathematician and physicist who become a teacher, could program confidently, and could be trusted to build a PC on their own.

      That's in 20+ years of self-employment and employment, working purely with the IT, in schools - private, state, primary, secondary and higher education. Thousands of teachers. Hundreds of CS teachers. Tens of thousands of kids. Three teachers. And one of those is my brother.

      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by PiMuNu on Friday September 18 2020, @09:30AM (1 child)

        by PiMuNu (3823) on Friday September 18 2020, @09:30AM (#1052666)

        Ever read the art of Zen and Motorcycle Maintenance?

        You may not need to fix your car, but you should understand how.

        • (Score: 2) by HiThere on Friday September 18 2020, @01:37PM

          by HiThere (866) on Friday September 18 2020, @01:37PM (#1052721) Journal

          You should understand basic principles. That's a lot difference from "you should know how". Particularly since they started integrating electronics. I could disassemble and rebuild a VW engine, and consider that was time well spent. These days even the mechanics depend on closed source machinery...machinery that they can neither fix themselves nor buy at a local store.

          Javascript is what you use to allow unknown third parties to run software you have no idea about on your computer.
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 18 2020, @11:55AM (5 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 18 2020, @11:55AM (#1052685)

        I think I understand your frustration, but I'm not sure I understand your suggestions.

        I personally believe arithmetic should be taught to all people. If you cannot learn how to multiply 3-digit numbers with each other, you should fail arithmetic; you may still be a valuable member of society, but you are certainly not equipped to deal with society like everyone else.
        For everyone who does know how to multiply 3-digit numbers, the concept of algorithm is easily explained, because they already know one (how to multiply many-digit numbers). They should all be told the definition of an algorithm (and that they are already using them), and shown some basic examples of translating real-world problems to algorithms and the reverse (i.e. explain how pictures are broken down into pixels, give phone-book type of database examples, explain how we can predict eclipses).
        After the above, you may ask them whether they're interested in algorithms further, or whether they just need to get things done, and separate them based on that (which I believe is what you were arguing for). And then you make sure that whoever is teaching knows what they're doing (whether they're teaching touch-typing or how to profile a GPU-optimized science HPC thing).

        I am however certain that whoever can understand 3-digit number multiplication should be exposed to the basic facts of how computers work. otherwise you leave them open to flat-earther-type ignorance where smart people end up believing dumb things.

        • (Score: 3, Interesting) by ledow on Friday September 18 2020, @12:19PM (4 children)

          by ledow (5567) on Friday September 18 2020, @12:19PM (#1052688) Homepage

          Yes, computing should be taught to all people. Like arithmetic.

          But IT lessons should not be computing-only lessons. The same way we don't just stop doing Maths lessons once they can add two and two.

          The reason is: Maths is hard for many people, it becomes optional not long after, and the stuff that is taught is beyond those who have no interest in maths.

          Computer Science should be the same. It's not.

          What we teach is computing, what we then expect is "everyone can code", what we then push is that everyone should be doing CS on the basis that they can type.

          And what we end up with is a generation of teachers who are baffled by an HDMI cable, and think the kid who knows which way up it goes should study CS because of that.

          Computing should be a core-skill. Same as numeracy and literacy. It's just basic 21st Century digital literacy. Teach to everyone and don't treat it as something special. You need it to file your taxes, check your bank account, pay your bills, order goods, and (not long now) vote or whatever else.

          Computer science is the add-on lesson that, age 14/15/whatever, when kids are pitching towards their favoured educational path / career, they choose and which then features little to no "computing". It's theory. It's coding. It's electronics. It's the specialist parts.

          It's not like that. CS is seen as "we can use a computer". Then advanced stuff is pushed to all kids (in the US/UK at least) above their level. Hell, not even all the programmers I meet can actually code worth a damn, for sure the guy who's going to end up working as a painter/decorator isn't ever going to be a good coder just because we shoved it in some of his lessons when he was a kid.

          I don't see any multinational push for "Every child a differentiator of a 3rd order integral". You do not "Every kid a coder".

          Separate them out. Treat child with poor computing the same as those with poor arithmetic or literacy. Of course you cover arithmetic in maths at some point but you can't hope to be good at algebra and calculus if you can't add up. And any teacher can/should/must know how to add and read and write to do their job, hence they should all know how to *operate* a computer just the same.

          Treat CS as the option for the kids that have talent, choose to go that way, and don't expect every teacher to have an understanding of CS in order to teach their own, or even a cover lesson, unless they are literally teaching a CS class.

          But they should be able to plug in a cable, check their email, and have a vague grasp of what a spreadsheet is.

          • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Freeman on Friday September 18 2020, @03:00PM (1 child)

            by Freeman (732) on Friday September 18 2020, @03:00PM (#1052788) Journal

            Part of the idea of teaching kids to code is that it gets kids excited about something other than just consuming technology. I.E. thinking about creating, instead of just playing games, etc. Also, how are you supposed to know that you love coding, if you never get a chance. Sure, you can always push the envelope yourself, but part of a robust curriculum is dipping your toes in everything. Otherwise, why bother teaching the average person how to write a research paper? Who cares? I've certainly not written any research papers since I left college.

            Joshua 1:9 "Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee"
            • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 18 2020, @09:37PM

              by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 18 2020, @09:37PM (#1053029)

              > ... why bother teaching the average person how to write a research paper?

              At a well known tech school, I nearly managed to graduate without being exposed to writing a research paper (mostly by taking drama classes for "humanities" requirements). Luckily, I finally took a history class in senior year where I clicked well enough with the prof that I got a clue about writing. After that, if you asked me about doing any more writing, I would have scoffed at you.

              40+ years later, I'm co-author of several books and have written a number of technical papers. The difference, at least as best I can tell, was the availability of word processing. Writing longhand is physically painful for me (reasons), and once I could type and edit (without retyping) on a screen, all of a sudden I turned into an acceptable technical writer.

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 19 2020, @01:37PM (1 child)

            by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 19 2020, @01:37PM (#1053443)

            How much will it cost to give poor children the opportunity to develop computational abilities? Many wealthier school districts are outfitting students with iPads and Chromebooks, but many of lower classes never see a non-touch computer at all outside of a "lab" in school. You really want your future robot techs and cable wranglers to have proper digital hygiene.

            • (Score: 2) by ledow on Saturday September 19 2020, @04:57PM

              by ledow (5567) on Saturday September 19 2020, @04:57PM (#1053561) Homepage

              The problem is neither expense nor availability of commodity hardware.

              I've worked in some of the poorest area, in schools under "special measures" (i.e. about to be shut down, they were so bad), with deprived children, etc.

              In a developed country almost nobody "doesn't have a computer". In fact, I'd say that I've never seen a household in the age-group of parents of a school-age child that didn't.

              The problem is that those computers are for entertainment only. Smartphones, games consoles, etc. In terms of programmable computers, there is a dearth because people would not buy them of their own accord.

              The Raspberry Pi and OLPC projects were supposed to solve this (and to some extent the microBit but that's a waste of time). But they completely fluffed integration with schools. They just threw hardware at people and expected them to use it. That's not how the education sector has worked in the UK or US for many decades. For schools and teachers, a computer that doesn't do what they expect is a broken computer, in their eyes. There is a dearth of skilled teachers, and those teachers could teach computing with an abacus and pen and paper. The unskilled ones can't teach computing even with £1000 laptops and unbelievable amounts of infrastructure.

              It's a skills problem, not a hardware problem. £35 per child would give them all a Raspberry Pi that would plug into any TV, connect to the Internet, work with Bluetooth and wireless, allow them to do electronic integration, etc. The schools don't buy them or issue them because they don't know how to use them. That's why schools spend £500 per child instead and give them Chromebooks and apps that make the TEACHER'S life easy. Then those same teachers complain that the apps on iTunes don't work on Chromebook because "they're what I've based on my lessons on".

              The problem to solve computer literacy, the same as the way to solve actual literacy, is not to just throw free computers/books at people. Sure, that's nice. But if there's nobody there to teach you to read, then you're not going to read them. Similarly, computers will be used to play games (of little educational value generally, it has to be said) - and they'll put ten times more effort into getting them to play games and do stupid things than they ever will to learn programming or even basic computer literacy. This is the era of the copy/paste coder/hacker who doesn't even understand what the code does, let alone how.

              It's a skills shortage. And you solve those by training. And we don't train people. The hardware is literally lost in the noise of providing even their basic stationery if you wanted to do it properly. The problem is that it's nothing compared to what they have at home, and they won't use either to build even basic computing skills, let along more advanced ones.

              To be honest, having worked in both state and private - state schools are way ahead in technology. Private schools tend to stick to the old-fashioned methods of teaching and don't like their nice properties littered with wireless access points and the like. If anything, private schools are playing catch-up. The difference is... they teach. Both teachers in both sectors are woefully underskilled.

      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by acid andy on Friday September 18 2020, @05:46PM (1 child)

        by acid andy (1683) on Friday September 18 2020, @05:46PM (#1052914) Homepage Journal

        For many in the 1980s, using a home computer meant using BASIC. OK, many users would only ever load software other people had written, but I'm sure a much greater proportion of home computer users back then tried typing in at least a short program than today's users. My point is that 35 years ago there was a lot more crossover between "computing" and programming (which comes under computer science). And education often takes a very, very long time to catch up with changes in a field.

        Master of the science of the art of the science of art.
        • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 19 2020, @12:42AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 19 2020, @12:42AM (#1053138)

          defaulting to a GUI may have done the world a disservice in that regard.

          Supposedly even secretaries picked up shell scripting back when the text terminal was the only option for interacting with unix.

          The only thing that is hard about a CLI is figuring out what commands are available in the first place, and performing actions across multiple files (globbing). The latter is perhaps the one place where the GUI excels, but can also be massively improved on the CLI by having some kind of TUI multi-select.

  • (Score: 0, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 18 2020, @07:06AM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 18 2020, @07:06AM (#1052644)

    What? STEM education? What happened to the mindless right wing inciting of violence?

    • (Score: 2) by kazzie on Saturday September 19 2020, @08:10AM

      by kazzie (5309) Subscriber Badge on Saturday September 19 2020, @08:10AM (#1053354)

      We need to stem the violence.

  • (Score: 2, Troll) by Phoenix666 on Friday September 18 2020, @11:00AM (2 children)

    by Phoenix666 (552) on Friday September 18 2020, @11:00AM (#1052682) Journal

    The answer in NYC is, "not at all." It sounds incredible at first blush until you realize they already fail to teach math, English, or any of the other basic subjects. Teachers unions are great for teachers and a catastrophe for everyone else, especially the kids.

    Washington DC delenda est.
    • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 18 2020, @07:32PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 18 2020, @07:32PM (#1052994)

      soylentnews: where the uncomfortable, but obvious truth is modded "troll".

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 19 2020, @01:52PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 19 2020, @01:52PM (#1053447)

      Unions are a failure that just add another layer of bureaucracy to be corrupted. Cooperative corporations would be a better answer.