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Programming Education

Chicago Public Schools Promoting Computer Science to Core Subject 236

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the haskell-hacking-teenagers dept.
dmiller1984 writes "The Chicago Public Schools, the third-largest public school system in the United States, announced a five-year plan today that would add at least one computer science course to every CPS high school, and elevate computer science to a core requirement instead of an elective. CPS announced this through a partnership with code.org, stating that the non-profit would provide free curriculum, professional development, and stipends for teachers."
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Chicago Public Schools Promoting Computer Science to Core Subject

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  • Keyboarding (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bing Tsher E (943915) on Monday December 09, 2013 @09:05PM (#45646099) Journal

    Every pupil will be required to take the Keyboarding course.

    The computer labs will fill with students who hate being there.

    • Typing classes were some of my favorites. Sure there was a lot of repetition, but we did get to play some game. And there was no boring memorization/regurgitation/essay BS like history, English, or a ton of other subjectivity marked courses where the profs favorites got the best marks.
      • Mario Teaches Typing was the keyboarding portion of the generalized computer classes I had in middle school. Never was there more interest in a subject than that.
        • Nowadays would something like The Typing of the Dead [wikipedia.org] be more popular?
          • by blackraven14250 (902843) on Monday December 09, 2013 @10:20PM (#45646711)
            Depends on the student (just look at the player demographics of Mario games vs. violent zombie games), although I don't think that would fly in almost any school nowadays. Mario is a much less openly violent game. It's overall structure is better at educating students from a zero-experience start, as well. For example, in MTT, they show you exact fingers for any given key. You can get through most of the first level with hunt and peck, which means less frustration for students, and a better likelihood of them wanting to play more instead of give up. Meanwhile in TotD, you're lucky to make it through the first level at all as a typical kid typist IIRC (it's been a long time, but I played TotD a few years after MTT, and couldn't get to the annoying imp+golem boss - I just beat him on Dreamcast with a lightgun instead). I actually think MTT is one of the best educational games ever created - it's thoroughly teaching the skills, but makes it feel so much like a real game, and starts from a realistic skill level to allow anyone to pick it up.
      • by cervesaebraciator (2352888) on Monday December 09, 2013 @10:01PM (#45646545)
        I don't normally do this, but in this case I can't resist:

        And there was no boring memorization/regurgitation/essay BS like history, English, or a ton of other subjectively marked courses where the prof's favorites got the best marks.

        That's minus two points. I could mark off a few more for poor style, but you seem like a nice kid so I'll let it slide.

        • Re: Keyboarding (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Vanderhoth (1582661)
          It must really kill people who care about that sort of thing that once they're out in the real world no one cares what they think. I've let co-op students go and made sure they weren't hired by my company because they complained about someone's style and fixated minor spelling / grammar errors in a design doc, not written by me.

          If you want to program a computer you have to be better than one. If you're going to segfault on a comma there are real computers that require attention. Go back to school where i
          • Re: Keyboarding (Score:5, Insightful)

            by dcollins (135727) on Monday December 09, 2013 @10:53PM (#45646951) Homepage

            My current employer told me, years after the fact, that I got an interview specifically because my cover letter seemed so literate. Quality writing is the level-zero evaluation (quick and accessible) for anyone's level of education and attention to detail.

            More specifically, the idea of programming a computer and being simultaneously sloppy on syntax is pretty mind-boggling -- and from experience the code turned out by people like that, not caring about how they communicate with other people (if it compiles, it's committed), is pretty hellish.

            • Re: Keyboarding (Score:4, Insightful)

              by MightyYar (622222) on Monday December 09, 2013 @11:39PM (#45647243)

              It's all context.

              A resume or cover letter has to be absolutely perfect. Two things bother me about mistakes on those: First, at least take the time to have a friend check your resume. How long would that take? If you don't care enough to do that, then why am I even reading this thing? Second, you have to be aware that there are grammar and spelling Nazis out there - some of them in HR and some in your chosen field. How can you possibly be good at critical thinking if you don't realize this and try to take this minimal step to assuage them? This is the first impression you will have on a potential employer!

              On the other hand, some minor grammar or spelling (but really, spell check?) errors in internal documentation are no big deal, and certainly not worth kicking back a code or documentation review. Those only should happen when it changes the meaning or affects understanding somehow.

              • It's all context.

                Agreed. So, for example, Slashdot posts are really not that important in the grand scheme of things. I try to communicate clearly, but I'm sure a review would show that I do not proofread as I would for a published texts. Though the posts are recorded, the discussion is almost as ephemeral as real conversation and should be approached accordingly. But suppose you're going to write a Slashdot post where you dismiss the value of English courses (or at least a key exercise used to demonstrate

              • How can you possibly be good at critical thinking if you don't realize this and try to take this minimal step to assuage them?

                Perhaps they don't want to be sheep. Perhaps this is their way of eliminating worthless, incompetent, and superficial employers.

                • by MightyYar (622222)

                  I had considered that their goal may be to not get hired. I'm happy to help them in that regard.

                • by MightyYar (622222)

                  Hmmm, in addition - I just had a candidate request a second chance at an interview after he claimed to have slept through his alarm. Plausible, but perhaps it too is an elaborate ruse to weed out worthless, incompetent, superficial employers which are just like, punctuality Nazis, man. I'll have to think about this more. ;p

              • Exactly. The reason I let those co-op students, on two separate co-ops on two separate occasions, go was because they walked into a board meeting with the clients and instead of sitting down and shutting up, as a student should, they proceeded to pick apart the design documents right in front of the people that provided them. You don't sit down in front of someone who has a $40K - $60K contract with you and tell them they're morons for missing a comma or a minor typo. You especially don't let a co-op studen
          • they complained about someone's style and fixated minor spelling / grammar errors in a design doc

            Do you mean fixed, or fixated on, you ignorant buffoon?

    • by timeOday (582209)
      Typing is maybe #1 among the courses in highschool that I remember and that has had a concrete benefit to me. That said, each of my kids has been taught keyboard in 3rd or 4th grade so it's not highschool material any more.
      • Typing is maybe #1 among the courses in highschool that I remember and that has had a concrete benefit to me.

        Me too. Typing was the most useful thing I learned in high school.

        That said, each of my kids has been taught keyboard in 3rd or 4th grade so it's not highschool material any more.

        My son is in 4th grade, and they are learning to type in school. They dumped cursive to free up time in the schedule. I haven't used cursive handwriting since I learned to type, so it may be time to toss it on the ash heap of history.

    • by ackthpt (218170)

      Every pupil will be required to take the Keyboarding course.

      The computer labs will fill with students who hate being there.

      Just tell them there's a way to hack the computers and you won't be able to keep them out.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 09, 2013 @09:13PM (#45646189)

    If we can't get basics like reading figured out, what does it matter?

    Try this: duckduckgo/google/bing/etc for "chicago public schools proficient".

    Let's get reading figured out before we promote other things to core requirements.

    • by dcollins (135727) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @03:24AM (#45648225) Homepage

      For what it's worth, more instruction in reading-as-its-own-thing can be counterproductive. What I've seen for reported research is that time spent on raw reading strategies ("find the main point", etc.) is productive up to about 10 hours and then doesn't give any more benefit. More productive is to get kids reading rich-content material in history and science and everything else, developing larger vocabularies, making more connections between more ideas and concepts. Neuroscientist Daniel Willingham phrases this, "Teaching content is teaching reading." Saying that we need to perfect reading in the abstract before broadening knowledge of the world is a waste of time and counterproductive -- like spinning tires in mud or dropping kids mentally into a sensory-deprivation tank.

      http://www.danielwillingham.com/1/post/2012/03/school-time-knowledge-and-reading-comprehension.html [danielwillingham.com]

  • Critical thinking (Score:4, Insightful)

    by enigma32 (128601) on Monday December 09, 2013 @09:15PM (#45646217)

    Yeah, this is great and all...

    But wouldn't it be more useful to have a course that emphasizes critical thinking about all types of problems rather than focusing on one specific application of critical thinking? People usually seem to overlook that the important thing about working with computers is the ability to think critically about what you're doing, not the specifics of what you're doing.

    Traditional science classes kind of broach the surface of critical thinking, but I suspect that it could be covered in much greater depth over a wide variety of problems, to much better effect.

    • by jader3rd (2222716)

      But wouldn't it be more useful to have a course that emphasizes critical thinking about all types of problems rather than focusing on one specific application of critical thinking?

      Yes, but sometimes getting your hands dirty helps too.

      I remember my first CS class in University. The professors were using a new text book that tried to teach programming without doing much programming. It was very difficult, and they dropped the book for the next semester. A year later I remembered that reading that book always put me to sleep, and I was having trouble sleeping so I picked the book up, and to my surprise it was awesome! I even thought about how it did a great job teaching programming with

    • by Microlith (54737)

      How generalized do you want to get? I mean you can get seriously non-specific about it then lose people as you meander through the thought experiments, or give them a base to start from.

      On the other hand, education about how computers function might start to ablate this "black box" that computers are. That hands-off, "I can'tpossibly understand" attitude is what makes the average person so susceptible to malware.

    • by danlip (737336)

      Traditional science classes kind of broach the surface of critical thinking

      Science classes should involve critical thinking, but unfortunately most don't. Rather than teaching science they teach a set of facts, handed down by authority, that you must memorize.

      I agree that a general logic and critical thinking class would be good but perhaps very hard to implement. A coding class gives a good framework for this, and a very hands-on framework, which I think is best. Once you learn this you can generalize.

      Although I cringe at thinking about how the public school system might water-do

    • by scamper_22 (1073470) on Monday December 09, 2013 @10:10PM (#45646613)

      I taught high school computer science for a while and I an a software developer.

      I think almost anyone will agree that teaching how to think, understand and create algorithms, and critical thinking is the goal of computer science.

      However, how do you express those thoughts? You could do it through the use of abstract mathematical symbols or perhaps pseudo-code.

      Or you can express thoughts same thoughts via a programming language.

      Better still, using a programming language lets you see the actual results of what you programmed, debug, find problems, view variable contents...

      People who criticize the teaching of computer science always seem to hate on the choice of programming language. Look, I agree sometimes schools pick a practical or industry used programming language.

      But this is not a problem. The problem resides in what you do with that language. If all you teach kids about programming is calling into libraries, then yeah, it is a problem. But if you teach them logic and control and variables, which most programming languages provide, then you're doing fine.

      Even languages like Java which hide memory allocation are not that bad. This is high school computer science. If you can get them to understand variables and a for-loop, you're a miracle worker :)

      They can learn the details of memory management in college/university or another advanced high-school class.

    • by tlambert (566799) on Monday December 09, 2013 @10:22PM (#45646721)

      But wouldn't it be more useful to have a course that emphasizes critical thinking about all types of problems rather than focusing on one specific application of critical thinking?

      Teaching critical thinking early is a bad idea.

      There is a place and time for shoveling as much information into a child's head as it can possibly hold without exploding. This is when we teach multiplication tables, drill grammar into their thick skulls, teach them basic math up through algebra, spelling, penmanship, history, and so on.

      As soon as you teach critical thinking skills, it's like setting the write protect bit: it enables them to make a value judgement on the validity of the information they are being given by the teachers (and other adults), and as soon as you have that, you begin to build distrust of information sources - even ones with good information to impart.

      Generally some critical thinking skills form on their own; creative writing, physics, chemistry, debate, and other classes tend to foster their development, regardless of whether or not you are done shoveling the basic stuff into their heads. As soon as that bit is set, you might as well give up trying to program them, you've lost: they're teenagers.

      Logic classes belong in the first quarter/semester of your first year of college, and not before.

      • by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Monday December 09, 2013 @10:38PM (#45646853)

        Exactly. Why would we ever want to 'teach' people to have critical thinking skills? Schooling is all about indoctrination and rote memorization, and actual thoughts would just get in the way of that.

        • by tlambert (566799) on Monday December 09, 2013 @11:54PM (#45647333)

          Exactly. Why would we ever want to 'teach' people to have critical thinking skills? Schooling is all about indoctrination and rote memorization, and actual thoughts would just get in the way of that.

          I think you missed the part where I said that some critical thinking skills are formed on their own; and people should definitely have critical thinking skills; I've been persuaded by another poster that it should be a mandatory grade 12 (High School Senior) course, rather than waiting for the first year of college.

          It's counter productive to impair the ability to teach children rote information by teaching them to doubt the source before attempting to teach them the rote information. For non-rote information classes, that's the likely places that self-derived critical thinking skills will develop on their own.

          Also see my other post about certain religious sects - I give the example of Amish/Mennonite communities) where doubting your teacher in school becomes the same as doubting your parents and doubting your religious authority. Instilling a high probability of acting on such doubts, which is an opportunity given at 14-16 years of age in those communities, is effectively cultural genocide.

          While you may be saying "Good! I'm a rational humanist, and they should be too! I want everyone to be like me!", those cultures embody skill sets that we, as a society, may decide we need some day, in the same way that some - myself included - have argued that kids should be taught to do math without calculators because one EMP, and they won't be able to add anything on their own past "ten fingers" any more.

      • by femtobyte (710429) on Monday December 09, 2013 @10:46PM (#45646907)

        Woah, kids don't become teenagers because you've taught them critical thinking. You're seriously confusing correlation and causation here. Kids hit the "teenager" stage of mental development whether you want it or not, as a natural part of the progression in brain development. The right time to teach critical thinking is whenever kids are ready for it (which will vary from child to child, sometimes by quite a lot).

        For young children still in the "sponge up, memorize, and repeat information from the environment with no higher analysis" developmental phase, a repetitive, memorization of random facts and methods approach is appropriate. However, introducing the "higher thinking" approach as soon as kids are able to handle it is highly beneficial --- when you can understand and synthesize material, in addition to just remembering something you've seen before, you'll do far better at every subject. Stunting critical skills by beating rote conformity into teenagers (who have hit brain development stages incompatible with this) may produce quiet, well-behaved, and dull idiots, but that shouldn't be the goal of education. Rather, guiding the inevitable development of critical thinking through the wacky teenage years to take advantage of good information along with rebelling against bad is how to go about education.

        • by Prune (557140)
          The source of disagreement between you and GP seems to be when, exactly, "as soon as kids are able to handle it" is. In reality, I'm not sure how narrow the spread is among students of when the appropriate age is. The standard deviation may be on the order of a couple of years. This is yet another issue where a more individualized approach to education would help--something, unfortunately, currently not available to the masses.
          • by femtobyte (710429)

            I can't use myself as a "typical" example, because I'm already quite a few standard deviations out on much else --- however, I can certainly say that there was a reasonably large population of high-school aged students perfectly capable of handling and thriving on critical-thinking-engaged work; the idea of holding this off until "first tear of college" is quite extreme. But, even earlier in schooling, there's often a clear difference between students who critically understand material (hence are able to fl

            • by Prune (557140)
              I think he over-emphasized it, yes. But, given how unreasonable a literal drastic change seems, I just assumed that he was using hyperbole as a rhetorical device. I doubt he believes it's really as sudden as turning on a switch.
              • by femtobyte (710429)

                Regardless of the specific suddenness, there's still the underlying notion of whether teenage brain development (towards a "questioning authority" independent critical thinking approach) is something taught, or something innate in brain development. The specific form that "teenage rebellion" takes is certainly a cultural artifact (i.e. is taught) --- teenagers will adopt a particular language, style of dress, musical taste, and mode of behavior by mimicking influences around them (ironically, often "rebell

                • by Prune (557140)
                  I don't think we know exactly when the right time to teach this is--not without studies. I'm not really taking his side in the argument, either; as I wrote in my response to him, critical thinking teaching should be moved earlier from freshman college to perhaps the last year of high school, for a reason that doesn't require any studies to confirm: that most students would be covered, unlike in college, to which only some will continue.
      • by Prune (557140)
        This is an insightful post. I'm persuaded that it's possible to try to teach this too early, before some foundational knowledge has been instilled. But I'm not sure that it's necessary to delay until the first term of a college, especially since everyone would benefit, not just those that end up going to college. I would support a mandatory course in senior high school year, with some of the principles being touched upon in science classes before that.
        • by tlambert (566799)

          This is an insightful post. I'm persuaded that it's possible to try to teach this too early, before some foundational knowledge has been instilled. But I'm not sure that it's necessary to delay until the first term of a college, especially since everyone would benefit, not just those that end up going to college. I would support a mandatory course in senior high school year, with some of the principles being touched upon in science classes before that.

          That's a reasonable point. People are mandatorily required to attend primary education through grade 12 in the U.S. (with the exception of some "grade 8 then done" Amish/Mennonite communities), and teaching it before they go out into the world is a good idea. It may actually be counter-productive to the continued existence of those communities, so the stop should not be adjusted downward in those instances - throwing doubt about informations sources right before they go on Rumspringa would likely steal ma

          • by Prune (557140)
            I'm not sure this is "stealing" them from their culture. It's equipping them with the ability to make a more rational choice, and I don't think you can really argue against this, regardless of any consideration for the overall effect integrated over population statistics.
            • by tlambert (566799)

              I'm not sure this is "stealing" them from their culture. It's equipping them with the ability to make a more rational choice, and I don't think you can really argue against this, regardless of any consideration for the overall effect integrated over population statistics.

              I can: it equips them to make a rational choice based on *the information available to them at the time of the choice*. Such a choice based on a lack of critical pieces of information necessary to their understanding of the consequences of the decision is only *situationally rational*, and perhaps not long term rational or correct.

      • Your premise seems to be that once a kid learns critical thinking, they will suddenly start making value judgments. I hate to tell you this but every kid makes value judgments about their classes regardless of having any formal training in critical thinking. I passionately HATED history as a kid. I thought learning about the past was a complete waste of my time and it was made even worse by all the rote memorization. It was only after that I learned critical thinking that I understood the value of histo

      • by mysidia (191772)

        Students definitely should doubt their teachers ---- who often make errors, and doing so should inspire more learning. If it gets out of hand, they can always be given a detention [picstache.com] for it.

        There is a place and time for shoveling as much information into a child's head as it can possibly hold without exploding. This is when we teach multiplication tables, drill grammar into their thick skulls, teach them basic math up through algebra, spelling, penmanship, history, and so on.

        These are unnecessary. Strong

      • It's never truly as obvious until you have this conversation:

        1: "They should pay us more."
        2: "If so, this [plant|office|shop] will close"
        1: "But we're worth more than [X/hr.]"
        2: "So quit"
        1: "Can't, this is the best job around"
        2: "Then be happy you have it"
        1: "Just greedy CEO corporate whores screwing us every chance they get"
        2: "Then start your own business"
        1: "I can't quit, I need the money"

        The moment disillusionment kicks in, it is the cause of all that is wrong. The only reason business does anything is

        • by tlambert (566799)

          While we are on the subject - a girl kills your sister and steals her shoes, and a wizard sends the same girl to kill you. Her comrades kill or stop everything you send to stop them. Who is the real evil here?

          Probably me, because I would immediately go scorched earth before your first "and" (I happen to believe in the concept of "Total War", and probably get along well with William Tecumseh Sherman). Realize, however, that your argument started with what I'd call an intolerable provocation to war.

      • The problem with this approach is that unscrupulous adults take advantage of the lack of critical thinking and mental defenses in young minds to shovel them full of ideologically motivated drivel before they're developed enough to recognize the agenda. Take history for example and the recent trends toward emphasizing minor details, even at the expense of essential persons and events, because it suits a politically correct agenda of ideological education. Another example is the extreme emphasis of environmen
    • by dcollins (135727)

      "Critical thinking" is this mantra that has come to signify almost nothing. A peculiar CS-person fugue seems to be "education is never abstracted enough to satisfy me". People cannot think in the abstract without first thinking about something concrete. Lots of specific knowledge is what allows connections to be made.

      "Knowledge comes into play mainly because if we want our students to learn how to think critically, they must have something to think about." [Daniel T. Willingham, American Educator [aft.org]]

      • "Critical thinking" is this mantra that has come to signify almost nothing.

        If you ask someone advocating "critical thinking" what it actually means, you mostly get mumbling. If you ask people to give an example of what a "critical thinking" classroom lesson would entail, none of them will agree with the others. I heard one advocate insist that "critical thinking" meant teaching the scientific method, although the archetype of "critical thinking" is the Socratic method, which is pretty much the exact opposite of the scientific method.

    • I read a study once (in this excellent book [amazon.com]) that students who took classes about logical fallacies were no more able to recognize fallacies after the class than before. So I think it helps to at least have a class that discusses concrete applications, rather than abstract critical thinking.

      Similar to this class, if they talk about abstract things like class hierarchies or introspection, everyone will be bored. But if they talk about making games (or whatever teenagers are interested in) then some people
    • In some schools, like in Japan, the teachers first present a problem to students before teaching them the required accepted method for solving it. For instance: Find the area of a triangle. The students break into groups and work on solving the problem. Many times the students re-invent the same equations our greatest ancient minds came up with, sometimes they come up with correct but imprecise or inefficient methods. Then the students are given the accepted knowledge with which to solve the other class

    • but you're losing sight of the problem code.org is trying to solve: highly paid software engineers. Whoops, there I go again with that 'Critical Thinkin''. :)
  • by Spy Handler (822350) on Monday December 09, 2013 @09:24PM (#45646287) Homepage Journal

    Forcing CS down on everyone's throat would be like forcing calculus. Some can take it and some can't.

    I'd guess that about half the population (IQ below 100) will never get programming no matter how hard you try to teach them.

    But if a kid can pass algebra and geometry, they can probably learn some BASIC.

    The ones that can't hack algebra, teach them Excel or data entry so the school board can be proud of leading the high tech education future or something along those lines.

    • I'd guess that about half the population (IQ below 100) will never get programming no matter how hard you try to teach them.

      That depends on what you mean by "get programming." If you're merely talking about making any sort of program and the quality of the code doesn't matter at all, then I disagree. If you're talking about being competent, then I think far less than half could "get programming." IQ also has nothing to do with it.

    • by danlip (737336)

      if a kid can pass algebra and geometry, they can probably learn some BASIC.

      "It is practically impossible to teach good programming to students that have had a prior exposure to BASIC: as potential programmers they are mentally mutilated beyond hope of regeneration." - Edsger W. Dijkstra

      Not that I actually agree with Dijkstra on this. I started out on BASIC and became a good programmer despite it (emphasis on "despite") as did many other kids in my generation. But there are certainly better languages to start with. In 1980 people actually tried to write real programs in BASIC and i

      • Because silly toy languages designed for novices are better to use to teach elementary concepts like variables, branching, and loops without having half the class bogged down in missed curly braces and semicolons. It is also much more instructive to come to the realization that goto is Considered Harmful after trying to hack up your own spaghetti code than it is to be insulated from it by a language that doesn't even have a goto, leaving you with only a vague and abstract notion of the virtues of measuring
    • Bull Turkeys!

      Computer programming is no harder than following recipe instructions or assenbling legos or making a sandwich.

      I repeat --- computer programming is no harder than making a sandwich.

      Being a good computer programmer or a great one is a different story, but idea that exposing average people to very simple computer programming is bad because "they won't get it" is preposterous!

      Computer programming is FAR EASIER than either geometry or calculus --- one example would be Visual Basic 6 or hello w
    • I'd guess that about half the population (IQ below 100) will never get programming no matter how hard you try to teach them.

      It all depends on how you teach them. Sure, if you show them pages and pages of code they'll be bored, but sit an 8 year old down with a turtle and LOGO and in a few hours he'll be doing all kind of things. "FORWARD 100 RIGHT 90 FORWARD 100." It just makes sense. By the end of the semester they'll have concepts like variables and loops down, which is really all you need for BASIC programming. No Algebra or Geometry necessary.

    • The problem is that if you teach a kid BASIC instead of mathematics, they'll be better than the other kids at algebra.

    • This is one class we're talking about here. Not a course of maths of which trig is one. Not a course of English of which poetry is one. This is a single course in which kids can effectively try programming.

      In every Code.org thread, people say you can't just make kids like programming, they just need the chance to learn. Given exposure, they can decide if they like it or not.

      This is the opposite of the "make everyone a coder" mantra. I took maths, I'm not a mathematician. Out of every course in school,

  • PC-free households (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tepples (727027) <tepples&gmail,com> on Monday December 09, 2013 @09:25PM (#45646299) Homepage Journal
    If computer science is a requirement, then how will students in households without a general-purpose computer complete their homework assignments? A lot of households rely on iPhones, iPads, and/or game consoles, which don't offer much in the way of end-user programmability.
    • by dmiller1984 (705720) on Monday December 09, 2013 @09:59PM (#45646519) Homepage
      I teach CS and my students never have homework. One of the benefits of a CS class is the flipped model that allows most, if not all, of the work to be completed in class.
      • One of the benefits of a CS class is the flipped model that allows most, if not all, of the work to be completed in class.

        Watching video lessons at home would fix the "all we have is an iPad/Xbox" problems so long as the video lessons are compatible with Safari for iOS and IE for Xbox 360. But it still leaves the problem of needing to buy a computer or device in the first place and subscribe to wired broadband at home, as watching too many videos on a smartphone over 3G/4G will cause the parent to have to pay the carrier when the student incurs a data overage.

    • by Microlith (54737) on Monday December 09, 2013 @10:04PM (#45646567)

      It's worse than that. When I was a kid I was interested in programming before I ever had access to computers at school that could support it. I did Visual Basic and Delphi at home on the family PC, and also on the 386 it replaced that I had commandeered. It was at least 3 years before I was in a position to buy my own.

      I feel sorry for the coming generation of kids who will know nothing but locked down, hostile devices that will have to convince their parents that they need a real computer, particularly if their parents are computer averse.

    • The world needs ditch diggers too you know. Increasingly I'm seeing a sink or swim mentality brought on by businesses (and the local Republican run "Chamber of Commerce", which to my surprise is actually just a lobby group for the GOP).
  • by mtrachtenberg (67780) on Monday December 09, 2013 @09:36PM (#45646385) Homepage

    Computer science is a poor substitute for teaching logical argument and mathematical logic. But if they're going to teach computer science, I hope that doesn't mean "how to use Excel."

    • That depends on whether they're running the programming class in Excel's macro language because "it's already installed".
    • by Prien715 (251944)

      Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes. ~ paraphrased from the great Edsger W. Dijkstra

      • Look at what schools are calling Computer Science / Engineering to boast their names, and you'll find that it includes installing Windows on a whitebox computer and blindly running anti virus software.

        These institutions are garbage and should be labeled as such.
      • by Prune (557140)
        Funny--while you reject the first term of the phrase "computer science", I object to the second.
    • by Dynedain (141758)

      I'd be happy if everyone knew how to use Excel.

      Just understanding that you can automate a ton of pointless crap by using Excel formulas would remove so much trivially stupid data entry work out there.

    • The HS class for using Excell and Word is called, "Vocational Computer Applications" where I come from. In the 1990's Computer Math was the class you took for BASIC, Pascal, C, etc. Nowadays I think the curriculum is JavaScript, Python, C. In 100 years it'll probably be Neuron.Net, BizLang, and C.

      I've invented other languages with the aim to be as close to the metal as possible on modern Von Neumann architectures -- It was basically C that looked different; C is a product of its environment. Only differ

  • You'd think that by 2014 this would be a very obvious requirement for any student to take. Certainly far more useful than chemistry and certainly way sooner than physics.

    At the same time, I'm stunned that anyone would setup a situation where students are forced to have this as a requirement. There are many jobs/lifestyles that don't require any skills of this kind, and in which these sorts of skills are actually detrimental to those industries.

    Basically, this looks a lot like 1980's algebra. Really incre

    • Basically, once again, the education system is a good 20 years behind the curve. Not surprising at all. It likes to pump out blue-collar workers. It always has.

  • by EMG at MU (1194965) on Monday December 09, 2013 @10:09PM (#45646603)
    CPS has a big budget problem, just like the rest of Illinois. CPS also has a very poor relationship with the public teachers union, the teachers went on strike last year and shut the district down.

    Where exactly is CPS going to find people who are passionate and knowledgeable about CS who also want to teach in a public district in Illinois? Stipends and training are nice but I don't feel like forcing students to take a CS course, taught by a teacher who may have no real experience in CS, is going to encourage anyone already not determined to go to university for CS to change their mind. It may actually dissuade potential CS majors.
    • Re:Taught by whom? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by GlobalEcho (26240) on Monday December 09, 2013 @11:53PM (#45647329)

      CPS pays an average of just under $75K to teachers, which is more than most private schools do. Along with the extra job security and (promised if not delivered) pensions, that makes the teaching positions attractive to quite a few people. The teachers I know also feel good about dedicating their professional lives to students in CPS, who are generally in need of every bit of help they can get.

      If I had made a bundle in the dot com bubble or something, I could see myself teaching CS in CPS. Or at least trying -- I teach grad school and don't know if I have the personality for younger students.

  • Chairman Mao recognized that China was behind the west, and tried to remedy this by setting up government "insitutes" to study "electronic appliances". It was just another brick in the wall. China didn't develop until it decided to "leave those kids alone" under Deng Tsia Ping.
  • by EmperorOfCanada (1332175) on Monday December 09, 2013 @11:02PM (#45646999)
    I can just see the courses my school would have offered. Textbooks full of code that is bug ridden. Teachers that would not understand advanced programming and thus penalize awesome programmers that "colored outside the lines" and used advanced programming. I could see some student using a singleton instead of a global and having the teacher say "Wrong a global would have been cleaner." Even if you hate singletons, global are worse.

    Then I could see the technology becoming either a buzzword bingo or really dated. So it would be intro to perl, visual basic, and power builder. Or an intro to node.js, ruby, and haskell.

    But the second worst upon worst would be that companies would "freely" donate to the school system so that the kids would become little MSDN/Oracle/Salesforce drones.

    The worst of worst would be that they would suck all the fun out of it; Every single drop. So instead of teaching them something relevant such as making a video game, an Arduino robot, or creating a tool for interacting with pintrest/twiter/vine etc. They would have them doing the age old command line enter your age and find out how old you are in dog years crap.

    I have watched my nephews making crap in Unity3D and they are forcing themselves to learn programming. Much is copy and paste code then hammer it until it works. This is not going to create a firm foundation but if after this they took a rapid introduction to programming course that showed them how to do things correctly they would realize that many of their bad habits had a cure. But they wouldn't have to learn the underlying philosophy that makes you really grok programming which is something that most intro courses completely fail at. I have talked to many people who have just passed a university programming course and they usually don't know the difference between a float and an int. (Usually Java based courses so they should know).

    I'm not saying that CS in highschool is a bad idea but that CS is for a certain type of person. You either love it or it is purely a chore. It seems that the goal is to expose tonnes of people to CS and hope that a few end up joining our little cult. So my suggestion is to create for credit computer/engineering clubs. The idea would be to have the tools and a mentor who would encourage independent study and small group projects. This way someone who has been doing Arduino assembly since grade 8 would be able to attempt something fantastic while someone else who had failed to compile Hello World and still loved it would also have a place that welcomed them. Trying to have a standard curriculum is just going to annoy everybody and only result in wasted time and tears; and maybe even a worse outcome as the person who wants to make an app is just going to get pissed off writing the usual command line garbage. Personally I would much rather make a crappy buggy app than a perfect command line thing on my first go.
    • by Greyfox (87712)
      I'm pretty sure any design review board given a choice between you using a singleton and a global would tell you to stop being a bad programmer and come up with a better solution. You can always get away without having to use a singleton. You can almost always get away without having to use a global. You might need one if you write a signal handler, but most professional programmers will go their entire career (or lives) without ever writing a signal handler.

      CS is for a certain type of person, but most of

  • So, we're wanting to teach all kids how to program. I wonder what this will do to the "hacker" community. This is a shit-storm waiting to happen. Between teachers not knowing jack about computers to the corporate infrastructure that will (attempt to) be laid down, this is just digging further into the can of worms that isn't working already.

    I see someday a war of minds, maybe very near in the future. And interestingly enough, I think the farmers will win.
    • by femtobyte (710429)

      I see someday a war of minds, maybe very near in the future. And interestingly enough, I think the farmers will win.

      "The farmers" are already beholden to a massive corporate infrastructure. There is very little agriculture done by farmers with the skills and tools to not be deeply dependent on the fertilizer, pesticide, herbicide, fossil fuel, and seed megacorporations' systems (which reap the profits while farmers bear the financial risk and poor workers do the brutal labor of farming). So, what "farmers" do you expect to win a war of minds against the peons enmeshed in the corporate infrastructure of high-tech? It's co

  • We had some computers in high school. We had many of them in college.

    In both settings, the lecture was actually very important. The lectures were about algorithms. Because these were elective programs (or perhaps met an elective requirement for an engineering degree) most of the students did well. Even the ones who struggled with it were at least highly motivated. Even people like myself who had done a lot of coding outside the classroom struggled with the material at times, so it was very challenging

  • In the new `computer science' class, they will not be covering what a computer is, how it works, etc. but, rather, MS Office. Right?

  • by jcr (53032) <.jcr. .at. .mac.com.> on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @08:35AM (#45649257) Journal

    Speaking as one who had the misfortune of having to try to help kids with no interest at all in computing, back when I was in high school myself, this is a fucking idiotic idea. Coding isn't for everyone.

    -jcr

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