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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, 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 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.

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

    by tepples (727027) <{tepples} {at} {}> 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.
  • Re:Keyboarding (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 09, 2013 @09:33PM (#45646361)

    Keyboarding is more important than handwriting in this age, and basic literacy is the very minimum an educational system should try to achieve.

  • 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."

  • 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.

  • 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 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 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.

  • Re: Keyboarding (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Vanderhoth (1582661) on Monday December 09, 2013 @10:43PM (#45646889)
    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 it's appreciated.

    P.S replying on a phone and /. mobile is crap. I always give the benefit of the doubt, not knowing the platform someone might have to use.
  • 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.

  • 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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 09, 2013 @11:07PM (#45647025)

    That's fuckin' idiotic. Computer science is not a programming class. If you want programming, have a programming class; don't feed people's ignorance by calling it "computer science."

  • 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.

"Stupidity, like virtue, is its own reward" -- William E. Davidsen