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Education Programming United Kingdom

Reading, Writing, Ruby? 292

itwbennett writes "A BBC article outlines a push to make software programming a basic course of study for British schoolchildren in hopes that Britain could become a major programming center for video games and special effects. Can earlier exposure to better technology courses reverse the declining enrollment in university computer science courses and make coding cool?"
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Reading, Writing, Ruby?

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  • Re:Needs Revision. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by OliWarner ( 1529079 ) on Monday November 28, 2011 @11:40PM (#38198492) Homepage

    I can't tell if that's an improvement over the "This is how MS Office works" ICT training that most UK students get now. I had to teach myself relational database basics and a few programming languages while in school because the school didn't have the courses (or the teachers) to push a real syllabus. A very few of the bigger A-Level colleges get it right but they need to be offering this sort of thing to 10 year olds.

    And yes, if this if going to work, it'll need teachers who know how to program. Given that there are about three of those in the entire country, the government is going to have to get working on this now if it wants to make a change within the next five years.

  • shop class (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anvil the Ninja ( 38143 ) on Monday November 28, 2011 @11:49PM (#38198560)

    High school intro to programming should fill the same niche as shop class -- to get students interested in creating stuff.

  • Re:Games ok now? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by masternerdguy ( 2468142 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @12:05AM (#38198672)
    It's not just about game theory. Space invaders will teach concepts such as blitting, game loops, event driven programming, arrays + for loops (with arrays, lists, etc), and the use of threading/timed while loops. It will probably be a great example of implementing object oriented programming, and requires support skills such as the creation of sprites in an editor such as GIMP, and sound effects in things like Audacity. It's not a big project, but it does cover a broad spectrum of topics in a very short span of time, and the student will have fun doing it.
  • by bky1701 ( 979071 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @01:37AM (#38199226) Homepage
    "College/University is not a trade school"

    Yes it is. Of the people who go to college, only a tiny minority will say it is because they want to learn for the sake of learning. Likely, because learning no longer requires attendance at a physical university. What a university provides is a sort of certification. Everyone with a serious goal in life goes because they more or less have to go, in order to be allowed into certain fields. Getting into those fields makes a better life.

    I might agree with you somewhat, so far as college does not teach a trade. It is a costly exercise in bureaucracy and wasting of 4-6 years of everyone's time at taxpayer expense for people who do not want to be there (for good reason). Of course, the source of that problem is opinions like yours - that college has some kind of intrinsic value. It somehow makes you better, hence, it is not a "trade school" which teaches you a trade. If this is the case or not is fairly irrelevant; it is not how it is seen by those in it, so it is not how it is treated by them.

    Then, of course, there are those who use college as a buffer of party time between highschool and work. I'd dare say they make up a bigger portion of college population than either learners or goal seekers...
  • by LostMyBeaver ( 1226054 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @03:16AM (#38199666)
    In high school... I went to a special one called W.T. Clarke in Westbury New York... I had four teachers which were really amazing. The principle of the school decided that to teach computer programming, he'd hire a programmer. To teach electro-mechanical engineering, he'd hire a robotics engineer. To teach architecture, he'd hire an architect and to teach electronics repair, he's hire a TV repair technician. Oh... did the same for carpentry and other things as well.

    He believed that if he could find these people with a love for what they do, who felt that it would be more productive to teach 30 new kids each year than to do the work themselves. The initial pay was that of an entry level person of the field which they were specialists in and the costs to cover tuition to the university to become a certified teacher as well. Upon completion of their degree, they would gain the additional money that had been paying for their university classes as salary. The end result was, nearly every person on my friends list on FaceBook from those classes are now working high level positions in those fields..... or as teachers. That's about a 70% success rate.

    A key thing to understand about these courses is... they were elective courses. You had to do well in your normal classes or you'd be dropped from these courses. So, the students in these courses actually did better in their other classes than the other students as well. It's like forcing an athlete to pass their other classes or no football for them.

    This system worked incredibly... the problem was, the principle had to fight for this. He demanded of the school district the funds to make this happen. He probably interviewed 50 people for each position before choosing someone. After all, with the investment he would need to make in a person like this, he didn't want to have to do it every 3 years. So he picked the right person for the job. Of course, in that school, he did pretty much the same for nearly all his teachers and in a school with 1500 students, that's a huge job. But, the end result was one of the best schools in New York and possibly the whole of the U.S.. He didn't piss away money on fancy landscaping projects like they do in California. Whenever he got the money to do anything, he improved the academics of the school first and if there was any money left over, he bought a lawn mower. He would even attempt to convince the football team and cheerleading squad to run fund raisers for those things to avoid having to use the normal budget for those things.

    Mind you this was in the 80s and 90s. He set aside an area of the parking lot for kids to smoke. He felt strongly that he'd rather keep the students at school even if it meant letting them smoke on school grounds as opposed to having them skip classes to avoid getting caught smoking. These days, the parents almost certainly would lynch him for such a decision. Unlike other schools where the principle was some loser who deal out punishments. He let his subordinates take care of punishments. He on the other hand would take personal interest in any student he felt was going the wrong way. He understood that the kids who looked like "The wrong kind" could often simply be trying to define themselves as nonconformists. If some kids needed a "tough guy" reputation, he'd even pull them across the school and into his office by their ear for everyone to see, then sit down and play a game of chess with them and talk about things. Fact is, we as students didn't fear him for punishments. We feared that he would be disappointed in us... a raised eyebrow from him was enough to put nearly all the students in line.

    I can go on and on about him. But the important thing more than anything else is that he made the school what it was. He built a team of the right teachers. He sacrificed new paint in the hallways for better text books. He focused on what was important in a school. People always talk about "The right teachers" and "Higher pay", but in retrospect, I must admit that the key to success is great leadership. Start with that.
  • Re:Ruby??? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by rtfa-troll ( 1340807 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @03:54AM (#38199808)
    Python has an attitude that little should be hidden. Ruby has lots of automagic and can be confusing for professional programmers let alone beginners. At the same time most important things are available in python. For a first language python would seem to be obviously better

Do not underestimate the value of print statements for debugging.