Monday, 28 November 2011

UK Government backs call for classroom coding

There's an interesting debate going on at the moment about teaching coding in schools.


What I find more interesting is what I perceive as the situation outside of the school room.

When I was at school, we had computers that didn't do much, unless you programmed them. I was fortunate enough that my parents bought me a computer, which I also had to program to do things, and so subsequently I learnt to program.

Today, computers at home are generally used for surfing the internet, emails etc, and very rarely used for programming.

The necessity is no longer there, and the complexities of learning to program a windows or mac computer when compared to the simplicity of something like a ZX81 are huge.

When I was young, getting a computer to say "I love you" to my girlfriend at the time in a for next loop was exciting, but to todays social media aware teenager I can image that the expression would be "whatever, have you seen the new version of Halo?".

The need to learn to program is no longer there. Where's the primitive excitement in this world of the gooey and the games?

The article complains about over emphasis on how to use software rather than how to write it.

What they don't seem to take into account is that in order to write code one has to be a hacker, a geek, interested in the fundamental design concepts and engineering challenges that have traditionally been associated with traditional engineering disciplines.

It's not without reason that we have titles like "Software Engineer" and "Software Architect. These titles are representative of the other disciplines that they reference, such as "Electrical Engineer" and "Architect".

Not everyone is cut out to be an engineer, just as not everyone is cut out to be an atomic researcher.

When I was younger computer science, programming and engineering was taught at university, and surprise surprise, it still is.

The kids today need to know how to use a computer because they are liable to experience them in most jobs. Art students need a foundation in digital photography and Photoshop, In Design, Illustrator, because they need to know not only how to draw but how to work in the digital world that any job in that field will require knowledge of. Someone working in Maccy D's needs to know how to use the till.

I learnt technical drawing amongst other things, which has now been replaced by Google Sketchup and Autocad, yet the foundations of that discipline enable me to understand how to use the software ( and my geekiness of curiosity ;) 0

So what am I saying? We don't and shouldn't need to teach kids to write software in general school, but we should teach curiosity. My partner is a school teacher and it amazes me the crap they have to teach and the way it has to be taught.

I say, teach the basics, but above all teach curiosity and the ability to learn, and then let the kids find out what it is they love and want to excel in, and then encourage them. There is nothing better for a human being than to love what they do and feel good about the impact they have on those around them, and especially society in general if they are lucky enough to have that impact.

I don't understand why think tanks who have no experience in teaching, or even understanding beyond a closed view of the world, should have the right to decide that teaching this weeks fashionable ideology is more important than exciting the kids to be curios and encouraging them to explore that curiosity?

I feel that what we need to do is encourage kids to have the right to be individual, and celebrate that, rather than try and get conformity to a uniform baseline for stats and school league tables.

Some kids will be curious, and become great software engineers. Some won't but will become amazing artists and challenge our perspectives in both the digital and analogue worlds. Others will become customer service experts and help to develop customer interaction portals that will be a joy to use.

Others won't be any of the above, but will provide the most essential parts of a modern society that are looked down upon. They will be the bin men, the recycling agents, the street cleaners. These people are essential to our society, and should be paid as much if not more than the bankers who keep ruining the economy for everyone else! ( oooh, a bit of controversy there  ;) )
Give your bin men, post women* etc a cash gift at Christmas. That is the real tradition of boxing day, to give a gift to those who serve you. I'm not saying that they are servants to us, but they are civil servants, servants to society who keep it working for the rest of us.
If you see them in the morning, say thank you, because without these people modern society would crumble.

So, my new algorithm is:

var kids = new curiosity();

set kids.future = bright;

* I'm not being sexist, just drawing on traditional writing... maybe I should have said person?

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