Linked by David Adams on Sun 8th May 2011 04:15 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems Well-known game developer David Braben is a little bit fed up with the state of computer science education these days, which seems to have shifted away from learning programming to some sort of computer-oriented "life skills" class. As the father of eleven and nine year-old boys, I can attest that so far, despite a massive investment on the part of their school in computer equipment, their computer education has consisted mostly of "play this math game" and "don't be victimized by cyber-perverts." Braben's idea to stem this tide: a very, very cheap computer that students can learn to program on.
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The new magic
by Elv13 on Sun 8th May 2011 05:34 UTC
Elv13
Member since:
2006-06-12

Priest used to use magic / god power to heal and control society. Rather than learning it, they were told to rely on it and have faith.

How could this have come down to the same thing with computer. We all hate the statement I just made, it look out of place, but it's not that much. For now over 99.9% of computer users (cell phone and digital life gadgets included), technology just work, how it work is some kind of sorcery, but it work! They have faith in that. They fear it and love it just as just as religious messengers teaches older generation to do. This is ridiculous. Who did this? Computer Guru? No. Steve Jobs may be responsible for the whole think different things and technology that doesn't get in the way, but he is not responsible for the decrease of interest in CS.

How do you expect teachers and education decision maker to teach student CS? They have blind faith in tech, they don't care how it work. So the end result is that they teach kids how not to care about it. It's their job: pass knowledge to younger generations. Not just basic language/science/math, but opening to social concepts too. I may be too young myself (22) to have lived the era when CS was an obscure science and the only one able to teach it were true geeks and "normal" teachers had no idea how to use it, but it is not the case anymore (if it ever was like that). When I was in elementary school (with DOS) it was already too late. The CS teacher was out everyday teacher and we had a menu based locked down frontend over the shell to launch those stupid and boring math games. I had to learn it by myself, first my dissecting Window95, getting to know -all- build in features along the way, then the internet came home, that was great (but off topic to this comment).

Its like the evolution theory, as soon as those who have the faith in something infiltrate the higher layers of decision, they make it easier for the other to go that way and it go on an on. It's how society work, how ideology gain traction. The new reality is that CS is not important anymore from their POV, they could "teach" it while being totally illiterate to the basic concepts. How to change this? Let's all register in college next month to become elementary school teachers!... Nobody is in? Too bad, so things wont change anytime soon.

Reply Score: 5

RE: The new magic
by Fergy on Sun 8th May 2011 06:24 in reply to "The new magic"
Fergy Member since:
2006-04-10

Priest used to use magic / god power to heal and control society. Rather than learning it, they were told to rely on it and have faith.

In school you learn how to do things by learning how it works like math, grammar, reading, writing etc. As a teacher you should understand that learning basic computing is as important as learning how to use a pen and paper. You are creating a bunch of digital invalids.

Reply Parent Score: 4

RE[2]: The new magic
by Elv13 on Sun 8th May 2011 08:27 in reply to "RE: The new magic"
Elv13 Member since:
2006-06-12

They are digitals invalids in the first place and they lived fine until now in this "digital world". So, from their POV, if they never had to care, why would they teach other to care.

(Note, it's not my POV and I don't approve what I just said, I just looked at their arguments, or lack of)

Reply Parent Score: 4

RE: The new magic - not just supply
by jabbotts on Sun 8th May 2011 20:25 in reply to "The new magic"
jabbotts Member since:
2007-09-06

It's not just the supply of teachers that is the problem. most teachers won't actually teach there primary subject. Math teachers in front of music, french and art classes. Remembering back, one of my "computer" teachers was an english teacher another was an art teacher put in charge of computers and multi-media (mostly video). Sadly, just having more comp-sci backgrounds apply to teacher's college doesn't result in more of those comp-sci backgrounds being assigned to computer classes.

Schools are also run as factories to churn out office workers. They produce wage slaves not educated life long learners. The companies all want staff that can use Word and Excel so the schools teach Word and Excel instead of word processing and spreadsheet applications. The companies want staff that can use Windows because that's what companies have invested in already; schools produce staff that can use Windows but loose the ability to think if presented with any non-Microsoft branded GUI. (as if icons, windowed apps and mice suddenly work differently because of branding)

More comp-sci backgrounds applying to teacher's college wouldn't hurt but it also takes interest from parents to push the schools back to teaching the ability to learn rather than the ability to recognize a specific brand name tool. If a school claims to teach students "computes", make sure the students can actually use a computer regardless of what brand of major OS the boot screen presents. Parents need to take an interested in there children's education, meet with "educators" and demand better.

That's not to just leave the school systems hanging dry either. We can't demand better from schools while consistently reducing education budgets year over year. This is also a symptom of political problems. Army needs a new tank; cut education and redirect that money into killing gear. Provide schools with the financial support needed to teach more than reading, math and home-ec; nah.. we need that billion to buy more bombs to drop in foreign countries. If one lives in a country where political leaders are voted in and/or actually responsible to the constituents, one needs to stop voting lawyers into office and start earning the government they want not accepting the government resulting from campaign marketing scams and popularity contests. And lest we forget, an educated population is dangerous for politicians; don't think for yourselves, trust "our" policy just like Fox News tells you too.

(I'd love to see someone with an education background voted into office instead of another lawyer but wishful thinking and all that..)

It may all boil down like this even; well educated people are not attracted to the teaching profession because they can make more money elsewhere. The majority of those who choose the teaching profession do not get to teach the topic they are actually educated in. When we do finally get teachers, we expect them to constantly do more with dwindling budgets. The schools that can get third party support usually have to pander to them with special deals (MS will donate computer lab hardware and software but they'll probably ask that only MS technologies be taught, Coke will donate money but you'll have to agree not to sell Pepsi products along with agreeing to sell Coke products as if a coke machine has any business in a school in the first place).

Bah.. real education has become a privileged for those who can pay exorbitant tuition at private schools. Fk the general population and publicly funded education; we can't be putting money into that or we'll loose our minimum wage McDonald's staff.

Reply Parent Score: 5

Neolander Member since:
2010-03-08

Fk the general population and publicly funded education; we can't be putting money into that or we'll loose our minimum wage McDonald's staff.

Don't worry. I live in a country where education is publicly funded and university costs ~€400/year, and we still have lots of staff left for McDonald's ;)

Reply Parent Score: 4

bert64 Member since:
2007-04-23

Teaching computing is one area where ever decreasing budgets aren't as bad as they seem...

Old computers are perfectly adequate for teaching the general concepts, and are also far less likely to be stolen.
Similarly, pretty much all the software you need to educate people about the basic operation is available for free.

If you teach people how the basic concepts of things like a browser, word processor, spreadsheet etc work, then they can apply these skills to virtually any system they might come across.

It is extremely damaging to lock kids in to specific brands of application because there is no guarantee that software will still be in use by the time those kids leave school...
I learned wordperfect for dos when i was in school, what use is that now?... msoffice had a radical change of interface in 2007, how many kids were taught the earlier versions?

Reply Parent Score: 5

RE: The new magic
by Nth_Man on Mon 9th May 2011 00:39 in reply to "The new magic"
Nth_Man Member since:
2010-05-16

Rather than learning it, they were told to rely on it

Any of us do not really *know* how computers work. We only have a set of ideas. We have to rely on what others have written. To really *know* how computers work, we would have to know the inner work of operating systems, applications, etc, also electronics (transistors, etc), the complete behavior of electrons, matter, and so on. It was commented that a student could achieve much more just knowing something more about how computers work, and, of course, changing those "just type letters" classes :-( for "know more of it" classes.

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE[2]: The new magic
by chmckay on Mon 9th May 2011 07:47 in reply to "RE: The new magic"
chmckay Member since:
2010-05-03

Thankfully at the university I attended they required us to learn all of that. Just to get my degree I had to take linear algebra and discrete mathematics. I had to design and build a basic CPU. I also had to create my own OS (from scratch) and compiler. This is on top of the physics classes that dealt specifically with electrical design, particle flow and optics. Oh, and I just about forgot the networking class where we didn't just learn TCP/IP and UDP protocols. We learned how to design and build a network and create our own distributed computing software. And, finally, we had to make our projects work not on just Windows machines, but on Sun Sparc's and Linux boxes. And, these were just the required classes to graduate.

So, not all of comp-sci students are coming out with no knowledge of why things work the way they do. Some of us have learned how (and why) computers can do what they do. And this is being taught in the heart of Utah.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[2]: The new magic
by M.Onty on Tue 10th May 2011 10:50 in reply to "RE: The new magic"
M.Onty Member since:
2009-10-23

"Rather than learning it, they were told to rely on it

Any of us do not really *know* how computers work. We only have a set of ideas.
"

If you know about logic gates and have a vague idea of how data is structured then you have quite a good understanding of computers in general. The rest is details not necessarily worth knowing unless you have a specific need.

Reply Parent Score: 1

RE: The new magic
by j.dalrymple on Mon 9th May 2011 02:02 in reply to "The new magic"
j.dalrymple Member since:
2011-03-29

Priest used to use magic / god power to heal and control society. Rather than learning it, they were told to rely on it and have faith.


Sure, maybe in some mythical/hypothetical society, they did. I don't think the same thing is going on here, though.

How could this have come down to the same thing with computer. We all hate the statement I just made, it look out of place, but it's not that much. For now over 99.9% of computer users (cell phone and digital life gadgets included), technology just work, how it work is some kind of sorcery, but it work! They have faith in that. They fear it and love it just as just as religious messengers teaches older generation to do. This is ridiculous. Who did this? Computer Guru? No. Steve Jobs may be responsible for the whole think different things and technology that doesn't get in the way, but he is not responsible for the decrease of interest in CS.


I'm more than happy when things "just work". I don't need to know the inner workings of every single piece of technology I use. Even in the field of computers, where I work, I don't need to know everything. But that doesn't mean I have some kind of blind, mystical faith in his Holiness Steve Jobs.

Reply Parent Score: 2