IT education in schools

A recent post by Liz Quilty echoed my thoughts, following Google’s Eric Schmidt’s recent criticism of education in the UK. I don’t agree with everything Schmidt says, but I’m surprised that this hasn’t already been addressed if it’s really as bad as I fear it is.

I’ve been getting more and more depressed with what I suspected was happening in IT education – certainly in the UK, and it appears too here in NZ – I recently started looking into schools here for my 6 year old (some years away) – and was saddened, but not surprised, to find a class masquerading as IT but really sounding more similar to the European Computer Driving License, basically teaching office computing skills.

The driving lesson analogy works quite well here – it’s like claiming you’re teaching mechanic and metal work skills, when what you’re actually doing is teaching someone how to drive a car. Both valuable skills, but I wouldn’t like to live in a country that didn’t have any mechanics.

I’ll admit, teaching kids ECDL type lessons may still be useful – I’m sure that there are still a significant (but I suspect continuously decreasing) number of young people who still are intimidated by IT, but realistically, computers are one hell of a lot less intimidating than say even 10 years ago, and I imagine these classes are frankly a waste of time for 80+% of pupils.

I’m one of the generation that benefited from the BBC – I remember programming on Commodore PETs back in the mid 80’s, and then on the ground breaking BBC Master Series – these machines I’m sure encouraged a fair few of us to get really interested in computers.

It seems strange that when comparing how quickly you can both learn how to, and actually implement, vastly more complex and cool functionality than we could dream of 20-25 years ago, teachers seem to be shying away from programming and real IT, which should surely be far more accessible to young kids?

Bruce Clement has posted similar thoughts too.

Tim Foster also pointed me to a great article in the Guardian – Kids today need a licence to tinker

So anyway, I’ve started showing my daughter scratch – it seems to be the Logo of the 2010’s. Although secretly I suspect she’ll be a musician anyway!



Filed under Rant

3 responses to “IT education in schools

  1. There isn’t much of an excuse, Microsoft even provide an environment and curriculum! 🙂 Small Basic looks neat.

    The Raspberry Pi project looks interesting too, $35 for a functioning PC!

  2. Heard about the Pi a week or so ago – sounds very cool. I’ve got an Aruino in the garage which I haven’t done much with since tinkering with it non-stop for a week or so about a year ago!

    But the potential this stuff has is so far and ahead of what we could do in the 80’s – I think it’s great. I just hope kids get the opportunity to mess around with it in school…

  3. Scratch is wonderful, there also used to be another equally good one for guys which involved programming little java battle bots , you could upload them an attack others to see who won. It was a simple java code but very fun and addictive trying to AI your bot (thought spinnin 360 and continuos shooting seemed to usually win)

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