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Re: Computer Education in Public Schools

by Elgon (Curate)
on Nov 06, 2002 at 15:33 UTC ( #210760=note: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

in reply to Computer Education in Public Schools

To be brutally honest, I don't think that much of this supposed education has anything at all to do directly with programming, although early exposure to computers is vital. The first skills should be those of knowing how to use a browser, word processing program and a spreadsheet. Sounds all a bit mickey mouse? Not really for most eight-year olds. There should be some basic (excuse bad pun) programming skills taught compulsarily in schools, such as breaking down a problem into logical steps as mentioned above. After this, I think that it should be an optional course. The biggest problem is often a complete lack of flexibility on the part of the school or teachers rather than a lack of actual time spent with computers: More so than most other subjects, at this sort of age, you are going to get a very wide spread of prior knowledge - in my class of 20 students we had three who could program in various 8-bit assembly langauages, another couple who could program in BASIC a bit, 10 who knew what a programming language was and the remainder who'd never seen a computer in their lives before.

I, along with most programmers I know, started off with our parents' home computers teaching ourselves the ZX Spectrum or BBC Micro variants of BASIC in our spare time during evenings or weekends. Some of us then moved onto Z80 or 6502 machine code - personally, after this I regressed into Visual Basic before advancing to Perl, PHP and C only recently. The practical upshot of all of this was that I could find out how to solve problems in a way which made sense to me as a ten-year old kid. I feel that this was far more important than any particular skill I ever gained at a particular language.

In many ways IT should be a compulsory subject IMHO, however practical skills with a spreadsheet are far more important than knowing a bit of Delphi or VB for a large sector of the population. This doesn't mean that far more advanced courses shouldn't be on offer in schools for kids with the interest and aptitude: From specific programming languages to a more generalised theory of programming (something which I keenly lack.)


"What this book tells me is that goose-stepping morons, such as yourself, should read books instead of burning them."
       - Dr. Jones Snr, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

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