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A Level Computing / ICT

Discussion in 'Computing and ICT' started by karegan, Feb 25, 2011.

  1. My son wishes to do Computing at University. Problems are a) his current school only does ICT A level. Only 1 other school nearby does it but he will have to study a less favoured option subject alongside it, also their subject results are not especially good. b) He can access another school whose results are twice as good as the other two schools but again does not do A level computing. My question is does he go to the school which does it even though results for the other subjects are not very good. Or does he go to the high flying school and just apply to uni never having even tried it to see if he would like it? Does anyone know if you can study A Level Computing at evening classes or elsewhere alongside normal sixth form?
    I have also been told that last year only 1 student actually did A Level Computing at the school! - which is amazing. Any advice welcome - Thank you.
     
  2. My son wishes to do Computing at University. Problems are a) his current school only does ICT A level. Only 1 other school nearby does it but he will have to study a less favoured option subject alongside it, also their subject results are not especially good. b) He can access another school whose results are twice as good as the other two schools but again does not do A level computing. My question is does he go to the school which does it even though results for the other subjects are not very good. Or does he go to the high flying school and just apply to uni never having even tried it to see if he would like it? Does anyone know if you can study A Level Computing at evening classes or elsewhere alongside normal sixth form?
    I have also been told that last year only 1 student actually did A Level Computing at the school! - which is amazing. Any advice welcome - Thank you.
     
  3. Maths A-level is the primary requirement for degree level IT/Comp Sci courses - A-level Computing is a bonus, but the subject will be taught from scratch at university, few students having had the opportunity to study the subject at school. Send your son to the school with the best Maths results.
     
  4. It's a shame that his school doesn't do A level computing, but that's partly due to it being hard and there not being enough qualified teachers who can competently teach it! (I do teach A level computing mind! ;-) )



    My advice: Don't do ICT. Do A level maths. Unis don't have computing as a requirement for degree courses because not every school (or even enough schools) offer it. Maths is almost essential to get into a good university to do computing. Apart from maths it doesn't really matter, so he should pick things he likes and/or will do well in.



    If he wants to study programming on his own then encourage him to - there are loads of free resources out there, in fact the textbook I use to teach computing is free - http://greenteapress.com/thinkpython/thinkpython.html



    That's my advice anyways.
     
  5. Hi, thank you for your reply - very helpful. He is be doing A Level Maths also. The only concern I have is that he may apply to uni and discover he doesn't like Computing after all as he has never even tried it But I will access the textbook you mentioned and he can have a go with this after his GCSE's. That should give him an idea if he enjoys it or not.

    Many thanks.




     
  6. I agree - do Maths before Computing at A Level. however, he might want to see if he can do an A Level Computing as an additional subject, either in his own time or after school with a teacher - that's what happens at schools near me as they only have a few students.
    Does he like computing? Has he got the brain for it? Do these (free) things:
    Get him to download Scratch and write a classic arcade game after creating an account. He should use the tutorials he'll find on YouTube and the forum / tutorials on the Scratch website. It's not hard. The hardest bit is getting started and finding help when you get stuck.
    If that doesn't turn him off, the next step is to download VB.net 2010 and again, use YouTube tutorials to make a fully functioning web browser, a word processor etc.
    That'll keep him busy for the next 3 months.
     
  7. One of the big problems in Computing at University is that virtually nobody does it at school.
    It's actually gone in a giant circle. I did a Comp Sci degree in the early 1980s before the home computer 'boom' (Sinclair Spectrums etc.) and the University taught from scratch - it had to. Then the bedroom programmers came through and programming skills weren't unusual. Now it is rare again because of ICT, which teaches not very much of use.
    What I would do is forget Computing 'A' level. Do Maths, plus whatever else interests your son. (I'd really steer clear of ICT A-Level)
    Learn the Computing in his own time.
    Learn to program - you can get free programming stuff for C# or Java. If your son is interested in programming games, as many are, then C# might be better because of the XNA Game Studio code. Learn a little bit of assembler code. Learn to program a Microcontroller in its low level code (say PIC16C84) and a little bit of basic electronics. Learn about data structures and object orientated programming. Learn about how processors actually work (difficult but not impossible to do practically).
    There are lots of free resources on all this stuff on the 'net, and some good coding books - the Deitel ones are hefty and about £40 a go, but have a lot of content and practice exercises - if your son completes those for either C# or Java he'll have a head start.
    But basically, learn it for fun.
     
  8. My son is also currently in the process of applying to uni to do computer science. He is not an A grade student (predicted B's and C's) so cannot access the courses at some uni's like Liverpool, Manchester etc that all want ABB for computer science. But lots of other uni's offer some really good computer science courses and, as other posters have said, none of them expect students to have done A level computing. My son's school don't offer it and there are no other sixth forms within 20 miles so he does maths, geography, economics and ICT. It has not held him back. He has conditional offers from all 5 uni's he applied to and only one has specified that he must have a C in maths.
    It is worth going to some uni open days to see what they offer. We went to Sunderland uni last week and were really impressed with what we saw, despite some reservations beforehand. They had fantastic facilities and a really enthusiastic lecturer showed us round. They have 7 variations of computer science course but first years mostly follow a common core of topics so it is possible to move across to a different variation at the end of the first year depending on grades and interests.
    ICT is not a wasted A level. Even if he wants to study computer science it is still beneficial. It is still relevant to how businesses use ICT and develop computer systems from a business perspective, and it shows that students have to have good English / writing skills. I spent 15 years as a programmer and senior analyst with Barclays and CIS and now teach ICT and maths, but not computing. Not everyone is a programmer for their whole career, and programmers move up the corporate ladder and become managers. ICT skills are then important too.
    Go for the school with good results!
     
  9. Since there is something of a shortage of qualified computing teachers and the because the subject is quite hard not all schools offer it, which is rather a shame. This does however mean that while universities see computing as desirable it cannot be classed as mandatory.



    Mathematics and Physics are a good combination for serious computer science courses (Philosophy or English being useful third choices).



    I would not dismiss ICT out of hand, consider it in terms of a general interest course that can help develop a broader understanding of the analysis and use of communication technologies to meet a wide variety of personal and commercial needs.
     
  10. What everyone else said.


    If he wants to practice then Scratch is a good start, but he MUST have a go at a syntax based language (Java and Python being my favourites) as most programming is sat at a computer witha black screen and white (or green) writing.


    In fact - tell him to have a look at Greenfoot. Free to download, free online tutorials and an EXCELLENT way to start learning an object oriented programming language that balances graphical appeal with syntax based coding.
     
  11. Agreed, but I'd stay away from Scratch if he'd like to know what programming is like. It's great for KS3 students but not for prospective sixth formers.

    Have a look at this website

    http://wiki.python.org/moin/BeginnersGuide

    There's an excellent textbook with a walk-through tutorial and exercises to complete. If he gets a kick out of writing a few lines of simple code then he'll know if programming is for him.
     

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