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Coding in schools

Discussion in 'Education news' started by Shedman, Sep 24, 2018.

  1. Shedman

    Shedman Star commenter


    Reading this article takes me back to the good old days of the Sinclair ZX80, ZX81 and the good old spectrum. It seemed everybody was mad keen on coding and writing their own programmes then. Using Sinclair's version of basic, kids and adults would be up all night getting their latest programmes to work. You could buy magazines with programmes in that you laboriously typed in on your little rubbery keyboards. You saved your programmes on a cassette tape recorder. The rich kids had a BBC micro with a five and a quarter inch floppy disc drive.

    Despite the hours spent coding, editing and refining the programmes they were, for the most part, absolute sh *te. Clunky low-res graphics and minimal memory. It was only with the advent of the PC that home computing became useful. You can download free copies of office software; spreadsheets, word processors that it would take an individual literally thousands of hours to programme.

    Coding can be absorbing, challenging and great fun and there is certainly a place for it in schools but, except for the few that become professional programmers, most students will never again write code for the rest of their lives. But there again the same is true for many other school subjects. So why am I starting this thread? Nostalgia I suppose. Happy days.
  2. Ex-teacher

    Ex-teacher Occasional commenter

    Syntax error

    Got that far too often! Either that or the screeches from the cassette failed to load....

    Interesting that programming wasn't taught for, what, 20 years? (or was it?) but is now making a comeback.

    It was the logic that I enjoyed.
  3. Shedman

    Shedman Star commenter

    Yes, I agree. When the programmes didn't work as you wanted it was your fault.
    agathamorse likes this.
  4. moscowbore

    moscowbore Star commenter

    I attended a Modern Apprenticeship presentation recently. The event was specifically intended to show best practice in the running of the IT Modern Apprenticeships. I was shocked to hear one of the biggest training providers suggest that we play down the coding aspect of the MAs as this was viewed as too hard for a lot of students and put them off applying.
    agathamorse and yodaami2 like this.
  5. binaryhex

    binaryhex Lead commenter

    "You could buy magazines with programmes in that you laboriously typed in on your little rubbery keyboards."

    I honestly don't think kids have the drive to do that kind of thing anymore. These were the nuts and bolts of programming and you learnt so much from it, the resilience needed to get over and bypass problems, the thinking about how to check code carefully, how stop this happening in the future, how to structure code, comment it and so on. Many in my last GCSE class would throw a hissy fit and sit there with their hand in the air the moment a four line program that used IF didn't work as expected. They just cannot cope. To be honest, I'm one of a growing band of people who think that all computer science stuff should essentially stop after KS3. Students should focus on Maths and other subjects and wait until university if they want to formally study it. Schools in the UK simply don't have the teachers, expertise, resources or investment to do these courses now in any way except badly.

    The fun bit I remember 40 years ago was when the magazine apologised in the next month's edition for the spelling error on the 5th page of a program it featured last month, 36 lines down, 79th character along - it should have been a 0 instead of a O.

    Happy days.
  6. yodaami2

    yodaami2 Lead commenter

    The coding needs of companies are so individual to the company that they have to give you training for their needs. It’s pointless in schools. Leave it to the employers, who will give you an aptitude test then all the training you need if you pass. This from my partner who is a coding expert in a number of languages, all of which he learned on the job as the need arose.
  7. moscowbore

    moscowbore Star commenter

    Actually, the MA presentation I was at said that coding skills are massively in demand with a very small supply of adequate coders. IBM were training their own internal staff to be programmers through the modern apprenticeship route. They simply could not find programmers.

    What is wrong with British education that teenagers cannot build resilience to persevere to overcome problems?

    Teaching programming in schools is not pointless. It is simply impossible in the current climate.
    Shedman and agathamorse like this.
  8. AdamPW

    AdamPW New commenter

    If you are of the mind that coding will remain a minority job in the future then I fear you are not seeing the changes coming to the whole landscape of how techology will affect work. In many areas the skill of being able code/ understand how to code will be very significant, from the most technical to the most artistic and creative. Whilst of course there will be jobs that don't need or benefit from coding, there will be a great many where it will give you a distinct advantage in being able to harness the power of technology to assist you in your role. Very often that harnessing can be acheived through some coding.

    The Future of Jobs Report 2018 makes for very interesting reading, it is positive in that it says technology advances are likely to create rather than destroy jobs on balance, but it does highlight many exisiting job roles will be destroyed, many jobs will require significantly changes skills. There is an interesting summary article on it here.

    One thing I took from it is that we really need to be teaching our students how to teach/learn themselves as it will be a lifelong requirement for them to be continually learning new skills to stay current.
  9. magic surf bus

    magic surf bus Star commenter

    I started dabbling with a ZX81 when I got one for Christmas '81. I completed my PGCE during 1981-2 and there was actually a computing option on the course, where a Maths tutor took a small group sharing two Acorn Electrons. To alleviate the sharing I used to take my ZX81 in with me - I was only a couple of chapters behind the Maths tutor where BASIC programming was concerned, having taught myself on a teletype at the Poly where I did my (non computing) degree.

    Once I was teaching I bought a ZX Spectrum for the History department and did other stuff on the old RM-380Z.

    The closest I came to coding fame was when I submitted a prototype ZX81 game to Quiksilva, and it came within a whisker of being sold commercially. Unfortunately the Spectrum had just arrived, they switched their entire effort to Spectrum software, and politely declined my game. Ho hum.

    Happy memories - the classic being preparing a boiled egg, dippy soldiers, a cup of tea and a dessert then eating most of them in the time it took to load a game from cassette tape.

    Out of pure nostalgia I helped crowdfund the ZX Spectrum Vega, and have one tucked away somewhere or other to play with when I get round to it.
    Shedman likes this.
  10. hhhh

    hhhh Star commenter

    And they don't read, and they don't get to play out, and if they want to know something/hear a song-on their phones in five seconds flat. Poor kids.
    Shedman likes this.
  11. Timothy_Blue

    Timothy_Blue Lead commenter

    1980 was indeed a turning point and I recall as late as 1998 a BBCMicro with external 5 and a quarter inch floppy drive still being used in an SEN dept.
    Shedman likes this.
  12. lindenlea

    lindenlea Star commenter

    Son 1 used to get husband to read out pages of code but I cant remember anything actually working. He now works in IT as a developer and takes a Coding Club at the grandchildren's school, which his company allows him a couple of hours off each week to take. I didn't follow the arguments for teaching coding - I thought the computer is a tool, we need to know how to use it, not how it works - but if it offers unique intellectual challenges I suppose it might be valuable.
    Shedman likes this.
  13. moscowbore

    moscowbore Star commenter

    Writing your own programs to use a computer to solve problems IS knowing how to use it.
  14. JaquesJaquesLiverot

    JaquesJaquesLiverot Established commenter

    I would argue strongly that the teaching of programming (I don't like the term "coding", because i) it's not what we're trying to teach and ii) confuses students when you talk about database coding, encryption, etc.) is not about vocational training for jobs in the software industry, but to teach student how to decompose larger problems into smaller steps, think about how things work, and consider the need for efficiency, regardless of context.
    I'd go further and say that it's not just about the use of technology, but we can all benefit from the application of Computer Science principles. If you think about some of the most famous algorithms in Computer Science, such as the travelling salesman, or the Chinese postman, there's no technology required to apply them.
    Shedman and border_walker like this.
  15. JaquesJaquesLiverot

    JaquesJaquesLiverot Established commenter

    My first ever lesson in a school, in 1997, was teaching year 9 students to program on BBC Model Bs. Programming was in the National Curriculum then, and it's still in it now.
    Shedman likes this.
  16. border_walker

    border_walker Lead commenter

    Retired now, but strongly disagree with those that say treaching programming is not possible in schools now. It needs small steps and a continual understanding of what they are doing. I fear that many are making it too complex too quickly.
    elder_cat, yodaami2 and Shedman like this.
  17. JaquesJaquesLiverot

    JaquesJaquesLiverot Established commenter

    That's what I do - but I see in too many schools that students start off by copying huge chunks of code to make the same thing that the teacher made, a bit like making a cake in a Food lesson. My experience is that students who have, for example, previously "made a game" in Scratch are no better off than students who've never used it.
    border_walker and Shedman like this.
  18. David Getling

    David Getling Lead commenter

    Having worked as a very highly paid software developer for 20 years, I would have to say that the efforts of almost all schools to impart these skills to their students is completely farcical. 99% of the time it's some self-taught teacher trying to teach students: the blind leading the blind.

    The writing of good robust software should be left to professionals. And 95% of them aren't that good at it either!

    Developing sound planning and reasoning skills (usually through mathematics) will lay good foundations for students to pursue software development later on, in a proper environment such as university or industry.
  19. ridleyrumpus

    ridleyrumpus Star commenter

    Coding teaches so much more than just how to code. The need to lan, resilience and the need for grammar amongst many.
    Shedman likes this.
  20. ah3069

    ah3069 Occasional commenter

    Is there anything that this God of a man is not perfect at?
    ridleyrumpus likes this.

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