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Computing and Student Access

Discussion in 'Computing and ICT' started by tjra, Nov 11, 2011.

  1. tjra

    tjra Occasional commenter

    I'm looking at getting Computing GCSE started in my school from Sept 2012. My background knowledge of coding is very limited but I'm looking forward to learning it. I've had some "guinea pig" students come after school to a "Computing Club" and we've muddle through the spec with the hopeful aim that they'll be entered for the GCSE at the end of this year.

    My concern comes with software: We started with Pascal and while it has been great I appreciate it limits what some of the students can do with regards to some of the programming projects in the GCSE. I've looked into Visual Studio 2010 and got it installed in one suite but we ran into loads of technical complications. The technicians have had a look and the main reason is that once the code is written, Visual Studio seems to generate an EXE file and the students don't have access to run this. Have other schools run into this sort of problem? If so, how have you solved it? I could put my foot down and go to SLT and ask for certain students to have their permissions changed but I enjoy my harmonious relationship with the technicians (!!) and am interested in other ways around it.

    Any other advice is also very welcome: I fully admit to not having any programming background but I think this would be a great opportunity for the students and the excitement I've seen some of the "guinea pigs" express at producing simple code has shown me it's definitely something I want to seriously explore.
     
  2. tjra

    tjra Occasional commenter

    I'm looking at getting Computing GCSE started in my school from Sept 2012. My background knowledge of coding is very limited but I'm looking forward to learning it. I've had some "guinea pig" students come after school to a "Computing Club" and we've muddle through the spec with the hopeful aim that they'll be entered for the GCSE at the end of this year.

    My concern comes with software: We started with Pascal and while it has been great I appreciate it limits what some of the students can do with regards to some of the programming projects in the GCSE. I've looked into Visual Studio 2010 and got it installed in one suite but we ran into loads of technical complications. The technicians have had a look and the main reason is that once the code is written, Visual Studio seems to generate an EXE file and the students don't have access to run this. Have other schools run into this sort of problem? If so, how have you solved it? I could put my foot down and go to SLT and ask for certain students to have their permissions changed but I enjoy my harmonious relationship with the technicians (!!) and am interested in other ways around it.

    Any other advice is also very welcome: I fully admit to not having any programming background but I think this would be a great opportunity for the students and the excitement I've seen some of the "guinea pigs" express at producing simple code has shown me it's definitely something I want to seriously explore.
     
  3. Can you try SMALL BASIC? It's fab and comes with tutorials and teacher resources for seccions such as clubs and is free! We're going to start doing it in Year 9 in preperation for the GCSE Computing (which we do already). Download it here http://smallbasic.com/
     
  4. rubikwizard

    rubikwizard New commenter

    We use Small Basic and the kids love it. However it also creates an exe file so the OP might have the same problems.
     
  5. tjra

    tjra Occasional commenter

    I had a brief look at SmallBASIC and it seemed like a smart little package. I decided we might as well go the whole hog and stick with Visual Studio instead which seems like the bigger brother of it. If it also generates an exe file that doesn't solve this annoying problem :(
     
  6. Our current solution is far from ideal. It is in place for this year, but I'm looking to come up with something better for next year.
    Our students have access to individual Virtual Machines (Windows XP) from the real machines (Windows 7). In the VM, they're administrators. They can create and launch executables. They can do whatever they like there. However, they have no outside access (ie the school network or Internet). Therefore, the technicians' security concerns are satisfied. From their real machines, they can access anything their normal user rights give them. However, they can't create or launch executables.
    The trick is getting both the VM and real machines pointing to the same place on the file server holding the students' documents, so that they can transfer their code from home to school and be backed up. Beyond my expertise, but the technicians made it work.
    The only real issue is the speed. Downloading the stored VMs from the server to the local machines and getting them loaded seems very slow. Once everything is loaded into local memory the performance is fine. Obviously, this is an issue with our network and low-spec machines, so you may not experience the same.
    As I said, it works acceptably for now. I am very tempted, for next year, to perhaps ask for a better machine and different O/S, that can support remote logins and get rid of anything Windows. This would be a big job for us, perhaps involving changing programming languages, rewriting resources, and teacher CPD.
    I'm sure lots of institutions must be having these same problems. There may be some good solutions that we have not yet heard about.
     
  7. tjra

    tjra Occasional commenter

    Thanks for the response. I'll suggest it to the technicians but not sure how successful it will be. I agree though; I'm surprised more places haven't come up against this problem. Either their networks are not very secure (students able to access exe files etc) or there's some magical solution that's evading me!
     
  8. We used a VM when it was an issue.
     
  9. tjra

    tjra Occasional commenter

    Thanks. I used a VM on my home machine when fiddling with Turbo Pascal (doesn't work on Windows 7 64-bit... DOH). It is quite a neat solution that would keep everyone happy. My concern is that of "Green Vegetables"'s (or is my French rusty...) comment on it being quite resource-intensive, slowing the computers down. Only one way to find out I suppose...
     
  10. We ran it, I don't know, 4 or 5 years ago when the systems manager wouldn't let us use the apparently lethally dangerous VB6 on the network.
    It ran XP seamlessly on some ****** old equipment.
    No problem really.
     
  11. It amazes me that people would waste your time with recommendations for poorly documented, half-*****, garden shed, programming languages or syntactically crumby and none-gui ugly ones.
    Really helpful.

     
  12. If the issue is with a lack of a graphical user interface, applications can't be run locally and you don't have a server that's up to running a bunch of virtual sessions, then some kind of shared login is going to be needed. I know that Windows virtual desktops are all the rage, but Windows Server does still support Remote Desktop Services. That should give you a GUI for the pupils to tinker with, although I doubt it would handle much by way of gaming or any kind of 3D graphics. You could look at a RemoteFX-capable server, butRemoteFX graphics card seem to cost around £2,000 at the moment, so that might not be practical.
    If you're aiming to teach the fundamentals of programming to get accross a way of thinking about problems then a command-line programming environment, with programs that input and output data from files rather than via GUI-based components, might provide less distractions. If you're aiming to teach an immediatly saleable skill, then there's a bunch of people hiring CMS developers (Drupal, Wordpress, etc) with HTML5 / JavaScript front-end skills.
     

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