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Steve Furber: why kids are turned off computing

students

By Nicole Kobie

Posted on 5 Aug 2010 at 14:37

One of the UK's tech leaders believes students are staying away from computing classes because they teach nothing but the boring basics.

Professor Steve Furber - the legendary Acorn and ARM processor designer - is working with the Royal Society to figure out why the number of students taking A-Level computing classes has halved in the past eight years, and why students who love technology aren't signing up to study the subject.

We speak to one of the original Micro Men to find out why he thinks teaching spreadsheets in computing classes is about as exciting as learning spelling in A-Level English classes.

Q. Why is the Royal Society looking into this problem?

A. The impetus for the study came from a number of sources. The universities have been detecting the falling number in students directly in the form of applications for admissions, which have dropped dramatically since the turn of the century.

We found employers groups were concerned about this as well... Everybody had the same message, that something was happening with the way ICT and computing was presented at schools that was turning the kids off.

This seemed very unfortunate, not only because those of us involved in the subject can’t see how you could possibly be turned off something so fascinating, but also because the use of computers right across business, commerce, education, government is going up, not down, so the national requirement is for people with more computing skills, not fewer.

Q. How could a lack of skilled IT workers affect the UK as a whole?

A. The obvious impact on the econmy is if industry can’t recruit people with the appropriate knowledge here, industry is global, it will simply move activities overseas.

We hear a great deal about offshoring activities such as software, but what’s very unclear is which is the cart and which is the horse. Are companies offshoring because it’s cheaper and therefore we’re losing jobs here, or are they offshoring because they simply can’t recruit here so they’ve got to find the resource somewhere else?

Q. Why aren’t students taking computing or IT courses when they’re already using tech so much in their personal lives?

The goal of the study is to understand these issues much better than certainly I do at the moment, but the impression we get is that the schools’ curriculum has very much focused on ICT skills, and so what everybody does in school is learn to use a spreadsheet and word processor and PowerPoint and so on.

It’s as if maths was just arithmetic or English was taught as just spelling

These are important skills but, of course, what is taught at school is at a fairly basic level, and those who already have an interest in computing are already way ahead of that in what they’ve done at home. What schools are presenting as ICT as an academic subject is very mundane compared with what students know they can do.

It’s as if maths was just arithmetic or English was taught as just spelling. It’s not unimportant that you can do arithmetic or you can spell, but it certainly doesn’t open up the whole world of interest and challenge, if that’s all you do.

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User comments

I'm not a teacher and left school twenty years ago. However, who in their right mind thinks that they need to teach Office Applications to teenagers? That's not computer science that's secretarial skills. Install Linux and get the kids writing apps. It would seem obvious, but I'm obviously missing something.

By c6ten on 5 Aug 2010

I agree with c6ten. My daughters learned how to use a computer, file files and so on at PRIMARY school, yet part of the ICT course they did at age 14 requires them to repeat this process. The only other things they learned was how to use MS Word, MS Excel, and MS Powerpoint. If they did an extra module, they'd also learn graphics with one of those under-£50 programs (not Adobe).

What happened to learning how to program using BASIC on the BBC Micro?

Sure, these machines aren't around anymore, but they were responsible for giving many of today's computer experts a thirst for ICT that surely just training them on how to use Microsoft products can never do.

By SwissMac on 5 Aug 2010

I also agree with c6ten

Visual Studio Express is free and kids can learn C#, Visual Basic and other useful skills.
Apple's App SDK is also free.
Why aren't schools teaching THESE, they aren't even covering Visual Basic for Applications in office.

Even KODU, a visual programming language is free.

Yet school leavers have only the computer skills they learn at home from parents or under their own tuition.

The BBC should also hang their lottery-infested heads in shame. Where's Micro Live? Public service broadcaster? Pull the other one!

By cheysuli on 5 Aug 2010

I left school in 2008, I took a BTEC ICT course because I have always been interested in the subject. The whole 2 years consisted of Microsoft office and taking screenshot evidence, surely in this modern day they would have at least thought of a better way to assess us.

I decided to do a National Diploma in networking & system support at college and it was highly interesting, the difference between what we were taught at school and college was overwhelming, I was actually interested in what I was doing instead of dreading another day of office.

Whenever people ask me what I do at university and I say Computing they instantly think, boooring! If they actually gave it more than a quick look they would see it is one of the most interesting industries to date. I think IT needs to be taught in a different way and advertised in a different way, its not just for nerds who spend 24 hours a day in their bedroom it can be for anyone, I lead an active lifestyle, have a job and a very beautiful girlfriend, doesn't mean to say I cant be an IT nerd.

Hopefully when the industry becomes desperate they will revamp the way IT is taught and make it an option for everyone!

By liamwba on 5 Aug 2010

Computer studies has been dumbed down to maximize the numbers who can pass exams. Programming is seen as too hard and therefore dropped.

They need a harder computer science course for the more techie students

By cyberindie on 5 Aug 2010

Eurpean studies

When I was at school all the 'shall we say intellectually challenged' done European studies to ensure pass rate in languages did not drop and the rest of us (yes I managed to blag it as a slightly less intellectually challenged person)had to pick a language to study. They could do the same here. Getting the lower group an ECDL to work towards and the rest of them aiming towards a more nuts and bolts type certificate.

By SimonCorlett on 5 Aug 2010

'Time moves on as usual'

Twenty years ago - it was a very different story (some would say thank god), but the way computing was taught then and the content of what was taught, using various languages, such as BASIC, Pascal and C, were at that time simply new - but they inspired generations to become involved in IT in one way or another. They were also the basic building blocks to understanding computers and their usage at that time. They provided an inspirational future full of new ventures and projects, but also helped develop my mathematical and analytical mind.
Today, however, the story is quite different, some believe all has been achieved (not true!) and at work today, the languages programmers use are quite abstract and require analytical thinkers. But that's only for programmers, what about other areas of analysis and design, consultancy and implementation - surely some of these skills are still taught in one form or another within the realm of computing too.
And yes M$ office needs to be taught - but the whole application could be covered in a week or two.
Children should be given projects they start from scratch, given targets to achieve, set deadlines, create documentation and then present their work each term. My god I had an excellent teacher twenty years ago - and apart from the Tandy Trash 80's - he did an excellent job of enlightening us of an entire project life-cycle, he monitored and assisted from time to time - I think he later set-up some company and became successful.
In the UK - those teachers don't exist anymore, maybe schools should hire the help of external software companies to help redesign or rebuild the curriculum in this area.

By nicomo on 5 Aug 2010

lagonda

I think its disgusting that today students are taught to do little more than use a limited range of computer software. This is like teaching them to use a calculator without teaching them the fundamentals of mathematics. I've noticed that people nowadays seem to be getting more IT illiterate as time goes on. However good in depth knowledge of IT is as important as the 3R's nowadays.

The daft thing is that software development is as much a creative subject as it is a technical one. Teach pupils how to write a space invader game with their own design for the aliens and you will start to get their interest.

They should not be taught just to use one software package or to use just one operating system. They should just be taught about generic word processors and spreadsheets and the pro's and cons of various specific packages. They should be taught how to install operating systems from scratch. They should be taught how to build a PC from components. They should be taught how to design and develop a system from scratch.

These are just brief thought but there are many ways to make IT more appealing. I think part of the problem is that we don't have teachers with the skills to teach IT effectively.

By langdona1 on 5 Aug 2010

What amazes more is despite all this training to achieve IT literacy (Windows literacy!!) over the last two decades is how IT illiterate the young are!!!

Until this Christmas just gone I was a mature student at Midlands red-brick. The genuine inability of some of the kids to do the most basic IT tasks was frightening. The only thing more frightening was the website designs produced by the under grad's there. It was as if they had never been on the internet. (A bit like who ever decided this comment box should be this size...)

By rocketdog on 5 Aug 2010

i think

i think that it does need to be taught but they should really ask it to be done in very short period of time, personally i finished school 2 years ago and did these classes and found them really interesting since they do teach something new, but mostly its the easy stuff that i knew how to do when i was 14 years old. so i finished the it classes in around a month, and then had free time to do anything i wanted. i think that at least for the basics they should just do a sweep course for a month, 2 times a week, and then do the little tests. actually people say its boring but you probably require the skills in your job, espcially the main 3, (word, powerpoint, excell), access could also be usefull, and i had experience of that in an estarte agency, which used it for rented accomodation lists. but after they learn this, if they want they should able to do advanced computing, but i think its an alevel subject and its prety intense, my friend did it and they learned c language and a little bit of java programming, which surprised me since my friend from uni was doing the same thing, but i suppose it was a bit higher level, but still....

By mobilegnet on 5 Aug 2010

PCness

Does MS Office need to be taught? Probably as much as use of pens, pencils, rulers and paper needs to be taught. All students can teach themselves or learn from others as much as they need or want to know about these office tools.
But the basics of systems analysis and design, and the use of Free Pascal Compiler, or one of the many PD C++ compilers, to teach file operations, basic sorts, searches and basic mathematical methods, would have to be challenging enough to actually engage students. This is a no-brainer which syllabus writers are afraid to come to grips with.

By ianmf on 5 Aug 2010

But only a few will be able to code anyway, so there is no point

Well it's pretty obvious that IT as taught in secondary schools has nothing to do with programming, but I don't think the problem is solvable, or even if it’s desirable to try and solve it in the manner envisaged.
The elephant in the room (and I speak as a professional coder of 30 years standing here) is that most people cannot code. They simply lack the mental abilities and attitudes needed. This isn’t new or even controversial – vast amounts of time and effort have gone into devising methods of identifying people who can be successfully taught to be programmers and it’s still notoriously difficult to do so without actually trying to teach people to code. So I don’t believe its worthwhile even trying to teach programming in a conventional manner because this just isn’t ever going to be compatible with the school agenda of offering student courses then cramming then though at the maximum pass rate.
If you really want to spot and encourage the potential programmers then a two week crash course using Scheme or some such challenging language would be sufficient. Then any student who doesn’t grok recursion by the end of the first week should be politely told to do something easier - like the Humanities. Sure we’d have a massive failure rate but we’d end up being able to encourage and put the time into those people with the mental ability to handle the discipline. Elitist? Absolutely, but you can’t waffle your way past code like you can in the soft subjects. There is simply no point in trying to teach people to code who can’t because to dumb down the curriculum to the point where an ‘acceptable’ proportion (from the government’s point of view) can pass actually eliminates anything worthwhile teaching as programming in the first place.
Of course another big problem with this is that the quality of IT teaching is grim, probably because if you can code then there’s far more profitable things to do with your time than teach. Having sat at parent’s evenings and the like where IT teachers have told me with a straight face gems such as “sometimes you had to throw a program away and start again because it was easier to write from scratch than figure out the bugs” (and I later found out that this teacher, using VB6, didn’t actually understand how to use the debugger) I totally despair – because I have yet to see a single IT teacher who is to any degree capable of teaching programming anyway.

By cruachan on 5 Aug 2010

IT has moved offshore already. Is there a need to train students into a low paid low security field? If ARM and other high tech industries need a workforce perhaps they could fund an apprentice scheme?

By m16789 on 5 Aug 2010

BlueJ and GreenFoot

Give them a copy of BlueJ to play with, as an easy introduction to coding (in Java).
http://www.bluej.org/

also GreenFoot or more visual stuff.
http://www.greenfoot.org/

By Schematrix on 6 Aug 2010

Teachers

Sounds to me like it's a problem of "those who can do, those who can't teach"

PS English is not my native tongue

By rgbstock on 6 Aug 2010

In school in the early 80's we learned how to program in PASCAL and BASIC on our (then) brand new RM480Z's. At college the basis of the course was based on stuff from 1982!!! - according to my tutor at the time the 1.44MB 3 1/2 disk I had in my mind didn't exist!.

The courses need to help the students prepare for the corporate world, perhaps touching on SQL etc. not just MS Office.

By Coltch on 6 Aug 2010

"
according to my tutor at the time the 1.44MB 3 1/2 disk I had in my mind didn't exist!. " -Doh! should have been hand not mind (it has been a long week!)

By Coltch on 6 Aug 2010

"
according to my tutor at the time the 1.44MB 3 1/2 disk I had in my mind didn't exist!. " -Doh! should have been hand not mind (it has been a long week!)

By Coltch on 6 Aug 2010

KompoZer

Another thought, since what you want the kids to do is enjoy what they do- teach them some html and CSS (introduces them to speparation of style and content) then a little javascript -first a game then a bit of AJAX; finally then teach them to build a mash-up personal web page which links some sites like flikr and facebook.
Most small and medium businesses konw how to use word but almost nobody at that level can build and maintain a website -so they are useful skills.

By milliganp on 6 Aug 2010

BlueJ and GreenFoot (sic)

Went to the websites of both products and they both have "supported by Sun" logos.
Has academia no noticed that Sun is now Oracle. Nothing quite like keeping uo to date;)

By milliganp on 6 Aug 2010

after 2 programming courses

covering c and c++, pascal, basic and pascal, still no break into employment in this sector.

Why?

Not a clue other than i have no degree...

Even tried to get in via the helpdesk/support route, no joy.

No wonder kids aren't interested...i agree with c6ten also.

We never get what we need to get the jobs...

By bouncy1 on 6 Aug 2010

Employers are part of the problem

Most employers recruiting staff want to hire somebody who is already doing exactly the same job somwhere else. This makes it difficult to get into the industry if you have skill but no experience.
The number of training companies selling the idea of instant access ti the IT industry at the end of the course do not help as many employers are extremely wary of these organisations.

By milliganp on 6 Aug 2010

I agree in principle, and I'm a teacher!

I am just coming into my third year of teaching at Grantham College in Lincolnshire, UK. Yes, computing courses can be boring, but I am doing everything I can to make them interesting, and spur that natural curiosity that we all have!

I started out in the industry, and was a technical architect for some small companies during my time. This helped me set up my courses with real-world knowledge, and hopefully brought a fresh perspective to the subject. I did a BSc(Hons) degree in Computer Science with Cybernetics, with no qualification in computing, just an interest and a proven portfolio of what I could already do. If you were to ask any student today taking any computing course what they do outside of the lessons, the best you generally get is “playing games”. Very few do any form of coding, web development, even hardware troubleshooting in their spare time.

Starting at secondary school, students now see computers as just tools to get jobs done. They want to know how to use them, but have no interest in knowing how they work. We are moving into a disposable society, where that impetus of wanting to know “how” is being lost. If a TV stops working, or a DVD player, they buy a new one. They don’t want the hassle of trying to work through a list of steps to find the solution to a problem.

Another problem that I feel we have in society now with the students coming into further education are that they are part of the “Google” generation. Their capacity for problem solving is greatly reduced because if they have a problem, they type the answer into a Search Engine and get the answer. Students today are not like the ones from just 10 years ago, when I was at university. Given a design brief, most would struggle to even come up with a specification, let alone a design document.

There is hope, however. My BTEC students are mostly interested in looking at computing as a career. I teach them software, and make my course as enjoyable as I possibly can with as much useful, real world information as possible. When going into programming, my students don’t just learn about sorting algorithms and iterative loops. They create platform computer games, Pseudo-3D shooting games, level editors, graphic manipulation tools, Word Processors, and enhancements to web browsers. They create e-Commerce sites that they could actively go out into the public with, trying to get local businesses to sign up. In short, they get to see not only the hard-slog of theory, but the creativity that comes out of that theory.

There are a lot of new teachers coming into education, and I don’t think I’m alone in seeing that what should be a fantastic, fascinating subject is being turned into a 2-way guide into using a beige box in an office environment. As more of us come out of industry and share our experiences with the younger generation, there will be a resurgence in interest. I feel at the moment that a lot of the students reaching university are ill equipped to deal with computer science or such related degrees, so lecturers there need to spend more time than they should going back over the basics to get everyone up to speed. With more work at the lower levels, and better examination board syllabi, this need could be decreased and more interesting subjects could be covered.

I’m hopefully, over the course of the next year, going to put together a mini-campaign that I call “InspireIT” – Getting inspiration back into computing. I think that celebrity guest speakers that can talk about how computing has changed their lives, whether it be twitter to talk to fans or the use of an iPhone in their day-to-day lives will help, and I am hoping that they will film just a two minute item to go on YouTube. You never know, if enough people want it, we could turn this situation back around, and end up with the best IT based workforce available.

By Cyberneticist on 6 Aug 2010

I agree in principle, and I'm a teacher!

I am just coming into my third year of teaching at Grantham College in Lincolnshire, UK. Yes, computing courses can be boring, but I am doing everything I can to make them interesting, and spur that natural curiosity that we all have!

I started out in the industry, and was a technical architect for some small companies during my time. This helped me set up my courses with real-world knowledge, and hopefully brought a fresh perspective to the subject. I did a BSc(Hons) degree in Computer Science with Cybernetics, with no qualification in computing, just an interest and a proven portfolio of what I could already do. If you were to ask any student today taking any computing course what they do outside of the lessons, the best you generally get is “playing games”. Very few do any form of coding, web development, even hardware troubleshooting in their spare time.

Starting at secondary school, students now see computers as just tools to get jobs done. They want to know how to use them, but have no interest in knowing how they work. We are moving into a disposable society, where that impetus of wanting to know “how” is being lost. If a TV stops working, or a DVD player, they buy a new one. They don’t want the hassle of trying to work through a list of steps to find the solution to a problem.

Another problem that I feel we have in society now with the students coming into further education are that they are part of the “Google” generation. Their capacity for problem solving is greatly reduced because if they have a problem, they type the answer into a Search Engine and get the answer. Students today are not like the ones from just 10 years ago, when I was at university. Given a design brief, most would struggle to even come up with a specification, let alone a design document.

There is hope, however. My BTEC students are mostly interested in looking at computing as a career. I teach them software, and make my course as enjoyable as I possibly can with as much useful, real world information as possible. When going into programming, my students don’t just learn about sorting algorithms and iterative loops. They create platform computer games, Pseudo-3D shooting games, level editors, graphic manipulation tools, Word Processors, and enhancements to web browsers. They create e-Commerce sites that they could actively go out into the public with, trying to get local businesses to sign up. In short, they get to see not only the hard-slog of theory, but the creativity that comes out of that theory.

There are a lot of new teachers coming into education, and I don’t think I’m alone in seeing that what should be a fantastic, fascinating subject is being turned into a 2-way guide into using a beige box in an office environment. As more of us come out of industry and share our experiences with the younger generation, there will be a resurgence in interest. I feel at the moment that a lot of the students reaching university are ill equipped to deal with computer science or such related degrees, so lecturers there need to spend more time than they should going back over the basics to get everyone up to speed. With more work at the lower levels, and better examination board syllabi, this need could be decreased and more interesting subjects could be covered.

I’m hopefully, over the course of the next year, going to put together a mini-campaign that I call “InspireIT” – Getting inspiration back into computing. I think that celebrity guest speakers that can talk about how computing has changed their lives, whether it be twitter to talk to fans or the use of an iPhone in their day-to-day lives will help, and I am hoping that they will film just a two minute item to go on YouTube. You never know, if enough people want it, we could turn this situation back around, and end up with the best IT based workforce available.

By Cyberneticist on 6 Aug 2010

So true

The problem is lower-end diplomas are too general. I studied a national diploma (equiv of A-Level) before furthering that, but half of the course was studying MS Office suite, which was ludicrous.

The other half involved delving into basic HTML, java, visual basic (or VBA) and how to divide, multiply binary and hex.

All this summed up meant anyone looking for a job would be able to work in an office typing and not much else. Touching on the surface is not the way to teach people.

The IT field is so broad surely the available courses within IT should be broad as well?

By Arcavexx on 6 Aug 2010

Schools can't do this

Even with a good curriculum revamp, computing will go the route of maths: be seen as boring and irrelevant.

There is little chance that a largely ossified national curriculum can keep up with a fast-evolving field to ensure that a course remains relevant.

It is time to consider different models of how to give young people access to these skills. Perhaps this is a problem better solved in the private sector?

By ecayer on 6 Aug 2010

who will teach it?

at presents even finding time on the curriculum and trained teachers in sports/maths/english is difficult..who do you propose and how do you propose a qualified software programmer will be employed? which language do you use as there are so many? coding is not easy..i am very logical in my approach to working and I deal with IT yet I am completely hopeless at programming (did try at uni). So what happens to the students who have no aptitude or skill at coding..do they get fails?? Programming has always been something that someone does if they are interested in it and have a natural aptitude and talent in it. Same goes for medicine, sports, sciences...just to name a few. Trying to teach someone a computer language is not the same as teaching them about Office as most of these will encounter this in which ever job they aim for...even in writing the CV and covering letter. Most of these courses at lower school ages are useful to get children interested in the other uses of computers and not just games or social networking.
Even older people do courses to learn Office applications.

By MDSmith71 on 6 Aug 2010

@bouncy1

@bouncy1
"after 2 programming courses"
and
"We never get what we need to get the jobs..."

Right. Coding is just like any other hard skill, it takes around 10,000 hours to achieve journeyman status, although I suppose you could do something real-world useful after a 1,000 or so. A couple of courses is *nothing* except it means you possibly have learned if you have some aptitude (another reason why I'm extremely skeptical of programming taught in schools).

But anyway you'll have done your couple of courses so you'll have some basics. So how many Open Source projects are you involved in? How many LOC (lines of code) have you contributed to these? What languages are you teaching yourself at the moment? What's in your programming blog? What's your score on StackOverflow? Do you know how you would go about writing a complier? Have you tried? And so on.

Good programmers don't code because it's a Job, they code because they are driven to do it once they get hooked (and the most significant thing a school could do is provide the opportunity for potential programmers get hooked - they'll sort out the rest). If you've done a 'couple of courses' and you not been driven to code in your spare time then you're wasting your time applying for coding jobs because you don't have the correct aptitude. If OTOH you have then stick with it, write your own stuff and contribute to the community and sooner or later you'll get employed - or be employing people yourself!

By cruachan on 6 Aug 2010

@m16789 ...

"IT has moved offshore already. Is there a need to train students into a low paid low security field? "

This just isn't true. I've been coding for 25 years and for the past 10+ have been running my own small consultancy developing systems for people (I love coding and I've no desire to do anything else). I've no less work than I have ever had, in fact over the last year the queue of people with projects at my door has started to get silly.

By cruachan on 6 Aug 2010

@cruachan and bouncy

If I may just follow on from cruachan's comments, I have also been a programmer since the early eighties, and I would just like to say "don't be put off by this ego-storm. We're not all that patronising.".
Sure, it's nice to be able to code a light, targeted compiler, or even a funky interpreter, but in the real world, you are extremely unlikely to need to these days. That wheel has already been invented. Many times, and code reuse is a corner stone of modern programming.

Also, blog? WTF?? Since when did a blog make one a programmer? Honestly.

Coders have a reputation for having very few applied or social skills, and reading cruachan's tripe, I can see why. Perhaps he fears that he will be replaced by some one younger, and in his/her eyes, inferior.

Perhaps he/she should be.

By tonyfoster2 on 6 Aug 2010

@tonyfoster

Yeah, OK, slap wrist for excess trolling. However the point is that Bouncy is complaining that he can't get a job even though he's done a couple of courses, and patting him on the head, being nice, and sympathizing is not going to get him a start.

To do that he's going to have to prove to the potential employer that he has something to offer and the best way of doing that is actually to write code. Fortunately these days there are thousands of opportunities to get involved at all levels. Contributing to an Open Source project is ideal as he'd have example code to study, receive feedback on the code he submits, and probably most importantly get involved in a community that would encourage him to develop.

Compilers etc. – yeah, sure, you'd never write one in anger, However I didn't say write, I said understand how you would, because IMHO understanding at more than a superficial level your tools *is* important. It's certainly true that much modern day coding is assembling components, but surely we should aspire to be craftsmen rather than assembly-line workers?

And a Blog? Yes, obviously and absolutely. Many programmers blog on what they are developing and the problems they encounter. It helps the programmer because it's a record of problems overcome and a good way of keeping notes, it helps others who encounter the same problems (I'm learning a new API myself at the moment and I’ve several bloggers to thank just today for insights), but most importantly for Bouncy it’s a way of publicly keeping a Journal of his experience and development as a programmer that he can point potential employers at and say, in definitive terms – 'this is what I have done, this is how I have developed, and this is the potential I have to contribute to your company'.

If Bouncy really is cut out to be a programmer then none of this will be work, it'll be a vocation, and there's tens of thousands of programmers out there doing exactly the same thing already.

Code for the fun of it, if it *is* fun for him employment will follow.

By cruachan on 6 Aug 2010

@tonyfoster

Yeah, OK, slap wrist for excess trolling. However the point is that Bouncy is complaining that he can't get a job even though he's done a couple of courses, and patting him on the head, being nice, and sympathizing is not going to get him a start.

To do that he's going to have to prove to the potential employer that he has something to offer and the best way of doing that is actually to write code. Fortunately these days there are thousands of opportunities to get involved at all levels. Contributing to an Open Source project is ideal as he'd have example code to study, receive feedback on the code he submits, and probably most importantly get involved in a community that would encourage him to develop.

Compilers etc. – yeah, sure, you'd never write one in anger, However I didn't say write, I said understand how you would, because IMHO understanding at more than a superficial level your tools *is* important. It's certainly true that much modern day coding is assembling components, but surely we should aspire to be craftsmen rather than assembly-line workers?

And a Blog? Yes, obviously and absolutely. Many programmers blog on what they are developing and the problems they encounter. It helps the programmer because it's a record of problems overcome and a good way of keeping notes, it helps others who encounter the same problems (I'm learning a new API myself at the moment and I’ve several bloggers to thank just today for insights), but most importantly for Bouncy it’s a way of publicly keeping a Journal of his experience and development as a programmer that he can point potential employers at and say, in definitive terms – 'this is what I have done, this is how I have developed, and this is the potential I have to contribute to your company'.

If Bouncy really is cut out to be a programmer then none of this will be work, it'll be a vocation, and there's tens of thousands of programmers out there doing exactly the same thing already.

Code for the fun of it, if it *is* fun for him employment will follow.

By cruachan on 6 Aug 2010

@tonyfoster

Yeah, OK, slap wrist for excess trolling. However the point is that Bouncy is complaining that he can't get a job even though he's done a couple of courses, and patting him on the head, being nice, and sympathizing is not going to get him a start.

To do that he's going to have to prove to the potential employer that he has something to offer and the best way of doing that is actually to write code. Fortunately these days there are thousands of opportunities to get involved at all levels. Contributing to an Open Source project is ideal as he'd have example code to study, receive feedback on the code he submits, and probably most importantly get involved in a community that would encourage him to develop.

Compilers etc. – yeah, sure, you'd never write one in anger, However I didn't say write, I said understand how you would, because IMHO understanding at more than a superficial level your tools *is* important. It's certainly true that much modern day coding is assembling components, but surely we should aspire to be craftsmen rather than assembly-line workers?

And a Blog? Yes, obviously and absolutely. Many programmers blog on what they are developing and the problems they encounter. It helps the programmer because it's a record of problems overcome and a good way of keeping notes, it helps others who encounter the same problems (I'm learning a new API myself at the moment and I’ve several bloggers to thank just today for insights), but most importantly for Bouncy it’s a way of publicly keeping a Journal of his experience and development as a programmer that he can point potential employers at and say, in definitive terms – 'this is what I have done, this is how I have developed, and this is the potential I have to contribute to your company'.

If Bouncy really is cut out to be a programmer then none of this will be work, it'll be a vocation, and there's tens of thousands of programmers out there doing exactly the same thing already.

Code for the fun of it, if it *is* fun for him employment will follow.

By cruachan on 7 Aug 2010

Determining who can code ...

Some commentators here have suggested that most people won't be able to code (some nonsense about most not having the mental capacity), and therefore there’s no point in teaching proper computing in schools. Well, sadly, those expressed views just demonstrate that such commentators have a very poor grasp of what schools and education are for!
Education and schooling is about lots of things, including exposing people to a wide range of disciplines and subjects, such that ‘learners’ discover what they’re interested in and what they have aptitudes for. There’s massive untapped potential. Having been inspired, and with encouragement and support, some people will go on to study in greater depth, expand on those embryonic interests, and develop skill sets which, ultimately, benefit society and the economy (particularly when those people enter the world of work).
I most certainly agree that ICT in schools should be about much more than merely creating a Word doc, completing an Excel table, navigating a file structure or browsing the web. Lessons giving students the chance to create simple programs that actually do something, or are ‘products’ - no matter how simple – are more likely to capture imaginations and stimulate the broader interest in ICT that we need to see in countries like the UK.

By RichardGreen on 21 Jul 2011

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