Computing As Taught

Gordon McKinlays’ post about the teaching of Computing in Scottish schools very much endorses my feelings as an ex Computing PT. The subject has had a very mixed existence highlighted by the fact that the name kept changing from Computer Education to Computing Studies to Computing. In its very early days the programming element for an O grade certificate once included programming a BBC computer to display a simulated car dashboard with flashing indicators and a moving fuel gauge and speedometer if my memory is not exaggerating it. Nowadays programming hardly features in the curriculum. Partly I suspect the emphasis on word processing etc., came about through an ex Business Studies teacher being on the national subject panels.

Today, I think the only justification for Computing as a subject is teaching the analytical skills of programming and the fundamental structures of hardware and software, i.e Computing Science. This would be very much a minority subject and would free up the hundreds of computers in Computing rooms for more useful purposes as you need very little access to a computer to teach the subject in that form. Then they could be used across the curriculum to improve access to Glow.

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3 thoughts on “Computing As Taught

  1. Is this completely true? Computing Science as a discipline in universities does not only involve the two areas you specify above. More than any other subject in schools, we should be encouraging pupils to see how taking control of computers can enable them to create for any area of interest. This is as much design, sociology, musical, mathematical and physical as it is to do with analysis.

    Surely instead of looking at computers at windows to Glow, we can think of Computing as a subject where we show kids the first steps towards building their own tools and resources.

    This is a lot easier said than done – most Computing teachers aren’t programmers and most people think that learning applications is more important (important enough to be possible as a core intermediate qualification before Standard Grades I should think!). But I think it’s unfair to wish Computing to take a backseat to “general technology” when it can provide access to what is probably the most influential creative tool available in this age – programming in all its guises.

  2. Peter
    I think you are saying something similar to me, i.e. arguing for a more specialised course. Perhaps your ideas about design etc., are better than pure Computer Science.
    The use of computers should be a core subject, but that does not mean that it has to be isolated in Computing departments. It should be added to literacy and numeracy as an across the curriculum subject, seeing as very young primary pupils are now being introduced to the use of computers.

  3. agreed. The specialist part has to be embraced as a specialist subject too. In the same way as someone creating in art , or in music, requires specialist attention.

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