Computing vs ICT

There has been a longstanding debate about what Computing should encompass in Scottish Schools.  However I do like David Muir’s analogy of the stroppy teenager of a subject.  But I am not certain that Computing can ever be a science in that it does not have a body of fundamental knowledge independent of other sciences.  It is a very important technology, perhaps the most important at the present time and thus deserves academic study.

Computing derives from two different but related needs, number crunching or heavy duty arithmetic and data processing, exploring and processing non numeric data to turn it into information.  These overlap.  Is a spreadsheet data processing or arithmetic…a bit of both?

It can be tackled at various levels of complexity; there is the simple model of a computer as a blackbox with simplified explanation of how it works; there is the logic of computer systems and there are algorithms of the structure of a computer and there are the physical bits that carry out the processes; there is programming and problem solving and several other aspects of the computer which offer a wide range of possible courses to students of all abilities and inclinations.

What it should not be is the teaching of the four basic computer packages, word processing etc.  Every student should be exposed to the uses which they can make of a computer in the course of lifelong learning and work, but it does not need a specialist computer teacher for that kind of course.  There are a range of other specialists in a school such as Business Studies teachers and librarians who are better equipped to teacher theses subjects.


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.