[LINK] Computing in Schools Report from The Royal Society

Webb, KerryA KerryA.Webb at act.gov.au
Fri Feb 3 13:42:43 AEDT 2012

Stephen wrote:
> Kerry writes,
> > I'd like to see a reasoned case for why more effort needs to be given
> > to teaching Computer Science in schools.
> As one involved in teaching and utilizing ICT in schools for many years
> (from years seven to twelve) I think you might be quite surprized Kerry
> at how few ICT skills are now routinely taught, at least in Vic schools.
> Expensive & limited school ICT resources are now frequently comandeered
> by teachers wanting kids to utilize them for writing essays, and google
> searching. And often, few Aussie teachers have skills beyond such usage.

OK - I've done what I could have done at the start: read the report (which took some time).  It does go into three aspects: "pure" Computer Science, ICT Practice and ICT Applications use (office software, browsers etc).

As they're coming from a more theoretical scientific background, that's the order of priority for investment given by the Royal Society too.

> > Is it because a better understanding of Computer Science allows people
> > to function better in society, similar to the justification of teaching
> > Chemistry or Physics? Or are we trying to address a shortage of skilled
> > ICT workers in the community, by trying to enthuse schoolkids about
> > Computer Science. Should we be teaching Nursing Science for the same
> > reason? Kerry
> Obviously and as Jan says, a qualified 'yes' to all of the above, Kerry.
> However, many elements of society now want schools to 'push' particular
> curriculum dear to their own hearts, from bike-ed to art-history and no
> school could accomodate all of these areas. So, in one sense, given the
> reasonably obvious importance for ICT skills, in virtually every future
> life, priorities must be mandated. And believe it or not, there's still
> some primary schools where teachers don't actively teach ANY ICT skills.

I wonder about the reasonable obvious importance of ICT skills.  To take a similar example, a friend of mine is just about the only technician able to service electronic organs in SE Queensland.  Most people in his business (and there aren't many) only know how to swap components in newer equipment.  He's rushed off his feet in keeping the older ones ticking using the skills he's amassed over fifty years.  There was a time when there was a broad requirement for all sorts of ICT skills.  Not so much now.

"ICT skills" covers a range of needs, and for many people the ability to do a spreadsheet or a Word document is the extent of their ICT skills.  And that's just fine by them.

Of course we need skilled ICT people in the workforce, with knowledge about Computer Science, ICT Practice and ICT Applications.  What I'm dubious about is the special pleading of the Computer Science educators - in the same way that I'm not about to go all gooey if the Maths Teachers Association says that we should have more focus (at the expense of other areas) on Maths teaching.

(holder of a BA with a Computer Science major going way way back)
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