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JBT27
01-11-2012, 12:09 PM
Not necessarily a rant, but I came in midway through an interview with some UK government official this afternoon who was criticising the way programming is taught in IT and technology lessons, etc.

He said that it's fine for admin and secretarys and I guess people like that, but then went on to say that the teaching should be favoured more towards the media, especially those going into game development and visual effects ..

... and then I started wondering just what proportion of the current school/college generation is likely to want that level of coding anyway, and what a really odd thing to say. Or is it? In any given school year, how many end up in games development and visual effects? Can't be many, can it?

I'm just thinking it's that thing, like visual effects back in the day, that if you want to get into it, chances are you've got some drive and passion for it without being taught it, same with coding. I'm not saying don't ramp up the level of teaching in coding, and get kids more enthused and excited, but I just thought it was odd to cite two industries that are really quite niche markets, especially vfx.

OK, OK ... I'm way past that age group and maybe out of touch, fair enough ... but even then, you mention the term vfx to most people, and they look blankly at you - it is not a common thing to be doing. This is not the first time I have seen vfx mentioned in a wider public context, but it just seems an odd thing to be using in these arguments when so few actually work in it ...

Julian.

RebelHill
01-11-2012, 12:16 PM
Good ol michael gove... I want HIM for OUR education minister.

From what I saw, the basic thrust is that a lot of IT taught in schools is basically advanced typing, and OS/Web navigation... very little focus on actual TECHNOLOGY.

I didnt see the mention of vfx specifically, but I did see them talking about games creation, and wider deployment of IT, security, cyber defense, etc, and how, with the current situation, we're having to import a lot of people to fill these roles.

Its basically the same story as engineering education in britain, and the resulting industry that just doesnt have the pool of skilled workers within the country to source from.

I also think a good chunk of the rhetoric is designed to reach out to younger minds... Afterall, if u say, mathematics and computer science, a lot of kids say "meh"... If you say video game design/creation, you're more likely to prick their ears.

JBT27
01-11-2012, 12:26 PM
I also think a good chunk of the rhetoric is designed to reach out to younger minds... Afterall, if u say, mathematics and computer science, a lot of kids say "meh"... If you say video game design/creation, you're more likely to prick their ears.

True enough, and sound politicking when aimed at the kiddies.

That said, oddly enough, at my age now, maths and computer science does sound exciting and interesting ... given the number of experienced and mature people who are going to find themselves in need of new training and jobs, perhaps this initiative is aimed at the wrong age group!

Julian.

Dexter2999
01-11-2012, 12:42 PM
Actually cyber defence could also appeal to a larger number of students if the program was handled properly.

Such as having different programs "attack" each other while trying to defend their own systems integrity. Kind of like a digital version of "capture the flag".

I think using different programs as opponents would teach the students to work as a team, another valuable skill when programming.

But overall, yes, math and programming tend to be very dry subjects and the process needs to be revisited to entice more young people. I wish my math teachers in school had the passion that Mike Seymore has for math in his maths course at FXPHD. I still know squat about math but I believe that is more to do with my personal deficiencies than any from the course material.

dsol
01-12-2012, 11:31 AM
I think it's a good start and a very needed change of direction. ICT as it's taught right now is a pretty-much worthless course, particularly given how pervasive computers and "communication technology" is in people's homes now. Focusing on programming is no bad thing - and will hopefully help kickstart a second wave of British software development talent (just like the 80s initiative did).

Lightwolf
01-12-2012, 12:05 PM
Well, if it is indeed about teaching how to program/code, then teaching within the realm of media isn't the worst place to start.
Quite to the contrary, there's been studies that show that it increases the students interest in the topic (as opposed to more run of the mill courses where one needs to sort strings etc). Very likely because there's some kind of visual feedback and it's generally more appealing.

And the basic skills can still be applied to other (programming) fields anyhow.

Cheers,
Mike

stiff paper
01-12-2012, 12:37 PM
we're having to import a lot of people to fill these roles.

The only reason Britain has to import people for the VFX and games industries is because every person in Britain who has been any good at all in either of those industries over the past 30 years has left to go to almost any other country that has either of those industries.*

When I left to go to the USA, twenty years ago, my wage was tripled, for exactly the same job, and from there it only went up.

In general, in Britain, people who have an education in "The Classics" are paid a hundred times what any of them is worth and people who can actually do something useful and valuable, the people that are capable of producing something you can actually sell, are paid peanuts.

Until the UK starts to have mass cullings of people who've read the classics at oxbridge, starting with the entire government, nothing will ever change in the UK.

Ooh er missus. Class warfare.

* At last count, there were 450,000 expat Brits living in the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area.

JonW
01-12-2012, 01:35 PM
The longer I've done 3d the more I appreciate just how great the depth of skills so many people have in this industry.

But unless you are a financial advisor that has & continues to ruin all our assets one's skills don't seem to be worth anything in this day & age!

warmiak
01-12-2012, 02:30 PM
... and then I started wondering just what proportion of the current school/college generation is likely to want that level of coding anyway, and what a really odd thing to say. Or is it? In any given school year, how many end up in games development and visual effects? Can't be many, can it?
...


I don't think it makes any difference. The same concepts and algorithms used in game ( and related) programming apply everywhere else.

Frankly, there is no such thing like "game programming" to begin with ... what it really means is performance oriented programming, where more often then not you are forced to adopt and specialize algorithms to maximize performance as opposed to relying on general implementations (std, java collections etc)

RebelHill
01-12-2012, 02:37 PM
Until the UK starts to have mass cullings of people who've read the classics at oxbridge, starting with the entire government, nothing will ever change in the UK.

To be perfectly honest, old boy, having seen tory frontbenchers on newsnight in recent days and weeks speaking of referendums when the correct plural is referendA, makes me worry far more about the state of education in these subjects at such institutions these days.

VNICA LINGVA BONA LINVA MORTVA EST, as they say.

stiff paper
01-12-2012, 03:03 PM
...speaking of referendums when the correct plural is referendA...

I expect they've been instructed to do that by the 'Coaches' who're hired by all the political parties now to teach them how to behave like commoners.

(Edit: I'm rude enough to be doubting your Latin, by the way. It has been a very long time since my Latin O-Level, but don't you want 'sola' instead of 'unica' there?)

RebelHill
01-12-2012, 03:20 PM
I dont believe so...

sola is more "alone/lonely"...

whereas unica is more "THE only/lone"

Though I know there's a toss up between classical latin, and modern in many finer points. Im on the classical side of study btw.

bah... commoners indeed. Who needs a coach for that... few pints of carling'd do the trick just fine. (or GnTs perhaps)

edit; turns to latin dictionary that is a permanent resident of my coffee table...

unicus(a) - one and only
solus(a) - only, alone, forsaken.

stiff paper
01-12-2012, 03:26 PM
Well, it really has been a long time. I'll take your word for it. If your experience is more recent then I'm sure you're right.

(Edit: Ah, I see your dictionary reference. Yes, I see. I remembered solus as meaning something very similar to 'sole', but that's probably just my stupid brain making stupid associations.)

RebelHill
01-12-2012, 03:35 PM
ehhh...

given what the dictionary says, Id err on my side, but I think its debatable either way. Your average roman would probs have understood either just fine.

Edit again...

Oh yes, and to visit back, I completely take your point about wage differentials... You only have to open a copy of new scientist and flip to the jobs section...

research assistant, Needs - phd molecular biology, wage 18Kpa()

shocking!

COBRASoft
01-13-2012, 06:16 AM
Sorry to say, but in my opinion, most should start on a C64. Limited toolset, limited memory, limited speed. Let them first learn the basics of development. Logic, this is where it mostly goes wrong with todays developers. The lack of knowledge of how a system works and why it works is another big problem. I'm a judge in a high school for many development projects and each year it's becoming worse and worse.

When the required basic stuff is planted in their heads, they can move up to higher skills like game development, fancy websites and deep level programming as desired. I remember people doing amazing (read almost impossible) stuff with the C64. I challenge todays developers to do this... The endurance of most students is just not there to get to this level anymore. Sad, but true.

On the other hand, I have to agree the way of teaching has to change. You have to keep your students interested. I got 8 hours lesson about the history of COBOL, imagine that!

Lightwolf
01-13-2012, 06:30 AM
Book suggestion of the week:

Making Software
What Really Works, and Why We Believe It.
O'Reilly.

Basically an attempt to scientifically verify development practices which also includes a look at programming eduction.

Cheers,
Mike

wrench
01-13-2012, 06:42 AM
Perhaps start them out at Amiga level instead. The peeks and pokes required for good C64 programming make it an arcane art. At least with Amiga you can just go straight to machine language... ;) Plus, it's prettier :)

B
PS. Better yet and more practical for today is David Braben's Raspberry PI: http://www.raspberrypi.org/

Dexter2999
01-13-2012, 11:47 AM
FWIW I have long held that entertainment is the second highest motivator for innovation. The first being war and the government budgets that fund that research.

Thinking more on this...people are driven to create and to destroy. More are drawn to destroy because it is easier than creating.

COBRASoft
01-13-2012, 12:17 PM
Perhaps start them out at Amiga level instead. The peeks and pokes required for good C64 programming make it an arcane art. At least with Amiga you can just go straight to machine language... ;) Plus, it's prettier :)

B
PS. Better yet and more practical for today is David Braben's Raspberry PI: http://www.raspberrypi.org/

Well, I sure love the Amiga and have learned a lot from it. But, compared to a simple C64 an Amiga is too advanced. A C64... turn on, start Basic programming. No 'OS' loading, no windows, no mouse. Plain and simple. And for an extra credit, try to place a sprite 'like' thing in the border, use VSync to get the background doing crazy stuff like in hundreds of demos! Yay, those were the good times!

RebelHill
01-13-2012, 12:28 PM
FWIW I have long held that entertainment is the second highest motivator for innovation. The first being war and the government budgets that fund that research.

id say third... with shelter as second.

man enters caves. (opportunism not innovation)
man makes axes/tools
man cleans (maybe woman) out/modifies caves
man paints caves.

UnCommonGrafx
01-13-2012, 12:48 PM
This is a topic that is hot in the educational field. Dunno what they are going to do about it.
My idea about this is that we have a very antiquated educational system still in place because if everyone got smart then there would be little need for lots of the things in place. A smart citizenry isn't in the best interest of many of our countries.
If a smart citizenry was important to a country, a lot of this conversation would be about how we are going to train those in 8th and 9th grades for these tasks with programs being made and delivered in the 10th, 11th and 12th.
Students should be making web pages in 6th grade. This would be RIGHT after the keyboarding class, of course. The purpose of the web course would be to prepare for their online portfolio.

As it stands right now, we hold back half of a class, making that held back group just hate school. Sad because they are the ones who could do so much more.

The REAL problem is that we aren't training students, en masse, to persevere and have the energy it takes for such tasks. Attitudinally speaking, we aren't preparing them for such things: critical thinking, use of logic. Here's where the loop kicks in: go back to the second paragraph.

Dexter2999
01-13-2012, 01:14 PM
The REAL problem is that we aren't training students, en masse, to persevere and have the energy it takes for such tasks. Attitudinally speaking, we aren't preparing them for such things: critical thinking, use of logic. Here's where the loop kicks in: go back to the second paragraph.


My take on it is that the REAL problem is that kids are so hypersensitized by media in their "off" time that school is positively boring by comparison. School is a place they "have" to go to instead of "get" to go to.

Largely children aren't stupid they are just uninterested and as such are not "applying" themselves. (Oh God, to think how many reports sent home from school saying just that about me.)

warmiak
01-13-2012, 02:13 PM
....
School is a place they "have" to go to instead of "get" to go to.
...


Uh , I think that kids hating their school and wanting to play instead is of these things that never change.

warmiak
01-13-2012, 02:23 PM
.....
If a smart citizenry was important to a country, a lot of this conversation would be about how we are going to train those in 8th and 9th grades for these tasks with programs being made and delivered in the 10th, 11th and 12th.
....


I don't think that's necessary ...

Programming ( as opposed to generic computer literacy) is just like any other job ... do we really want all kids to be also trained as .. I don't know, plumbers ?

Math is all you need ( and we already have that). Programming is just a variation on your 8th grade "solving math equations" type of problem, the only difference being that these "programming" equations can span tens of thousands of pages and require teams of programmers as opposed to one or two pages.

RebelHill
01-13-2012, 06:53 PM
Uh , I think that kids hating their school and wanting to play instead is of these things that never change.

love goes t'ward love
as schoolboys from their books
but love from love
t'ward school with heavy looks

1591

Dexter2999
01-13-2012, 10:39 PM
All I can say is that if you look at underdeveloped/developing countries the children there seem to love going to school.

And that those with the most meager of resources tend to make the most of them. The same doesn't seem to hold true here certainly.

dsol
01-14-2012, 03:22 AM
Well, I sure love the Amiga and have learned a lot from it. But, compared to a simple C64 an Amiga is too advanced. A C64... turn on, start Basic programming. No 'OS' loading, no windows, no mouse. Plain and simple. And for an extra credit, try to place a sprite 'like' thing in the border, use VSync to get the background doing crazy stuff like in hundreds of demos! Yay, those were the good times!

With the greatest respect, I think teaching kids using old hardware/software is a terrible idea. The problem is, anything you learn won't be directly applicable to "real world coding" as it exists professionally today. I see your point about the direct accessibility of older machines (that had a BASIC interpreter built-in), but there's plenty of modern alternatives that have a similar type'n'go appeal.

MIT's Scratch is pretty awesome, and really good for people who've never programmed before. Best of all, as it's visually led it's very hard to create syntax errors (the biggest pitfall of new coders - and maybe all coders perhaps!). I'm also quite impressed by Codea, a simple but slickly-made junior IDE that runs on iPad. It's not nearly as simple and non-coder friendly as scratch, but there's a lot to like there. Unfortunately the developers are having to play cat and mouse with Apple over the code sharing features, which is really, really annoying.

For people who want to take it further, PROCESSING is really great and a great bridge to full-on Java development. Learning OO design principles along with common programming paradigms like Importing Libs, working with different types of variable types and objects, dealing with mutable/immutable arrays and - god help you - Pointers - helps massively if you want to move to other languages like C++ or ObjC.

And Raspberry Pi is very promising - as it can run Scratch and Processing pretty darned well. I think we could see a second (third?) renaissance of computing in the UK if all these pieces come together. Good times, shame it's taken so long!

dsol
01-14-2012, 03:29 AM
I don't think that's necessary ...

Programming ( as opposed to generic computer literacy) is just like any other job ... do we really want all kids to be also trained as .. I don't know, plumbers ?

Math is all you need ( and we already have that). Programming is just a variation on your 8th grade "solving math equations" type of problem, the only difference being that these "programming" equations can span tens of thousands of pages and require teams of programmers as opposed to one or two pages.

Maths is important, sure. But programming encompasses so much more than just Maths unless you're solely focusing on algorithm development - not very sexy for newbies! Software - as in Apps and Games - needs DESIGN, which is more like engineering (and plumbing!) than Maths. I myself have a very limited knowledge of maths, but can still do basic coding competently (writing scripts and mucking around in Processing).

COBRASoft
01-14-2012, 08:50 AM
With the greatest respect, I think teaching kids using old hardware/software is a terrible idea. ...

Hi, sure, it's not my intention to give them technology from 30 years ago. You got the base idea. Start 'n run, easy, simple and somehow limited. Kids these days don't realize what's going on under the hood anymore and this leads to crappy software IMO. I see it everyday at my job, unfortunately.

P.S.: I like Basic4Android, very simple yet quite powerful. And best of all, no need for Java! I'm a full-time .Net developer ;).

GregMalick
01-14-2012, 11:42 AM
We've been looking to hire a java/J2EE programmer for months. I'm not sure if all the college talent has been sucked up or we don't get any good applicants due to the pittance of a government salary - but what we've interviewed has been pretty pitiful.

Most of the skills needed by a good programmer/analyst seem missing (design/analysis/coding/testing) - most importantly Communication Skills are missing. My impression is that a lot of people are entering the field because of the promise of a job. They don't have the aptitude nor the love of the craft - and the universities don't seem to have a good handle on what's really needed in their curriculum.

Of course this is exacerbated by the fact that not many mainland college grads seem interested in working in Hawaii for the wages offered. At least not many good ones. When I lived in Chicago (20 years ago), the pool of good applicants was much better.

RebelHill
01-14-2012, 11:47 AM
its also interesting to see how the whole jobs market for such things is changing...

there's a temp work agency just across the street from where i often go for coffee, and they always have a blackboard outside with latest/most wanted jobs on there.

Most of the time its, labourer, stonemason, plasterer... but every now and then you'll see SQL developer or such.

Tech jobs are increasingly becoming trades in the 21st century it would seem.

COBRASoft
01-14-2012, 05:32 PM
Most of the skills needed by a good programmer/analyst seem missing (design/analysis/coding/testing) - most importantly Communication Skills are missing. My impression is that a lot of people are entering the field because of the promise of a job. They don't have the aptitude nor the love of the craft - and the universities don't seem to have a good handle on what's really needed in their curriculum.

^^ Agreed 100%

Dexter2999
01-14-2012, 06:06 PM
Tech jobs are increasingly becoming trades in the 21st century it would seem.


When I first got out of college, I was working for an Audio Visual rental company in the warehouse. Because I had time and the aptitude I networked their computers so they could email each other and share documents and share the printer without needing to "sneaker net".

One day, my boss told me to empty the trash from the restrooms (as we had no custodial services) as I was doing that he yells "CRAIG!, I can't print through the network!"

I calmly walked over to his office (wastepaper basket it hand) and said, "The comments 'You need to take out the trash.' and 'I can't print through the network' aren't generally addressed to the same person in any company I can think of."

From then on they asked someone else to empty the trash.

But yes, it is amazing how people with authority (but lacking in ability) take the talents of those working for them for granted. It is also probably why so many people "lowball" graphic artists for work.