Whatever happened to Computing Studies?

Whatever happened to Computing Studies?

I’ve had a fairly broad experience in education: I’ve worked both in public and private systems in Australia and England, so I think I’m at least reasonably aware of the direction of education. Something that has perplexed me lately is the gradual disappearance of computing studies in schools. When I was at school (which was not that long ago!) I learnt PASCAL and Visual Basic. Later on, at university, I even learnt a bit of MATLAB and ADA and FORTRAN. But sometime between then and now, computing studies, as a discipline, seems to have disappeared, to be replaced with this idea of ICT or Computer Literacy – neither of which are bad things.

Let me give you an example: in New South Wales, where I teach, students can learn Information and Software Technology as an elective in Years 9 and 10. But that’s mostly focused on spreadsheets and databases with a little bit web development. Certainly, only limited language learning as far as I understand. It’s not hugely popular, at least in my school. Later on, in senior years, there’s lots more opportunity through Software Development and Design, but I kind of get the feeling that, by then, it’s far too late.

I’m surprised, to say the least, that this is the case. Do we no longer value the skills that can be learnt through learning to program? Do we think that they are not employable skills? The evidence would suggest otherwise – interest in coding is skyrocketing at the moment with the profusion of mobile technologies. Is it too hard to teach? I find that hard to believe.

I guess I’m asking two questions in this blog: firstly, should kids start learning to program earlier than this? And if so, what’s the best way of doing it? What are your resources that you use? What do you do to engender enthusiasm?

To fix this problem (at least in my school), I’m looking at starting a bit of a Coding Club after school next term. I think that I’m going to start off with HTML and CSS before Javascript and then, hopefully, Objective C. I’m hoping that lots of people out there can offer lots of suggestions for resources.

To start off with, students at my school have already had a little bit of experience with Scratch (http://scratch.mit.edu/) and Hopscotch (https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/hopscotch-coding-for-kids/id617098629?mt=8).

I’m going to start with Codecademy (http://www.codecademy.com/), then perhaps Treehouse (http://teamtreehouse.com/)

What other suggestions are good? Should we investigate Raspberry Pi? Get on board with the Maker movement? Run it off Macbooks or iPads?

Looking forward to hearing suggestions. I’ll post resources and lessons that I use here as well.