Dr Martyn Thomas of the IET has said that the corduroys themselves need more skills if they are to pass them onto the pupils.
Reports El Reg.
Now this is certainly going to be true in some cases, not all ICT teachers are going to haz mad coding skillz. But then, one would hope (stop laughing at the back) that not all centers will offer the course if they have no one able to teach it. And of course, this would be true for almost any new subject that was introduced to the curriculum.
Unfortunately, while I’m sure Dr Thomas is very eminent and everything, he makes me weep for my profession with this :
Professional software engineering is as big a step up from school programming as civil engineering is from Lego
Which is true as far it goes, but falls flat on its arse for two reasons, the first of which is simply that ‘profesional’ anything is a world away from such fundamentals as would be taught at GCSE level, thus neatly rendering the argument entirely irrelevant.
And the second, the one that jerks those tears of abject shame, is that software engineering is a discipline only tentatively connected with the fundamentals of computer science and computer programming, they really aren’t the same thing. In fact the gap between simply programming and professional software engineering is very roughly similar to that gap between Lego and civil engineering, and for broadly the same reasons.
As if that weren’t enough wibble
Alan Berry, the Institute’s Policy Advisor for IT & Communications, said … “There are lots of resources freely available that schools just don’t know about. I keep going on about open source but it just needs imagination and ingenuity. They’re all taught in Microsoft and they just need to be told about what else is available.
“For example, all the kids are running around with iPods and iPhones, why don’t they get them to write applications for them? They need to inspire students.”
Well, for a start, not all the kids are ‘running around with iPods and iPhones’, at best, only 47% of teenagers even own a smartphone. And according to the full version of the Offcom Communications market report (see graph on page 53), the bulk of those are probably Blackberrys, with only 17% of smartphone toting teens owning an iPhone.
Then there’s the development environment. I get along just fine with Objective C, but it’s really not a first language to learn - or at least, to teach - and especially not on an iOS platform. There’s no ‘print “Hello World!”’, just getting to some rough equivalent of that requires dozens of lines of IDE generated code and much faffing about to get it to run on an actual device - though the simulator is an easier route.
If the intention is simply to teach some programming fundamentals (sequence, selection, iteration, etc) and a bit of comp sci (data structures, algorithms, etc), Java would be entirely appropriate. If there’s some desire to teach what’s going on under the hood, then C/C++ would be a good (if somewhat more difficult) choice. Heck, there’s even Pascal, a language specifically designed as a teaching aid. Whatever is the appropriate language - and it will certainly depend on what the requirements of the curriculum end up being - it sure as shit isn’t going to be ObjC.
And whatever language, or combination thereof, it ends up being, it would be helpful if it didn’t require access to a Mac - which schools and students may or may not have, and may or may not be able to afford - but was able to be used on a variety of platforms, particularly including Windows, which most schools will be using extensively. ObjC for iOS is only available on OS X. And while you can get ObjC anywhere you can stuff the gnu compiler, tool support for it is frankly woeful. Oh, and the iOS development tools are no longer free (as in beer), while those for many other languages can be had for free (as in beer) and/or free (as in speech).
All in all, this is a pretty piss poor example of ‘industry’ engaging with education. Then again, I’ve been in this industry for over a decade, and a codemonkey for much longer than that, and I’d never heard of the IET until I read this article. Go figure.