Campaign for Real Computer Science

Here’s a pre-Easter thought. Someone poisoned Computer Science; now it’s wandering around like a mindless video-zombie. What happened to real computing?

In the early 80s, my parents had a very English caravan stuck on a wind swept field near Skegness, UK. Video arcade machines started to show up in the penny-arcades and I was duly given a few ten pence coins to occupy myself while they fed one armed bandits.

I was a total expert at Spyhunter. I could make 3 lives last 3 hours. I liked being good at it, even though it had a habit of crashing when things got too hectic.

By the time the micro computer appeared I would be waiting at the newsagent for this month’s Computer and Video Games. Then I’d spend hours typing in line after line of code for some game, that took twice as much effort to debug. So much for French homework – I had code to copy. I was a brilliant copier – and half decent hacker.

Learning about computers was unheard of in school, so when I eventually enrolled  in Computer Science A Level,  I was not impressed.

The course had nothing to do with my brilliance at Spy Hunter, or the fact I could hack Elite and win any trade-war.

They taught the fundamentals of computer science! How code worked! It took a while for me to begin noticing – that the code I was blindly copying from C&VG started to make sense.

What I was interested in outside the classroom, became meaningful inside the classroom – as the teacher took the time to let use hack code, tinker and re-write programs to do other stuff. He was a scientist, mathematician – had a proper beard, and knew his stuff.

I think the introduction of ICT over Computer Science was a point in time marking decline.  It has been reduced to formatting and using software to communicate —  programming reduced to one unit in a two year course using Visual Basic or HTML.

We’ve massively turned the computer science teacher into a go-to-support desk admin teacher and completely ignore the fact that teachers as academics and researchers – are being clubbing them to death with outcomes that are meaningless. But we do need them for fix the network, plug in the scanner – who else is going to do it. No one. Get out the seat and return to your paper mine. For we are Scientists.

We’ve managed to reduce computer science to computer using … and now at a time where virtual worlds, games and social-play have replaced TV, penny-arcades and magazines. We block even that.

Academically, computing should be a Science and not be co-opted into a blended beige curriculum where being able to format text counts as learning.

I hope that the revamped IST, SDD and IPT in the National Curriculum will embrace the potential and growth of what technology offers today – a world where no one becomes an information worker. We also see declining numbers in those subjects – especially in girls — and you wonder why?

Join the Campaign for Real Computing Science.


3 thoughts on “Campaign for Real Computer Science

  1. Two things stop me from writing a proper response here in comment form.
    First you need to read my post.
    Second I’m not on your blog roll (not that it matters!)
    I can say I like what you said though.

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