My $0.02!

As I mentioned below, I have written a letter to the TESS following up on the article about Computing Science Inside.  In the letter I (try to!) outline what I feel is a big problem with Computing right now – the misunderstanding at all levels as to what the subject is actually about.  Comments very welcome as always, I’ve got the asbestos suit on!

“I was very pleased to read your article about “Computing Science Inside” in last week’s TESS.  I am a self-confessed convert of Dr Cutts’ refreshing work.

I did feel however that the article only touched on what is perhaps a real problem facing Computing in Scotland: a lack of understanding of what the subject is actually about.  It’s not just the fact that “…we are becoming a nation of tool users, not tool builders…” but also the case that the two areas – ICT skills and Computer Science – are seen as one and the same by those who are responsible for the curriculum.

For several years now, there has been a great focus on developing ICT use amongst staff and pupils; the so-called “digital literacy” that enables people to communicate and make use of the technology.  Unfortunately, what this has not addressed is a real need to foster “digital creativity,” i.e. the ability to understand and further develop the technology.  This is what really matters to businesses, giving them the ability to develop new IT products and maintain a technological advantage.

This confusion of ‘true’ Computing with ICT skills has led to the typical situation in many schools around the country where Computing is taught in the first and second years as part of a general ICT course. The normal topics are based around application use and the time is shared between two or even more departments.  Some pupils don’t even see a Computing department until Standard Grade!  Ultimately, Computing has lost it’s identity as a distinct – and scientific – subject. 

On this problem though the ball is firmly in our court: Computing teachers must reassert this lost identity, and CPD such as that offered by the “Computing Science Inside” project is a step in the right direction.  What would also be a positive step would be for national subject promotion and development opportunities: several subjects already have this to varying degrees.

If Computing is to develop in schools and the decline in students applying to study at universities is to be reversed, it is vital we promote the difference between IT and Computing.  Senior Management and Local Authorities can help us too: they must take on board this crucial difference and give Computing its’ rightful place in the curriculum.”

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