Ex-Student views on Computing

I got an interesting email from a former student of Dunbar Grammar who went on to study Computer Science. He had seen some of the press coverage about the future of computing and decided to let me know his thoughts. He’s kindly allowed me to reproduce the contents of his email here.

Hi Mark,

I saw your letter in The Herald last week and thought I would write a short note of encouragement/support.

I left Dunbar Grammar School in 2001 to study Computer Science at Edinburgh University. My formal Computing education up to that point consisted of studying at Standard Grade for about two weeks, before deciding it was far too dull and defecting to Technological Studies. (A friend of mine from the same year also went on to study CS at Edinburgh. He didn’t even bother trying Standard Grade.)

So I am very familiar with every point you made about the computing curriculum and how badly it represents computer science. I don’t know about the current curriculum but when I took the subject there was no programming and no mathematics in the subject. In maths I had to know how to derive the quadratic formula from first principles; in physics it was velocity, acceleration, current and voltage; and technological studies added the properties of materials, stresses and strain. But in computing? As ever, word processing, databases, and more databases. It was treated as an “easy pass” subject at the time, totally at odds with its higher-education cousin.

I’m glad that you and others are making noise about this. I flirted with the idea of teaching maths when I left university but didn’t even consider teaching computing. How much has the curriculum changed since my day?

If there’s anything you think that a recent graduate with an interest in promoting their chosen subject can do, please let me know! I was fairly keen on the computing aspect of things at school (I designed and administered the school’s first website back then, as well as running a Silver Surfers club in S6) and I’d be happy to get back into the advocacy role! 🙂

On a lighter note, I found your blog and noticed you posted about getting an Eee PC. I got one last week and they’re awesome…



Thanks D, the encouragement and support is much appreciated.

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2 Responses to Ex-Student views on Computing

  1. Hi Mark,

    I know D, it was a very fine website until I got my hands on it the following year! I left DGS the year after D and like his friend I hadn’t even considered computing as an option.

    My path after that was quite different, not being mathematical enough to do CS I went off to do a 4 year teaching degree (after a successful but ultimately unfulfilling and brief flirtation with Electrical Engineering) and am now teaching Craft, Design, and Technology.

    Like D though I am ready to fight your corner to see Computing in schools not being sidelined and instead turned into a really good course that leads into it’s big brother at uni.

    I am certain that with the draft outcomes there could be plenty of cross-curricular work between our departments. There may even be a way of fighting the corner of Technological Studies at the same time?

  2. Mark Tennant says:


    Thanks also for your comments. You are right about the opportunities for cross-curricular work, particularly through CfE which will hopefully give us the chance to deliver a relevant and up-to-date computing curriculum. Having spoke to some of the technologies writers they are adamant that Computing must remain a discreet and specialist subject in senior levels, along with other technology subjects. Reassuring, but lets hope the message gets down to school level.


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