Reading, Writing, Algorithms: Should IT Classes Be Required?

Reading, Writing, Algorithms: Should IT Classes Be Required?

(from spiegel.de source Hilmar Schmundt:)

Education experts in Germany are pushing to modernize the country’s basic curriculum by making instruction in computer science mandatory. But opponents say it doesn’t deserve the same status as subjects like math, Latin and biology. … But does programming really need to be taught as a core subject in this modern, fully digitized world? Or is it simply a waste of time, an educational fad with a limited shelf life? The issue is being hotly debated at many schools in Germany. … “We are in the process of missing out on a desperately needed reform of our system of general education,” warns Steffen Friedrich, a professor of the didactics of computer science at Dresden Technical University. Only three of Germany’s 16 federal states currently have mandatory computer classes for some grades: Bavaria, Saxony and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. … Norbert Breier, a professor of education at the University of Hamburg, is furious. “We’re currently doing a backward roll in Hamburg,” he complains. The schools of the northern city-state have been teaching IT on a par with physics, chemistry and biology between seventh and 10th grade. But now the board of education wants to downgrade computing again, supposedly “due to numerous complaints by teachers, school principals and experts.” This has also prompted a pro-computing association to launch a petition against what it calls a “disastrously bad decision” by Hamburg’s educational authorities. …”The biggest problem with teaching IT is probably one of our own making,” Hubwieser says. He blames a Babel-like confusion among experts about what basic IT education should be in the first place. … The students’ amazed faces show how thinking in computer terms sheds new light on the known world. IT provides tools for thinking, just like long division and the ability to differentiate between direct and indirect speech. Critics of IT lessons note that office software and programming languages often become quickly outdated. But proponents counter that even if the types of applications change, the basic elements remain the same.

God, too many confused ideas.

Yes, “mandatory” correct, “strongly agree,” in every grade, start from kindergarten with drawing, learning about raster, scalars, vectors, tensors, colors, combinations, shapes and patterns, visually, the math comes later, eventually let’s do some calculus, only visually, in elementary school, let them see what sort of formulas their drawing produce, and how those formulas modify themselves while they select areas, or modify curves, intersections, et cetera, visualize to them imaginary and multidimensional spaces, let them experiment, give them the “whole” picture, to go somewhere, is good to know where we want to go.

Then again, help in learning reading, writing, foreign languages and speech in elementary school, along with type of document formats (letters, notes, papers, essays, dissertations, booklets, manuals,) structure outlines, writing methodology, and general use software like word processing, storyboards, basic spreadsheets, and basic pseudo-code programming. Then comes middle and high school, good places to learn some educative programming languages, and some theory of information.

Here the main problem is that language and literature folks, do not want to realize that web CMS, BBS and social networks, word processing, publishing, outlining and methodology, documents structures, composition, “are within their field of expertise,” and “must be taught in ‘their’ hours, not during IT hours.”

The same as arts folks, who don’t want to realize that the applicable part to computers of various degrees of pixels and vector drawing, theory of colors, formats of color composition, photography, photo-composition, sound and video, non linear and linear, “are within their field of expertise,” and “must be taught in ‘their’ hours, not during IT hours.”

The same as math folks, who don’t want to realize that various degrees of logic, relational algebra and calculus, as much as boolean algebra, “are within their field of expertise,” and “must be taught in ‘their’ hours, not during IT hours,” IT should focus exclusively in problem solving, specifications and design, besides some more mundane tasks of understanding hardware and software interaction, and programming languages, including design of assemblers, compilers, interpreters, et cetera.

The error to avoid making here, is teaching “real” system, application and networks programming languages “before” teaching “pseudo languages,” in the procedural and non procedural, either structured and object oriented area, which would call for “one” standardized planetary pseudo language, from which different generations may convert to the specific implementations. As a matter of fact, the future of programming, given the logarithmic rate of growth of number of dialects, may inevitably lead to this approach and the use of pre-compilers, translators and/or interpreters, at some point it may be “impossible to keep up with the proliferation.”

Given today choices, for programming, my preference would go to, in parallel for the three, for unix, quagga/zebra and a combination of SQL, PHP, Python and ‘c,’ “the last in that order,” but here choices are like lower backs, everybody has one.

However if anybody would write the “unified pseudo language for operating systems, networks, systems and applications programming,” I would most likely see that choice as the best possible. And if the mathematician would teach the necessary symbolic logic along with the pseudo-code instruction, that would be a further step towards programming sanity, because it consolidates the mathematical bases for “formal proof.”

As far as other subjects “status” Latin in the case of learning languages may help a bit, but to be realistic, is such a specialized subject that as for Ancient Greek, or Egyptian Hieroglyphics if you wish, should be either re-dimensioned to a more basic level, or moved completely out of the mandatory K-12 education, towards the universities, for the ones looking at humanistic studies. Not to talk about other classes that should be “completely” out of K-12, “religion ?” please, why not tarot and palm reading ? let’s be serious, “music ?” optional, some people (like me,) are destined to only listen to music, any time I spent in music classes, I would have had a better use spending it in physics or chemistry.

Finally, here you may want to read what has been written about future of mathematics and computing, about 25 years ago, still valid more than ever.

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