Area #6 – Inspection Regime

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Image via WikipediaThere is a clear understanding that HMIe should inspect and ensure that teaching and learning are well implemented. In general this is the case throughout the country’s Computing departments but Computing often falls down in the concomitant performance indicators.

Where departments show good teaching and learning and the associated pastoral support of students, judgements should reflect more significantly that fact and poor attainment should be seen in the context of Computing across schools, colleges, HE and other countries as this is not a localised issue.

If this does not change, departments will further move towards choosing students solely on the likelihood of their passing the course. The knock-on effect for colleges, which have traditionally been the place for second chances, and the students, who have benefitted from those chances, will be significant. There will be a reduction in opportunities for those who wish to return to full or part time learning as the risks for the departments will be too high.

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Area #1 – Practitioners

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Image by confusedvision via FlickrIt was clear during our workshops on the future of computing that everyone knew exactly where the problem lay and, of course, it was never with us, the practitioners. It seems right, therefore, that I start this short series by addressing an area where we as practitioners can change.

The flexibility of courses offered by colleges is intimately bound to the skills and competencies of the staff. Too often, however, the provision of courses is hindered by the lack of available skills and the unwillingness of practitioners to expand their skill base.

The apotheosis of this is the situation, all too common throughout the country, where practitioners have ‘their subjects’ or, at the extreme, where practitioners keep the same timetable for several years.

This is not to say that practitioners should not have their specialist subjects. Computing is too broad to allow an in depth knowledge of all aspects of computing. It is vital, that to fully address the ongoing challenges facing Computing, practitioners become, and remain, as flexible as possible.

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Be Realistic

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Image by Getty Images via DaylifeWhat’s the first thing that Computing practitioners should do? Be realistic.

Computing took great advantage of a boom in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. This boom was fuelled by many reasons including the massive uptake of computers in general business, the millennium bug, the dot.com boom etc.

This boom led to a large increase in the number of course offered and the number of computing professionals added to the pool. The pool of professionals has now reached a natural plateau where the requirement, at HNC and HND level, is mainly to refresh the pool of talent rather than expand it.

Computing as a high-end technical subject has less potential for attracting students than IT as a business support subject. Therefore consideration should be given to Computing departments teaching IT subjects that are embedded in other curricular areas such as Business Management programmes to ensure their quality and viability.

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Is Cloud Computing Safe?

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I bow to no-one in my admiration of Richard Stallman. Anyone who can found the Free Software Foundation as well as creating GNU (as in GNU-Linux, the bit that does most of the work) is well worth listening to. So when he talks about cloud computing being potentially dangerous it is as well to stop and listen.

Although hearing anyone use a phrase like “worse than stupidity” gives pause for thought. And not in a good way.

The gist of the argument is that computing in the cloud, whether mail via GMail or documents stored on Zoho, are a trap. In the same way that traditional software applications forced you into using their software (I’m looking at you WordPerfect), cloud computing may trap your data.

And that’s true; as far as it goes. However this is not a criticism of cloud computing. It’s a criticism of anyone who doesn’t properly back up their data. That’s a problem whether you use Notepad and save your data on a floppy disk or photos stored on Flickr.

As it happens I’m a big fan of cloud computing. As almost every computer I have has a net connection it saves messing about with floppies, pen drives or external hard disks. I’m not stupid enough, however, to trust that my data will always be there. Even Amazon, who have a history of reliable web services, had a glitch that knocked out their S3 data storage service for a working day.

If I turn up to give a presentation I have e-mailed myself a copy, saved it on Mozy, have a copy on various on-line services and kept a copy on a pen drive attached to my key-ring. In other words I don’t make it out the door and into my car if I don’t have my data.

It’s frustrating that this far into the history of computing people are still writing “Back up your data or you’ll be sorry” articles. Even more frustrating when the person saying it has written the back up software themselves.

EDIT: Richard Stallman must have the computing gods working for him. Just as I tried to post this my net connection went down. I’m sorry Richard. Please don’t hurt me again.

Cloud computing is a trap, warns GNU founder | Technology | guardian.co.uk

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