Area #3 – Funding

Bottom line – money talks.

When deciding on a funding model for Computing students, the SFC (Scottish Funding Council) must look beyond its standard model and consider the work involved in delivering the Computing curriculum.

To illustrate the challenges, we can consider programming. As noted before, to become a proficient programmer it is necessary to spend significant time developing knowledge and skills – time that is not always available. This leads to practitioners that may not, potentially, have the skills to ensure learner engagement with the programming language.

The inevitable outcome of this problem is that colleges throughout the country are removing computing awards that incorporate programming from their prospectuses. The knock on effect for industry will be a dearth of programmers, just as the requirement increases.

To address this problem, Computing courses that incorporate programming units should be funded in a similar way to music courses where practical units are given double SUMs. This will translate to more time available to staff to teach the more challenging units.

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Area #2 – Colleges

Image via WikipediaFor many years, Colleges rode the Computing boom with their departments. They looked upon Computing as a significant source of students (and funding). Now that the boom is over it is vital that colleges become fully involved in providing support for their Computing departments. This starts with being fully cognisant of the challenges facing the departments.

College management may find it challenging to understand the technicalities and skills involved in Computing. This has led to unrealistic expectations of the flexibility of Computing practitioners.

An analogy can be made to the teaching of languages. There would be no thought of walking into the work-room of a lecturer in French and announcing that, as of next week, they will teach Mandarin Chinese.

Computing lecturers are routinely asked to take classes for which they may have had inadequate professional development e.g. rather than teaching Pascal, they are asked to teach C# or rather than using Office 2003 the package of choice will be Office 2007 (and, by the way, the class starts on Thursday!). Becoming proficient in a programming language is not a trivial exercise.

Re-training, that should take several weeks of work, can be expected within days.

Colleges, who benefit from the provision of up to date courses, must provide practitioners with the necessary time, training and support required to update their skills.

(P.S. If you are not sure why moving from Office 2003 to 2007 should be a problem then I have proven my point.)

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Open Source Image Programming

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Image via Wikipedia

Processing is

an open source programming language and environment for people who want to program images, animation, and interactions. It is used by students, artists, designers, researchers, and hobbyists for
learning, prototyping, and production. It is created to teach fundamentals of computer programming within a visual context and to serve as a software sketchbook and professional production tool.

For anyone looking to teach programming images it looks a good bet.

Processing 1.0

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Microsoft SmallBasic

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Image by via CrunchBase

Microsoft have released a new version of basic designed for children and novices called SmallBasic. It has only fifteen keywords to learn to allow newbies to get up and running quickly. The web site says that

Small Basic is a simple and easy programming language with a friendly environment that provides a cool and fun way of learning programming. From making turtles animations to running a slide show on the desktop, Small Basic makes programming natural and effortless.

Might be a good way of introducing programming to your classes.

Featured Windows Download: Small Basic Teaches Programming Fundamentals

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Tutorials for Programming Languages

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Image via Wikipedia

I’ve blogged before about StackOverflow.

For those who haven’t come across it here’s the site’s own introduction:

Stack Overflow is a collaboratively edited question and answer site for programmers — regardless of platform or language. Jump in and share your software engineering expertise! No registration or account required.

As a part of this aim it has put together this page containing tutorials for many different programming languages. Many of them are on-line and free – perfect for education…

Language Books/Tutorials for popular languages – Stack Overflow

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