Sunday, April 22, 2012

Programming vs Technology

Recently I read an article on the Chronicle of higer education on Program vs Technology. It was interesting, I'll give it that. It's just that recently (last couple of years) geeks both the blogosphere and the twittersphere seem to be longing for a time when computer science was taught in all of our schools (high school and specifically in this article University), and we've moved away from a "computer science for all" approach, or we've severely dumbed it down, by introducing those silly office applications. In a previous blog post I also had commented on a similar story lamenting the fact that schools weren't teaching kids programming language in school and the author had taken so much away from learning a programming language (BASIC I think) that it's inconceivable that kids aren't taught programming (now if only I could easily find that blog post).

In any case, some of these commentators and bloggers are clamoring for a time that didn't exit. I am fairly young, about a dozen years since I graduatd high school. We had computers, and we had computer science courses, but these were electives, they weren't required courses. Just as there were elective courses in computer science back then, so th are now. Even in college, I was a computer science major and we didn't have non majors in our courses. Computer science was not a requirement.

Even when I mention that students ought to have a required ICT course for those pesky office applications, I get resistance because no one wants to extend the time to graduation, and no one wants to cede a course from their department in the general education curriculum - but everyone seems to lament the fact that undergraduates (and grads!) don't know how to format a paper, use excel, make a good presentation, use a computer effectively or troubleshoot basic things.

Universal computer programming isn't the answer. If anything should be universal, it should be 4 years worth of a foreign language so that students leave college multilingual. Just adding another requirement for graduation, like computer programming, this means that you'll get 2 semesters worth of computer programming, which in my opinion is about as useless as 2 semesters of a foreign language. Sure, you get some idea about a language, and it affects your cognitive processes, but you can't really use it. If there were a required ICt curriculum it wouldn't be programming.

Thoughts? Comments?

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