On 11 Jul 2012, at 02:02, Steve King <steve...@gmail.com
> Hi David,
Thanks for your response, which is very even-handed. Before I respond to
the points you made, I'd just like to clarify some things:
Though Michael and Josh were involved in sketching out the ideas I linked to
in the footnotes, they had nothing to do with the post itself. Those ideas
were started months ago, (iirc even before Michael Gove's speech) and have
nothing to do with the contents of the post. Though Josh did proofread it
for typos, that was mere minutes before it went up and he didn't affect the
actual content of the post at all. (For that matter, neither did they
influence this reply.)
I didn't mean to pick on YRS as much as I did, and only realised after I
published it that I didn't have any examples from elsewhere. This is,
ironically, because I like Rewired State hacks more than any other, so
they're what I'm most familiar with. I've loved YRS since the first one I
came to and I'm looking forward to taking part in this year's event. I just
feel that these problems have taken root at YRS in the same way they have
at other events, and I picked on YRS too much in the article.
> When I was in school, they didn't teach 'computing' as much as they taught
> 'how to write your resume to get a crumby job'. It was uninspired, a
> complete waste of time for anyone that had skills beyond the grasp of using
> a calculator. That's not to say that some didn't find it useful. It was
> the 90's and computers weren't in every home, not everyone had the internet
> and kids certainly didn't understand that you could WRITE your own computer
Some of them did: they are mostly now the professional software developers of
today. We have an opportunity to make more of them by teaching them these
skills, but we have the risk of making less of them by putting them off when
we try to get them enthused about it.
> Unfortunately, that's also true of Physics, Maths, Chemistry and History.
> Our voice, in wanting to change parts of what students get taught is
> amongst a large group of others who are fighting for the same types of
> changes, within their specific domains too. Add into that the arguments
> that the way we teach is problematic, that a change of the format of how
> students get taught is important and it winds up in a huge mess.
Trying to change education is a huge mess, but that doesn't mean we can't
do it right.
> I see the same problem with adult hack days. At recent events I've seen no
> less than a dozen hacks that are purely 'soft hacks',
> glossy powerpoints presenting an idea. The ideas are not specifically 'here
> is my great idea for a startup', but they've explored the idea,
> investigated the options and put together more than just a 'pitch'. When we
> talk about glossy soft hacks, we're generally looking at how they planned
> to get to somewhere, rather than just the idea itself.
I was not aware of this issue before. I've certainly seen concepts pitched
very well at adult hack days (I've pitched concepts myself) but rarely do
they actually win any awards. My problem is not really the existence of
concept hacks, but the ratio of them vs. the real hacks and the increasing
tendency for them to win.
> I'd just as happily award a prize to someone who wrote a new way to
> dispense snacks from a vending machine, as I would to someone who wrote
> a hack that made it easier to gain insight into market statistics for
> financial transactions.
Likewise. The issue here is that it's not so easy to actually implement
ideas involving modifications to vending machines. What I see is too many
hacks which could *potentially* be implemented -- it's practical to at
least code up a limited demo -- but which are instead just PowerPoint or
> On the other topics you covered, Atlassian
) making over $100 million, employes
> over 200 people and has huge amounts of developers around the world, runs
> workshops, training, community engagement groups and etc, is a Java
> shop. Large portions of the Google codebase are Java. Yahoo too. These
> three companies are between 10-18 years old, babies in any other field.
Sure, in any other field, they are 'babies,' but this is not any other field.
The world of technology moves fast. These are big, established companies now,
not startups. And they got started at a time when these were popular languages
for startups, though for different reasons than Ruby and Python are popular
today. By adopting what Google and Yahoo use, you're 10 years behind the curve
in education, which means you're 15-20 years behind when these kids are out
there starting to get jobs.
> I agree that Java is a bore, but it's also the primary language for coding
> on the fastest growing handset OS in the world.
"In terms of share, Android shows two months of no growth."
(Let's not get into iPhone vs. Android, please.)
> Mobile is becoming one of the leading devices on the internet
> (and will soon surpass traditional computers in accessing the web
> as a primary device). IOS is Objective-C, Windows Mobile is C#.
I complain about C#, but really it's nowhere near as bad as Java. It's
actually quite a good language, but not for teaching. Likewise with
Objective-C, which is maturing ell and, though it needs replacing, is
a language with solid principles. They're just bad teaching languages,
not bad languages altogether.
> Universities too, still largely teach C# or Java, over other languages.
Mainly Java. It's now impossible to get a CS degree in the UK without
learning Java, mainly because of Sun's work pushing it on CS departments
and persuading students that the *need* to learn it to get a job. I don't
want the same thing to happen to secondary education in computing.
Joel Spolsky wrote about it here:
> Python, Ruby and others are great, but without the support of industry
> (we're getting there) and tertiary education (we're getting there too!) we
> won't see these introduced into mainstream primary or secondary education
> any time soon.
There may be more industry support behind Java right now in terms of numbers,
but it terms of the importance of the different parts of industry, Ruby and
Python have far better support. Look at GitHub, for instance: old, established
companies don't use it, on the whole. It's where new startups host their code.
says that Ruby and Python together are almost 3
times more popular than Java with GitHub users, who are mainly startup founders
even better, given that it runs on every web device available today.)
> There's no quick win short term - I wish there was, but we can, as you say,
> work together to get this education thing happening. It's going to take
> some understanding on both parts, to understand why we do the things we do
> and how we do them and why we think our way is good. I think when you are
> talking about education and kids, the long game is always played safely,
> slowly and collaboratively.
I agree, but the outside forces are not acting slowly. I recall a few days
after the BETT Michael Gove speech that exam boards were already drafting
exam specifications to enter into usage this coming school year, with
Microsoft's input. Whether anyone will actually adopt that specification
is doubtful, but you can see how eager they are to get kids using their
> Thanks for being passionate enough to make your post David! It was a
> great read.
Thanks for your response. I really don't want this to turn into a troll war
but, as I said, I felt that someone needed to point out these issues. I
stand by what I wrote and if anyone has any further issues, I ask them to
consider taking it off-list and sending it to my personal email address,
, to prevent the list getting bogged down in this issue.
I do feel a little like I'm bikeshedding the discussion of Coding for Kids
into "What language should we use?" and for that I apologise, but let's
not let it distract from the broader issue that it's important to keep the
fun in computing, especially as we teach it to kids.