The annual Council of Professors and Heads of Computing (CPHC) conference and the annual research symposium of the BCS Academy from 10 to 12 April 2012 provided me with a lot of new insights in current issues and the structure of UK’s (computing) academia. (Thanks, Miltos, for your many explanations and your patience!) The event was hosted by the University of York.
A current hot topic for CPHC and BCS is Computing at School (CAS). Simon Humphreys, coordinator of the CAS initiative, and Simon Peyton-Jones, Chair of the board of members, reported on current developments. The working group is a grassroots movement supporting teachers of computing and ICT. It has currently more than 1300 members, growing weekly, and is about to launch a computer science teachers association. Only recently the UK government has understood the difference between ICT and Computing and that learning how to use Excel etc. is not enough. This is quite similar to the situation in Germany where the German Informatics Society (GI e. V.) tried to make government (and journalists too, btw) learn this distinction for many years. Now, we, the computer science researchers and lecturers, can tell government what we expect students to know when they come to university. The problem is — and the discussion showed that quickly — we do not know yet what we deem essential, even though we agree on coding to be as an important basic skill as, for example, knowing basics in chemistry, physics, and mathematics. As the UK government wants to make changes effective already in September we need to act quickly. As universities can and should support schools in coming up with a curriculum, CAS is looking for partnering universities to help schools make better informed decisions on what and how to teach our subject.
➔ Todo: Check UWL’s involvement in local school development.