From Scratch to Python

There is an obvious gap between simplified programming environments and the more complicated text based coding languages, says Jon Silvera

Q. Is there still a reluctance to embrace technology in schools from a teaching point of view, and what can we do to help promote the use of edtech in all schools?

A. I think there is some confusion in terms of what teachers are actually supposed to be teaching and the availability of tools needed to do this. FUZE Technologies is focused on one very specific area of the computing curriculum.

There is a very obvious gap between visual, simplified programming environments and the somewhat more complicated text based languages being recommended for text based coding. For example, the jump from Scratch to Python is quite ridiculous. Of course there will be cases where this has worked and there will be children who are more than able to make the transition but these children will most likely discover their ability through their own computing interests. 

Trying to teach Python to absolute beginners with little interest in the subject is not easy, not even close. We hear from teachers every day that the chasm between Scratch and Python is just too far. FUZE are totally committed to bring BASIC back to schools and ensuring it is the first text based language children are presented with. It can easily be taught in Primary schools from KS 2 and is also ideal for early KS 3. It offers an ideal stepping stone to Python, C++, Java, PHP and so on.
The problem we face at FUZE is that BASIC is not known to be an option by the majority of teaches, but we are changing this day-by-day, delivering programming workshops, teaching real text based programming to children from age seven and over.

I do not see what benefits Twitter and Facebook over and above a sensible school email system has

Q. Are budget restrictions a major factor as to why we are seeing a digital divide between teachers and their students? What can we do to improve this?

A. I’m not sure that it is as there are many low cost items available, many even free.  I think the problem is more around the fact that teachers need more coherent support and access to resources.

Q. How often should schools look at training teaching staff to use the latest edtech, or is it more important that educators show initiative and take responsibility in keeping up with new developments?

A. In the case of the new computing curriculum, Government should put significant funds in place to support their changes.  It is not like adding a component to English or Maths, where yes, of course regular training or an ongoing initiative should be in place to keep up-to-date, this is a whole new subject, at least in regards to teaching programing it is.  How can teachers be expected to just start teaching how to code with no or little prior exposure to the concept is very unconsidered, in my opinion.

Q. How important is it that teachers embrace social media rather than shy away from it? Do the benefits of using Twitter and Facebook to engage with students outweigh the potential risks?

A. Personally I think social networking should be removed from schools full stop. There is, as far as I can see, no reason why social networking / media etc. should play a part in school life. It is totally open to exploitation, it provides access to far too much that should not be accessible to children, it brings ‘the media / exploitation / marketing etc.’ too close to our children. 

It also attracts the kind of attention to our children that we are most afraid of. And I know I am sounding somewhat paranoid here, but having two daughters going through primary and secondary school, seeing just what can end up on a phone or tablet has been enough to convince me that personal devices such as modern mobiles and tablets should not be acceptable in schools. I do not see what benefits Twitter and Facebook etc. over and above a sensible school email system has. 

Jon Silvera is CEO and Founder of FUZE Technologies

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