Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Ways To Discourage Children From Becoming Computing Scientists

I was tidying up recently (and despite all evidence to the contrary, I do tidy up... occasionally) and came across a document from the Mathematical Association titled 23 Ways To Discourage Children From Becoming Mathematicians. My copy looks like it has been photocopied too many times from what looks like a typewritten original. The author is Anita Straker (does anyone else have fond memories of Martello Towers?) and I think it was first written in 1987.

It contains such gems as:
  • Make sure you always give the children's work a mark out of 10, but never give 10/10 since the child would have no incentive to do better.
  • Make sure that children know that they should get things right first time. Never allow them to amend what they have done.
  • Never let children work together, or they will copy each other, and then you will never know who does, and who doesn't, know their 7 times table.
See what she did there?

277/366: Drag and drop
Originally uploaded by DavidDMuir
I thought it would be worth compiling a list of Ways To Discourage Children From Becoming Computing Scientists or How To Put Children Off ICT As A Learning Tool. Here are a few of my initial ideas:
  1. The first time you meet a new class at the beginning of the year, always cover the basics. You can never do, "This is a keyboard. This is a mouse." too often.
  2. Never believe children when they tell you how good they are using computers in fact never ask them what they can do in the first place because they will always exaggerate.
  3. In programming, always emphasise the syntax of new commands. Don't waste your time with problem solving; just get them to learn the keywords and all the variations of how they are used.
  4. Never play games on the computer. This will confuse children into thinking Computing is fun; it is important that they realise Computing is a very serious subject. (The one exception to this rule is games that involve repeatedly solving an endless supply of basic arithmetic questions.)
  5. Always make children write things out first before letting them on the computers to type it up and make it look pretty. But don't let them fiddle about too much with fonts, colours and graphics or they will waste valuable time that could be spent learning "This is a keyboard. This is a mouse."
  6. Let children use a computer only during specifically timetabled sessions. If they have a question they'd like to Google, make them wait until Friday afternoon when the whole class is in the computer lab. Children need to learn that computers are a scarce resource.
  7. The best way to introduce the FOR loop is to make the children write a program to display their name on the screen ten times. (All children have love to see their name on a computer screen.) An obvious extension exercise for children who finish early is to re-write the program to put the school's name on the screen 100 times. This will let them feel like real programmers and will show them the true power of programming.
  8. The ICT equipment in schools should be at least five years old. Modern computers are too fast and too easy to use. It is important that children struggle with technology so that they realise that Computing is a difficult subject.
  9. Never let children use their own equipment in schools. If you even see them looking at a mobile phone, send them straight to the headteacher. (If they are using a mobile phone, how will they ever learn "This is a keyboard. This is a mouse."?)
  10. Interactive Whiteboards are misnamed; the "Interactive" part of the name is redundant. Under no circumstances should a pupil be allowed to touch the whiteboard. Boards are expensive and pupils could break them or get them sticky and dirty.
I thought I'd take a leaf from Tom Barrett's book and start a Google Doc to collect more ways to discourage children from using computers. Feel free to add your own suggestions.

P.S. It is said that sarcasm is the lowest form of wit but in my experience, some people fail to spot sarcasm. Can I therefore make it clear that although I have posted ten ways to put children off Computing, my hope is that this list will encourage people to do the exact opposite!


Mosher said...

I think discouraging children is a great idea. It stops them getting degrees then PGDEs then competing with me for the slender number of jobs available.

Incidentally - point 6 is being actively pursued in my school.

And I can't access Google Docs from school to add to your document. The council have it on their "banned and under no circumstances to be over-ridden and allowed" list. Essentially, it's in the same category as pornography.

paulmartin42 said...

Thanks. Made me smile. Hopefully Google Docs will have fixed the bug that just stopped me adding my 2 cents soon .... maybe I should not write this as a confirmed googler. Ooops

David said...

Hello Mr Mosher

I am sure you have heard me rant before about the stupidity of many Authority's Internet blocking policy, so I'll refrain from making a comment... other than to suggest you work blocking policy into a way to discourage computer use. Of course, you'll have to add it while you are at home but I'd like to see what you come up with.

Hello Mr Martin

Sorry to hear you are having problems with Google Docs. Hope it's not because I've set the Doc up in the wrong way. Whatever the reason, feel free to post your suggestions here and I'd be happy to add them for you.

Catherine said...

Love this post, David. Numbers 9 & 10 seem particularly relevant for my trainee teachers. Recently colleagues have been complaining about students texting during lectures. Made me wonder about encouraging use of Twitter instead. Have you tried this yet?

David said...

Hello Catherine

I've used Twitter with small, practical sections of 20 to 30, but never with the whole cohort in a lecture. I have, however, encouraged students to text during lectures to create a backchannel, and as an electronic voting system, for some years now. I should really ask the students what they make of it but I certainly find it useful!

Thank you for the comments. Have you any suggestions you could add to the list of ways to put children off computers?

David said...

We are now up to 12 ideas on the Google Doc (see 12 Ways To Discourage Children From Becoming Computing Scientists) thanks to contributions from Mr Mosher and Craig88.

Catriona said...

Hi David having such fun going through this with Diarmid, age 9. Rule one - he gets so fed up with his teacher telling him where to move his mouse and where to click. And telling him where the right buttons are! He'd much rather be told to open up whatever program it is and not have his ICT time wasted!
Rule two:Diarmid thinks that once you ask children what they can do you know what they can do,(doh) then let them do more good stuff and they won't get annoyed.
Now we're giving you a bit of an aside. <when my teacher wants us to do anything on word we all have to sit on the carpet and then she shows us where to click to get the hilighter (etc etc etc ad infinitum - I'm reporting verbatim here!)
Why is this a waste of your time Diarmid? Because I already know how to do it.
And so it goes on and on. meanwhile, Diarmid's time sitting on the carpet has given him lots of time to work out in his head what he next wants to do in his cloud computer project; or what widgets he might need - or his mum might need - or what cool tunes he might download for his . Then he gets shouted at for not paying attention.
I ask you.
You really hit the mark here! Great post. So sorry that it rings so true for my boy.

David said...

Hello Catriona

I'm sorry this post so accurately reflects Diarmid's experience. It sounds like he could add another half dozen of his own!

Hanan Jasim said...

I like your post. David ,I just wanted to add one more thing to what discourage pupils from becoming Computing Scientists; do not let pupils use Help program especially when they are working on any of Microsoft packages and show them how to use look up function in Excel for example.

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