Sunday, March 18, 2012

Fun On Friday #141: Nerd Humour

Apologies in advance for this because a) it's very late an b) it's even more niche than usual.
I came across this joke recently and it occurred to me that its main appeal is to nerdy computer types... like me!
82/366: Bender by DavidDMuir
82/366: Bender, a photo
by DavidDMuir on Flickr.
A wife asks her husband, a programmer, "Could you go to the shops and buy one carton of milk, and if they have eggs, get six!"
A short time later the husband comes back with six cartons of milk. The wife asks him, "Why did you buy six cartons of milk?"

He replied, "Well, they had eggs."

So this started me thinking of other computer nerd friendly jokes. Here are the three that came to mind:
There are 10 types of people in the world. Those that get binary and those that don't.

Which reminded me of this one:
Why do Computing Scientists get confused between Halloween and Christmas?

Because 31Oct = 25Dec

And finally, on an unrelated theme:
Helvetica and Times New Roman walk into a bar in the Wild West. The barman shouts, "Hey! I've told you before. We don't serve your type here!"

To which Times New Roman replies, "Oh yeah? How would you like to tell that to the Serif?"

On a scale of one to ten, how bad are they? And more to the point, can you do better? Leave your computer nerd jokes in a comments.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

TESS - Get With The Program

There's a great four page feature on Computing in schools in last week's Times Educational Supplement (Scotland). It's titled "Get with the program".

277/366: Drag and drop by DavidDMuir
277/366: Drag and drop,
a photo by DavidDMuir on Flickr.
It starts, inevitably, with the Raspberry Pi (see Raspberry Pi - Further comment if you don't know what this is) and then gives a quick summary of what is happening in England. It talks about a report from the Royal Society (which I want to say more about in future post) but then moves onto the state of play in Scotland:
"So where does that leave Scotland? Most experts argue that Scotland’s delivery of computing science has been superior to that of England for some time - but that it too needs to raise its game."
-- Time Educational Supplement Scotland, 9 March 2012
It's a good article - by which I mean it says a lot of the things that I've been saying for years. :-) For example, it quotes Scotland's chief science advisor as saying she wants, "schools to treat computing science on a par with physics, chemistry and biology." Brilliant!

Other good stuff includes a brief description of Computational Thinking (which some people think should form the basis of Computing courses), a section on National Qualification Group Awards featuring Kate Farrell and a plug for Computing At School - Scotland.

It doesn't say anything that I haven't heard from fellow Computing specialists before but it packages together statistics, ideas, links and discussion points and brings them all to a wider educational community.

Lots to think about and lots to discuss. If you haven't read it already, check it out now and let me know what you think we should talk about first.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Fun On Friday #140: Extra, extra! Three Little Pigs!

Another advert this week:

It's not a new idea, to take a fairy story and turn it into a news report, but I liked the way they updated the story and linked it to current events.

What do you think? Scope to do this in the classroom with other stories?

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Raspberry Pi - Further comment

I wrote about the launch of the Raspberry Pi in Rasberry Pi Is Launched and enjoyed following some of the comment posted by others. I particularly liked an article, The Raspberry Pi can help schools get with the program, which I was directed to by The UK ICT Education Daily.

Raspberry Pi pre-release board by jared_smith
Raspberry Pi pre-release board,
a photo by jared_smith on Flickr.
The article is good. First, it explains that the 10,000 units were sold out within minutes of the site opening for sale. Now, compared to the number of units a company like Apple ships, that may be small potatoes but the Raspberry Pi is a very niche product. Ten thousand units sold out in minutes, and goodness knows how many more ordered by people who were late to the party - I think that's stunning.

The article is also interesting because it talks about a distinction that needs to be drawn between ICT and Computing. This is something that I have banged on about many times before but I was especially struck by this sentence:
We've taken a technology that can provide "power steering for the mind" (as a noted metaphor puts it) and turned it into lesson for driving Microsoft Word.
This may not be an entirely fair characterisation of current courses but the phrase "power steering for the mind" is a powerful image.

The article also talks about Computing Science and asserts that:
...there's a major body of knowledge in this field – complete with a stable and intellectually rigorous conceptual framework that is independent of today's or yesterday's gadgetry...
It is good to see people talking about the science of computing, something that I think we need to communicate much more clearly. Perhaps there is then an inference that programming equals computing science which is too simplistic but at least gives a starting point that may help non-computing people see that there is more to the subject than ICT.

There are a couple of aspects though that I would want to challenge, or at least discuss further. First, there is a hint of the "Computing is the new Latin" argument in the article. It is not stated explicitly but it is suggested we are not teaching children to program because we want them to learn programming; no, we want them to learn citizenship and democracy, or logical thinking, or... But I want them to learn programming because I think it is good to be able to program! The fact that most pupils will not go on to be professional programmers is neither here nor there - there's loads of stuff that I learned at school that is apparently of no practical use to me in the job I do now - but I still believe it was worth learning and worth doing in the first place. Education and knowledge have a value beyond the utilitarian.

My other concern is the article talks about ICT education in "this country" in a way that seems to assume there is a common curriculum in "British secondary schools". Despite having Computing courses (and programming) in Scottish schools for around 30 years, we are still facing almost the same problems as the ones the experienced in England. We are finding numbers taking Computing at school are in decline and there is a drop in numbers for Computing courses at university too. We also see the same confusion between ICT and Computing muddying the water for pupils, school management, politicians and employers alike. My concern is that teaching programming in schools may be a necessary or even a desirable first step but on its own, it is not sufficient to bring about the changes the more enthusiastic supports of the Raspberry Pi hope to see.

The comments generated by the article are interesting too. Take time to read it and let me know what you think.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Fun On Friday #139: Copyright, shmopyright!

It is, of course, right that composers and lyricists are recognised. It is right that people do not make money by ripping off other people's effort. And it is right that the creativity is rewarded. But sometimes the copyright law is an ass.

Here's an example of someone challenging a particularly daft copyright claim:

For reasons beyond reason, the song Happy Birthday To You is (allegedly) protected by copyright. So thankfully Barats... or is it Bereta has produced: "...a copyright-free little ditty about an Egyptian river god who finds a place to sleep atop two sheep and a deer named Harrison, who also happen to be governors of Algiers before the French conquest in 1830."

Thanks to Daughter 1 for bringing this to my attention.