00_NOP writes: This week's New Scientist reports that Duolingo, a free online langauge learning service that also aims to translate the web is showing positive reults — with students taking 34 hours to reach the same level of proficiency in Spanish as first semester University students. The site is certainly easy to use and makes some bold claims about its values and aims — worth a second look, for sure.
00_NOP writes: "New proposals, commissioned by the UK government from the British Computing Society (BCS) for a computing (ICT) curriculum for schools in England have been published and they are a huge step forward from the existing teaching, now widely discredited, of how to use various "office" products. But there is some confusion about what they actually contain: the formal proposals do not contain some of the ideas that have been spun to the media. Most eye-catchingly, this morning's reports suggest 11 year olds will be taught how to write apps for cell phones but no such proposal is in the paper from the BCS — are we about to see a new form of corporate lock-in with Google, Apple and Microsoft battling to get their technology adopted even while the real world moves on to completely new multicore paradigms?"
00_NOP writes: "BINSIC is a reimplementation of Timex Sinclair 1000/1500 (ZX80/ZX81) BASIC that runs on Groovy/Java and is supplied, to start you off, with a BASIC script that runs the hacker classic Conway's Game of Life. BINSIC — the name stands for Binsic Is Not Sinclair Instruction Code — actually extends the Sinclair BASIC (e.g. to support an ELSE clause in IF..THEN..ELSE) but does have a few issues about GOTO statements (the lack of native support for them in Java and Groovy makes them very difficult to emulate — though GOTO does work outside loops. The BASIC of the 1980s was crude but also had some expressive power lacking in today's much more sophisticated programming environments — INPUT can do in one line what it takes Java 20 to 25 lines to master. The initial thought for the "domain" was introducing kids' to programming skills (something also taken up by the RaspberryPi people) but now I am not so sure, but I hope it brings fun if nothing else."
00_NOP writes: "The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project has disappointed in Peru, reports the Economist, apparently because in general teachers did not make creative use of the technology. As in other cases the computers seem to have been regarded as ends in themselves rather than tools to help change the ways kids are taught. Quite disappointing for those of us looking for Linux-Global-Domination but not really much of a surprise given the experience in richer countries either."
00_NOP writes: "Everybody (or almost everybody) in England agrees that computing teaching to kids in high school is broken. In response the government promised a radical overhaul and a new curriculum. But then last week it was discovered the government had scrapped the bit of the education department that would develop any such curriculum. Not to be deterred John Naughton, the Cambridge University academic who wrote the "Short History of the Future" has now published his own "radical" manifesto on how computing should be taught."
00_NOP writes: "About two weeks ago the British education secretary waxed lyrical about the prospects and opportunities for pupils in English schools that will come from his plans to reform the schools computing curriculum. This week, though, it has been revealed that his department is to spend some of its money — in short supply because of spending cuts — on a new school that will not teach computing because it is only a "skill" and not suitable for an institution that aims to copy the ethos of England's top public (ie fee paying) schools. Languages are to be taught, though: why they are something more than a mere "skill" is not so clear. The headteacher of the new school is Katharine Birbalsingh, who quit her previous job after launching a very public attack on the education system at the 2010 conference of the ruling Conservative Party."
00_NOP writes: "UK education secretary Michael Gove is today (11 Jan) to announce that the "Information and Communications Technology" (ICT) curriculum for schools in England (he does not have this power for the other parts of the UK) is to be scrapped. The English ICT curriculum has been attacked from all sides in recent weeks and IT business leaders have led the charge in calling for the teaching of computer science as opposed to the current emphasis on how to use a word processor or spreadsheet or other commonly used applications. But given that the curriculum will be scrapped without a replacement, will this make things better or worse?"