The conference so far has been a tale of two halves. The keynotes have been spot on and really challenging, the breakouts have either been a bad case of poor choice on my behalf or have suffered from over inflated abstract itis.
Yesterday’s closing keynote was delivered by Dr Neil Selwyn from the University of London. Many of those teachers that surrounded me were quick to grumble that as Neil’s presentation concentrated on the state of elearning and integration of computers into the UK education system, that it was not relevant to them, missed the point. It was a cautionary tale. It was a tale of the fickleness of government a reflection of the economic realities of the global system. What is more if those around me were adherents to the political ideology of trickle down economics, then Neil’s message has the potential to herald the impact of deluge cuts in the elearning field from government funding. In short we ignore Neil’s message at our peril. There might be plenty of sand here, but putting our heads in it is not a good idea!
Then this afternoon we had another stellar presentation from Dr Chris Stephenson about Computational Thinking. In her presentation there were many stand out moments. Perhaps for me the key stand out slide was the graph of graduate output versus the job opportunities associated with the area of the degree. Chris made the point that currently there are 3600 computer science posts available at Redmond (Microsoft HQ) and no computer science graduates to fill the posts. But at the other end of the spectrum there are thousands of humanities graduates, graduating in the US, but with almost zero job opportunities for them.
Chris went on in great detail about computational thinking and how these lessons need to be integrated into the curriculum. It made me think of those great tools that I have been introducing to classrooms, such as Cargo Bot, Gamemaker and Scratch to get students to problem solve through programming. whilst these are not the scenario based solutions that Chris was illustrating, they do form part of the continuum of skills to illustrate this branch of learning to students at an early age.