I’m currently attending ITiCSE 2013 which is one of the world’s major conferences looking at Computer Science Education.
One of the major changes being discussed related to the planned changes in the way that Computing is taught in schools within the UK. Simon Peyton Jones (of Haskell fame) delivered a keynote address about his work with the Computing At School project, and this subject has also been picked up in discussions in person, in Twitter and during panel sessions.
The main problem expressed with Computing at school has been the focus on ICT skills. That is, trying to ensure that children are able to use computer packages (particularly Microsoft Office) and consume information, but not understanding the mechanics and science behind computers.
That approach has been said to be damaging to pupils, with GCSE coursework based around taking hundreds of screenshots. There have also been expressions that this is demoralising to staff, with the low level of teaching not allowing them to engage pupils (one delegate reported having to teach fashion students how to use a mouse).
The alternative, which is being pushed, is to offer several different choices of Computing qualifications, analogous to how Science may turn out Physics specialists as well as people with a more general Combined Science qualification. The push needs to be to treat Computing on a level with other core subjects.
The recommendations from the Computing At School Working Group include students being exposed to Computer Science from an early age, gaining a practical understanding of topics such as algorithms and logic. All of the GCSE accreditation bodies are now offering qualifications in Computer Science as well as in ICT. And, funding for training school teachers has now moved away from training ICT teachers to instead training Computer Science teachers.
One of the outstanding questions is how these changes will impact upon study at university level. Will students be arriving at university with higher level skills, thus requiring university courses to start and end at a more advanced level? Will at interest in Computer Science at school increase the uptake of Computer Science at university? As Computer Science is repositioned, universities will have to adapt to the changes.