[ubuntu-uk] The problem with Bug #1

John Oliver jp.oliver at ntlworld.com
Fri May 10 18:26:19 UTC 2013

And yet regrettably the IT teachers are stuck on one system, bound by the equipment provided, and the IT support who usually run the network as well. 

The brighter ones will get the concept but many simply don't (or won't) understand and will end up more confused. I've been volunteering recently in a Year 7 class (Maths set 2) as an assistant and some of them are really genuinely bright and probably would understand the concept. Many in the class won't though, as young people are increasingly brought up expecting the program to do everything for them. I also switched to a different class this week of Year 7, but set 7 this time. They were a good class, but not, in my opinion, up to working out which program they were meant to use for spreadsheets without being told to open Excel. If given the choice of Excel, Numbers, LibreOffice Calc, OpenOffice Calc etc they simply wouldn't have coped. When I was in their position several years ago, we only had one class a week, and they still only have that. To get through the curriculum there simply isn't enough time for class discussion about alternative software, and I can't imagine IT Support, who I do enjoy a friendly relationship with, being to pleased to find out that a load of program had been installed or run on any school computer let alone a full OS being used - even just a teacher demo. 

I believe heavily in the principles of free software and software freedom, and I always found IT when I was in school incredibly boring because it really was a point and click coordinates exercise. Whilst some effort has been made to change this with the introduction of things like Scratch (visual game programming) into the curriculum, things have a long way to go before most students are really able to have the intuition to look through programs for functions and features, or to find an alternative if such features do not exist. But they are stuck in a world where they point and click in a cell in a spreadsheet and type in the formula written on the board (or projected on the screen/imperoed on to their screen). If I was to say "what if...?" perhaps 3 or 4 students would come up with a response but the rest of a class of 25-30 would be blank. 

The curriculum is changing of course, being just about the only Michael Gove policy I agree with, so perhaps we will not be in this position in 5 years time. I hold hope of it, but until then Excel is what it is. 

John Oliver

PS: I do rather like excel as a program even if some functions are hidden away in that tabular view. If on Windows and it was installed alongside LibreOffice I would likely choose Excel. I use LibreOffice at home.

PPS: I'm also playing devil's advocate a little here, to see what the community response is.

On 10 May 2013, at 08:53, Avi Greenbury <lists at avi.co> wrote:

> John Oliver wrote:
>> If you're in education trying to teach children to word process it simply
>> isn't faesable to try to explain the difference between proprietary
>> and open-source software etc and then to get them to make a choice.
> I think the notion of software freedom is absolutely the sort of thing
> that people claiming to be teaching IT to kids should be teaching to
> them.
> I don't think the person teaching them how to use a word processor
> should be doing that, but I don't think that should be the IT teacher,
> either.
>> Such a thing would be a massive logistical operation too -
>> demonstrations on a projector screen would be wrong for everyone who
>> chose the other system, and would have to be done again.
> It depends how you teach it. If you teach concepts then you're likely
> to find that kids will work out how to use both. If you teach the
> co-ordinates that need to be clicked on in order to carry out a
> specific task then obviously they'll only be able to use that one
> suite, but you're also doing it wrong.
> -- 
> Avi
> -- 
> ubuntu-uk at lists.ubuntu.com
> https://lists.ubuntu.com/mailman/listinfo/ubuntu-uk
> https://wiki.ubuntu.com/UKTeam/

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