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Ask Slashdot: What Were You Taught About Computers In High School? 632

An anonymous reader writes "What was taught to you about computers in High School? Computer use and computer science in schools are regular headlines, but what 'normal' do we compare it to? It's not a shared reference. A special class with Commodore PETs was set up just after I graduated, and I'm only starting to grey. Everybody younger has had progressive levels of exposure. What was 'normal' for our 40-, 30-, and 20-year olds here? And how well did it work for you, and your classmates?" For that matter, what's it like now — if you're in middle or high school now, or know students who are, what's the tech curriculum like?
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Ask Slashdot: What Were You Taught About Computers In High School?

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  • by rwa2 ( 4391 ) * on Sunday October 07, 2012 @06:38PM (#41579315) Homepage Journal

    Summer school, sure...

    In the 80s, went to some summer camp after 2nd grade that had some science and tech classes... apart from getting into trouble by sticking a knife into an electrical outlet and playing lots of Spy Hunter (I was like, a god for a day because I made it to the boats level), that was probably my first into to Logo. But we didn't do anything amazing with it.

    Somewhere around 6th grade at an International Catholic school in Thailand they gave us a touch typing class. That was genuinely useful, and accounts tracked our progress over the sessions, which was pretty remarkable given that they were green-screen DOS boxes or something crappy and barely networked. Later on in HS in the US, maybe 9th or 10th grade, they threw us in a short one-time "computer lab" with some typing tutor software, but that was crap.

    Around 11th grade (1994), we had some CAD work on Macs in tech ed., but that was only because we were in a special Science & Tech magnet program... don't think that would have been the norm at most high schools.

    Also, I used to spend my lunch breaks in the library, playing with the nice 3D graphing calculator on MacOS9. But I was, like, the only one, even in a magnet school.

    That was pretty much it. Everything else I learned from my own tinkering at home with a Turbo Pascal book, playing with POVRay, and reading my TI-85 calculator user's manual straight through and programming a crappy Galaga clone. I never felt like I had what it takes to become a fully-fledged CS programmer like my friends who were self-taught into doing awesome demoscene assembly, so I ran off and majored in mechanical and aerospace engineering instead. Engineers seem to get bigger computers to play with anyway :P

  • High School Now... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MisterMonday ( 2555300 ) on Sunday October 07, 2012 @06:49PM (#41579393)
    I'm currently a junior at high school, and really, the tech curriculum can't even be called that in my opinion. The best, and most in-depth, course at my school is Computer Science A AP (There used to be a B, but that was cancelled). I'm in it right now, and I basically sleep through all the classes. While it's true that for anyone who hasn't at any prior programming experience it's a bit more of a challenge, I only had a bare-bones introduction to C (not even a lot of pointer stuff, I had stop going to classes early), and even the object oriented stuff is not that hard. Granted, it's still early in the year. But in comparison, the rest of the tech curriculum is just Word Processing 101 and Microsoft Office. There's very little in the way of how computers work or how to program (Comp Sci AP is the only programming class). And it's a little depressing when you hear someone in your class say, "Wow, X person built a computer by himself," and you respond, "That's not too hard if he just bought the parts and put it together," and their next line is "But it's really hard. He must have programmed it himself and stuff." I think half the problem today is insufficient technology education in schools, which is why the "Tech Guy" stereotype even exists. And don't even get me started on the terrible security of my school district...
  • by ganjadude ( 952775 ) on Sunday October 07, 2012 @07:12PM (#41579641) Homepage
    We had a different kind of computer lab. When I was in 2nd grade or so (1992) we had a computer bus. It was a school bus converted to a lab with around 25 apple ]['s on it and would travel to all the elementary schools in the district (district had around 3000 kids total at the time give or take I believe) We would mainly use it to do math games at the time and the greatest days of the school year were when we got to play oragon trail. I got my first dos based system the next year and started learning the ins and outs.

    When we hit middleschool (96) they had just done an upgrade to their network running the latest and greatest compaqs loaded with windows 95. non green screens? to most in the school this was unheard of as the majority would have only used the machines in the previously mentioned computer bus up until this point. The only problem with this was that it was new. The teachers had no idea what they were doing there was 1 "computer guy" at the school and no real management other than 3rd party support. Thats where the geeks came in. myself and a few others who were messing around for a few years at this point had more access to the machines than the principal of the school. We were given full access to everything because we were "so smart" because we could install a printer driver or "log in". It was great learning the ins and outs of an entire network as up until this point I had only had my single machine to hold me over.

    Than around the time the original imac came out, someone convinced the school to order those to replace our highschools perfectly fine dell network. It turned into a disaster att he time because they only replaced maybe a dozen of the 40 or so machines in the labs. It would not have been too big of a deal but around this point in time they were becoming more strict about who had any access to the network and the new computer people were, well computer people and wanted to do everything their way. A mixed environment, around that period of time was not a pleasent experience, the printer was always out of order and had memory overloads (who thought sending 40 computers work to a printer with 400K of memory at the same time was a good idea, ill never know) Wireless was new technology being touted as the future for everything IP6 was coming to the masses within the next 2 years...10 years ago.

    so other than sparking my interest with the apple ][ in 1st or 2nd grade, I along with the other 4 or 5 geeks pretty much taught my teachers about comptuers, not the other way around
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 07, 2012 @07:35PM (#41579843)

    I went to a large high school from 1999 and graduated in 2003. We had three computer science classes and two programming classes. The programming classes were like Visual Basic I and Visual Basic II. The computer science classes were taught in Java.

    I'm amazed that there is no real effort to do much other than introduce computers in schools elementary/middle/and high school. Even that is more like an indoctrination to Microsoft/Apple/Adobe. Not something of value.

    Even in college I'd say 99% of it was self-taught.

    The way they should teach computer classes is with hands on lessons. They should cover concepts and not languages. They should teach kids to implement the concepts in demonstrations. Then have them re-implement those concepts. What you shouldn't have is a class called "Visual Basic".

    An introduction to computers class should be more about basic essential computer concepts like: basic networking (how to hook up a router/network/what a HUB is, router, modem, etc), the essential parts of a computer, search engines (using basic basic programming concepts/constructs like quotes, colons, site:eu, etc to find and narrow down content), security (what ssl is, how to identify it, etc), what free software is (difference between "free" and libre), introduction to typing (a few weeks at the most, not an entire class), etc. Introduction to scripting and the command line (think bash, ssh, etc), an introduction to operating systems and software installation/management (GNU/Linux, MS Windows, Mac, DOS, installing OS, BSD, installing software, package management, security updates, etc), an introduction to CSS, html, & javascript, and an introduction to graphics/video editing, an introduction (like one day) to presentation software, an introduction (a one or two day event) to spreadsheets and basic algorithms.

    A couple of hours instruction on each topic would probably be perfect. Give them instruction, test them, and move on. I think a class like this would be extremely interesting.

  • One of my teachers in high school brought boxes of punchcards to class and taught us how to read them. We each got a few hundred blank cards each and used the points of our compasses to "write" our first programs (I did a Fibonacci sequencer).

    All of the punched cards were taken to the University, which promptly (actually a few weeks later) sent us back a sheet of paper each, explaining why our programs couldn't be run...

    A few were allowed to correct their code and have it loaded and run on an actual computer (I think it was a CDC Cyber), including my Fibonacci program. Several weeks after my compass point touched its first chad, I received a fanfold page with the first 20 numbers of the Fibonacci sequence printed on it. I was hooked.

    Computing is a little more immediate these days.

  • Re:1979? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mcrbids ( 148650 ) on Monday October 08, 2012 @12:41AM (#41581505) Journal

    Ah, the DEC 11 series...

    I worked on (and loved) a (then) ancient DEC 11/750, which was, hands down, the most robust, reliable computer I've ever worked on. Armed with 4 MB of RAM and 1 GB of disk space (3x350-ish hard drives, each the size of a full dresser drawer) it managed to provide the needs of 30 or so staff in the 4-story building I worked in. This when a 386sx was considered some pretty hot stuff - the DEC had roughly the processing power of a 286.

    I was fascinated by the thing, and worked closely with the techie they called in when things went south, just because I wanted to and my boss trusted me to do the right thing. (I generally did) It was so advanced, it would detect bad memory, and not only reallocate the memory via Virtual memory to another memory spot (and log it so you knew which memory was bad) but would also identify what occupied the memory that had gone bad and pull the relevant programming from disk and continue executing the program.

    Once the A/C went out, and the room overheated, crashing the computer. It took most of a day to get the A/C fixed, and when it was fixed and the computer turned back on, all the programs that had been running when it died resumed working without a hitch, it had literally mapped all the memory to disk prior to shutdown.

    I was stunned. Never before (or since) have I seen such bad-assedry in a computer system I had the pleasure of working on, even though I now design/maintain a fault-tolerant, redundant, load balanced distributed compute cluster for a living, with at least a million times the horsepower of that elegant, beautiful 11/750.

The greatest productive force is human selfishness. -- Robert Heinlein