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Thread: Computing in Scotland

  1. #1 Computing in Scotland 
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    Hey all,

    I'm part of a group formed by 12 universities in Scotland which is trying to combat the massive decline in people graduating with a computing science degree - not only in Scotland, but around the world. The main problem is the lack of awareness as to what computer science is and the industry around it. The vast majority of people think it's a poorly paid, monotonous, geeky job and everything is being outsourced overseas.

    It's really not and we need to change this image. I know I'm doing this from Scotland but it's a worldwide problem. If you can think of ways to help change this image that would be awesome. We could try and brainstorm a few here. Slogans or images or anything. Fun things, silly things, crazy things but not illegal things.

    In the meantime we've set up a website at www.computingscotland.org which if you've got the time would be great if you could give me any feedback.

    Thanks


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    WYSIWYG Moderator marnixR's Avatar
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    first of all, stop the rot to IT's image in the secondary schools, where "doing IT" is seen as a soft option because it hardly gets out of the starting blocks

    children get taught some very basic word processing, spreadsheet, presentation and maybe web design things, but tbh that's a bit like having a reading age of 10 and thinking that you're ready to write the next great british novel- any self-respecting, self-taught geek will have far surpassed A-level standards by the time he or she is 15

    also, too often IT usage is confused with developing IT, and if the dotcom bubble has taught us anything, it's that IT can't live in a vacuum but needs to be part of realistic business package, so here's the chance to start building options where IT is added to business studies to make it a more useful package in the real world


    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." (Philip K. Dick)
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    Yes, the computing curriculum in schools is definately something we're looking at and we are trying to get in dialogues with as many computing teachers as possible. Also, the Scottish curriculum is up for review soon and we're putting together a group to push computing to the front - if we don't it looks like it's going to be shoved into the same area as home economics and PE. This is an abomination as I personally can't believe how narrow minded the educational authorities are being. Do they not realise how large a role computers play in the world nowadays?

    The fact that IT in schools is not geeky enough for the geeks and too geeky and/or too boring for the non geeks is something that needs to be rectified. As a school subject it broaches very little about what the subject is about.

    Your last point is interesting. Yes, I think it's a good suggestion as currently computing courses at university are mostly in a vacuum. In most universities you have the option to do other subjects (and among those you could choose a business module) in first and second year but I think a compulsory module would be a good thing.

    Thanks for your thoughts
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  5. #4  
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    I must admit I have somehow gotten the same impression of IT being low paid and outsourced overseas. If this is an incorrect impression, I would be more convinced by statistics on salaries, job openings, projected demand, etc than any slogans or fun stuff.
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    We are looking at facts and figures (the average salary for a graduate position is £25,000/year and more if you're a developer since even fewer people are choosing that route) and working on how to present it in an interesting way. I wrote an article which addresses some of your concerns. I intentionally made it fact-lite because of the audience it was aimed at but there is call to provide resources that go into more detail.

    How do you think this would be best provided? In an article or a list? Perhaps something offline? Where do you think it would be best for us to target?
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    WYSIWYG Moderator marnixR's Avatar
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    another issue with the teaching of IT as part of other subjects (e.g. maths) is that some of the older teachers are less IT literate than the pupils they're supposed to teach

    all too often teachers are being told that a piece of new software is available for them to use, but there is no support in place if they're stuck
    so you either feel confident enough to teach yourself, or you push it to the back of your mind and hope that it will go away
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." (Philip K. Dick)
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  8. #7 Re: Computing in Scotland 
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    Quote Originally Posted by spl1nter
    Hey all,

    ...The main problem is the lack of awareness as to what computer science is and the industry around it. The vast majority of people think it's a poorly paid, monotonous, geeky job and everything is being outsourced overseas.
    spl1nter-- I think people actually do have a largely accurate impression of computer science. Uh, it *is* geeky, and, to most people, it is monotonous to sit in front of a computer for so many hours each day typing out strings in symbolic code. While in reality, at least those of us who get to do design and engineering work, get to spend a lot of time at white boards and with pen and paper, it's also true that coding is still a big part of the job. (again, that's boring-- to most people.)

    CS jobs do pay well, but only if you have one! There's very little stability in this field, because companies hire and fire in rapid cycles, and periods of unemployment are almost inevitable. And then by just 35 or 40, one starts encountering age discrimination in hiring. All of this is quite different than other professions! It's rare to see civil engineers or accountants- let alone teachers or lawyers with these kinds of challenges; one has no problem finding work all the way to 60 in these fields. The professional software development world requires constant retraining in new frameworks and environments as well, which is fun for some, but a burden for others. In short, nobody should enter this field unless they really like it and are absolutely willing to tolerate the unique stress and chaos that it has in other areas of life that become important after 30, such as family, income stability, and retirement.

    I believe young people should know what they're in for! I sadly see too many self-serving computer science departments these days trying to sugar-coat these truths due to scary declines in enrollments that threaten their funding. Those who truly love computing will still enter the field.
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