Stepping up to Code
Over the past fifteen years or so I have flirted with coding in my position as Head of Science and Head of ICT in a middle school. The requirements for coding has not been a part of the UK education systems' relationship with computers in the classroom. The use of WYSWYG applications such as Macromedia Flash, Microsoft's FrontPage is about as close as most teachers of ICT have come to coding. We now have a need for coding skills in schools.
Having tinkered about with coding in HTML and other languages along with a very long ago remembered relationship with early BASIC and Machine Code a formal "Hello World" approach was needed. So looking for a "modern" start I enrolled on the edX course Computer Science CS50x. This is a whole semester course (half an academic year to those of us used to British University systems of terms). So far this has been a great course, something that should feature in Year 1 of all UK university courses no matter what your discipline as a core passing course (ie you not do have a grade just pass or fail). Certainly something similar would have been useful later when I was grappling with analysing data from large field and pot experiments for efficacy of fertilisers.
For the short term I needed to get up to speed again (?) very quickly with how to code. I selected a course from ALISON.com , Diploma in Programming in C. Having had a little experience with C, I started to work my way through the course. A little hard to follow as a lot of information delivered by white board and screen capture, since there are no notes to download. This is in contrast with the edX course where there are full transcripts of the lecture and the possibility to download resources to go on your iPod Touch, MP3 player, PDF on Kindle etc. The ALISON course is quite taxing on the memory where assessments come about with 80% pass rate needed for the assessment. It is possible to bale out and restart the start the test. I needed to do this twice since the string reading for the answer and the question were often not specific enough to allow success. A feature of validation is that at any time after certification you can login and sit a test again to validate your understanding for anybody that is interested. This makes sure that skills are maintained to be current apparently.
So tools downloaded and followed so far with ALISON are the Codeblocks C++ compiler . A useful website is Codepad which is an online compiler and more importantly also covers Python. Python is used with the SDK AppEngine to create Google Course Builder e-Learning Courses. Python also seems to be embraced as well by the Raspberry Pi community.
So conclusion can now programme a little more efficiently in C++ with a better understanding of the Computer Science. Next step is to start to get to grips with Python and look to writing a Google Course Builder App!