Are kids still as excited by school computers as we once were?

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Commie_User
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Are kids still as excited by school computers as we once were?

Post by Commie_User » Mon Jul 09, 2018 2:59 pm

I note the recent topics about BBC BASIC in schools, plus this Micro Live episode: https://computer-literacy-project.pilot ... 0c24ad1306

When I was at school, even that black, Z80-powered RM box of nothing was enough to get my heart racing. Then with the later Nimbus PCs (we seemed to be an RM district), I enjoyed many tastes of what was simply impossible with the different gaming machines we had at home. If we did have any at home. Even one of the most awful teachers I ever met couldn't quite crush the excitement of working in his class - even doing spreadsheets - and I loved tinkering with BASIC and other oddsies outside of it. It didn't matter that, in retrospect, most of these computers were capable of so little that when crude thumbnail multimedia came along, I felt like a virgin touched for the very first time.

I got to wondering if kids these days are as keen to get their hands on the school computers now, as so many have their own PCs, not to mention smartphones and consoles. And on top of that, when every magical wish for a computer to do can now be granted and kids know their gear inside-out.

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SarahWalker
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Re: Are kids still as excited by school computers as we once were?

Post by SarahWalker » Mon Jul 09, 2018 4:22 pm

I can't speak about now, but when I was at school (mid 90s to early 2000s), there was basically no excitement about school computers from the kids. Particularly if they were Acorns. No one cared, really.

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Re: Are kids still as excited by school computers as we once were?

Post by tricky » Mon Jul 09, 2018 4:39 pm

When I was at school, there wasn't one until I was 12 and then we had one for the whole school; a Sharp MZ80K. This caused great excitement in 0.3% of pupils (two mates and I) although the ratio may have peaked at nearer 3% later.
My daughter is now 12 and can't stand computer lessons, whether it is scratch, python or "whatever" on tablets or "whatever"!
She says "why would I care - like!".
I have failed her and let myself down, but with an iPhone in her pocket, I can see it from her point of view (even though she is wrong!).

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Re: Are kids still as excited by school computers as we once were?

Post by Commie_User » Mon Jul 09, 2018 4:59 pm

Perhaps the subject matter in school computer lessons were necessarily flat and un-fun, even then. All the same, especially with the colourful BBC-like Nimbus machines in the 80s, I remember kids awaiting their eager turn on one of the school's few micros.

I remember that even for my excitement, I was still pretty intimidated by them for years. I doubt today's kids feel that at least.

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Elminster
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Re: Are kids still as excited by school computers as we once were?

Post by Elminster » Mon Jul 09, 2018 5:06 pm

Commie_User wrote:
Mon Jul 09, 2018 2:59 pm
.

I got to wondering if kids these days are as keen to get their hands on the school computers now, as so many have their own PCs, not to mention smartphones and consoles. And on top of that, when every magical wish for a computer to do can now be granted and kids know their gear inside-out.
As I run the local school code club I can say a resounding YES. But as it is optional I can’t realy comment on the majority that don’t go.

Although that could be because I promised minecraft for last session of the academic year!
Last edited by Elminster on Mon Jul 09, 2018 5:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Are kids still as excited by school computers as we once were?

Post by flaxcottage » Mon Jul 09, 2018 5:09 pm

"IT and computers are boring! Can we go on the internet, sir?"

That was a common litany three years ago when I was still teaching in secondary schools. Computers at home can do so much more than computers in schools. School computers are frequently out of date so that they cannot run the latest software. The networks are so locked down that nothing interesting can be installed and if the school is unlucky enough to have a managed IT service (what a misnomer) the red tape, countless risk analyses and "Sorry it isn't compatible with Windows 10" are enough to scupper any enthusiasm.

Primary schools are another matter. There teachers are inventive and the children have not had the enthusiasm for learning knocked out of them yet. Where there is an inspirational teacher and exciting equipment like, for example, FUZE systems for computer control, students still clamour to use the school's computers.

In secondary schools there are quite a few where teachers run clubs such as a high altitude computer club which sends Raspberry Pi computers up to the edge of space to take scientific measurements and photographs. At A-Level one school I know of had a student who produced a laser seagull scarer. A Raspberry Pi with a camera module identified the seagull. This linked to an Arduino, which controlled servo motors attached to a laser to track the seagull and fire the laser to scare it away.

In these cases I should say "yes" students are still excited by the school's computers. As ever, a lot depends on the teacher. An exciting, stimulating, enthusiastic teacher will have similarly excited students.
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Re: Are kids still as excited by school computers as we once were?

Post by pixelblip » Mon Jul 09, 2018 5:54 pm

The one thing about the BBC B was that you switch it on and it came on straight away. You can get into it straight away. You didn't wait for it to boot up. You could plug it into your telly and get going.

That immediacy is important. The limitations are also important. BBC Basic was really well thought out. I find I struggle with Python and languages today. What do they have to seem unnecessarily so hard? The syntax doesn't help. I am generalizing here I realise.

When I see the languages now ( Python e.g ) and a Raspberry Pi I don't see it in the same way I did a BBC Micro back then ........there is something about having an all in one computer like a beeb that can produce music and graphics that stimulates the mind when you first use it.
Of course you could argue a Pi is all in one but I found when I bought mine I didn't have an HDMI to vga adaptor. Getting it to work was a hassle.

My avatar I use here is the first game I ever played . I will never forget the feeling of first seeing this.....to me the excitement of anything is possible looking at the colour and sound comes back to me thinking about that first experience.

That imagination and magic is what it is about.
I think we have lost this to a certain degree. Windows in some respects has made computers pretty boring! VR is an exciting new technology that might help us re-create that new world of discovery again.

The trouble is today technology is everywhere but back then it was a real treat to use a computer. I look back at those early times today realising it was a voyage of discovery - but didn't realise at the time. It was all about the limitations.
Last edited by pixelblip on Mon Jul 09, 2018 5:56 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Are kids still as excited by school computers as we once were?

Post by Commie_User » Mon Jul 09, 2018 6:22 pm

flaxcottage wrote:
Mon Jul 09, 2018 5:09 pm

Primary schools are another matter. There teachers are inventive and the children have not had the enthusiasm for learning knocked out of them yet. Where there is an inspirational teacher and exciting equipment like, for example, FUZE systems for computer control, students still clamour to use the school's computers.
That should explain ROB The Robot for the Nintendo. Looks an odd choice now for a company wanting their console marketed as anything other than a games system but I completely forgot that 'science project' feel, which sensible computers like the Beeb were known for.

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Re: Are kids still as excited by school computers as we once were?

Post by Commie_User » Mon Jul 09, 2018 6:35 pm

flaxcottage wrote:
Mon Jul 09, 2018 5:09 pm
The networks are so locked down that nothing interesting can be installed and if the school is unlucky enough to have a managed IT service (what a misnomer) the red tape, countless risk analyses and "Sorry it isn't compatible with Windows 10" are enough to scupper any enthusiasm.
At our secondary school, we had just the one proper computers teacher and he handled all the maintenance himself. I'm sure I recall other guys coming in to help installations but by and large, there was only the odd terminal PC opened up for repair and plenty of tinkering around on the server side.

He did used to get bitchy when some of us would simply switch off the machines instead of logging out of Windows to get back to DOS. There would apparently be more tinkering when sometimes the next cold boot would fail.

I don't recall anything about red tape or the stuff we needed not working but then, I suppose I wouldn't. He just did it all. However, with RM-brand PCs, we needed quite a few specialist versions just so Windows and whatnot would run.

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Re: Are kids still as excited by school computers as we once were?

Post by RobC » Mon Jul 09, 2018 7:55 pm

As a kid in primary school when computers first appeared, getting to use the school's Beeb for a day was a big thing. However, computers were new and exciting at the time and few of us had computers at home - I had a ZX81 so getting to use the Beeb was still very exciting.

I think it's inevitable that kids are less excited now - after all, computers are so common that there's bound to be less excitement. And of course, computers don't come more exciting than the Beeb :D

Having said that, my 9-year-old daugther was very excited to use Sphero at school last week.

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Re: Are kids still as excited by school computers as we once were?

Post by Elminster » Mon Jul 09, 2018 9:13 pm

Same as anything really. These days people treat cars as a thing for get from a to b, 100 years ago they were a thing of wonder. And to use one you need to be rich, work for someone who was rich or be a really good general mechanic.

But in the young cars are still a thing of excitement, especially at night in the local Tesco car park.

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Re: Are kids still as excited by school computers as we once were?

Post by flaxcottage » Tue Jul 10, 2018 8:41 am

Commie_User wrote:
Mon Jul 09, 2018 6:35 pm

At our secondary school, we had just the one proper computers teacher and he handled all the maintenance himself. I'm sure I recall other guys coming in to help installations but by and large, there was only the odd terminal PC opened up for repair and plenty of tinkering around on the server side.
Ah, those were the days. :D

Sounds like you went to my school. Ha ha! To get anything working in the computer line BITD one had to do it oneself. There was no money to do otherwise.

Our Econet spanned 1.2Km. Impossible I now read but nobody told us then so we put it in over a weekend. It worked flawlessly until the school was destroyed in 2006. When we moved to Ethernet I insisted a specialist company be hired to do the wiring throughout the school (There was a great deal of old dust and dirt that caused every scratch and cut to turn septic; rather they had that than I.) The wiring diagram was to my design, though. Commissioning the network was down to me as was managing and maintaining the network. In those days there was no 'it can't be done!' Miracles we performed as a matter of course; the impossible took a day longer.

Technology advances, however. What could be done easily then by an enthusiastic amateur cannot be done today. Schools now have dedicated IT support staff to manage the network, hardware, software and website, hence the rise of red tape. There has to be a document trail to justify the existence of the support staff; document trails mean red tape. This is even worse for a managed IT service as the management company will span many schools and will charge each school for every piece of maintenance/support. Even more red tape arises due to supply contracts, etc. Under those regimes gone are the days when, if a mouse broke, one could get a replacement from the stock cupboard and just plug it in. :(
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Re: Are kids still as excited by school computers as we once were?

Post by Commie_User » Tue Jul 10, 2018 8:53 am

Is that anything like the PFI they have in the NHS?

I'm surprised at our current governing party. There wasn't all this meddling last time. Surely there ought to be an insurance scheme where schools pay in and they can pick whichever service team they need at the moment, if they need a website. Or if they DIY, only manufacturer warranties may be nullified. That sounds way less stifling than the bureaucratic nightmare of now. And to think computers are easier now, not harder.

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Re: Are kids still as excited by school computers as we once were?

Post by Elminster » Tue Jul 10, 2018 8:58 am

flaxcottage wrote:
Tue Jul 10, 2018 8:41 am

Technology advances, however. What could be done easily then by an enthusiastic amateur cannot be done today. Schools now have dedicated IT support staff to manage the network, hardware, software and website, hence the rise of red tape. There has to be a document trail to justify the existence of the support staff; document trails mean red tape. This is even worse for a managed IT service as the management company will span many schools and will charge each school for every piece of maintenance/support. Even more red tape arises due to supply contracts, etc. Under those regimes gone are the days when, if a mouse broke, one could get a replacement from the stock cupboard and just plug it in. :(
Applies to more than schools..... Even working for an IT System Inegrator I used to have issues if my company laptop went wrong (so I dumped it, got my own mac and do my own support, get away with it becuase executives have Mac's so you can generally do everythign you need to do with one).

But I remember working for a large well known university where I the Unix admin, VMS admin, Windows Admin, Oracle DBA, built the PCs, plumbed in the network, changes the tapes, changed the printer toner, keyholder for building, and if I still had the time, change the bottle on the water cooler. Was annoying at the time, sometimes I miss it when I know how to fix something but I am not allowed as I am in the wrong team.

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Re: Are kids still as excited by school computers as we once were?

Post by z0m8ied0g » Thu Jul 12, 2018 8:45 am

Elminster wrote:
Tue Jul 10, 2018 8:58 am
But I remember working for a large well known university where I the Unix admin, VMS admin, Windows Admin, Oracle DBA, built the PCs, plumbed in the network, changes the tapes, changed the printer toner, keyholder for building, and if I still had the time, change the bottle on the water cooler. Was annoying at the time, sometimes I miss it when I know how to fix something but I am not allowed as I am in the wrong team.
I used to manage the IT for a reasonably large factory that uses a lot of integration. I now work as a contractor for the same company as the IT moved to their group IT. It now takes me 2 - 3 weeks to get something that I know would have taken me 5 minutes. It doesn't surprise me that big companies never get anything done. Plus nobody is pro-active, they just wait for stuff to break, I used to be on the lookout and if a printer cartridge needed changing then I had a script to tell me so that when I was in that part of the factory I could take one with me and change it out on the way to do something else.
Acorn... lots of Acorn... http://blog.retroacorn.net

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Re: Are kids still as excited by school computers as we once were?

Post by Elminster » Thu Jul 12, 2018 8:50 am

z0m8ied0g wrote:
Thu Jul 12, 2018 8:45 am
Plus nobody is pro-active, they just wait for stuff to break,
I think people start pro-active but they get beaten down by the system.

Edit: The irony is that Dev-Ops is all abotu the generalist so we could start going back to the 'old ways'. At least in smaller companies anyway.
Last edited by Elminster on Thu Jul 12, 2018 8:51 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Are kids still as excited by school computers as we once were?

Post by z0m8ied0g » Thu Jul 12, 2018 3:13 pm

Elminster wrote:
Thu Jul 12, 2018 8:50 am
z0m8ied0g wrote:
Thu Jul 12, 2018 8:45 am
Plus nobody is pro-active, they just wait for stuff to break,
I think people start pro-active but they get beaten down by the system.
Yep I know a few good people who try to sort out issues then their management make them jump through hoops till they no longer want to help.
Acorn... lots of Acorn... http://blog.retroacorn.net

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Re: Are kids still as excited by school computers as we once were?

Post by OliviaKelly83 » Wed Sep 12, 2018 7:53 am

Or course they are not. I was born in the mid 90s and we already were not excited about computers cause everyone had one at home and it wasn't anything extraordinary. Now, I imagine it's gotten 1000x worse. My five year old niece just saw a PC for the first time some time ago (she only knows laptops, tablets and phones) and was thoroughly unimpressed.

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