Feb 14 2010
The 2009 Owers lecture, yet again, generated a lively discussion following an inspirational presentation on Robotics by Kate Sim
Kate Sim explained her work with robotics as part school teacher and part Open University lecturer. The audience were grateful that there are still teachers like Kate who have found their way around the many constraints of finance, curriculum and formulaic testing to inspire students to world class achievements.
A question asked of Stephen Heppell when he proposed a computer science course; “Where will we get the teachers?” “Exactly”, was his reply.
.The discussion started with low spirits both Kate and Stephen highlighted what many of the audience knew, that computing and technology education needed for the 21st century is damaged and under threat. However the fact that the system is under so much strain, and predicted by Stephen to eventually collapse, offers hope as growing pockets of innovation develop here and across the world. At a time when we are constantly reminded about the threat from terrorists, financial collapse and climate change it appears we should be grateful that there are subversives in education. They, Stephen argued, offered hope and pragmatic solutions.
Illustrations were given of ICT examination courses which supplant practice with theory and do not reflect the real world of computer technologies.
Ian Sillet raised the problem of risk aversion in education
Ian Sillet raised the issue of risk aversion which was taken-up by Richard Green directorof DATA. Richard described how, very recently, a keen and capable young female teacher had carefully developed an interest and capability in systems and control in her school and approached her headteacher to ask if she could offer it at GCSE level. The headteacher refused on the grounds that it was a ‘difficult’ exam and risked the schools’ league table status.
Kate Sim had earlier explained how she had only been able to finance her robotics activities by exploiting short term funding for the gifted and talented.
The debate continues but hopefully not too long before the country awakens to threat highlighted by Stan Owers and realises that to combat terrorism, global warming and computer dependent financial systems requires the practical, creative and problem solving skills of engineers.