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What is IT now?

A personal chronology into Computing

Chatting with @ReallySchoolK on Twitter recently about her brilliant blog: From Techno-snore to Techno-score – Nexus Education (nexus-education.com) inspired me to reflect on my own experiences.  This article was also partly inspired by the results of an on-line pupil poll my colleague and I ran during the start of the Summer Term 2022.  The poll was designed to capture what my bosses call ‘pupil voice’.  It is essentially to enable to show the classes we work with what they think of our teaching practice.

History of Computing

One of the results from the poll was a strong expression of interest for learning about the history of computing.  I have been thinkering with technology since my first computer in 1982 which was this:

I have also had a life-time so far of working with technology.  At the training I have delivered to colleagues on their Early Career Teachers (ECT) pathway, I talk about this experience too from 1986:

I therefore feel sufficiently knowledgeable about the technological evolution over our living memories.

Hello World…

Being of an age where I have more senior moments than coherent ones, I find it difficult to pin-point exactly the moment IT literally began for me.  It must have been a combination of peer interest, media influence and having these at school:

Commodore PET, circa 1982 (source: oldcomputers.net/pet4032.html)

It was also the time when door to door sales people would call by selling contracts to buy a set of Encyclopaedia Britannica to pay by interest free instalments as well as touch typing courses on one of these:

Scheidegger Typewriter

Scheidegger typewriter (source: oztypewriter.blogspot.com)

As I was not into any sort of sport, I managed to persuade my wonderful parents to buy me a place on the touch typing course.  The touch-typing I had persuaded my family to subscribe to was held at this local landmark:

Woodside House, Wood Green

Woodside House, London N22 (source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Meehan_House#)

The ability to confidently use a slide rule and read trigonometric tables were what my Dad understood to be the valuable skills of the future. He remained supportive but disparaging about me wanting to learn to type. ‘No place for a boy to learn such skills’ was the attitude of his opinion. Forty-plus years on I type at a speed of around 70wpm and accuracy of approximately 90 percent.

SMP Elementary Tables 1980s

SMP Elementary Tables booklet (source: https://alan001946.files.wordpress.com)

Teenage clicks…

My passion during my Secondary school years was buying monthly magazines like these:

Your Computer Magazine, April 1983

Your Computer Magazine, April 1983 (source: flashbak.com)

on my way home from school to sit and copy type the pages of code. Inevitably there would be a misprint in many editions. I would have to wait a whole month for the next issue to be published in order to be able to correct any errors. It is incredible to think how software companies now provide round-the-clock support services. This has made people’s current expectations of dealing with software faults so much higher.  Social media has also been an incredibly powerful means of solving programming problems too.

This dedication to programming is what my parents attribute to my poor academic performance at 16.  In my defence, there were other distractions too which I’m more than happy to chat about over a #TeaEd in the real world.

Curriculum control

From my work in schools, it has become evident that what is taught in schools is determined by so many factors. These factors are actually beyond the control of teachers and their learners.  This statement might sound obvious and rather like a “Case of constipation, Mr. Holmes” as the modern Dr. Watson might blog.  It is however worth deconstructing this hypothesis to truly understand how such decisions impact on participation rates at 16 and 18 plus.  Apologies for finishing this article with such an academic tone.  

Thank you for reading.  Continue the conversation with me on Twitter: @TsuiAllen and ooh! hashtag #TeaEd  

Tea and biscuits          

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The author

Allen Tsui

Allen Tsui is the subject lead for Computing at a primary school in North East London where he has held the role since Summer 2020. The school Allen has worked for since December 2015 is part of a twelve school Multi-Academy Trust. During school year 2020-21, Allen was tasked by senior colleagues at the Trust to work forty percent of his week at one of the Trust’s (former) Secondaries to teach Computer Science A-Level. The students he was working with all achieved the grades they required in Summer 2021 for their first choice of University entrance or Apprenticeship programmes. Since September 2021 Allen has been working across the neighbouring schools within the Trust teaching Computing to Years 4, 5 and 6. He also jointly teaches Reception at both schools as well as the Year 1 classes at his ‘base’ school.

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