Friday, 27 April 2012

To program or not to program ...

... that is a question that is getting an increasing airing these days, especially when it comes to schools. Following hot on the subroutines of the BBC Micro anniversary the Sinclair Spectrum celebrated its 30th birthday this week. More on this via the Register. Now the Raspberry Pi is finally reaching its market and the low price and included easy and not-so-easy programming languages [including Scratch, Python, Java and C/C++] would make it an ideal schools machine. ICT is not synonymous with spreadsheets and data-prep after all.

I read about the BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones's description of attending a coding course recently. The story is on the BBC web site. This appeared to be mostly to do with HTML and CSS with some JavaScript for good measure and certainly exercised some Register readers (and their ever-readable ringmaster Andrew Orlowski) as to what the value of this was, and even whether using HTML and CSS was even coding. Probably not ... but I continue to be frustrated on a regular basis by the lack of logic that seems to permeate CSS which might even make it anti-code! But enough of my problems.

I've long held the view that to manage a process you should know something of how it works. Up until the latest version of Managing Interactive Media we included a number of technical backgrounders on the component parts of multi/interactive media – such as audio, graphics and programming – to help this process. The final versions of these, from the third edition, are available free on the web as PDFs. If you read the testimonials from the course RCJ attended you will see that many of the executives who attend such things (run by a company called Decoded ... of whom I must say I have no direct experience) are of the same view.
When we have a better-than-skin-deep understanding of technology, two things happen: we have better ideas and we also treat our internal and external partners in a considerably more effective manner.
Says Mel Exon of BBH Labs. I couldn't agree more.

I would add that in my experience the technical people you work with will appreciate you more if you have a little experience of their expertise. At the very least you'll have more vocabulary in common.

[Bootnote: Should have invited RCJ on our course!]

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