Didn’t you learn that at school?

When we all started studying at the HWR, it was really interesting to find out that even though we all have an Abitur with a really good grade average, we all learned different things. Especially in maths, there were always some people who said: „ Oh now this is easy, I did this in 12th grade“ and then others rather confused :“Um matrix like the film?“ These were of course no huge problems and everybody was able to cope with the differences perfectly. But it got me thinking about what you really should learn at school nowadays.

Where to get started?

As a lot of you already discussed in your other posts, technology’s influence and importance in our life has become undeniable. Right now, even the simplest student jobs require a „solid knowledge of microsoft office programs“. This obviously won’t hold any of us back, but I think that employers and professors at university tend to just expect us to know a whole lot more. But how are we supposed to know everything when nobody shows us?

Of course we learn through experience, but still we need someone to help us get started. In my case, I was lucky and my father showed me a lot of the basic things you need to know, because he uses the office programs for his work regularly. But what would children do that don’t have parents who can show them what to do? Since being able to efficiently use a computer, I think schools should offer computercourses as a mandatory subject.

“You learn for life and not for grades”

After all, in school you are always told: „ you learn for life and not for grades“, well then maybe we should be taught something that is really important for our future. Because you can’t expect all parents to teach computer tricks, since we are the first generation to really grow up with the computer. Therefore, most of us do know how to use the basic programs by now, some of you probably even really well, but do you know how the system really works? I for my sake have to say, I am perfectly able to use word and powerpoint, excel with a little help but it works. But now I am at the point where I would like to have a new laptop and have absolutely no idea what to look for and how to set the whole thing up. And this can really develop into a big problem, because we definitly need our laptops to work at university, or in other cases to bring them to work and so on.

First of all, I would suggest some general introduction courses, to get students to know the most common programs and to make them comfortable using a computer. There already exists such a program called „ Information and Communication Technonolgy ICT“ in the UK, India, Australia, Norway, Kenia and the Phillipines. These countries have integrated the course into their education system. The main idea ist hat students learn how to work with computers with already existing programs and to confront them with related social and ethical issues.




What to do?

In my opinion, this is a really good way of getting started. However this program has been harshly criticized because it is just that: a start. To show students how to use existing programs is bettern than nothing, obviously, but in a field so rapidly changing it will never help them to keep track with all the new innoventions. Critics argue that students should also gain a deeper knowledge, learn how to write their own little programms and understand HTML for example. Because if they understand the core concept that is the basis for every other program, they will have no problem adapting to new things. Even people like Ian Livingstone, the life president of the video games firm Eidos, voice their opinion on this matter:

It’s no coincidence that Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, was taught computer science at school, a subject which gave him practical skills and provided the intellectual underpinnings of his business”

He also told the BBC in an interview that “The current lessons are essentially irrelevant to today’s generation of children who can learn PowerPoint in a week. Children are being forced to learn how to use applications, rather than to make them. They are becoming slaves to the user interface and are totally bored by it,”.


Therefore, it is no wonder that Michael Gove, the british Secretary of State for Educationpromises huge changes in field, he wants to loosen up the traditional ICT curriculas to allow the schools to teach a more variable content and says that he will provide them with adequate teaching resources.

However, even though the current ICT teaching method may not be the best, some success was still made: The 16-year-old Nick D’Aloisio said to the BBC that web design lessons in Year 9 helped sparked his interest. “That was a useful introduction into the world of programming and design. And so I think if we can get in schools across the country more web design, more programming lessons, even if it’s very basic, we can raise awareness among students of the world of applications and how anyone can pretty much code a successful application these days.”

So I really hope that Germany, too, will make some changes in the education system concerning ICT courses, otherwise it will be tough to keep up.


 If you want to read the full article in the bbc news, follow this link: http://www.theschoolrun.com/forum/ict-be-scrapped-schools


39 responses to “Didn’t you learn that at school?

  1. Hey Alexandra,
    I think it is a good topic, because it is concerning all of us. Actually we should have learned more of this advanced Microsoft office applications in the first semester. We should. Nevertheless I have had such lessons in school; I have had lessons in Pascal and prolog where we were on our ways of writing programs like hangman. Although I have forgotten a lot of it, it was not a mistake to “have heard about it”. And I agree with you that especially the next generations should come more in touch with IT in school. I liked the structure of your post and I also liked the examples. Probably you could have included some issues concerning apple software, but I think this is not necessary. All in all you succeeded in writing a good post!

  2. Hello Alexandra,
    I definitely like your article and I share your point of view that we need more IT classes at school teaching basic computer programs! I am also often struggling with programmes, because it simply is as you state: “Who actually told us how to use them?”

    However, on the other hand I would be interested into the investments you would have to make.- Or do you think there are enough computers at all schools so that these classes can take place? Probably not all institutions have the suitable equipment. So, it would be nice to know of which amount of money we are talking to “fulfill this mission“. Have you read anything about the dimension, Alexandra?

  3. Hey Alex! 🙂
    First of all, I really like your blog post. Until now, I never have read an entry of you before but I just was so impressed by title that I HAVE to continue reading and writing this comment. That´s because I often have heard the somehow annoying question “Didn’t you learn that at school?” as well. During my first weeks in HWR, I recognized that the educational system of my German State is somehow unique. As you already mentioned, we all have had very different skills in maths; maths is a very appropriate example to explain the differences I experiences at this time. In Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, we have used a special “CAS”-calculator in the A-level classes. This calculator was able to compute for example zeros and derivatives of even very difficult functions. You, as a student, just have to know how this calculator works; and you are a lucky person. Of course, it was more than just typing in some numbers and requests, but because of using the CAS I somehow forgot how to derive a function really. Indeed, we also practised exercises without any calculator, but being at HWR in a maths class WITHOUT my CAS is torture; believe me!
    What I actually want to point out is that I can understand your problem because I also experienced it. Therefore, it was a pleasure to read your blog post! As well, I can identify with you if you state that you are actually good in computers, but don´t know what factors are important to buy a new one. I agree, a laptop is a very important equipment for university, I cannot imagine my everyday life at HWR without my netbook! If you are interested in the question whether we are already dependent on computers, you can read my current blog post (http://fastexposure.wordpress.com/2012/05/23/are-we-dependent-on-computers-yes/) and Nicola´s which is posted tomorrow.
    As I already said, your blog post in general is very felicitous! On the one hand, your way of writing is so lovely and sophisticated and on the other hand, your visuals are quite funny and match your blog post well! Keep it up! 🙂

  4. Hey Alexandra!

    I really enjoyed reading your article. It was easy to do so, because you applied a very nice structure and the text was just right in regards of length. I totally understand what you mean, due to the fact that I am an amateur when it comes to IT, as well. However, I already watched a great shift in regards of education and technology. My old school for example is now using interactive boards and this really help the students to cope with new technology, because it more and more becomes a matter of course. It would be great if there were ICT courses in Germany, too. Do you have any information if something like this is already planned?

    Besides that, I would have appreciated if you also would have reflected on the fact that the use of IT itself does not make a good education system, because the danger of forgetting social competences is very huge. As far as I am concerned I consider it important to make a point about the risks as well.

    However, I can see a real improvement in your blog post! Well-done.

  5. Well done, Alex!
    I really like the topic of your post as it is directly concerning my school life now. If we would have been taught computer scienes in school perhaps we would now be in the place of Mark Zuckerberg! (No, I am rather kidding). I think you are totally right when it comes to the importance of building up a profound knowledge of programmes like Word, PowerPoint etc.: Yes, we need to get educated in that field and not only by chance through our parents.
    Thank you for this current post about a big issue!

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