Where is the Next Generation of Developers?

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the next IT generationWithout wanting to sound like an old man, I am concerned for the next generation of developers. Fewer pupils are taking IT courses and computing is often replaced by “softer” subjects.

I consider myself fortunate to have been around at the dawn of home computing during the early 8-bit days of the 1980s. The industry was revolutionary, exciting, and – even better – our parents were totally clueless about the technology. The hardware may have primitive and the software could be awful, but computers were accessible. You could buy a Sinclair ZX Spectrum and be writing programs within an hour (the original Speccy came with an excellent BASIC manual).

Unfortunately, there is evidence that pupils are shunning IT even though most western schools have fantastic computer facilities. UK computing students decreased by 20% between 2004 and 2007; the largest drop in any subject. A survey of over 2,000 secondary school pupils concluded that:

  • computing as a subject had lost its novelty factor
  • pupils thought computer science suffered from a geeky image
  • many thought computing was too hard or did not understand what the subject involved
  • computing is considered to be “boring”
  • studying IT was only necessary if you wanted a job in the industry
  • computing was regularly used in other subjects, so there was little need to study it.

Several other factors are also evident:

1. The rise of games consoles
Gaming is one of the most important reasons for buying a computer. Since the early 1990s, dedicated consoles have offered an inexpensive route to arcade-quality games in the home. Although children can access PCs too, the majority prefer to play their games machines. Unfortunately, that is the only thing a console can do; programming and experimentation is not possible.

2. Too many distractions
PCs are great; you can sit at them for hours and do precisely nothing. Surfing the net, chatting with friends, and twiddling with photos can distract you from doing anything else. Why should a child want to learn programming when every application they could want is already provided?

3. Starting development is too tough
Many programmers will berate me for this, but interpreted BASIC was a great first language to learn. It is easy to start, provides instant feedback, and teaches you the essentials. Most 8-bit computers booted into a BASIC programming environment so you were encouraged to try out commands and small programs from day one.

What can students use now? VisualStudio and similar IDEs are far too complex for beginners. Forms-based Window UI development and web-based client-server programming has a steep learning curve for all but the most dedicated novice developer. Although child-friendly languages are available, many are too simplistic and the majority are niche environments that few people know.

Are you a computer science student? What language did you learn first? Is the subject useful and well-taught? Will the IT industry suffer as fewer pupils choose computer science? Or is IT so ubiquitous that people naturally have the required skills?

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  • itsStephen

    I’m only 15 at the moment and still in high school but I’m pretty sure I’ll be taking computer science at uni.

    One of the last things my school focuses on is programming and development. My IT teacher seems to have a thing for InDesign so that’s all we get to use really.

  • http://www.lowter.com lotrgamemast

    I come from the UK.

    IT course at secondard school (year 7 to year 11) focus almost entierly on how to use Microsoft Office. The closes you’ll ever come to programming is Excel formulas. We did do one lesson on HTML, however they taught us the tag soup variety (not closing <p> tags).

    I then took Computing at 6th form level. They do a fair bit of programming, usually in Microsoft Visual Basic 6, which is quite a ncie language to get going and is still used a fair bit in industry. The cources aren’t very well taught though. One teacher is great, the other is crap.

    And yes; it is percieved as boring and nerdy.

  • AndrewCooper

    In the UK, through years 7-9 you’ll learn how to use Microsoft Office basically. You’ll have around 2-3 hours a week in an ICT lesson and learn that for three years to a very basic level still.

    From year 10-11 doing a GNVQ / GCSE in ICT the closest you get to programming is just knowing the definition of HTML and that its what makes Web pages up. We did our Websites in Microsoft Publisher 2003.

    In Sixth Form colleges you’ll usually do A-Level ICT. They taught us how to use tables in design view in Macromedia Dreamweaver 8 for our websites and again, no coding done. Most, if any coding, will be done in Microsoft Excel with the formulas.

    I’m now doing a BTEC National Diploma, equivalent to three A-Levels and it’s a hell of a lot better. You are taught HTML, CSS and JavaScript in the Website Production & Management unit. The booklets and sheets given out are fine and easy to understand its just that students can’t be bothered to dedicate the time to read it. I used to think I could never do PHP! I couldn’t even grasp variables! But now I’m using it efficiently and understand what I’m doing with it because I’ve read what I’ve needed to :).

    The teachers that I have had so far for ICT, and most of them haven’t even been qualified as in have a degree in a computer related subject, have all been boring and haven’t been energetic about technology in the world. So yes, people have the impression that it’s nerdy and very intellectual stuff. My current teachers are however, very energetic, very qualified with some having 2-3 degree’s and also very experienced having managed their own businesses. Brilliant teachers they are! And in the Software Development unit later on in the year we’ll be doing it in Microsoft Visual Basic.NET [VB.NET]. I’m looking forward to it.

    ICT in secondary education, higher and further education including Universities needs to be updated, the curriculum, and the Governments need to employ a new army of ICT / Technology professionals who know what they are talking about and can teach the subject with a passion and get everyone in the class more than just scraping a pass.

    I plan on doing Computer Science or Web Science at University. The University of Southampton have composed a Web Science course, with help from it’s own Professors, Sir Tim-Berners Lee and Dame Wendy Hall. I look forward to doing either of the courses, or both! :)

    Perhaps you Craig, or someone else should do an article of Web Science, hmm?

    -Andrew Cooper

  • Raja Sekharan

    >>What can students use now? VisualStudio and similar IDEs are far too complex for beginners. Forms-based Window UI development and web-based …

    Beg to differ. Learning HTML isn’t too hard and kids can easily learn that. Heck, Even I started “programming” in HTML then in CSS, Javascript, PHP, C++, C# and now Java. I am sure there are many like me.

  • http://www.studio-gecko.com/ XLCowBoy

    We have a local saying that goes:

    “There are no boring subjects, just boring teachers.”

    Geeky, boring teachers can kill curiosity, excitement, and possible passion. We need to work on the teachers as much as the students.

  • alexweber

    I’m a comp sci major, lived in Brazil all of my life and was lucky enough to have had a teacher who taught me Visual Basic 3 when I was around 12. I went on to learn Java and C and also had a look at Assembler in university. These days I program PHP for a living.

    Sometimes when I stop and look at all the new programming languages and IDEs and how things have changed so much and gotten kind of complicated I wonder why I didn’t chose something easier to do.

    But really who am I kidding? I love programming!

  • khuramyz

    Its equally difficult for a seasoned computer programmer to switch platform/language.

  • Anonymous

    I would have taken more programming languages in high school if the instructors weren’t so terrible.

  • TheBuzzSaw

    I grew up in Washington state. I don’t know how, but my old computer (80 MB hard drive with 2 MB of RAM WOOOO!) had QuickBASIC 4.5 complete with an actual compiler/linker. All my friends only had QBASIC, which had no compiler. So, I had a powerful tool to play with from day one (I started around age 8). As I became a teenager, I developed an interest in C++; my older brother told me how powerful C++ was and how many games were built using it. I eventually obtained several C++ intro books and even read them while on family camping trips. :P

    Today, I try to learn new languages all the time. Currently, my emphasis is on web technology (I do most of my sites in PHP/MySQL), but I still have the desire to return to my C++ roots and create games (most likely in the multiplatform library SDL).

  • TheBuzzSaw

    Oh, I should probably mention that I finally entered computer science, and I plan on graduating in the next year or so.

  • Pete

    As a former ICT Technician at a UK school, i have to say that alot of the ICT lessons are taught by teachers of other subjects. The teachers arent very confident in what they’re teaching and that seems to rub off on the kids.
    Myself and the other technicians had to supervise the use of the computer suites at dinnertime and after school, and taught html to a few interested first years, so it is possible.
    I think that kids need to start off doing simple things with simple software. When i went to uni, for our first programming module we were writing console applications in C# using a text editor and the command-line compiler which was a great introduction, and im sure that 6th form students wouldnt struggle too much with it.

  • http://rcthink.com rcthink

    I’ve recently graduated with a Bachelors of Computing Science in British Columbia and it is true that no one really sees any glamor in computer science any more. There was a flood of students that went through wanting to learn how to program games but quickly realized the work involved was much more than expected.
    IMO, the resources online for beginning programmers are few and far between. Many beginner seem to take the route of web and scripting languages first, then start to dabble in actual programming. Is it a good thing for those with skills and experience that there are few coming into the field or are we going to run into a shortage?

  • Daquan

    In terms of learning, html and css are just markup tags. Anyone good with art/writing can easily pick it up, programming is giving a computer instructions based on events or a set of events to be triggered from my understanding.

    A lot of people fear MATH and I’ve seen people who want to program but said they were not good in math. I think people should learn the basic fundamentals that entail a subject before going into the deeper parts of it. Not saying you have to be good at math to program (don’t know that for certain), but I know learning from concept instead of memorization is a huge plus (I’ve known teachers that teach both styles, concept is key).

    I’m majoring in computer science, I love technology and the web. Dream job would be web application developer or web application designer (designer/developer cross paths easily so consider it interchangeable). I’ve heard seen news of how CS is thought of and how people want students to get more into that field and Electrical Engineering. Learn the principles behind the fields and you’re set, you should do what is best for you. Decisions made by eyes unclouded by the opinions of others is bound to falter.

  • Tarh

    Unfortunately, that is the only thing a console can do; programming and experimentation is not possible.

    I’d like to point out that with Microsoft’s introduction of the XNA Framework, this is no longer true (although that doesn’t mean that C# in Visual Studio is accessible).

    Are you a computer science student? What language did you learn first? Is the subject useful and well-taught? Will the IT industry suffer as fewer pupils choose computer science? Or is IT so ubiquitous that people naturally have the required skills?

    I’m a computer science major in Canada.
     
    This was the order that I learned my languages (I don’t consider HTML, CSS, etc. to be languages but I list them anyway):
    HTML > CSS > JavaScript > ASP > VB6 > Java > PHP > C++ > C > C# > ASM
     
    Although I’m a professional (in the traditional sense of the word) PHP developer, my love is for software development with C-style languages.
     
    As far as traditional education goes, High-School is worthless in this area in terms of programming (they teach a beginner language called “Turing” for electrical engineering students and “procedural Java” for computer science students). University is much better in terms of the education provided. In the first year, students are hand-held through program creation in (proper) Java. After that, focus shifts to development practices rather than languages, and students are basically on their own to learn new languages themselves. I don’t regard this as a problem since, as anyone who knows several languages understands, once the concepts are cemented learning new languages is trivial.
     
    With fewer pupils the industry will suffer, but the individual programmers will benefit. My impression of the situation is both greedy and honest: less competition, more money for me!

  • Richard@Home

    Completely agree with the OP: We had this conversation in the pub a few nights ago.

    I grew up with ZX81’s, Spectrum’s (I’m 40 now) and was an accomplished coder before we got to Computer Studies (3rd year secondary school I think?). Computer studies O’Level back then taught systems AND programming – we even did logic gates!

    I doubt there was a kid in the whole of the UK back then that didn’t know how to print their name on the screen over and over again ;-)

    There really IS a skills gap. In my experience, newer coders coming up only seem able to plug scripts together. They don’t seem to have been taught how to ‘problem solve’.

    What’s the solution? Maybe we should tailor the computer lessons and split up the classes into ‘want’s to code’ and ‘want’s to learn office’. I’m pretty sure those that want to code already know enough about Office anyway.

  • NewDeveloper06

    My main concern with going into a programming career is i’ve hard alot of coding jobs are going to India which is a bit worrying. What are other peoples views on this?

  • Anonymously

    @ Craig Buckler

    Craig is a Director of OptimalWorks, a UK consultancy dedicated to building award-winning websites implementing standards, accessibility, SEO, and best-practice techniques.

    What percent of your earnings are made from programing? Appears to be a far question given the context of the subject.

  • http://www.tyssendesign.com.au Tyssen

    My main concern with going into a programming career is i’ve hard alot of coding jobs are going to India which is a bit worrying. What are other peoples views on this?

    If you’re concerned with losing work to Indians, then you need to do a better job than them, which from my experience of working with Indians, wouldn’t be all that hard.

  • allowners

    I also started out with BASIC. I agree it was a great way to get started because it had all the basic structures necessary in a readily accessible environment. The original BASIC implementations had much in common with assembler, considering their lack of sophisticated data types. I actually found assembler rather easy in Computer Science class based on my BASIC background.

    Given the move to object-oriented development, today I would recommend starting with Ruby, which offers the same friendly instant feedback environment that is so conducive to experiment and learning. But, it also has the advantage of offer more advanced features when you are ready for them.

    If one decides to stick with it and learn about the current state of the art, they could then move on to Ruby with Rails and learn to develop in a Model/View/Controller environment. An excellent path for the beginner in my opinion.

  • coolcolin09

    I’m 15 years old, and I’m fluent in XHTML and CSS…I’m just trying to break into actual programming languages like PHP, Java. My high school must be pretty good , though, I didn’t realize how basic some schools were teaching. Next year (sophomore year) I am entering Business Programming 1 Pre/AP, a more advanced course which will teach us Java. Then, I’ll be taking BP 2 AP in Junior year, so I am hoping to really start getting serious about my programming soon. At the moment, I’m reading a thick book on PHP.

  • rozner

    Personally I think this is a good thing. I was a comp sci major and I felt there were too many people in the program who didn’t know anything about computers and/or programming before the starting comp sci, became crappy programmers, got jobs, wrote some crappy code, then the company had to replace them with better programmers to fix their mess. If there really is a decline in popularity of comp sci at least those who pursue it will actually be interested in it and not just trying to make some quick cash.

    I remember growing up computers seemed nerdy but it was also around the time where home computers were becoming popular. Like many here I started at around age 10 with QBasic. I remember looking at the source code for nibbles and taking whatever I understood from that and made a bunch of useless but fun programs. And of course my parents were clueless. I knew from a pretty young age I wanted to do comp sci. But by the time I actually got to university it was all of sudden cool to do comp sci and all kinds of people who didn’t have a clue about computers were going into it. So anyway… I think we could use a decline in “IT” people and hopefully retain quality people.

    Regarding learning to program… I don’t think it’s any different now than it was in the early 90’s. Rather than learn QBasic, kids today can easily learn things like HTML/CSS … ok I know it’s not the same thing… but it does open the door to Javascript which is getting closer. Also who says you need an IDE to program Java or C++? When I learned to program it was just using a text editor. Sure the IDE is much better when you know what you’re doing, but I think it’s better to learn on a text editor.

    Good luck to you high school students out there. I can only hope your computer classes are more interesting than mine. They were pretty useless when I was in high school.

  • http://www.inormous.com phillipus_rex

    I don’t think we have anything to worry about for 2 reasons:

    1) It isn’t necessary to have a computer science degree to be a developer. The decline in CS students may be greatly due to just that one fact. I live in the US and I have a psychology degree but I have a full time job as a web developer.

    2) If there were to be a shortage in computer science professionals, than the market would make up for it – short supply = great demand + higher salaries. When people realize that they can make money in CS than schools will see an increase in students straight out of high school. This is the same thing that happened when CS first came into the curriculum in the US. After all, there are plenty of people willing to go to law school for 3 years and I can’t imagine a more boring subject.

  • Michael

    When I was 8 I learnt to write batch files as shortcuts to open games. When I was 12 I started learning some basic HTML. 14 I started learning Visual Basic. Started learning PHP and Javascript at 16 and CSS and SQL at 17. I then studied IT at University where I learnt Java, C#, C, ASP.NET and from working as a web developer (age 19-22) I mastered PHP/SQL/HTML/CSS/Javascript. Personally I can’t stand IDEs that do everything for you… I love hand coding because I know exactly what’s going on under the hood

  • Steve H

    re: Jobs to India

    So what? Pretty soon Indian programmers will be as expensive as Western programmers. I see no shortage of Western programming jobs anyway!

    UK: Computer Science = MS Word and Excel? Seriously? Word should be in English lessons. Excel should be in Maths. I did computing in England from 1979. We used CESIL (http://www.obelisk.demon.co.uk/cesil/) and BASIC. We initially wrote our programs on coding sheets that were mailed off to some place to be entered into a mainframe. in 1980 the school bought a Commodore PET and some ZX80 machines. Later they added ZX 81 and ZX Spectrum … probably others, but I left the school in 1982. So schools used to know what programming was …

    Leaping sideways – I was shocked recently to Google various classmates from those days, and I can find only ONE of them with a web presence. I think those of us in technology of various flavours who are all excited about email, Facebook, Twitter and ActionScript have completely forgotten that we are geeks, and the 99.5% of the rest of the world have no idea what we are up to.

  • mediapathic

    Don’t discount the rise of platforms like processing and arduino, which give immediate and very satisfying feedback, I have no doubt they will bring many in to the fold.

  • JamesAllenInOhio

    I started back when I was 10 years old (1984) when my uncle gave me a hand-me-down computer, the AWESOME TI-99 4/A. It had TI Basic. He gave me magazines (99er I think) that had reviews of games, but I was drawn more to the BASIC programs listed in there. I LOVED copying the programs over to my computer and learn how programming worked. Those were the good ol’ days.

  • Aaron

    I grew up in a small town where there were very few IT related courses, besides word processing and the like. However, in my calculus class in HS, the instructor asked us to draw a simple picture on our graphic calculators using math equations, and very basic programming for the TI- series of calculators (mine was TI-89). Most kids drew simple shapes into a small scene, but I drew a complex Homer Simpson. That got me interested in programming, and I played around with creating games for the TI-89 before Uni. The TI-BASIC programming language was also really easy to learn to use and simple, like BASIC for the computer, so I had fun experimenting with it, making games and animations. That introduced me to Computer Science which I then majored in at University. However, these days I have more of a love for web development because it combines design/art with code that is also fairly quick to change and see results from.

  • Codye Watson

    All this is very subjective.

    In your evidence you have only included students. You have not included autodidacts. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and the Google Brothers are all college dropouts. You should read Outliers.

    In the end, all that matters is putting good hours to what you do and having a good attitude. Schools are created by the government which is garbage. But that is another avenue.

  • Jylan Wynne

    I’ve been coding in XHTML/CSS for the past 4 years or so (currently 16 years old) – I know its not programming though :-). At the moment I’m learning PHP by actually coding functions in it. Next I want to try and learn Python although I’m not sure if I’m up to it :-).

    I’m also doing some web design units through Curtin University (part of the Open Universities Australia program). I might try doing the programming units from RMIT next as they seem quite good for learning the more traditional programming languages like Java, C++, Python etc.

  • Ron

    Enrollment in college CS programs really doesn’t mean much. I think the issue is that programming languages are so EASY to understand now that you don’t need to go into a CS degree program to understand them. Its entirely the reverse.

  • http://www.eldevllc.com aspidov

    i employ developers twice my age to write applications for my company. i absolutely don’t care about your paper or education levels, for me its the portfolio and track record. i dealt with many bad ass programmers who were freelancing since 12 years old and proper education is no more a requirement when you can strike it rich in the app store or facebook app

  • AndreiMe

    I started with basic48 on a old romanian hc-91 computer. you couldn’t do anything but write code and play very old games. It was very interesting for me, it kind off sparked my interest for computers.
    The problem is that as you already mentioned, starting to work with ide is always a big stepd forward, and the material you get to help you along is very scarse… and then there is the cool factor.
    I also consider an important thing the fact that now the biggest operating systems start to limit the amount of experimentation you can do on a computer. Apple does this from way back, and windows 7 promises to respect the power user as normal user from day one.
    This is a very bad thing in my opinion, because i learned almost everything while playing on my os.

  • puresight

    My first programming language was Pascal. I bought a book from the mall’s bookstore and read it on a ski vacation bus. (“Oh! Pascal!” is an excellent intro to programming btw.) A few chapters then fired up my Apple //e UCSD Pascal environment and wrote some stuff.

    LAMP/PHP programming is just as accessible to the motivated novice today, with the bonus of a worldwide audience to ooo & ahh at new creations. Heck just Javascript in Firebug is fun and easy for a motivated novice. Start by putting a few bells & whistles on a standard Blogger or WordPress page, and have fun from there. Quick & rewarding feedback, without compile->link->run… just save & ctrl-F5.

  • http://www.clearwind.nl peach

    years before I actually learned programming. I would look at the list of content on php.net and thing “No way Jose”

  • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

    Some great feedback there. Thanks to everyone for taking time to reply.

    @Anonymous

    What percent of your earnings are made from programming? Appears to be a fair question given the context of the subject.

    Most of it (with exception of writing for SitePoint!)

    I started development with numerous versions of BASIC and a little Z80 assembly. At University, we used Pascal, C/C++, and a few odd languages that I can’t remember. My career has led me up avenues such as QBasic, MS Office VBA, C++, Java, Perl, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Classic ASP (VBS and JScript), .NET, C#, SQL and PHP.

    Now, I’m more or less full-time HTML, CSS, JS, PHP, ASP.NET, and SQL/MySQL/SQL Server. Although running a business takes a little time too! Development experience is also useful for work such as SEO and graphic design (in fact, it’s essential if you want to be really good at it).

    aspidov is right: most employers do not care about qualifications – it’s your experience that counts. However, it can be tough to get experience without qualifications.

    In my experience, no one has ever ‘taught’ me programming. Developers tend to do it rather than teach it. The best way to learn is to write programs. It doesn’t really matter what you start with; most languages have similar concepts (variables, loops, procedures, etc.).

    However, it is concerning that students are giving up computing and school IT educations appears to be going backwards (I did hear a rumour that boolean logic is no longer taught at UK GCSE level? Can anyone confirm that?)

    If IT doesn’t interest you at a young age, perhaps it never will.

  • chimere

    Just like Raja Sekharan my route was HTML, CSS, Javascript, PHP, C++, C# and Java. When i started picking up Javascript and PHP I used Python for a bit. I have revised Python as a professional and found it to be a good starting point for most learners. Python is robust and easy to learn and is closest to a ‘real’ language like C++ and Java but is essentially a scripting tool like PHP. The web programming credentials of python may not dent PHP but it is excellent for aspects of programming that would excite and develop programming acumen. Python excels in 3D gaming, networking and algorithms. Programming HTTP with PHP and Ruby may be nice but the skills that python impart are what the facebooks and Google’s of this world are looking for.

  • Victor

    I’m programmer from Ukraine (Eastern Europe). My working language is Ruby.

    In our country there is very good education related to the theory (mathematics, physics) and almost no good education for practical professions. This is why almost all students have very big problems when they are trying to get their first job without actual experience and knowledge in practice of software development.

    On the other hand it is very hard to change this situation because we have huge bureaucracy in our education system. I know several attempts of IT organisations to push new knowledge in universities. They have asked for ability to teach students new technologies but our ministry of education just don’t need it. They don’t want to change anything and students are still learning Borland Pascal instead of Python, C++ or even Java.

    In the result, young man after finishing school have a possibility to go in the university to learn almost useless things during 5 years and get big problems trying to find first job. I’m not really wondering why most of them reject this opportunity.

  • markfiend

    khuramyz:

    Its equally difficult for a seasoned computer programmer to switch platform/language.

    Nonsense! The basics of designing a program are completely independent of whatever language or platform you use.

    Like Craig, I started on an 8-bit ZX Spectrum, moved into z80 machine code, and now do HTML/CSS/PHP/JavaScript programming for work. I also know some Java and C++.

    I’m happy in Mac, Linux and Windows platforms, and I’m starting to learn python (purely for hobb programming).

  • markfiend

    That was supposed to say “hobby programming” lol

  • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

    The basics of designing a program are completely independent of whatever language or platform you use.

    I agree with that. Most developers can switch and it’s rare that you stay on the same language/platform for longer than a few years. Although I must admit I found Ruby and Python syntax to be a little odd when I first looked at them!

  • http://www.thefullresource.com arkinstall

    I agree with many of the comments above.

    Teaching standards of computing are, to be honest, terrible. The syllabus is old and is still focused on VB6 for christ’s sake – you’d think a better language would be used.

    I think it’s because computer science graduates are harder to find than conventional subjects, so schools just go with the first person who applies.

    The main problem is that computing is such a wide subject and needs to be split up a bit. Rather than a computing A-Level, there should be an A-level in Web development, software development, core programming and networking. The stuff that’s taught is so basic because there is are so many topics.

    Another issue is that schools spend so long teaching people Microsoft Office. The stuff that they teach at GCSE most people could do in pre-school. For crying out loud, they had a whole module devoted to sending emails – and another for making websites on FrontPage.

    The word ‘FrontPage’ is enough to make most developers cry.

    There needs to be a new target. Learning VB6 just isn’t good – A C-Based language such as C# or Java would be better because there are more resources, the syntax is similar to alot more languages and compilers are free so students can freely learn at home.
    Anything in Web Development should teach people with NotePad++ or something similar, so students learn how to make websites not a table-based hell.

  • Sajax

    I’m actually a Web Computing student (fancy title for a half Multimedia, half Computer Science degree). I got interested in designing websites because I was just bored, so I downloaded some Yahoo tool and gave it a go.

    From there I took interest in making the designs look better, made the mistake of becoming a table designer which took me ages to shake off once I started reading on accessibility something I’m always trying to keep on top of.

    Doing many pages eventually made me get bored of editing a multiple pages so I took an interest in PHP simply because there is so much content online about it, once you get the basics the PHP Manual becomes sufficient. Now taking a big interest in Ruby on Rails and doing designs on the side to gain additional income, desperately thanks to recent events.

  • Zada

    I took 3 years of programing in Manitoba Canada, Grade 10,11 + 12. Grade 10 was C++ and 11,12 was c#. we started in basic dos window programs and ended up with 3d graphics and motion. In the end it got a little over my head, the guy teaching it wasn’t much of a teacher. But the fact the we were programing 3D physics was really fun.

  • http://www.patricksamphire.com/ PatrickSamphire

    I guess they’ll come from where they always did: they’ll be self-taught enthusiasts. Many of us here (the older ones, anyway) will have started like you with BASIC and gone on from there where our interests led us. Certainly there were no classes at school teaching BASIC. We had ‘calculator studies’!

    As others have said, HTML is the new BASIC.

  • Alan

    For me Flash has been a gateway drug to programming. I started learning Actionscript because I wanted to try my hand at coding a simple game, and it’s really taken off from there. I could see someone going a similar route with python/pygame, or C#/XNA.

  • StevenHu

    I have been taking courses online to learn all about programming, not in a brick-and-mortar facility. The instructors are industry veterans and teach well, to boot!

    http://www.ed2go.com/goldenwest/

    Regards,
    Steve H

  • Wise_One

    I’m a student at the Technological Educational Institute of Thessaloniki, Greece. Our course focuses on programming using Java. Although I love this language (since it’s my first), I don’t think it’s suitable for beginners. It’s really really complex. Don’t get me wrong, wonderful things can happen with Java, it has a magnificent API.

    The things that we (are)were taught, don’t actually need to be taught in Java. Any other language will do. For the first 3 semesters, we programmed only command-line programmes. Now, after 3 years, we are using NetBeans but not to its full extent, crappy things again.

    Visual programming, GUIs and stuff??? Hahaha, only in the 7th semester where we code in VB.NET (disgust).

    I mean, for the love of god, you throw us into the wonderful world of programming, giving us a swiss-knife language, only to carve a gun on a soap bar…

  • http://www.flash-mind.com flashmind

    I actually agree with this article quite a bit. Because of the amount of scripting languages and how quickly they update it is almost impossible to stay up to date with the latest scripting language. Granted the idea of “once you master one script it is easier to learn another.” Except this rule only applies in some cases.

  • http://www.newerth.com Pancakes

    Hey, good news form me! I noticed that the article came from the UK; I wonder if it’s the same in the US…

  • MV

    Howdy there. I do believe I would fit your criteria.

    The passion is there, at least for me. I currently teach myself C# at night(previously I taught myself Java and VB.NET as well) instead of watching movies, playing games, reading books, etc. I think it is fun. My friends think I am insane, and my parents think I am some sort of magician, but I don’t care. Programming is fun.

    I will be a CS major(thinking about AI minor or Applied Math double as well) at CWRU. I am expecting a good enviroment there, but at my high school, the CS department is a dump.

    They teach an intro to VB.NET (I honestly taught myself the course in two weeks) and an AP Java class (same deal). The teachers are semi-competent. They could be worse. Their knowledge is often out of date though(The VB teacher still uses VB6 syntax on all the tests). The textbooks are really old as well. The JAVA textbox was written using the version 1.4 as the guide and published in 2001.

    Not to mention IT is crap. Our computers are 5 years old, run Windows 2000, and installs the Java SDK to the RAM(don’t ask how, I am beyond understanding the stupidity of IT at my school). Boot-up will frequently take 4 minutes and the computers will freeze often. It is common to type a line of code, then have it show up two minutes later.

    Often, the network will completely crash, and everything in our user files will delete (we are not allowed to save to the C Drive, but there are ways around that). We run everything off flash drives so we don’t lose anything.

  • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

    @Pancakes
    Certainly the statistics are from the UK, but I suspect it’s a worldwide (or Western) problem.

    It sounds as though computer science tutors are generally poor, but I don’t think that’s necessarily an issue. The biggest concern is that children’s interest in IT is diminishing.

    There also appears to be an obsession with teaching MS Office. That’s undoubtedly useful, but using a word processor and spreadsheet applies to every topic. IT should be much deeper than that.

  • khuramyz

    @Craig Buckler
    The trend is similar in South Asia (pakistan, india) too. Out of us 6 cousins choosing IT, only 2 have landed IT jobs. That was about 8 years ago. None of our younger cousins/siblings seem to be liking CS as serious profession.

  • http://www.thefullresource.com arkinstall

    I wouldn’t say that childrens’ interest in IT is diminishing at all. Heck, with things like Facebook and MSN, more and more people are using the internet and learning to touch-type at an early age.

    The problem is the curriculum. People are being ‘taught’ stuff they already know – and when they don’t know something they’re taught things the wrong way (e.g. FrontPage).

    If, from the beginning (year 7), kids were taught binary theory, a bit of c# and database theory (NOT Access – SQL or MySQL) then they’d probably enjoy IT more. Yes, it’s harder – but the current subject is TOO SOFT.

    I’ve been writing websites since I was 11 and programming since 12. IT Classes were the most boring lessons, and the outdated software used whenever something was supposed to be exciting (Frontpage, VB6) made the lessons worse.

    I could finish the given task in 5 minutes and, whilst pretending to be doing the work, do something more fun. As a 13 year old, that meant trying out different approaches to get administrator access onto the school computers, which ended up in a computer ban until the beginning of year 12 (which I’m in now).

    It wasn’t that I was malicious by any stretch of the imagination – all I did was placed a file on the main server explaining all of the exploits I found. I was just BORED.

    When I started a computing A-Level in year 10, it was at first quite intriguing. The problem came when doing the project coursework – whilst I knew plenty of programming languages to do the task in, I HAD to use VB6. I detest VB6. I could have done the project in hours with C# – took weeks with VB6 (and no internet access made it very difficult to know what the hell I was doing).

    The worst thing, however, is the standard of teaching. Both the computing teachers new their stuff, but had NO enthusiasm for the subject – and that bored people more.

    So I think it’s about time IT was taught differently in schools. Year 7 should be devoted to all of the main office programs – that shouldn’t take up 5 years of school. Year 8 should be focused on how computers work – including simple networking and binary and touching on programming (showing how compilers work etc). Year 9 should teach a language like C#, and databases.

    Year 10 should look more in depth into C# and OOP, and database querying. Year 11 should look at HTML, CSS and Javascript.

    Its not hard to achieve; IT isn’t hard and, in a whole year, the above topics should be alright.

  • Kane Barisi

    I’m a Nigerian and in my Country, there is practically no form of programming taught until University and even there it is glossed-over. I personally studied Computer Science & in 4 years of study I took only 2 programming courses. The first language I was taught was BASIC and it was poorly taught and therefore I had to do a lot of self-study. Every other language I have learnt from C to php has been self taught.

  • Hero Doug

    Here’s an interesting counter article to the one posted above. It’s only for this last year, so take it for what it’s worth.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/17/science/17comp.html?_r=1

  • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

    @arkinstall
    You were forced to use VB6 at A’ level? Is that stipulated on the curriculum or is it because it’s the only language your tutor knows?

    Whatever the reason, that’s terrible. You should definitely be allowed to use the right tool for the job. VB6 would almost certainly rule out any type of web application (or at least make it a lot more complex than necessary).

    Ultimately, it should not matter what programming language you use. It’s far more important to understand the requirements, justify the technical decisions, create a solid implementation, and critically review the result.

  • http://www.dotcomwebdev.com chris ward

    three things…

    there is a whole world out there, away from your machine, there’s no reason to dedicate your life/career to sitting at a desk

    secondly;

    you’re asking the right questions… but the wrong audience

    and finally;

    you just need passion, patience and a desire to learn to do well in this field… not qualifications

  • tompatam

    Can anyone provide some feedback about how the web development market treats new developers that are age 50(+)? A significant number of posts I’ve viewed are from individuals who started in their early teens or younger. I’m taking the self teaching path. My thoughts are that if you can produce, you can produce…any thoughts?

  • Schmoo

    “There are no boring subjects, just boring teachers.”

    You haven’t separated your variables – a great teacher can make a boring subject seem interesting, but it is boring none-the-less.