Where is Computer Studies headed?


Yesterday, in my #TWIOE post, I took a look at a single page on Grant Hutchison’s website.  There were no thoughts from Grant posted there; just the images and the interpretation is left to the reader.  So, here goes.

Here’s the important image that really got me thinking.  From the Ontario Curriculum document, 2008, there are five courses that can be offered.

  • Introduction to Computer Studies ICS20
  • Introduction to Computer Science ICS3U
  • Introduction to Computer Programming ICS3C
  • Computer Science ICS4U
  • Computer Programming ICS4C

At the time of its release, it was ground breaking.  Imagine being able to take up to five courses, for credit, in Computer Studies!  The courses are well designed and not descriptive and married to any particular programming language.  You could see that a great deal of planning had gone into their design and that they could take on a life of their own as technology evolved.

Sadly, none of the courses were compulsory.  I think I must have sounded like a broken record every time I talked with Ministry people asking why, at the least the Open course ICS 2O, they weren’t compulsory.  After all, anyone could see that computers, technology, and programming were not going to go away.  As we know, in the years since the curriculum was released, things have exploded to the point where just about everyone has a piece of this technology in their pocket, personal devices brought to school, and on post people’s desktops/laps at home.

In our household, the ICS 2O course was indeed compulsory.  As I look at how my kids use technology now, I think it was a great decision.  It’s such an integral part of their lives.

Back to the images that Grant shared.

ICS 2O indeed is a popular course, with growth shown over the three years that Grant plots.  Ditto for ICS 3U and, to a smaller extent, ICS 4U.  I think that the drop from Grade 11 to Grade 12 could be predicted.  Students make the decision about whether or not to continue to learn to program and study computers and a fixed schedule means making choices as university looms.  And since nothing is compulsory …

The statistics for the ICS 3C and ICS 4C courses are disappointing.  There wasn’t the uptake there for students and probably for a variety of reasons.  Since all of these courses are options, it requires a desire to enrol.  You could speculate why and students/parents don’t need to take the entire blame.  If you read the ACSE mailing list, you know that schools are challenged to offer all five courses in terms of teaching personnel and scheduling.  Some schools are fortunate enough to offer them all; some offer split courses; and others just don’t offer the C courses.  There’s no need to blame or shame; it’s the reality of scheduling in 2017.

Peter Beens offered a solution …

The courses are now coming on to their 10th anniversary.  That’s a long time in computer curriculum terms and I think testimony to the quality and vision of the original courses.  All that you have to do is read anything, anywhere these days and you’ll see the biggest issues of the day in Computer Studies.

  • Introduction of coding in the younger grades
  • Computer security and hacking
  • Importance of learning certain languages to be competitive at post-secondary schools
  • Bring Your Own Devices and all that goes with it.  i.e. being savvy enough to take control of your devices, connecting to networks that aren’t yours
  • Computer applications permeating all subject areas with varying levels of success
  • The rise of cloud and web computing and the drop in importance of locally installed applications
  • The rise in importance of robots and the programming of them
  • The rise of the “Internet of Things” and how it will impact everyone
  • An interest in getting serious about “Computational Thinking”
  • The list goes on and on

Back to the original graph.

Is the Curriculum document and the courses that it describes meeting the needs of a contemporary school?

In my opinion, the document still does.  The Technology Curriculum document and the Business Studies document complement these courses with the Computer Technology courses.  But the reality is that a student can avoid all of this good stuff if they so desire.

We hear lip service about preparing students for the 21st century, even today in the year 2107.  Is it time to step up and make this area of study compulsory?  Consider that whole group of students that the C courses could potentially reach.

This writer thinks so.  Let’s get our act together, make at least some of this relevant and compulsory, and graduate students who do have a certified level of computer literacy, understanding, and control.


Finally, an interesting add-on to the discussion and a new learning on my part.  Stephen Hurley and I had talked about Grant’s images on the radio show and I had speculated on the source of the data used for creation.  The answers came via Twitter.

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OTR Links 08/12/2017


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.