About

My name is Ben Gristwood and I’m ICT/Computing teacher in the North West of England (Bolton Specifically).

 

I’m passionate about all things ICT and Computing related and how I can pass on my enthusiasm and engagement to my students.  Always willing to try a new ideas in my classroom and love to collaborate with others through computing at school and twitter (@mr_g_ict)

My aim is to enthuse a new generation of students to program and be passionate about ICT.  In school I run a number of extra curricular activities for students including:

  • Digital Leaders
  • Flash Club for the UK School Animation Competition
  • Canon Slade Computing Society
  • Coming soon: Rasberry Pi club/jams in school

I love my work and eventually hope to develop my role further.

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5 comments

    • mrgict

      depends on computing society. i have digital leaders which i set up and run. however there is also the computing society which i act as a support for the sixth formers that run it. i dont organise them, they support and run themselves now. in the beginning i was more active in advising, but now it is running, the students who run it who are brilliant and self motivated organise events. if you can provide extra support to them i’d love to have some contact with organising trips and speakers.

  1. Peter

    On the post at https://mrgict.wordpress.com/2015/01/13/choice-of-programming-language-justifying-my-choice/, you stated:

    “I will try and rephrase my objections to python at a later date”

    That’s the wrong way to do it. People are telling you something. The thing to do is to understand what they’re saying. You need to at least consider your objections may be wrong. The reason the blog post got thousands of hits is because you’ve made ridiculous statements, on a number of levels, and people on forums all over the Internet are shocked, outraged, or just amused by them. We all do dumb things, and we’re not experts at everything. I’ve done things far dumber than your post. That’s okay. The key question is how we react to it — is it an opportunity to learn, grow, and do better, or is it an opportunity to dig in and maintain ignorance.

    I’ll responding to one comment:

    “I think here (and I have conceded in an update) it is my lack of understanding of detailed python and more what I have seen other people teaching in other schools. I teach my students to be clean coders, ones that code correctly with decent, modular commented code and feel at 14 (With no prior experience of programming) this is enough for them to understand. As stated in the letter I am introducing C derivatives at a-level as that will allow them to take experience of coding further. Please imagine, the languages we learn now are dead in 5-10 years. so we prepare the coders to plan, design and create in a clean way. learning syntax is arbitary”

    This is not the case. Over the past 50 years, since BASIC was invented (yes, BASIC is more than a half-century old at this point), our knowledge of what constitues and how to create clean code has grown tremendously. The changes are fairly fundamental. We’ve gone from GOTOs to structured programming (where BASIC introduced DEFFUN, and later, VB added Function), to object oriented (where VB got into object based, made a poor pass at OO, but never quite made it), services (where VB made a very poor pass), and mainstream functional (where VB never even made an attempt). In order to teach computer science in 2015, you need to understand how and why coding is different today.

    The differences are not syntax. Syntax is whether you use curly braces or indentation and similar. The differences are expressivity and semantics. You cannot express what would be considered decent, modular code in VB, even by a 1990 standards, let alone by 2015 ones. You’ve heard of Google’s MAP-REDUCE? You cannot express either a MAP or a REDUCE in VB. The problem is that once people learn bad coding style (which with BASIC is pretty fundamental, since you simply cannot express good coding style), it’s almost impossible to unlearn. It takes a lot more effort to unlearn than to just learn it right in the first place.

    With Python, you don’t learn everything initially — it’s a great beginner language precisely because it’s easy to start, but:

    1. You don’t learn anything wrong which you later have to unlearn. Overcoming prior misconceptions, as you’re probably aware from education research, is incredibly difficult.
    2. You have a path to growth. Fine, you don’t need to teach how to make a distributed software system on day 1, or a service-based architecture, or functional programming, or a hundred other things, but there continue to be smooth ramps to all of those. With BASIC, at some point, you run into a brick wall. Changing to a modern languages takes as much work as just starting in a modern language.

    Please. You’re teaching young minds. It won’t be fast or painless, but take the time to learn a bit more about modern software engineering. I’ll give a few resources:

    Step 1: Read SICP. This lays out a foundation for how modern computer programs are structured. At the time it was written, most of the concepts were difficult to build. What languages like Python, Ruby, and similar did was add syntax which made them easy for not just mere mortals or beginners.
    Step 2: Take a few MOOCs! Berkeley and MIT both have their intro Python courses on-line. See how it is taught and why! Look at a few programs like Bootstrap (Scheme for middle school students), and how Scratch and Logo are organized. Logo is actually the original teaching language. It’s designed to be a version of Lisp with very easy-to-use syntax to teach concepts of computation, but the language is actually quite deep as you move beyond just turtle geometry.
    Step 3: Spread out. Take Berkeley’s SaaS course, and see what the expressiveness of modern languages allows in Ruby on Rails, as well as how modern service-oriented architectures are designed. Learn Haskell. Start to explore new domains.

    It’s a long process, but in the end, I think you’ll find it very wortwhile.

  2. Ol Man

    Hi Ben,
    Good thing there are people who still use VB. And I want to use it for the same purpose as you. I wonder if you could help me. I remember a version of VB (was it on DOS or Win 3.1 – yes, I’m an old man now 🙂 that had interactive tutorials. Which version was it? Where can I download this version of VB with the tutorial? Thanks in advance.
    Ol’ man

    • mrgict

      There are loads of tutorials out there, people use Visual Studio, there is an express version available for free.

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