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19 April 2013


Russ Steele

Our youngest daughter learned how to write HTML code before she left high school. She helped write some to the first webpages in Nevada County, while in high school and college. When she went to Cal Poly, as a sophomore, she captured a job teaching Cal Poly professors how to write HTML to create their own web pages. That was before the HTML tool sets we have today. Today, she freelances web design and development to earn some extra cash for travel vacations. It all started with learning HTML while she was in high school. She learned much of it on her own and then honed her skills in several ROP classes. The first spreadsheet at our house was VisiCalc and it was one of the reasons we switched to Apple computers. Well there were other reasons, but this was one.

I highly recommend encouraging children and grand children to learn how to use spreadsheets and then progress to writing computer code on one of the popular languages, HTML, Java, R, etc. If they do, they will have a strong skill set to help pay for their college education.


Producing spreadsheets, and html document creation, aren't "Coding", and this thread is a poster child for what's wrong with "STEM" as a mantra in K-12 education... Running the kiddies through a computer apps class isn't STEM.

If a "boot camp" in modifying web content or spreadsheets were royal roads to employability, there'd be more "boot camps" and for now, the only information I've seen about how great they are comes from the folks setting themselves up as the Drill Instructors and the kids who have paid them $12K for a quickie route into the job du jour in Frisco. Anyone who is literate and numerate can figure them out if needed, and for most, it isn't needed. The problem with K-12 in the US (and especially in California and Nirvana County) is the relatively few students who, after 13 years of a free public education, are literate, numerate and have a clue about history, the arts, civics and science.

Spreadsheets are simple once you have a grasp of the underlying requirements, and creating an html document is not rocket science.

In short, let's see if this new education industry implodes due to fundamental shortcomings before embracing it; a kid coming out of NU barely able to read and write isn't going to jump into a software engineering job by attending a 10 week boot camp, and a UC Berkeley Marketing graduate who adds web commerce applications to their professional quiver is in an entirely different situation.

George Rebane

Gregory 1010am - Am not sure I understand your comment. It sounds like you're attacking someone who claimed that teaching the elements of coding (or writing conditional spreadsheet formulas) is itself STEM rather than one of the arrows in the quiver of someone going into a STEM career.


George, your attempt at a summary of my comment leads me to wonder if you actually read what I wrote.

Perhaps going back to the top would be more valuable than trying to make sense of your 10:38... you wrote in the original post, "The fundamental skill that enables rapid progress in a STEM curriculum and in the STEM job markets is the ability to program a computer"

Absolutely false. Science, technology, Engineering, Math still do not require computer programming (which does not include writing documents in html or using spreadsheets) for rapid progress. Or slow progress, though it is certainly possible for someone to develop a curriculum that does rely on it.

The "bootcamps" aren't doing anything that trade schools haven't been doing for years... a stripped down education that focuses on a limited number of skills that may be key in some targeted jobs, and the folks who are doing the instruction figure they can make more money doing that than actually creating products themselves.

George Rebane

Gregory 855pm - I think that we'll have to disagree and leave it there. In my years in the field, both practicing and teaching (from mid-school kids to doctoral students), the skill set that displays itself (and usually very early) in the ability to write code has always been a reliable predictor of doing well in ANY of the subsequent STEM subjects that the youngster goes on to study. That your experience is different I find remarkable, but then I live and learn.

And your revelation that the bootcamps are nothing new should be communicated to some pretty prestigious publications (professional and media) starting with the WSJ. I think that they'd print any well written piece on your thoughts. Most certainly the Sand Hill Rd crowd in Menlo Park would love hearing from you. Maybe some of them can pull back the big bucks they've been putting into these business-as-usual start-ups. I guess their due diligence skills are no longer what they used to be.


George, your original claim wasn't that "the skill set that displays itself ... in the ability to write code has always been a reliable predictor of doing well". Your original claim, and the one that I challenged, was that the skill of coding was fundamental to the study of science, technology, engineering and math.

Perhaps that was a use of the word fundamental of which I was previously unaware. There's nothing in a secondary school curriculum that coding is fundamental to, and I suspect most students would be better off if they didn't get programming instruction from their secondary school instructors. There's nothing like getting lousy instruction in computer science to learn bad habits in ones formative years.

Finally, your snark is misplaced. The coding boot camps fit the trade school model, they are new, and all we have at the moment are testimonials from some students who are happy to spend thousands for a tailored course on Ruby on Rails, in essence, web development with training wheels.

http://devbootcamp.com/alumni/ ...
Reminds me of weight loss testimonials.

Russ Steele

The Economist recently found that the countries with a low rate of youth unemployment are those that focus on providing their students with a practical education. Germany, for example, “has a long tradition of high-quality vocational education and apprenticeships, which in recent years have helped it reduce youth unemployment despite only modest growth.”

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