Monthly Archives: January 2013

Computing in education: Nellie the School Computer (1969)

A great clip from Tomorrow’s World, first broadcast in 1969, of Nellie: “a computer set to revolutionise the classroom“. In this clip, the boys of Forest Grammar School in Berkshire demonstrate how Nellie can be programmed to solve mathematical equations and play music, as well as the importance of computer maintenance…

Nellie was an Elliott 405, made by Elliott Brothers, one of the early UK computer companies (Tony Hoare worked there for eight years).

 

Tagged , ,

Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio 4: “Male Geeks Rise up for Women”

Woman's Hour

At present, only 30% of computing jobs are filled by women and when it comes to the number of female speakers at computer conferences, the figure is much, much smaller. In an attempt to address this problem, men are now signing an online pledge to boycott conferences where there are no women on the panel. But just how effective can this tactic be? Should men be doing more to get women and girls into computing? And does the problem really lie with conference organisers or in the fact that just not enough girls are taking computer studies at school? Jenni talks to Aral Balkan, a web designer, who has signed the pledge, to 13 year old Amy who loves computer programming and to Dr Tom Crick, Chair of Computing At School in Wales.

On Friday, I was a guest on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, discussing females in IT, along with Aral Balkan and 13 year old Amy Mathers. As you can see above from the somewhat incongruous screenshot, the original focus of the programme had been on “male geeks rising up for women” (something with which I was not particularly comfortable), but I felt I had been invited on to discuss the educational aspects of the problem. As I’m sure you’ll agree, Amy was the stand-out star of the show, displaying an impressive understanding of computer science and the value of learning how to program.

Unfortunately, there has been an orchestrated social media backlash due to the choice of two male guests, which got picked up by the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail the following day. Without wanting to add to the furore, there appears to have been a lot of noise made with very little fact-checking, detracting from the focus on the underlying problem; I suggest you read Aral’s excellent blog post, as well as the response from the editor of Woman’s Hour.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Welsh Government announces ICT Steering Group

Further to the Review of ICT announced in November, a written statement was released today by Leighton Andrews AM, the Welsh Government’s Minister for Education and Skills:


On 19 November, I chaired a seminar to consider the future of computer science and ICT in schools in Wales. The seminar was attended by representatives from a range of key stakeholders including schools, the National Digital Learning Council, Further Education, Higher Education, awarding organisations, industry and the media.

Following a lively and engaging discussion, there were a number of key themes that emerged that I am keen to consider further, they include:

  • ‘ICT’ in schools needs to be re-branded, re-engineered and made relevant to now and to the future;
  • Digital literacy is the start and not the end point — learners need to be taught to create as well as to consume;
  • Computer science should be introduced at primary school and developed over the course of the curriculum so that learners can progress into a career pathway in the sector.
  • Skills, such as creative problem-solving, should be reflected in the curriculum; and,
  • Revised qualifications need to be developed in partnership with schools, Higher Education and industry.

I have established a Steering Group to take forward consideration of the future of computer science and ICT in schools. The group will consider the key findings of the seminar, develop proposals in relation to their implementation, and provide a report on the way forward.

The membership of the Steering Group is comprised of representatives from a cross-section of key stakeholders and includes:

  • Co-Chair: Stuart Arthur (Box UK)
  • Co-Chair: Dr Tom Crick (Cardiff Metropolitan University)
  • Co-Chair: Janet Hayward (Cadoxton Primary School, Vale of Glamorgan)
  • Professor Khalid Al-Begain (University of Glamorgan)
  • Chris Britten (Ashgrove Special School, Vale of Glamorgan)
  • Lucy Bunce (Y Pant Comprehensive School, Rhondda Cynon Taff)
  • Gareth Edmondson (Ysgol Gyfun Gŵyr, Swansea)
  • Mark Feeney (e-skills UK)
  • Charlie Godfrey (Fujitsu)
  • Magi Gould (Bangor University)
  • Mark John (Vision Thing Communications)
  • Ben Lidgey (Monitise)
  • Hannah Mathias (St David’s College, Cardiff)
  • Professor Faron Moller (Swansea University)
  • Gareth Morlais (BBC Wales)
  • Simon Pridham (Casllwchwr Primary School, Swansea)
  • Maldwyn Pryse (Estyn)
  • Glyn Rogers (Ysgol Gyfun Gwynllyw, Pontypool)

The group will report to me by July 2013 and provide recommendations on the way forward.

The recommendations will inform the wider review of assessment and the National Curriculum in Wales, which I announced on 1 October. Any necessary changes will be considered as part of any revisions to the National Curriculum in Wales.

This is a hugely positive step by the Welsh Government, especially in light on the wider review of assessment and the National Curriculum in Wales (as well as the recently published 14-19 Review of Qualifications); it also complements the activities of the National Digital Learning Council. I am very much looking forward to co-chairing this review and developing a modern, rigorous and challenging ICT curriculum for Wales.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Paper at AI-2012: “R U :-) or :-( ? Character- vs. Word-Gram Feature Selection for Sentiment Classification of OSN Corpora”

In December, my PhD student Benjamin Blamey presented a joint paper entitled: R U :-) or :-( ? Character- vs. Word-Gram Feature Selection for Sentiment Classification of OSN Corpora at AI-2012, the 32nd SGAI International Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Cambridge (for which he also won the best poster prize).

If you do not have institutional access to SpringerLink, especially the Research and Development in Intelligent Systems series, you can download our pre-print. The abstract is as follows:


Binary sentiment classification, or sentiment analysis, is the task of computing the sentiment of a document, i.e. whether it contains broadly positive or negative opinions. The topic is well-studied, and the intuitive approach of using words as classification features is the basis of most techniques documented in the literature. The alternative character n-gram language model has been applied successfully to a range of NLP tasks, but its effectiveness at sentiment classification seems to be under-investigated, and results are mixed. We present an investigation of the application of the character n-gram model to text classification of corpora from online social networks, the first such documented study, where text is known to be rich in so-called unnatural language, also introducing a novel corpus of Facebook photo comments. Despite hoping that the flexibility of the character n-gram approach would be well-suited to unnatural language phenomenon, we find little improvement over the baseline algorithms employing the word n-gram language model.

(see Publications)

Tagged , , , ,
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 341 other followers