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My third dad-day (well, one of them)

Original image (c) Soapylove (some rights reserved)

Original image (c) Soapylove (some rights reserved)

Today was Niamh’s third birthday. She’s the youngest of our three kids and the only one I’ve been around since day one (well, day minus 275 approximately if we’re going to split hairs) so the only one I’ve seen grow up from that squidgy, rather disgusting beginning (talking about the birth, not the other bit this time).

Three years ago today I was fortunate enough to be by Gillian’s side (and not holding her hand, I was warned about that) as she popped Niamh out like a cork from a bottle, much to the surprise of the midwife who had assume she was – as usual – in for the long haul. That evening I dressed Niamh in her bedclothes for the first time and left the two of them in the hospital when I headed home.

Tonight I got Niamh ready for bed again and it’s no less special than that first time. Just with more cuddles and kisses and giggles. And I still can’t bear to walk away and leave her, even though nowadays she’s only a few steps away in her room.

It’s staggering how the time has flown and how this screaming, bawling, pooping, peeing… thing, big enough to hold in one hand has turned in a screaming, bawling, pooping, peeing bundle of absolute all-encompassing wonder and adoration who now makes my arms and back ache when she insists on being carried because I’m too damn soft to refuse her.

Roll on the next three years. Or thirty. I need at least one kid to look after me when I start wetting myself again.

Computing – the fourth science

This was a facebook post, but I’d like to expand on it here:

I’ve just checked our school leavers’ destinations for last year. We had 16 going into medicine, pharmacy, dentistry, pharmacology or veterinary science.

We had ten going into software engineering, computer science, AI, robotics or related subjects where Computing would be an essential or near-essential skill (including one Maths/Physics pupil in there).

I have been very generous in what I consider a “medical” subject and quite strict on the computer-relates ones. We’re looking at something not that far away from a 1:1 relationship between the two overall, depending on how you view the courses.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Not even considering how useful basic Computing would be for anyone doing engineering, chemical engineering, bio-tech, or indeed the medically-related subjects… would someone kindly explain to me why parents still think their children “have” to do Biology, Chemistry and Physics to get into Medicine et al? Especially when university entry requirements haven’t asked for this triplet for many years?

Yes, I’m selling my own subject. I just want to know why I need to when the advantages of it are so flipping obvious to so many pupils.

I was speaking to a parent recently who finished her PhD a short while ago and she can’t understand why Computing isn’t encouraged more by schools. Her subject was Genetics and there was no way she could have done the work she did without the aid of computers and knowing how to use them.

Yes, there’s a definite gap between “using a computer” and “knowing how it works and how to program one”, but there’s also a big common ground where the skills picked up would be useful for so many other areas of life/study.

Take the Software Development Process, for example. It teaches how to approach a large problem, break it down into smaller ones, plan each section appropriately, distribute these small problems to multiple people (if required), get the parts made, test them thoroughly, document everything, evaluate the finished product and maintain it afterwards.

This procedure can be applied to so many other skills: essay writing, laboratory experiments, household projects, business plans… it just needs a little bit of tweaking. To the best of my knowledge, with the exception of CDT/”techie” we’re the only subject that teaches this structured approach to problem-solving. Not only do we teach it, it’s entrenched in the ethos of computing and forms the framework of the course from junior years right through to senior. It’s not just an exam topic.

Computers are in use in all walks of life and knowing how they work helps you when you’re dealing with them. If you know what they can do and roughly how they do it, then it makes it easier for you to communicate to an expert exactly what you require if the actual task is outside of your skill set. This would be incredibly useful for those doing any scientific university course as they rely so heavily on information-gathering and, indeed, automation of experimental procedure. Automated and monitored by, of course, computers.

We’ve had pupils who’ve told us in their first year that they’re not taking Computing because they’re going into Medicine and their parents have said that Computing is pointless. This angers me. A good Computing pass further up the school is as valuable as any other for university entry and equally as useful for getting onto Medicine. In First Year you don’t even know what your child’s strengths truly are and by telling them they won’t be taking the course at certificate level in two years you’re hamstringing them – they won’t try, so they won’t achieve their potential. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

You could be pushing them to do a subject they struggle at, when they could be a natural nerd who could get a far easier “A” in Computing… and still get onto a medical course at university.

Computing is a science. In fact the course – right through from the beginning of the certificate route in schools to the end – has recently been renamed “Computing Science” in Scotland to reflect this. What more do we need to do to make parents, and indeed those within schools who sort out the timetable, realise that Computing Science is comparable to the “classic” sciences in terms of academic value?

Putting the icing on the creative cake

I draw'd this

I draw’d this

It’s all well and good having a bunch of ideas floating around in your head, but getting the little buggers to flow out of there into a form that others can witness is a right pain.

I’m not sure if I have a novel’s worth of thoughts stuck in my grey matter, or just a bunch of scenes that might somehow clag together to form a cohesive story. Or a series of stories. It’s just hard to put stuff together in a cohesive form so that I can get them on paper.

Thoughts and ideas for more adult tales are mixed up with ones definitely more suitable for the younger audience. Which brings with it other problems… like the fact that any decent book for under-10’s needs pictures, and I can’t draw for toffee (or any other sugar-based snack). But, then I’ve seen kids’ books with really bad drawings in them that the author has done anyway and they’re quite charming. Or do I try to find a friend who doesn’t mind wasting their time slapping some paint down in exchange for getting a co-author / artist credit?

I’ve always thought that arrangement a little unfair as the author, generally, has the ideas but the time taken to write a 30-page children’s story must be far less than that taken to draw / paint the accompanying illustrations. However, the person with the word processor generally seems to win out in terms of both fame and financial recompense.

I’d like to say “back to the drawing board” but, as detailed above, that’s probably somewhat inaccurate.

Orange Mojo

Source: WikiMedia

Source: WikiMedia

Why orange? Well, I’ve got a nice mug of hot orange juice on my desk. Other teachers have tea, I have dilute juice. Less caffeine, more sugar. That’s got to be good, right?

The interesting thing with oranges is that old argument about which came first – the name of the colour or the name of the fruit. Well, from what I’ve read it depends on what language you speak. As far as English is concerned, we didn’t have a word for orange until the fruit was introduced – along with its descriptive name. This is why we claim to have a bird known as a “robin red breast” when the vast majority of our avian friends have a more obviously orange tint to their chests.

Simply, there wasn’t a word to describe their colour so we went for the closest – red. If we had a more agreeable climate for the growth of these little spherical bundles of Vitamin C, how things could have been different.

I really like oranges, but I don’t eat them too often. Partly as fruit’s so damn expensive, and partly as I’m too lazy to peel them. It’s much easier just to shovel grapes into your mouth, or bite into an apple. Oranges need preparation. And, failing, that, too much tidying afterwards.

The simplest way to eat them is to slice one into quarters and just gnaw the flesh out. End result is juice all over the place, bits of fruit stuck between your teeth and – possible – crunching on pips you didn’t spot earlier.

Alternatively, you have to remove the skin then part each segment, examine them for pips which are then discarded and *then* you get to eat the thing. Nah, too much effort.

I tend to aim for the fruit juice with “bits” in it. That way I can pretend it’s more healthy as I’m getting some of the roughage. It’s also very rare that I’ll spill it all over my face when I drink it, making it less messy than the original source fruit. Admittedly, though, this is precisely what I did on Sunday. Oops.

The end of lunch approaches, though, and I need to top up my mug. Given the class I have next I’ll need all the sugar rush I can get…

7-Minute Mojo

7I have seven minutes before the bell goes and I’m out of free time, instead deluged with second-year pupils asking if they can “do work” over lunch. How playing an online tank combat game qualifies as “work” in any way, shape, or form is beyond me but what do I know? I’m only a teacher.

So what to do with those seven minutes which I could be utilising in a more productive manner, such as putting the finishing touches to an end-of-unit test we’re presenting to S1 next week? I know! I’ll tap something up on ye olde blogge because I’ve forgotten about it again!

Of course, I then spend half that time trying to find a decent image to put at the side. A task not aided by the poor selection now offered by Zemanta, a WordPress extension I used to use heavily. Sadly, they now seem to be pushing almost nothing but Getty Images which I prefer not to use. Once upon a time Zemanta would actually scour my own online resources (i.e. my flickr account) for relevant pictures which was very useful. But no more.

So now I have barely a minute left to rattle something off that might interest anyone passing.

Bugger. The bell has just gone. Hey, this writing to a deadline lark’s not as easy as they make out! No wonder Douglas Adams hardly wrote any books.