Your shout: Why IT education requires a rethink

Why education needs sorting out, a look at problem abbreviations and a reminder about a looming deadline

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Why IT education requires a rethink
Margaret White
Open University and FE lecturer

Students and teachers will not take up ICT and computing at A-level while these subjects linger towards the bottom of league tables, have huge syllabuses, and require (in the case of ICT) an inordinate amount of repetitive and boring coursework which is constantly undermined by moderators.

Why can't the examination boards split the topics altogether so that students wishing to move on to higher education or work can study them both in depth alongside mathematics or business studies, for example?

ICT could contain the application of technology, including topics such as systems analysis, systems design and decision tables with practical work on multiuser non-Microsoft products as well as the current simple spreadsheets and databases.

Computer science (not computing) could then be the study of the technology itself including, for example, truth tables, Boolean algebra, numbers, characters, protocols, assembly language, structured and object oriented programming.

Five countries and no computing degree
Keith Appleyard
Enterprise architect, American Express

Following on from Darren Stephens' letter regarding scientists in IT (Letters, 15 November), years ago when our newly-formed enterprise architecture practice first got together at a restaurant in New York, we found that although we were educated in five different countries, 65% of us had a physics degree - and none of us had a computing degree.

CIOs cannot deliver if they don't monitor
Andy Chestnutt
Compass Management Consulting

I read with interest Lindsay Clark's article about the failure of IT departments to monitor and communicate their own performance (Computer Weekly, 15 November).

It is truly astonishing after many years of being told that they must justify their IT spend, that some IT directors and chief information officers have yet to embrace the value of monitoring effectiveness of their work.

If you were to ask a CIO today what their job entails, most would say delivering their IT service as efficiently as possible - getting the most value for their investment - is their number one preoccupation. Making a difference by enabling business change would be second, yet they would prefer it to be top of the list.

However, without proper measurement they are unlikely to be competently delivering their service and certainly won't be in a position to prove that they are doing so, let alone be trusted to think about the future.

The article argues that the threat of not measuring performance lies in having major functions outsourced. I would agree with the threat because these functions would be reduced to being a commodity service. Further, I would argue that a bigger threat lies in the stagnation of a company that stifles its ability to move forward.

The CIO's requirement to demonstrate value is only half the story. Defining and monitoring performance maps out where the most effective improvements lie. Businesses can gain an incredible amount of insight by focusing on the details and then arming themselves with the information to forecast the impact of executive decisions.

Any CIO who is able to provide this level of support to the business soon finds that their conversations move away from a focus on cost to that spotlight on the future. After all, the ultimate measure of a CIO's effectiveness is how often they are consulted on business strategy.

The abbreviated guide to what it all means
Chetan Bhatt

I don't want to be pedantic, but having read Cliff Saran's article on application development (Computer Weekly, 8 November) I have finally been tipped over the edge with the explanation of UML as "Universal Markup Language". According to my understanding, UML actually stands for "Unified Modelling Language", so if you agree with me could you please disseminate this news, as I have seen this error in reporting before.

Having said that, I used to puzzle for ages over what automated teller machines (ATM) had to do with telecommunications technology until I found out that ATM actually stands for asynchronous transfer mode, so maybe I am the one who has lost the plot with what UML stands for these days!

Cliff Saran replies:

Oh dear. We've been caught by the vernaculars on this one. Chetan Bhatt is right, although Universal Markup Language has entered common parlance. The problem is that usage soon changes the original meanings of phrases. Sometimes only the abbreviation means anything to anyone. Take OEM, for example. And how many of its customers today have any idea what IBM stands for?

E-government deadline risks short-term fixes
Iain Pickering, Ndl metascybe

It was interesting to read about the government's strategy to deliver its shared services vision (Computer Weekly, 15 November).

From recent research we carried out across the local government community, it is apparent that not all local authorities will be fully e-enabled by the e-government target completion date in early 2006.

This impending deadline is obviously a cause for great concern among council leaders. It is also the reason behind local authorities concentrating on implementing software that helps them to meet their e-government target.

By employing this short-term fix, serious problems with existing back-office applications are being masked by the implementation of moderately capable CRM systems.

Finance will obviously always be high on the agenda of any senior council member. It becomes an even more prominent issue when you consider that central government funding will soon cease, meaning further financial pressure will be applied to local authority buyers. Again, this highlights the need for long-term software solutions and not cutting corners to meet e-government deadlines.

Undoubtedly, council leaders face difficulties in achieving their e-enablement objectives. Coupled with the amount of pressure applied internally to allocate operational budgets responsibly and prudently, it is an unenviable task.

Clearly more direction, guidance and support is needed.

 

This was last published in November 2005

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