Saturday, March 26, 2016

Smarten up, BC Liberals! BC Minister’s Tech Education Illiteracy Astonishing

BC Education Minister Mike Bernier visits students actually in front of computers
Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Vancouver / The Tyee column

Tuesday January 26, 2016

By Bill Tieleman

"You don't actually have to be sitting in front of a computer to learn coding. There's lots of different ways to do that."

This province has tens of thousands of students at risk daily because they attend schools that are potential earthquake disasters, and the BC Liberal government has not fixed them in 15 years.

B.C. has kids in need, young people in government care, put up in hotels by themselves because the BC Liberals haven't made appropriate housing and treatment a priority, even after one teenager fell to his death from a hotel window last year.

B.C. has failed on its goal of dramatically increasing low First Nations students high school graduation rates from 49 per cent to 85 per cent in the past 10 years, getting to just 62 per cent.

Rather than working with the province's public school teachers, it is at war with them -- with another Supreme Court of Canada case coming up -- and if the BC Teachers' Federation wins, thousands of new teachers will be hired.

With all that to fix, what education improvement does Premier Christy Clark announce at a photo opportunity last week at the BC Tech Summit?

That computer coding will be taught in classrooms. Seriously. And Education Minister Mike Bernier says there's no additional money for computers, training, teachers or anything else -- just an order to do it.

Apparently Bernier thinks that's easy -- why would you need a computer to learn computer coding for goodness sakes?

I guess Bernier thinks you don't need a car to learn how to drive or a piano to learn how to play either, but I'd bet that's not how Formula One champions or Elton John got their start.

It boggles the mind that these education illiterates are in charge of our kids' education.

Tech ed reality check

Leave it to an actual computer science educator to spell out the obvious flaws in the BC Liberal announcement.

"If we are regarding coding at a similar level, in their view, as woodworking, a vocational skill, then do you not need tools and wood to do woodworking?" asks Melody Ma, a Vancouver advocate for kids learning coding.

"I'm a web developer, and it's pretty hard to go to work and tap on the tables to actually code. That's why 'computer science' has the word 'computer' in it," Ma says.


But Bernier and Clark clearly fail when you go past the flashy photo op phase to the reality kids face in classrooms.

BCTF President Jim Iker points out another big problem: "We've got schools that have computer labs where half the computers right now are not functioning properly."

Teach BC Libs a lesson

Fortunately, some parents and other adults have an immediate opportunity to tell the premier and minister to smarten up.

There are two by-elections on February 2 -- and while BC NDP candidate Melanie Mark is expected to easily hold Vancouver-Mount Pleasant, an upset win by the BC NDP's Jodie Wickens in Coquitlam-Burke Mountain would be a shock in a BC Liberal safe seat they won by over 2,000 votes in 2013.

And you won't need a computer to figure that message out.

UPDATE – Both NDP candidates Jodie Wickens and Melanie Mark were elected in those by-elections and sworn in as MLAs.  Education was a major issue in Coquitlam-Burke Mountain.


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