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Computer Textbooks For High Schoolers? 361

Posted by kdawson
from the basics-for-beginners dept.
wetdogjp writes "I recently became a high school teacher, and I've inherited three classes with no textbooks! While two of my classes are introductory in nature, one for computers in general and the other for networking, the third class should prepare juniors and seniors to enter the workforce and start a career in computers. We have some older textbooks by Heathkit available, but the newest of them are four years old. Do Slashdotters have any favorite textbooks that can help kids on their way to becoming junior sysadmins, programmers, networking professionals, etc.? Would you suggest books to prepare students to take certification tests such as A+, Network+, or others? Any textbooks we use would need to cover quite a breadth of material, such as PC hardware, operating systems, networking, security, and more."
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Computer Textbooks For High Schoolers?

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  • paper is overrated (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Brain Damaged Bogan (1006835) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @02:27AM (#24839079)
    The internet has all the information they need to know. Just teach them how to search effectively for the information they want.
    • by Tubal-Cain (1289912) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @02:33AM (#24839111) Journal

      It has a problem with presenting facts in an orderly manner and often won't elaborate on some of the more advanced topics.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Nymz (905908)

        It has a problem with presenting facts in an orderly manner and often won't elaborate on some of the more advanced topics.

        Without dismissing your points, I don't think they outweigh the value of the parent poster's suggestion. What good is a perfected worded book that is four or more years old, and irrelevant compared to internet resources, as the summary informs?

        I'm glad this summary was posted as News, and not AskSlashdot, because discussing the root of the challenge is much more interesting, than 1000s of people suggesting any particular book they've read themselves.

        • by Tubal-Cain (1289912) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @03:03AM (#24839279) Journal

          What good is a perfected worded book that is four or more years old, and irrelevant compared to internet resources, as the summary informs?

          Maybe we need an IT-wiki-ebook.

          • by Nymz (905908) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @03:46AM (#24839533) Journal

            Maybe we need an IT-wiki-ebook.

            Make it the class project! ;-)

            • by halcyon1234 (834388) <halcyon1234@hotmail.com> on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @08:31AM (#24841165) Journal

              Maybe we need an IT-wiki-ebook.

              Make it the class project! ;-)

              I was going to suggest the same thing. Even if you can't get webspace from your school's IT department, it'd be a trivial matter to set up a LAMP computer on your classroom's LAN and install MediaWiki on it-- or shell out ~$50 and get yourself a economy hosted website somewhere that offers a LAMP stack.

              Then put up a skeleton structure for the course. Add some pages about what the course is, the curriculum and goals, time line, etc.

              As each lesson comes around (or even a few in advance) post your notes to the wiki. Encourage students to elaborate or expand upon the wiki in any positive way. That can be anything from adding some links to educational sites, to updating out-of-date information, to fixing spelling & grammar.

              Then, as a class project, break your class up into teams of 2-3 people. Assign each of them a course topic. Have them research the material, and for a deliverable, they need to create the wiki page for that topic. Give them some guidelines (must have 3 sources that will be [cited], must contain at least 3 useful links to other intra-wiki pages, etc). Maybe even have them present their findings. Future classes might have the same requirements, but instead must find 2 new facts about their topic that aren't currently in the wiki.

              Make sure you have a nice index page, set up the Random page, and the thing will build itself. It's something that each student will have had a hand in making. Limit editing to Registered Only, and make sure you approve accounts (or pre-generate them for your students). This will cut down on vandalism. It will also give you, the person who will be grading their work, a full snapshot of who did what work, as well as a complete revision history.

              At the end of the semester, not only will you have a really good completed project, but it will also be extremely useful for future classes. You effectively have all your notes created and kept in a presentable manner. You can even put it on a public-facing computer, and open it up for other classes or teachers (even those beyond your own school) to use. (You might want to limit it to a public read-only, until you are ready to release the entire project into the wild...)

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by TapeCutter (624760) *
          "What good is a perfected worded book that is four or more years old, and irrelevant compared to internet resources, as the summary informs?"

          Many books are old and irrelevant, some are timeless [wikipedia.org]. Reading how to program (as opposed to how to code) will help make sense of what you find on the net. This isn't to say there are no good sources on the net but it's silly to ignore the classics.

          "I'm glad this summary was posted as News, and not AskSlashdot, because discussing the root of the challenge is much
        • by Martin Blank (154261) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @09:09AM (#24841547) Journal

          What good is a perfected worded book that is four or more years old, and irrelevant compared to internet resources, as the summary informs?

          For high school classes, printed books of that age are just fine. How much have Windows, Mac, and even Linux changed in the last four years? Not enough to wipe away the basics. Look at the established reference for TCP/IP: it's nearly 15 years old. If they're teaching programming, a four-year-old textbook would be new enough for the basics of C, C++, Java, PHP, Perl, HTML, and a long list of other languages.

          Relevance does not require the absolute latest version of everything, especially when preparing for the business world, where the version in use of a given program or language is often 3+ years old.

    • by beakerMeep (716990) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @02:43AM (#24839167)
      Ok. You win the sweeping generalization of the day award.

      (dont take that too personally, we've all won that at one time or another)

      Personally, I think books are great. They can provide in-depth look at a focused topic. The internet, on the other hand, is (generally) more of a mass collection of tidbits of information. Both have their usage.

      I also am a big fan of unchaining from the desk. It's good for your health, your eyes, and your sanity. And I find it easier to lug a book around on the subway then trying to connect to the unavailable internet on a lap heater.

      YMMV

      As to the topic though, I am not sure how useful it is to learn computers in high school. I would hope there would be more of a college prep approach. However, I am not such a blind idealist that I believe every student will be going to college. Still, the question seems a bit idealist itself -- to think a single class in computers at the high school level would prepare a student to enter a professional workforce seems a stretch. But I may be over-analyzing it.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        I can see your point, but I can't actually remember when I last broke the spine of a non-fictional book to glean some information. In the real world the computing students will be much better off learning HOW to find the information they need that being handed a book filled with information, most of which is probably not even relevant to the tasks they'll be given.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Enleth (947766)

          And I can remember that just fine, as it was last Friday. So what?

          If it works for you, great, but don't assume it does for everyone.

        • by thermian (1267986) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @05:10AM (#24839945)

          I can see your point, but I can't actually remember when I last broke the spine of a non-fictional book to glean some information. In the real world the computing students will be much better off learning HOW to find the information they need that being handed a book filled with information, most of which is probably not even relevant to the tasks they'll be given.

          This demonstrates the common misconception that the internet is full of useful and accurate information.

          Textbooks have one major advantage over web pages. They have been through an editorial process. I know sites like Wikipedia do as well, but since one of their 'professors' turned out not even to have an undergrad degree, and they are all anonymous, that leaves a lot to be desired on the authenticity front.

          Wikipedia's version of peer review is equally suspect. Peer review without identification of peers to the author is ok, but when the identity of the author whose work is being reviewed is also hidden, and the peer reviewers have no need to account for their suitability to act as reviewers the process becomes little more than a parody of the true process.

          Its also my experience that a great deal of information on the web is copied from what people have read in books anyway.

          Some sites, like IBM, Sun, Microsoft and other companies with a vested interested in programming do provide useful online resources, but they also produce books.

          I reject utterly the argument that computing books are out of date the moment they are printed. I have textbooks dating back ten years which still contain information I use often. Just because some small aspects of a subject may change does not invalidate all previous information on the subject.

          This is especially true of books which seek to teach the basics of programming. You could pick up a book produced a few years ago, use that exclusively for months, and come out of the other end with a sufficient understanding of the fundamentals to grasp any recent changes it didn't cover. Such books tend to cover such fundamentals that they don't go out of date too fast. If your language of choice wasn't one being used as a marketplace lever (Java and C# for example), this is even more likely to be the case.

          I personally use a mix of online and printed word resources. Only rarely do I stray from sites where the author is identified by name, I prefer to take my information from resources where the author has at least felt enough responsibility for their work to take credit for it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      'search effectively'... for you as a teacher that's the 'book' you need.

      Printed textbooks aren't a device for 'learning', they are a device for you to benchmark and evaluate student progress against (unfortunately this doesn't usually relate to real-world requirements) ... learning is about discovery... and the web rightly or wrongly is the most open form of discovery available â" you just have to work out what the 'fit' is in the classroom environment.

      BTW most kids out of school we employ (20+ a year

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by spotmonk (781716)

      The internet has all the information they need to know. Just teach them how to search effectively for the information they want.

      I almost agree with this. With such a wide range of topics that a textbook would need to cover, it would almost make more sense to break your semester or whatever into the topics you need to cover, then find a reputable website that will teach the topic as detailed as you would like. If it's not as detailed as you would like, find another website to support it. It's a lot cheaper than finding multiple textbooks that explain everything you want in what detail you want. Also, it's a lot easier to find website

    • Given the choice, I prefer a paper source over an internet link nine times out of ten. A good book, properly indexed, is almost always superior to someones personal page or site on a topic. There are exceptions, but overall books offer better presentations. The physical format of a book is also easier on the eyes, and more accessible than a computer monitor.

      Hyperlinks are all very well for wiki-trips, but wiki-trips are really more for general knowledge learning. The question of the credibility of information on the internet also refuses to go away. Everyone by now has encountered information on wikipedia they know to be wrong or misleading. The same goes for websites. I don't mean to say that books and printed materials intrinsically have more credibility. But it's usually higher for them, though not by an order of magnitude.

      If you want specific, detailed information and training on a topic, you need to read a book.

      • Why limit the media used. Request an online (local or internet) version of the textbook too. Even if it's only the [paginated] text it will fill in for indexing failures and would (depending on rights) allow excerpts to be added to experiment notes, used on the projector/white-board, and I'm sure used for lots of other things.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Do Slashdotters have any favorite textbooks that can help kids on their way to becoming junior sysadmins, programmers, networking professionals, etc.?

      Why are high school students being trained to be junior sysadmins, programmers, networking professionals? Teach the students to think, problem solve, and communicate verbally and especially in writing. It is difficult enough for IT professionals to find meaningful, gainful employment in IT these days. Are these students willing to compete with outsourced labour in India?

  • what languages? (Score:5, Informative)

    by story645 (1278106) * <story645@gmail.com> on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @02:34AM (#24839117) Journal

    Dietel & Dietel publish a bunch of intro books (c++, java, a few others) that have a bunch of supplements/coding examples/etc. on their website. They're very newbie friendly and cover a good deal of information. Actually, so do some of the AP comp sci review books (my Baron's AP Java book has a lot of clear examples.)

    Look at other high schools and community colleges that teach the same thing you do and see what books they're using.

    Certification prep is a double edged sword. The books may be accessible, but they also may be too focused on the test and therefore teach to it rather than teach general skills.

    Also, you don't need to use a book for everything. All my intro programming books do a brief overview of hardware, and my profs add when needed. I didn't even have a textbook for my high school computer hardware class (basically a build your own computer thing, but we also learned about karnough maps, logic, and other basics.)

    • by dbcad7 (771464)
      Not picking on you specifically.. but your at the top, and it is repeated again and again below.. The question was about.. Intro to computers, networking.. and job skills (office suites)... every one wants to jump past all this and teach programming for some reason... Now granted the average HS student today probably doesn't need "intro" courses for computers (maybe networking though).. but that is what was asked for... now let me ask you this.. does college level "intro to computers" teach c++ or java ??..
      • by story645 (1278106) *

        Um, from the orginal post:

        Do Slashdotters have any favorite textbooks that can help kids on their way to becoming junior sysadmins, programmers, networking professionals, etc.?

        I was just answering the part I know something about, having taken two programming and one hardware course in high school. Never touched networking, aside from the one I've got at home. Also, nothing in his post implies that the job skills course isn't basically a programming one.

  • Write your own (Score:2, Interesting)

    by fyrewulff (702920)

    Do your job for once and write a curriculum like every homeschooling parent must do? Because your teacher's union has blocked the aftermarket sale price of all textbooks?

    My C++ teacher had a big book on C++, but all of his lessons were obviously custom written. He just used the book as a foundation.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rtb61 (674572)

      Well, it makes much more sense to create a 'open' education program, where schools from around the globe and through the various levels, primary, high school and university create a series of open text books for 'free' use within the education system. Obviously students in university could gain credit for digital texts written and corroborated on for use in high school and primary school.

      Doesn't solve the current problem but certainly makes sense for the future and to ensure that acceptable standards are

    • Re:Write your own (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Count Fenring (669457) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @03:04AM (#24839295) Homepage Journal

      Unkind, uncalled for, and incorrect to boot.

      Seriously: A) Homeschooling - not a perfect solution to the INCREDIBLY complicated problem of getting kids educated. In many cases, not a good solution. And, fyi, public school teachers build curriculums. So do private school teachers.

      B) You kill your own argument by pointing out that "used the book as a foundation." He still used the book. He still needed the book. And why? Because a quality textbook is one of the most useful and powerful tools for both guided and self-directed learning. Because trying to learn anything without some sort of organized reference is maddeningly difficult. Because, I don't know, a teacher only has so much time with the kids, and they need more information than he can fit into one hour (maybe 1.5) per weekday.

      Your argument (such as it was) demolished, I turn to motivation. What the hell is wrong with you? You see a question about relative quality of textbooks, and think "OHMYGOD, A CHANCE TO BASH TEACHERS AND UNIONS AND PROMOTE HOMESCHOOLING BECAUSE I'M THE SECRET LIBERTARIAN GOD-PRINCE!!!1!"

      If you want to run an opinion blog, do so. But leave people who are trying to find ways to teach children better in peace, dude.

      • Mod parent correct but unnecessarily harsh. I apologize for the venom, although I can't say it won't happen again.

        • by Belial6 (794905)
          You mean INCORRECT and unnecessarily harsh. You can be pissed all you want that homeschooling is more successful than public schools at giving kids a good education, but that doesn't change the fact that it regularly does so. You can also be pissed that someone suggest that teachers live up to their claims. If they are as good as they claim at educating, they should be able to write a decent text book. After all, according to most, they spend every night weekend and 3 months solid during the summer writ
          • by AuMatar (183847)

            Wrong. It occasionally does so, when the parent is a gifted teacher. Most of the time, it produces a moron who can barely pass the GED. The vast majority of parents are not qualified to teach basic high school math, science, or writing much less advanced classes in any of those. Not surprising though, since the most common reason for homeschooling is the parent's xenophobia. It tends to go hand in hand with ignorance.

          • Re:Write your own (Score:5, Insightful)

            by mr_matticus (928346) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @04:37AM (#24839801)

            You can be pissed all you want that homeschooling is more successful than public schools at giving kids a good education

            That's far from the truth.

            There are certainly many success stories from homeschooling, but consider the inputs: those kids are motivated students from generally affluent families whose parents are themselves sufficiently sophisticated to prepare a curriculum. There was never really any doubt about the success of their education. The benefit comes from individual attention and self-pacing, which isn't a benefit of homeschooling but rather of class sizes you and your crackpot instruction.

            For every "success", there's a sadly manipulated child as well as a total failure to go along with him. Saying that homeschooling is the answer is disingenuous at best. Few parents are sufficiently skilled or knowledgeable to complete an entire primary and secondary education.

            If they are as good as they claim at educating, they should be able to write a decent text book.

            Spoken like someone who truly fails to understand what a teacher is for. Educating isn't simply feeding data. Being able to write a textbook is an entirely different skill from being able to help students apply that information. You don't ask the race car driver to build the car. Even being an expert in a particular field does not mean you can write an effective textbook about it.

            Just look at all the professors who are brilliant theorists and scholars but terrible instructors.

          • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

            by Hognoxious (631665)

            You can be pissed all you want that homeschooling is more successful than public schools at giving kids a good education

            If your definition of "good education" is that the Earth is 6000 years old.

      • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @04:36AM (#24839797)

        And, fyi, public school teachers build curriculums.

        And home-schooled kids learning Latin would know the plural of curriculum is curricula ;)

    • by mrjb (547783)
      The problem with writing your own book is that it takes time, and lots of it- months to years. Even if you know what you're talking about. But kdawson needs a book now.
  • by Apple Acolyte (517892) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @02:36AM (#24839129)

    the third class should prepare juniors and seniors to enter the workforce and start a career in computers.

    Are any employers anywhere willing to hire high schoolers in any tech jobs in today's economy?

    • by FearForWings (1189605) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @02:50AM (#24839205)

      Maybe he was thinking on teaching from 'The C Programming Language' by K&R, and the class project would be writing a Turing complete interpreter for the Game of Life.

    • by vigmeister (1112659) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @02:55AM (#24839237)

      Are any employers anywhere willing to hire high schoolers in any tech jobs in today's economy?

      You need to get out more and smell the recycled air at Best Buy, Circuit City, Apple stores etc.
      Fairly sure those people are high school graduates at best. If those employees are college graduates, I am not sure that a college degree is worth all that much.

      Me: Do you carry crossover cables?
      Employee: What are those?
      Me: A cable with cross-wired ethernet jacks at the ends.
      Employee: What are you trying to use it for?
      Me: To connect my desktop to my laptop
      Employee: Well, you could use an external hard drive to transfer files over...

      Cheers!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Vectronic (1221470)

      You're absolutely right, stop teaching tech entirely, train them how to work at McDonalds till they are 35, then start teaching them Tech... cause we all know teaching an old dog new tricks is easy.

      Infact, don't even teach them a spoken language until they are 19, would save all that back talking. ...

      Yeah, most, probably nearly all wont find a job that suits there skills immediately, but pretty much no one does right out of highschool regardless of what they might have specialized in... but if they dont sta

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by syousef (465911)

      Are any employers anywhere willing to hire high schoolers in any tech jobs in today's economy?

      My first computing job was after I'd dropped out of a 1st year B.Sc. I worked for a year based on just high school certification for less than I could have earnt if I held a job at McDonalds. This was in 1994, and the job involved programming, phone support and on site customer installations. My boss only hired highschoolers so he could pay like that. I was able to get into a B.Sc. in Computing the following year a

    • by plasmacutter (901737) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @03:21AM (#24839391)

      Are any employers anywhere willing to hire high schoolers in any tech jobs in today's economy?

      Ar any employers anywhere willing to hire college educated individuals in any tech jobs in todays economy?

  • Professor and Pat (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tkosan (1160327) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @02:44AM (#24839175)
    I am in the process of writing a series of free ebooks for high school age students which teach the detailed fundamentals of how a computer works:

    http://professorandpat.org/ [professorandpat.org]

    The programming books are designed to work with a free development environment called MathRider:

    http://mathrider.org/ [mathrider.org]

    Some of your students may find these to be useful.

    Ted
  • Books (Score:5, Informative)

    by matria (157464) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @02:48AM (#24839195)

    Talk to the people at O'Reilly, especially their Safari bookshelf. They might be able to cut you a deal for educational use.

    http://oreilly.com/ [oreilly.com]
    http://safari.oreilly.com/?cid=orm-nav-global [oreilly.com]

  • by Eric Smith (4379) * <ericNO@SPAMbrouhaha.com> on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @02:50AM (#24839207) Homepage Journal
    that the basics have changed so much recently that four-year-old computer textbooks are obsolete?

    Sure, there's always new stuff, but it's more important to have a good grasp of the fundamentals than to know the latest buzzword bingo stuff that probably won't last long anyhow.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by WillKemp (1338605)

      that the basics have changed so much recently that four-year-old computer textbooks are obsolete?

      The basics haven't changed much in the 30 years since i did my first programming course (as part of maths at tech college).

      The hardware's changed a lot - and the languages have evolved a bit. But the fundamentals of understanding the subject are still the same.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Xamusk (702162)
      I'm in an electronics engineering college course, and I'm using a 1976 textbook. Most of the other ones are from the 80's and the newer ones are revisions from originals of about the same age or even older.

      Of course a computer class changes much more often, though the basics (and that's what you want) change much less often. Keep the basics and update hardware specs and you have everything you need.

      If what you want is a programming course, you could take a look at the python programming language. It's e
  • Think Python (Score:5, Interesting)

    by atrus (73476) <atrusNO@SPAMatrustrivalie.org> on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @02:51AM (#24839215) Homepage
    Your class topics seem so wide and varied, but if you're going to do an introductory programming class, try this book:

    http://www.greenteapress.com/thinkpython/ [greenteapress.com].

    Its a great introductory programming book, focused on Python. Its coming out in print form soon, if that is a requirement.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by story645 (1278106) *

      A good supplement (and stand alone if the students already have some programming experience) is Dive Into Python [diveintopython.org], one of the best python books around. It's free and available in print form. Its' a great intro book 'cause it's really well organized such that the chapters really build on each other for the most part. It's also awesome 'cause the author walks through every example program, explaining what each part does and how it all works together.

      • by atrus (73476)
        Yes, that would be my second suggestion. It all depends on the depth and level the original poster is taking it to. If you're going to run out of true beginner stuff, it may be advantageous to work in Dive Into Python (maybe select your own pieces into a course reader type of book).
    • Two more free (as in b... uh... orange soda) one is a python textbook...

      "A Byte of Python
      Introduction

      "A Byte of Python" is a book on programming using the Python language. It serves as a tutorial or guide to the Python language for a beginner audience. If all you know about computers is how to save text files, then this is the book for you...."

      That's one's in 5 different formats and 16 different foreign languages

      http://www.swaroopch.com/byteofpython/ [swaroopch.com]

      The other is "Lessons In Electric Circuits
      hosted by ibibli

  • by eean (177028) <slashdotNO@SPAMmonroe.nu> on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @02:55AM (#24839239) Homepage

    If your teaching a non-academic programming class, I don't really see the point in using a textbook. Decide on your language and find a good introductory book for it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by quizteamer (758717)
      While this is a good suggestion, this teacher should really be checking with their school about his options. I work at a private high school and when I was choosing a textbook (for an intro physics class) I wanted to forget about the textbook idea and use Feynman and a variety of problems (some my own some borrowed). The idea was shot down because the administration was worried about not being reaccredited. I ended up using an older version of a popular college level text book and Feynman.
  • ALICE! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by linhares (1241614)
    You can use Randy's Alice [dickbaldwin.com] and teach OO programing really easily.
  • by LostMyBeaver (1226054) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @03:00AM (#24839261)
    While I don't think I'm in a good position to recommend specific books, I feel that from my experiences with my nephew (we're quite close) I should add my 2 cents.

    While you're in a great position to educate students with regards to computers and in reality, you could even prepare them for A+ and even Cisco or Juniper certification before they leave school, I believe that you should take advantage of the opportunity instead to teach them general computer knowledge and not specialized.

    I have worked indirectly with CompTIA and have even assisted in writing books for A+ certification, but I prefer to believe that students taking courses voluntarily in high school should be directed towards higher education in computer science instead of providing them with a certification track that could allow them to go straight to work after high school. I believe that the A+, Network+, CCIE etc... track is great for guys that never got the higher education and want to work their way up the food chain without going to the university at the age of 30.

    Don't get me wrong, preparing kids to take a CCIE which would get them $85,000-$125,000 a year the moment they graduate high school sounds great, but if they were able to achieve that by the time they left school, they could achieve so much more with a few years in the University.

    Now, if you're teaching in a place where the students might otherwise be doomed to a life working in factories in dead end jobs, or in a place where the percentage of students continuing to higher education is disappointing, you would do them a great favor preparing them for certifications and careers straight out of high school. But if you make it obviously profitable for students to just ditch college and the university because they are certified for jobs right out of high school, then you could in fact be robbing the world of the valuable resources of higher educated scientists.

    Teach the students computers as a science at the high school level, not as an engineering skill. If you're teaching at a proper (meaning public) high school as opposed to a vocational school, then computers should be approached in the same way as physics, biology or chemistry.

    The students should leave your class knowing where computers come from, they should understand the history of computers. Maybe you should try to teach a limited set of electronics including discreet math (or just general boolean logic), you could even communicate with the local junior college and find out if you can design a credit track where you can use their curriculum to allow students to take college level 1st and 2nd year courses in high school and then take their finals at the college. This is actually how my high school worked and because of that many of the students continued on to New York Institute of Technology with 90% of their first two years of university credits completed.

    Well, that was my two cents... I hope you find a good path to follow.

    P.S. - if you do end up going down the certification track instead, please choose useful ones. A+ and Network+ are for guys driving silly vans to peoples houses with stupid names like Geek Squad. They're the fat assed, butt crack hanging out of their jeans plumbers of the computer business.
    • by Icarium (1109647)

      Agreed. I felt like punching something when the summary asked about how to teach kids to pass those certs. Teaching to the test rather than giving a solid grounding in the subject as a whole often leaves you with a bunch of certified idiots.

      Yes, some of those certs are useful, but anyone who studies exclusively to get one should honestly look at another career path.

  • by syousef (465911) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @03:03AM (#24839285) Journal

    First of all, how long do you think it takes for a book to get to market? Between 6 months and a year it's still brand spanking new.

    Secondly, even in computing good books become classics - Think K&R for C programming.

    Thirdly, newer books often just make minor modifications to the old text. Hell some just renumber pages to keep up sales. (Hell some teachers re-use course notes for years in a row at a time with little revision).

    Fourthly, 5 year old skills are still useful. Few if any companies are using bleeding edge stuff exclusively.

    Then there's the Net which is a great resource. There are a ton of free tutorials on the web for various things.

    If you've got access to 4 year old books and the Net, quit whining and looking for the most up to date books. You might as well ask for a pony.

    • If you've got access to 4 year old books and the Net, quit whining and looking for the most up to date books.

      I don't think anyone was whining.

  • Ye gods, what a load of snotty attitudes people seem to meet this actually very important question with. Have you guys forgotten that you were once beginners that could hardly find the "Any Key" on a keyboard? Even Americans are not born with the genetic code for how to use a computer; not unless evolution has picked up speed recently. Ok, so there are still only a few responses so far, hopefully the quality will improve.

    As for your question - I don't really know. I think it is a very important subject, too

  • High school is not a place to train job skills. Rather, it is almost intended to weed out the productive members of society from the unproductive. It is almost a test- if you can go to school regularly and complete coursework, you will probably be reasonably successful in life. You probably have the capacity to go to work regularly and complete your duties there. If you can't do this, chances are very good (though not definite) that your list of life accomplishments has already been completed.

    In short
  • FAIL (Score:5, Insightful)

    by shiftless (410350) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @03:17AM (#24839367) Homepage

    .. the third class should prepare juniors and seniors to enter the workforce and start a career in computers.

    The point of high school is not (or should not be) to prepare kids to be mindless worker drones. The point of high school is (or should be) to give them a good, basic education.

    • Re:FAIL (Score:4, Insightful)

      by plasmacutter (901737) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @03:25AM (#24839411)

      .. the third class should prepare juniors and seniors to enter the workforce and start a career in computers.

      The point of high school is not (or should not be) to prepare kids to be mindless worker drones. The point of high school is (or should be) to give them a good, basic education.

      what a quaint starry-eyed aspiration.

      sadly, it hasn't been true since the record was the dominant audio medium.

      Back then they taught a good, well rounded education.

      This included math, science, and all that other "good stuff", but also things like shop which helped people build and maintain their own furnishings and tools.

      Shop went the way of the dodo (I wonder how many lobbies benefitted from that), and now PE and art are following.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by rohan972 (880586)

      .. the third class should prepare juniors and seniors to enter the workforce and start a career in computers.

      The point of high school is not (or should not be) to prepare kids to be mindless worker drones. The point of high school is (or should be) to give them a good, basic education.

      Got to back up plasmacutter here, that is quaint and starry-eyed.

      The reason we have so many mindless worker drones is partly ascribable to the schooling system being specifically designed to produce them. Have a read of "The Measurement of Intelligence", by Lewis Madison Terman, it should be enough to cure any scepticism regarding that claim. A look at the role of schooling proposed in "The Communist Manifesto" as a method of bringing about social change ought to challenge your thinking about the purpose

      • If school was really for your benefit and not someone else's, why did it need to be made compulsory? I can understand the desire for free education, but why compulsory?

        If schooling were not compulsory then kids would have more time to have kids, breeding like locusts, and a devolution leading to separation of our species would occur at a faster rate. In such a case, besides war, how do you propose that we rid ourselves of such people whilst maintaining a class who is indifferent to mindless servitude?

    • Or maths for the English. I believe studies in the UK have shown that the A level grade in maths - roughly equivalent to the final year of math in high school - is a better predictor of success in tech jobs than a degree. The reason is blindingly obvious with 6/6 hindsight - your level of math when you start any tech course, including first degree, determines how quickly you will pick things up. By the time you are 18, it's probably too late to learn essential math.

      I am eternally grateful to the progressive

    • by bob_jordan (39836)

      If you are preparing them to enter the workforce then don't forget, there are a lot of books in the public domain such as,

              Art of War by Sun Tzu
              The Prince by Machiavelli

      Etc,

      Bob.

         

  • Why bother with dead-tree versions? There are thousands of FREE online tutorials/guides/how-to/wikis that these kids can learn from. For any of them that don't have 'net access at home, use the schools copiers/printers to give them something to bring home.

    Teach them dammit, don't just hand out a book and hope they figure it out. Earn the right to be called a teacher. Perhaps then when the smart ones ask "Why..?" you can really answer.

    • by pbhj (607776)

      Why bother with dead-tree versions? There are thousands of FREE online tutorials/guides/how-to/wikis that these kids can learn from. For any of them that don't have 'net access at home, use the schools copiers/printers to give them something to bring home.

      Because it's far better to mash together a load of disparate resources and infringe peoples copyright(*) spending [unpaid] hours copyrighting/editing/publishing/printing your own booklets than it is to get a consistent well rounded resource?

      * a lot of stuff that is "free" online is just paid for with advertising (like non-member Slashdot); because it's freely available online doesn't mean you can print it out for free. A school teacher will likely have to get a specific note of the copyright holders approva

  • As a former High School InfoTech student and current College Programming Student, I really don't find textbooks that useful at all. Truthfully, the only use I ever get out of textbooks (other than reading the questions the teacher's assign) is reading the examples and the using the reference section.

    Not only do examples and references exist on the web, but it is SO much easier to use a reference with hyperlinks than to have to jump between pages of a book

    If you really need some good ideas I have a list of

  • Can someone give those of us from a different part of the world a set of ages. High school in NZ means 13yrs to 17yrs. What age are we talking about?
    • by belmolis (702863)

      High school in the US ends with grade 12. Students are typically 18 at the end of this year. In some districts, high school consists of grades 9-12. In others, grades 7-9 are housed in a junior high school and high school consists of just grades 10-12. Grade 9 is referred to as "freshman" year and the students are called "freshmen". Grade 10 is "sophomore" year, grade 11 "junior" year, and grade 12 "senior" year.

  • by holophrastic (221104) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @03:37AM (#24839483)

    I've never been a fan of textbooks -- especially in scientific fierds. They tend to be notoriously out-of-date, and wildly inaccurate even when new. Too much effort is spent making things seem easy, or otherwise dumbing down the content to the point where it becomes meaningless.

    But computer disciplines come with a natural advantage: documentation. All of the avenues that you are exploring have solid documentation. Not only is this documentation accurate, it's almost always up-to-date.

    I'd suggest skipping the textbooks and giving your students the real experience. Teach them how to handle reams and reams of documentation across multiple avenues.

    The good thing, from your side, is that you don't have to give them the most complicated advanced stuff off the top. There are a lot of small steps to be taken with any documentation -- from the equivalent of a "hello world" program and configuring routers all the way up to more complicated yet still manageable aspects like protocols and cross-interactions.

    So I'd suggest that you select a few disciplines as you have, grab real live official documentation -- lots of it -- classify them according to complexity -- and by complexity I mean the requirement of additional working systems -- and take your students through actually doing something small.

    Small things can be incredibly simple when you read the instructions. Documentation is nothing more than that. I can think of no better skill-set in the computer world than to gather three-thousand pages of documentation on your topic, locate the six pages that apply to your current project, follow them precisely, and then explore their surroundings to see the magic possibilities of yoru new-found power.

    That kind of skill easily propegates itself as one bit of knowledge allows you to explore the next. And since it's real actual documentation, it's all 100% (well, let's pretend) correct and useful. Your students will be able to legitimately list things that they've done with little more than quality supervision.

  • I figure less than 1 out 100 people have what it takes to be a very good programmer. The foundations for them will be different than the foundations needed for other students and the wrong ones can create a sort of brain damage that will take years to unlearn and I'm not sure some bad thought processes can ever be unlearned.

    I would start the 1st week or two off with a very basic system of what the computer is doing.... i.e. moving numbers around. Go find a computer book from the 1950s for ideas on how to

    • I started with the built-in BASIC-2 interpreter on my first computer (Amstraad). My very first computer book was the BASIC-2 manual from Amstraad. My very first program was the knock-knock joke involving bananas and oranges. My second program was one to help my teenage son with his "find the volume of a..." homework.

      From there I went to x86 assembly language using the shareware a86 assembler. Then C and C++ (Borland), VisualBasic, a bit of Cobol, Delphi, Java and perl, along with some dBase and Oracle-style

  • Scan last year's books, or whatever supplemental material you may want to add, and put it in a pdf and onto an sd card and into a Nintendo DS.

    Cost: $100 per student for all books, updated, with additional supplemental materials every semester.

    They get: One small book to carry with everything of theirs in a backpack, all their information bookmarked or copy pasted clearly with a stylus.

    I get: One less thing to worry about at the PTA meeting.

  • by sydbarrett74 (74307) <sydbarrett74 AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @04:33AM (#24839771)
    ... and found hundreds of links. For the cost of printing out a PDF, you can give each student his/her own text. If you contract with a local Kinko's or printing shop, you could have these printed and bound for minimal cost -- far cheaper than the $40-50 that a computer book would cost at Barnes and Noble.
  • Any textbooks we use would need to cover quite a breadth of material, such as PC hardware, operating systems, networking, security, and more.

    And more? Either you are only going to touch on each topic ever so briefly, or the whole course is misguided. There is no way anyone is going to learn anything useful, let alone anything that would get them hired, by learning all of these topics at once. They all deserve their own class, and there are plenty of books on specific topics.

    Certification tests usually come with their own set of guides for teachers.

  • I have a suggestion (Score:4, Interesting)

    by 2Bits (167227) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @04:39AM (#24839809)

    If you are a high school teacher, may I put in my suggestion here?

    For me, if you really want to teach about programming (and I think teaching high schoolers to get certification is plain wrong), a high school teacher should inspire students to want to go into that field (or other scientific fields, as a matter of fact). High schoolers can learn the language syntax just fine, any language, and do the debugging too. You can give an introduction to most languages, and they will pick up and do it. The issue here to make them pick up the interest in doing it, and that's the hard part.

    I remember when I was at high school, we had that programming course (optional class), where the teacher was teaching us programming Logo on those 8086 machines without hard disk. We needed to have a boot floppy to boot up, then another floppy for loading the program. The teacher thought he was God, we were a class of 40, and the class lasted one hour and half. He refused to create more boot disks so that everyone can boot at the same time, he just had one, gave it to one student at a time, and waited behind the student until the machine boot up, and passed the floppy to the next student. By the time the last student finished booting up, the class is almost over. None of us had computer at home, that's the only place we had access to computer programming.

    Not only that, his moto was "Can't do", you can't do this, you can't do that. A few of us came up with some nice tricks to do things, and he threatened to fail us if we don't program his and his only way. For example, to draw a polygon, you must use his method, can't have anything else. We used the math learned in high school, including sin(), cosin(),etc, to program some fun stuffs, like creating a cube and move it inside a bigger cube, with proper perspective and angle and all that. 3D stuff. Yeah, you can do this with just high school math. Guess what, we would have failed the class, if we didn't accept to draw stupid picture by creating points and link the points together with stupid lines. All he wanted was the pictures so that he can print them, stick them on the walls, so that the principal could see his "achievements".

    In that class of 40, all of us hated programming by the end. Only two got into computer science at University, I was one, and that's because I wanted to program a computer that can talk to me, like HAL in "2001 : Space Odyssey" (yeah, I read that book at the time).

    A high school teacher can do much more than that, and don't underestimate the intellect of high schoolers, if you can rouse their interests.

    I think a competitive project between teams would be great, you not only teach programming, you also teach teamwork at the same time. You don't need fancy textbooks, just some introductory materials. Don't limit their imagination, encourage them to go beyond what you teach.

    In contrast, we had a great math teacher. Yeah, Mr. Belleau, if you are reading this, I'd like to say, thank you, although it's more than 20 years ago now.

  • Or "Head First (anything else)" (C# is pretty good). Very engaging, lots of geekey and slightly adult humor. Covers a lot of stuff.

    Some of the humor is a bit adult - might not fly in Texas, Missouri or anywhere else prudes have undue influence.

    • by mark99 (459508)

      BTW, my son loved it when he was 10. Learned a lot while reading in the car on long trips, then applied it when we got back home.

  • Knuth. What else is needed? If they can master all three volumes of Knuth they can teach themselves whatever else is needed from the manpages, or failing manpages by directly inspecting the binaries.

  • ... between a rock and a hard place.

    I can tell (or at least surmise) from the nature of your post that the decision to teach to a certification is not yours. This is a shame - as so many other posters have indicated in no uncertain terms. While I *generally* agree with their sentiments, perhaps this advice will help as well:

    Don't be afraid to push the boundaries of what you have been tasked to do.
  • I'm not sure what the best texts are these days, but I learned more about computers from the K&R C book and a book about writing games in BASIC back in the day. K&R taught me data types, pointers, functions and I/O -- all that stuff in one short, quick read.

    The BASIC games book was a fun way to learn to create programs - taking game rules and turning them into code. The games were all text mode, so it was about how to implement games like the Game of Life, Star Trek, Tic-Tac-Toe, Yahtze, Text Advent

  • Seriously. I don't mean sit down and start writing. I mean come up with lesson plans and find or develop hand outs to give the kids. Teach them to find the information on their own! This is the most important skill you can give kids at any level of education.

    My experience is that textbooks are a cheap solution to a complex problem. They never answer the kids questions and are a one size fits all solution - which is one of the biggest problems with our education system in the US.

    If you give the kids a b

  • Sort them out.... (Score:2, Informative)

    by spasmhead (1301953)

    Buy the books for CCIE and MCSE (or whatever MS call it now), one copy of each book for the entire class. Tell them if they don't pass both by the end of the year they get sent to the frontline in Iraq. If they pass that test they will be setup for a lifetime in IT.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ledow (319597)

      Sadly, that's a very blinkered view of education. Teaching to a particular company's product... Urk. I'd rather my kid just bunked off school than do that. There's a difference between gaining a particular certification (I hesitate to call an MCSE a qualification because it's more a memory test of unnecessary trivialities than anything else) in a limited area and actually TEACHING a subject. Teacher's should not ever be teaching towards a particular product in any area. Bad teacher's do ("Today, we'll

  • If you can't spare the $39 per copy to buy the Linux Network Admin Guide, there is a free but slightly dated version available:

    http://tldp.org/LDP/nag2/index.html [tldp.org]

    General principles are still valid and if you or your students get stuck, they can look online for updated material - a guided search, rather than a from-scratch. Plus, it will teach them one of the most important lessons in IT/IS - 'RTFM'. Good luck!

  • by ekimminau (775300) <eak@kimminau.org> on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @07:23AM (#24840675) Homepage Journal
    The best books for a sysadmin are O'Reilly books, hands down. http://oreilly.com/ [oreilly.com] Unix Essentials/Linux/Unix in a Nutshell, Systems Administration, BASH, IPTables, Apache, Java, MySQL, PHP, Perl, Sendmail. Thats 10 classes. You could probably cover IPTables and Perl in 9 weeks if the classes were more than once per week. You could probably throw JavaScript and Python in there too.
  • I went to a very good computer science school (University of Waterloo), and in a lot of courses we'd use books that were 8-10 years old. In 1999, we used a book called "Modern Operating Systems" published around 1993, in the DOS era, pre-linux 1.0 iirc. The fundamental theory just doesn't change that fast and you're not doing the students a service by teaching them the latest fads.

    What year was "The Art of Computer Programming" written again? And it's as relevant today as it was the day it was written
  • by hey! (33014) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @08:15AM (#24841017) Homepage Journal

    goals.

    Certification training is only one kind of education, and not particularly important for people who are five to eight years from entering the work force. Of course, computer science is a practical field, but knowing the underlying theory is kind of the point of pre-professional education.

    Thinking back over my own history, I think the most important book I ever read was Kernighan and Pike's The Unix Programming Environment. This was a wonderful book, in that it was extremely practical, but at the same time introduced readers gently to things like lexical analysis and parsing. The world would be different if everybody who ever went overboard for XML had read that book. I also recommend K&R's The C Programming Language, even though it is not a theoretical book, simply because it is exceptionally well written and clear. Programming is a fundamental skill, and it's good to learn from clean, well thought out examples.

    Perhaps, the shortest advice is anything with Brian Kernighan as an author. Software Tools by K & Plaugher was very influential in my thinking, although the whole "software tools movement" never took off the way its proponents hoped. I don't know what recent editions are like, but these books have practical examples that illustrate important ideas.

    Other really good texts, although far to advanced for high school, would be Applied Cryptography by Bruce Schneier, and Introduction to Algorithms by Cormen, Lieserson, Rivest and Stein.

    In the end, I would look for books that have a practical syllabus (if you will) that illustrates important theoretical ideas. If students entered CS knowing how to write a fairly clean C program, if they knew how to write a simple grammar that could be parsed by recursive descent, if they could do a simple object oriented design (perhaps Mr. Bruce Eckels' books, which are available online for free would be good here), if they could write both simple filter programs as well as programs that run in a more nondeterministic style, they'd be ahead of where a lot of people coming out of CS programs are.

Computers are unreliable, but humans are even more unreliable. Any system which depends on human reliability is unreliable. -- Gilb

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