Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Guest Post: Maths Teacher David Vaccaro


Turing100 guest poster David Vaccaro, Maths and Computer Science Teacher writes:



“It was a an enormous pleasure to be part of the Turing 100 celebrations at Bletchley Park on the 100th anniversary of Turing’s Birth- and I don’t think that I could have conceived of a better way to mark the event than to be part of the Turing Test itself. Myself and five other volunteers were the hidden humans in one of the sessions (of six rounds) of the Turing Test and it was our job to just be ourselves and to be as human as possible. It was fascinating to see the different strategies employed by the judges to try and test our human credentials- questions about music and films were the most common though my favourite was the judge who sent the number 8008135 to see if I understood the “Boobies” reference.

Apart from the day itself I feel privileged to have been part of the Reading University study because I feel excited to be at the start of a genuine move to integrating Computer Science into schools. I teach at Sevenoaks School in Kent and in common with many other Independent Schools despite the myriad of extra-curricular and co-curricular options for the students- sports, martial arts, Mandarin, orchestras and choirs to name but a few, programming and computing is almost entirely absent. We were thrilled to receive Professor Warwick as a visiting speaker during our Science Week and there can have been no better advert for what is possible with modern technology- and what a contrast from the fusty ICT lessons on Excel and Mail Merge. As expected robotics and the prospect of human enhancement caught the imagination of the students including many who despite their smart phones and snazzy calculators had probably never thought about what went on inside these black boxes.

Our students also enjoyed their opportunity to participate in the Reading University computer deception project and despite almost being driven to distraction by Eliza they were genuinely shocked by some of the more advanced Entities. For me this project along with the various code-breaking events have played in important role in promoting both Computing and Mathematics.

I left Bletchley at the end of the day with a long awaited RaspberryPi machine and when I have finished playing with it at the end of the summer holidays I look forward to seeing it in use with our students.  

Perhaps if Turing had lived longer and attained the fame he deserved then perhaps Britain would have maintained its early lead in the advancement of computer technology, but hopefully events like Turing100 will help raise the profile for future generations”

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