Unicode in the Curriculum?

Andre Schappo A.Schappo at lboro.ac.uk
Fri Jan 1 08:00:01 CST 2016


We have very different POVs on this topic. You raise a number of issues which would take me many many thousands of words to properly discuss. I will attempt a summary discussion of some of the issues.

① IT i18n is a huge subject area. Unicode is only one component. My module included: s/w i18n & L10n, character sets, unicode & unicode encodings, fonts, keyboard mappings, input methods, language tags, IDNs, website i18n, adaptive i18n websites, characteristics of human language scripts. One of my problems when putting the module together was deciding what to leave out. Actually every year I have tended to add a bit more teaching material to the module. It was along the lines — Oh! I cannot leave that out ��  Much of IT i18n has a WOW factor. I have many times seen the WOW!/I didn't know that!/Really! reactions from students when teaching them about IT i18n
② There is also the cultural aspect which adds an extra richness, depth and interest to IT i18n
③ IT i18n has many layers of detail. Each layer has concepts and realisations. Using your terminology, each layer has intellectual content
④ Technical skills encompass and embody concepts and realisations. A technical skill is not adaptable/flexible unless one understands the concepts and has had the realisations. Computer Science needs to give students such technical skills so that they will be able to function and contribute in the non academic world.
⑤ In my experience, just telling students to read the manuals does not work. Most need to be guided to the realisations and concepts. Many 1st year students have been programming from an early age, like 9/10 years old, and are gifted programmers. They have encountered unicode and hacked solutions to immediate problems. But, they do not have an understanding of Unicode and there are many layers to understand in unicode. 
⑥ My primary aim/goal/passion is to teach/encourage students to code for the World and not just Britain.
⑦ The current situation is that the majority of students (actually, and academic staff) do not even think about i18n of their Apps/Systems/Websites.
 eg I will say to a Final Year Project student: "have you thought about internationalising your s/w". Time and time again the response is, No.
⑧ There is a lot of ongoing development of i18n features in css, html, programming languages, social media. All these developments need to be studied and taught
⑨ Surely one of the purposes of lecturing is to make the complicated, simpler. When I first started (self)studying Unicode I was completely baffled. I was overwhelmed with a mass of data, concepts, techniques, reports, standards. I just kept reading and thinking and experimenting. I read about Unicode from many different points of view. I wrote code to process unicode text. That took a lot of effort and time. Now I consider myself knowledgeable about unicode and am in a position to make unicode simpler for students. A 1 hour lecture from me on Unicode will save a student days of self study. Students have a very heavy workload and do not have time for unguided and unstructured self study.

All for now��

André Schappo

On 31 Dec 2015, at 18:58, Julian Bradfield wrote:

> On 2015-12-31, Andre Schappo <A.Schappo at lboro.ac.uk> wrote:
>> I have been hitting my head against the Academic Brick Wall for
>> years WRT getting IT i18n and Unicode on the curriculum and I am
>> losing. I did teach a final year elective module on IT i18n but a
>> few months ago my University dropped it. I am continually puzzled by
>> the lack of interest University Computer Science departments have in
>> i18n. I appear to be a solitary UK University Computer Science voice
>> when it comes to i18n. 
> Well, I'd say that it's not the business of Computer Science degrees
> to teach specific technical skills. It's our business to help people
> learn about the fundamentals of the subject, so that they can acquire
> any specific skill on demand, and use that skill competently. In those
> areas where we do teach specific skills (e.g. machine learning
> techniques) we teach those that have some intellectual content to
> them.  (This is why we don't teach programming languages as such - we
> teach a programming language as a means of learning a programming
> paradigm.)
> In my experience so far, using Unicode and doing i18n is not very
> interesting (killingly boring, actually) from a purely CS technical
> point of view, unless you happen to be one of the small minority who
> enjoys script and font layout issues - the interesting bits of doing
> i18n are in producing linguistically and culturally appropriate
> messages, and that's where one should bring in experts, not expect
> typical software developers to be able to do it.
> If you still have the materials for your course, it would be
> interesting to see how you managed to get an interesting (and
> examinable!) course out of i18n.
> I do in fact mention Unicode and i18n in my introductory programming
> course (which is not for CS students), but all I say is "you should
> know it's there, and if you become a competent programmer, then you
> can read the manuals and tutorials to learn what you need".
> -- 
> The University of Edinburgh is a charitable body, registered in
> Scotland, with registration number SC005336.

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