Digital Product Dude and Creative Technologist, Manchester Digital Council Member, Jon Grant - bemoans the lack of ambition in teaching computers in schools - and suggests some ideas.
It’s widely considered by education and industry that ICT teaching at high school level has been in decline, children have been taught how to use software rather than make it. The last 12 months have seen several initiatives launch to help inspire greater interest in computer science, such as Raspberry Pi, Code Academy and continuing developments in physical computing. In my somewhat uneducated and unfamiliar view, children aren't being targeted at a young enough age to develop their interest in making software.
It’s a long argument. I remember after school clubs being taught how to program Basic on a BBC micro. I didn't get far. Why? I had better kit at home (a CPC 464), more resources (my Dads back catalogue of Amstrad Action and my Dad himself), and a more creative approach to the outcome - print and if statements could only do so much. I wanted to make games.
It all ended. School stopped the after school club (the teachers knowledge was so limited it was valueless anyway), and I went onto high school to abandon ICT at GCSE level as all that was being taught was how to use Lotus SmartSuite. Not even MS Office, but f*****g LOTUS. Even as a wise 14 year old, I knew this wouldn't teach me how to make games - just spreadsheets, and I learned those in Business Studies anyway.
Net result? I'm aged 32, and I can't code for shit. Yeah, I understand how it’s constructed, I know what a variable and a function is, but only through owning and running a digital agency. I don't know how to check for quality, so the blind faith I have in my teams can only be run on trust, not knowledge.
I'm not going to learn. I'm too far in, and I've learned other skills. I probably don't have the aptitude, but then again, I'm a strategist, rather than a logician.
The ambition would be to give these kids the passion for making things we all share. If we can also teach them how to collaborate, it'll give them skills that will demonstrate real value to them from that point on. They might not head to university afterwards, but as a ten year project might create apprentices that can be inserted straight into industry, and demonstrate real value to employers and themselves.
Footballers, F1 drivers, Rock stars and Linguists all start at primary level. Can we get computer sciences in there too?