When I visited a secondary school last week and asked about how much work they do with computers, I was disappointed with the replies. All students up to Year 11 (aged 11-16) do several hours a week, but it is limited to using applications – creating posters, monitoring costs, writing newspaper articles. They use computers, but they don’t do any programming at all.
I was even a little surprised to hear that all pupils are taught how to type, since I would have expected that by the age of 11 most, if not all, would have proficient typing skills.
But only the next day Tony Hall, the director general of the BBC made a major announcement which is set to change all this.
A few days ago a small UK factory produced its millionth Raspberry Pi, meaning that combined with the 750,000 which were made in China, a total of more than 1.75 million have now been made. See Baked in Britain, the millionth Raspberry Pi.
At the same time, the BBC announced plans to inspire digital creativity for future generations, following some thirty years after the BBC Computer Literacy Project which resulted in the highly successful BBC Micro. That inspirational project is widely credited with spawning a generation of interest in computers, programming and gaming, and for kick-starting the computer industry in the UK.
This is all tremendously heartening news for the UK, and especially for young children, many of whom are likely to develop careers in this technology as a direct result of the initiative.
The rise of the Code Club is also good to see. This is a UK-wide network of volunteer-led after-school clubs for 9-11 year-olds. What a brilliant opportunity for those children to be inspired. Their 2-minute video, The Interview, is hilarious and demonstrates the high level of support they are getting. It was an inspired decision to ask Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Chad Hurley and Niklas Zennstrom (amongst others) to take part. Whoever thought of that deserves a medal.
The young people who are inspired to take an interest in coding as a result of this initiative are lucky, because it will give them some focus for their future career. And that’s something which is rare these days.