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Dr John Spencer began his teaching career in 1981 armed with a Sinclair ZX81, thereby demonstrating two things at once: Firstly he was in at the very start of ICT in the classroom and secondly he is a sucker for duff technology. Thereafter he taught joining a start-up open source company as their Head of Education in 2002. Now John is bringing his iconoclastic disposition and tendency to throw a spanner in the works to blogging.

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Saga and school ICT

Google to the rescue by sponsoring one fiftieth of an IT teacher per secondary?

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I think it’s my age but I’m about to lose it over the ‘coding for kids’ saga. An apposite word is saga, It conjurs up two images for me the first is the convoluted semi-mythical story telling of the Norse and the second is Saga (Ltd) who specialise in dream trips for the over fifties.

Last summer, as we all now know, Google’s boss Eric Scmidt (58) lamented the fall of UK IT and the lack of coding in schools. This was rapidly followed by star-struck youngster Michael Gove’s (45) knee-jerk destruction of our existing ICT provision. Next came a cheap low spec Linux computer brain-child of ex BBC micro-programmer David Braben (48) promoted by the well publicised Next Generation (…of our computing provision for children) report co-authored by 60-something Alex Hope ... now of Nesta.

This summer the Science Museum (there is a clue in the name) produced a retrospective on just how influential the BBC micro was and published it through Nesta (see above). At the same time Eric Scmidt announces that Google will sponsor 100 computing teachers to boost our schools (that’s one fiftieth of a teacher per secondary school).

Oh for goodness sake, I think a theme is developing here and as with all sagas a bit of myth busting is required.

In my last two posts I pointed out the following and will do so again.

  1. We may want to teach computing in schools but there is no profit to be had in GCSE Computing exams and so at best qualifications will be in niche vocational settings.
  2. The Rasberry Pi is a low spec cheap computer that runs Linux. Oh wow how desirable is that?
  3. We learnt to code in the past because there were next to no applications...we had to... to justify our expensive (very) toys.

If kids wanted to code then they would or are. As I was waiting in the traffic this morning I downloaded onto my phone a really nice Android Jave IDE and because I can code have a half finished phone app already. I won’t finish it because I have an allotment.

If kids wanted to be like the Alan Turing, as featured in the Science Museum’s exhibition, then they would have enjoyed an isolated life suffering from what looks like Asperger’s and being cruelly rejected by a society that possessed the ‘soft-skills’ he lacked.

I don’t know what the future holds for our computing skill base but I wish this silly nostalgia saga trip would stop.

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