7 reasons why the Year of Code is just Am Dram…

Right, this Lottie Dexter, Rohan Silva, Year of Code thing is being a massive pain in the arse. I swear to god I *knew* this would happen… Here’s where we are:

1. I knew nothing about this until last week when I sought out Rohan after one too many (press) people (I actually like) saying: WTF? Why are the Young Rewired Staters not on this list?
2. Was introduced to Lottie Dexter by Rohan, (who begged to be excused for not speaking to me before – pleas of busy-ness in getting this all set up (and his final million for his Index Ventures) but I know that other brands and people cited in this PR push had NO IDEA what was going on – but actually Rohan ignored every opp we had to chat throughout his time influencing Number Ten, I clearly get on his nerves but I honestly have no idea why: maybe it is the girl thing, probably just the JFDI thing (that is about to bite me in the bum!))
3. Frustrated attempts to have a conversation with Lottie ended in an actual chat last Sunday afternoon, then discovery that this was all being announced and launched on Tuesday and a belated invitation to join the advisory panel, (this involved no advising they were clear to point out).

My

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is not ego, this is just “sorry whut? and you are doing this when? oh Tuesday, *next Tuesday* – right 8-0… ” I was actually trying to do a real thing here and invest my life since 2009 in working out what we could really do to meet the needs of the self-taught programmers, fill more jobs, include more kids, assist with  learning and have a load of fun on the way with a worldwide community of young people
4. Embarrassed as clearly so *last year* – emphasised by being sidelined at launch, come for drinks but don’t stay for dinner, styled this out by getting twatted at Blacks with my sister
5. Become conspiracy theorist overnight: gov pledge to spend £500k on skilling up teachers to ‘teach coding’ is a bs sum and a bs strategy, with a young (beautiful) PR girl hurled out to slaughter by a couple of men: Saul and Rohan (amazingly silent throughout PR and soc med catastrophe) in Newsnight and R4 etc..

6. “Lottie is an enthusiastic 24 year old PR girl, “you will love her”, and she is going to learn to code this year yay!”  <- Rohan to me on Wednesday… “yay” I say, I love any young people, espesh girls getting involved in this, then I realised… hang on, my own daughter (16) is as divorced from relating to Lottie as I am and amazingly enough, the whole digital movement becomes public laughing stock
7. I get cross emails, dms, tweets, calls from people saying why did I not include them… not me, I just called Rohan out after I caught wind of this, under a week before it happened. I cannot do anything

Conclusion:

I want nothing to do with this.

In Young Rewired State we are doing stuff this year, and for the last six years I have tested and re-tested, modelled and re-modelled what works with the young people who are already coding, to encourage them to stay and explore the subject and their talent.

Also, to inform my own understanding of what is going on – obviously beyond the current theory that you can learn to code in an hour/day/week – although Decoded do a very good job in the advertising industry – WTF are they doing influencing government policy? I know Kathryn Parsons, she would be equally as surprised at being dragged out as govvy heroine of programming nazi-ism in schools.

IMHO this is damaging two very important movements:

  • girls and tech: a PR girl who has no idea
  • computational skills for young people

So I just do not want to know, and if the Year of Code becomes the *thing* that pivots this whole movement – I will celebrate its success obo the next gen, my daughters and yours (and sons too :))

And I do not support this government policy

I have made huge mistakes, learned many, many lessons. And yes you can call me out on things I riffed on three years ago, that I fundamentally do not believe in today. But I took you on that journey and never pretended I knew the answers!

I do not affect government policy, I do not even formally lobby government. I discover, get worked up about, share then explore things. Recently it has been this digital movement. I am not an academic. I am not a lobbyist. But I am an enthusiastic serial dater of this subject and I am learning a lot.

FWIW I do not believe every child has to learn coding as a mandatory subject from 7. But I think if you want to encourage girls into coding: Year 8 is too Late and you need to introduce them to the subject before they hit senior school. Teachers and schools should teach computational thinking as a mandatory subject. The flipped classroom should be embraced.

I also think £500k is a balls amount of money, matched with a 24 year old PR girl sent out to “mauling by media”  XFactor style, is this government’s way of kicking this subject into the long grass for good.

Clever move… (if a bit ****tardy) of the government

PS If I have sent you to this post:

1. It was not my idea and had nothing to do with me

2. I may be an adviser in name, but my name was published on their site at launch as Emma McQueeny Founder: Revision App, <- incognito… now I am apparently Emma MulqueenEy, founder YRS <- less incognito but enough to make it all a bit whatever…

Late edit: I have since written about what *can* be done by the Year of Code, should they so desire

Young Rewired State – Festival of Code 1st round up

This is a long video post – go make tea first…

“It can make a grown man cry” is the repeated phrase I keep reading and hearing. Here’s why…

What we do at the Young Rewired State (YRS) Festival of Code is we invite all kids in the UK who can code, with a basic entry level of editing HTML all the way through to the veterans of code (aged 18 and under), to a week long hack event/festival. We then call out for centres and mentors and we find places with wifi and software developers (including our own Rewired State devs) across the country to host them for a week and get them to Birmingham. Then we invite them to build a web/mobile app, write an algorithm, anything they want to do is fine, so long as they use at least one piece of open data.

It makes people cry for the following reasons:

  • YRS staff cry because kids do not read email and so we have to invent great ways to ensure they know what to expect (cue Twilio)
  • the audience cries when they see what these kids have built in a week
  • the tech/wifi/power people cry because they have no idea how to cope with delivery of an event for 1000 kids where each one turns up needing connection and power for at least two digital devices, not so they can tweet and facebook, but because they need to keep on coding and downloading data for three days and nights…
  • the YRSers cry because we cannot yet meet their tech requirements at the Festival, but we will hack our way towards a solution, care of the determination of the lovely Steve (who runs Rewired State in Australia alongside his wife: Jec) but always flies in like a super hero to rescue tech companies at the Festival

It is this last reason for weeping that stands as testament to why Young Rewired State and the Festival is important. Here is a back stage view of the people who help make it happen:

The world of industry and entrepreneurs is also at a loss as to how to find suitably skilled graduates and interns. And the education system is scratching its head about how to create a load more, in line with the opportunities and work available, and the growth of expectations in digital citizenship (a whole new ballgame as we are beginning to see).

Learning to code is not about being the mechanic in the digital world, it is being the driver – as opposed to passenger

I give you a whole YouTube channel of kids from 5 to 18 who are the next generation of programmers and designers here

And some highlights in video:

Girls:

Centres and mentors:

Other YRS participants of all ages:

George is a bit of a hero, check out his channel

Also Zac and the rest…

Press (we get a lot of coverage, here is some video footage)

BBC Breakfast TV because of advertising laws they could not mention who we were but all this is filmed at YRS2013

Five Live Outriders Podcast

BBC Midlands (live) from 15.45mins in – I know I point at a completely empty street, I am an idiot

We were on the radio a lot, and we had a tonne of newspaper coverage proper newspapers, we were in The Times and the Evening Standard and are going to be in the Guardian and The Observer this week

Here is Howard, from the BBC centre we had in Manchester:

Here is a parent:

We had a lot of stuff going on including talks, robots, chiptune artists, amazing sponsors thinking of clever ways to engage with the kids, including ice cream…  you can watch the entire weekend on the recorded live stream all on the Friday night before presentations.

Photos are here and here

Sign up for next year’s festival , and YRS Hyperlocal and check our YRS Everywhere

Finally (for this post – I will defo be doing more), the thank you video:

A very great week for young programmers in the UK

Two important and wonderful things happened this week:

1. Google donated 15,000 Raspberry Pis to schools across the UK

2. Today it was announced that Computer Science will be included in the new English Baccalaureate (EBacc)

Much of this achievement is down to relentless campaigning and education by groups such as Computing at Schools, Next Gen Skills and a large number of dedicated individuals: too many to mention here. We should be proud of these things happening, but let’s not wipe our hands of this problem just yet.

We need to focus our attention on the junior school children, Year 8 is Too Late in my opinion and even with the impetus of the EBacc computer science course we need to introduce ‘computeracy’ in junior schools across the land: let the 7 year olds have fun, break stuff, play and enjoy exploring the potential of computers and the digital renaissance. Bring back the What if? questions, What would happen if I…?

I know that there is a while yet before the decision is taken as to which schools will get the donated RPis, but it would be really wonderful if they were only given to junior schools, bringing an excuse to the classroom to discover the potential and joy of computers, in the same way the BBC Micro gave all us oldies hours of code-y fun in the 80s. I suspect that this would see a far greater take-up of the EBacc as those children move into senior school.

All that aside, what a brilliant week for young people in the UK?

A version of this opinion piece is in the Education section of The Telegraph

Year 8 is too late (part 2)

A whole year and a half ago, in August 2011, I wrote a post called: Year 8 is too late, this post is an update to that one, because – worryingly – this is not recognised as an issue. To me it is blindingly obvious and I suspect it is to most people when you stop and think about it. Back in 2011 the reference was to educating girls in computing and less about the fact that programming was not being taught in schools – which has obviously become the topic du jour, thankfully.

So I would like to reiterate the problem and outline the solution:

  • children are not being taught digital literacy in our schools
  • knowing how to use software products and shiny kit is not the same as being digitally literate
  • understanding how the web works is a fundamental right for every person living in the 21st century, how else can we know and understand how and what choices are made on our behalf (read Douglas Rushkoff Program or be Programmed on this matter)
  • if in the UK we outsource the building of our ideas, because we have failed generations by forgetting to teach basic programming skills to keep up with technology, we become irrelevant muppets
  • spending time and money on fabricating a tech base in London, on a roundabout, is a complete farce if we are simply shop fronts with the technical talent having to be outsourced/imported because we neglected to educate the people who are learning in the UK
  • naturally, if we want to move towards equality in technology, we must ensure we afford the girls the opportunity to learn at an age when they are excited and searching for more stuff to learn – ie in junior school, or from birth
  • children are being taught to fear the internet rather than understand it, with schools restricting more and more access, rather than enabling them to understand what digital citizenship means; leaving them abandoned at 18, naive, unprepared and scared of what might happen, perpetuating the myth by avoiding too much understanding and simply being consumers of code-driven technology
  • the current solution is being authored by exam boards reinventing the ICT GCSE – this in itself is a problem because this is the hardest place to start, it is way too late, but everyone assumes the solution is on the way – it is not
  • the DfE can’t do anything about this other than highlight the problem, the schools have autonomy over what they teach and how – maybe we should have a policy change, I am not sure, but schools have the onus on them to address and resolve this
  • schools do not currently have access to the talent that can teach programming and there is no way to use traditional teaching methods – the industry moves too fast
  • computational thinking is not taught as standard – this is ridiculous
  • digital literacy is not seen as core. Digital literacy is as core learning as numeracy and literacy, “computeracy” is a terrible term but it MUST be understood to be as fundamental as maths and taught
  • this discussion is so old and in spite of much being written and understood about why this is important, nothing is being done, properly STILL(!) this is a national disgrace, we should be ashamed of ourselves
  • we have not even yet managed to incorporate digital learning in the classroom, so terrified are we, yet look at what is happening in South Korea simply enabling learning beyond the classroom is a start, certainly for learning how to code
  • we are falling behind all other countries by doing nothing more than shaking our heads at the problem and perhaps attending a one-day course on coding
  • even more worryingly, some of the solutions being mooted in schools involve ideation only, coming up with an idea for an app, then the creation of that app outsourced to India (getting them to do our kids’ homework) I think this is criminal and exacerbating a problem that is already terrible
  • computer science, including programming, is a new and separate subject, it is not a version of ICT, nor some newfangled way to do business studies, it is a separate and new subject for schools and should be inducted as so
  • our Universities do run computer science courses, that unsurprisingly do not require any ICT GCSE/A levels to qualify for the course… as a result of this, much of the programming section of the computer science degree is taken up by teaching young adults GCSE level computing – this is embarrassing and explains why few self-taught developers will bother going to universities, which means they miss out on the stuff they would really benefit from learning at University, plus the other immeasurable ’rounding off’ being in further education brings – this is not fair
  • if your child is ten or older and they have not begun to understand how the internet works and how to program, or even just computational thinking and logic – it is going to be hard for them, and that is unfair
  • there are jobs, thousands of jobs, unfilled, in this country alone – for programmers of all levels from technical leads to absolute beginners – and it is only going to get worse as more and more children leave school without 21st century basic working skills. At a time when we are broken and heading for triple dip recession, how can this not be seen as insanity? What the actual ****? Teach those kids those skills, get them into those empty jobs – kickstart the economy… no-brainer

Here is my fist stab at a solution to all of the above:

  • teach “computeracy” as a part of the core curriculum from year 5. Here is some advice from Matthew Applegate on what to teach at what age:

Year 5 = 9-10 age Computational thinking, logic, cause and effect (try Scratch, Google app inventor or Lego Mindstorms all visual based programming) or even Game Maker.

Year 6 = 10-11 age Should definitely be coding (try Processing very visual very quick feedback and free see http://pixelh8.co.uk/category/programming-in-schools/ for code examples and http://www.wired.com/geekdad/2009/11/teaching-kids-programmers/ )

Year 7 = 11-12 age try XNA, iPhone & Android dev the program doesn’t have to be complex or world changing you just have to show them a way in. Also they love being able to use and create on up to date tech.

Year 8 = 12-13 age some of the best iPhone developers are 13 years old.

  • stop thinking of it as a nice to have and understand that it is a human right to be digitally literate and therefore have some measure of control and choice in the 21st century
  • encourage every child you know age 10 or under to become digital makers – find and use those online resources, for example Mozilla’s web maker – designed for everyone, let it be natural
  • fight hard, ask your school, don’t think it is being dealt with – it is not
  • learn how to teach basic programming and computational thinking and get down to your local junior school and offer your services – in the same way you would go and listen to kids reading, it is just as important
  • focus on the under tens, I am afraid the 10yrs+ kids are going to have to fight it out for themselves if they are so inclined – if they have not already done so
  • let the exam boards work on changing the structure and content of computer science GCSEs/EBACCs and A Levels, but be prepared that this will be a long-burn slow-win until we have taught the basics to the junior school kids

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