BBC pledges to get the UK coding

Should kids learn programming in school?

Its been a long time in coming but finally its happening. BBC Micro 2.0? Nope better than that.

We (the BBC) are going to get the Nation coding… with the help of others…

Over 30 years ago, the BBC played a leading role in helping Britain get to grips with the first wave of personal computers by putting the BBC Micro into the majority of schools. However, today the UK risks missing out on vital skills that inspired a generation of digital and technical thinkers, as interest in highereducation IT and computing courses falls. The UK currently faces a skills shortage in the technology sector and the BBC aims to help change that.

Of course I knew it was coming but to have it actually announced and from the very top is fantastic. Its worth stopping and thinking about all those people who pushed and pushed to make this all happen.

People like Ant Miller, Michael Sparks, Alan O’Donohoe, Howard Baker, Jo Classens, Keri Facer, Mo McRoberts, George Auckland, Chris Sizemore, and many more and that list is just people attached to the BBC. These are the hero’s who pushed and chipped away. Yes theres the big stuff like Eric Schmitt’s talk at the Edinburgh TV festival, RaspberryPI, Raspberry jams, etc (I actually have a massive mindmap going back a couple of years mapping out the area, which maybe I should blog one day)

As Andy Budd said on Twitter, shame its 2015, to which Michael Sparks said “2015 is relatively realistic given the turning circle of the BBC

He could be right… The BBC isn’t well known for moving quickly but when its time to do it, hopefully they will do it right… Heck there might even be a BBC Code lab? How freaky would that be… Alan!

All just as the millionth RaspberryPI is made. But honestly the best part of the announcement is the BBC are going to collaborate rather than go it alone.

Details of the programme were limited, but the BBC said that it would partner with government, educators and technology companies. “From working with children and young people, to stimulating a national conversation about digital creativity, the BBC will help audiences embrace technology and get creative,” the corporation said in a blog post.

Of course some of those relationships we’ve built over time will now come into there own.

Inspiring the next generation…

I am a geek

On Wednesday I’ve been invited to Albion High School for their World of Work as part of the BBC’s outreach programme. Its something I’ve always wanted to do more of but till now not really done anything about till now.

I’ll be talking with year 9, considering there options for GCSEs next year. I have roughly a hour with each group and they will shuffle around each hour. It was suggested if I wanted to give a presentation of what I do, that might be good. However I’m unsure what exactly I would present if I did…

This is consistent with the new economy of work and dare I say it rework. How can/do you explain what you do to people outside this new economy? I have this problem all the time when meeting new people or going on dates.

Most of the time saying I work for the BBC tends to throw up many more questions like “which TV show do you work on?” I then explain I work at BBC R&D and ask if they have an idea what R&D means? After a second or so, I chip in with its Research & Development. They usually start saying, “oh you research for which programme?” To which I tend have to try and explain I’m work on technology which underpin what the BBC does and will do into the future.

If I’m feeling a little more playful, I will say something like “I work in the grey area between legal and illegal, seeking out emerging technology/opportunities which hackers, startups, early adopters are working on to scratch their own itches.” Although stretching the truth its not far wrong.

So back to the main question… How best to communicate what I do and the opportunities available to the next generation?

Ultimately I’m really hoping to bring out the geek in each one of them (tall order in less than a hour), convince them they can follow their passion no matter what it may be, because frankly life is too short (oh good video to show).

I’m tempted to show i am i do the all new Google Schemer, and maybe some podcast videos then talk about different aspects of my work life/aspirations. Hopefully it will inspire some questions and if not I can ask the young people about their media/social habits?

If this goes well, hopefully I’ll do some more as the BBC does quite a lot of outreach.

Teaching the next generation with Povray?

Reach for the Stars

On Saturday I went along to Hack to the Future, the idea of Alan O’Donohoe, Teknoteacher on Twitter. A very ITC teacher in Preston who wants to make a difference for the next generation. Alan’s one hell of a guy, after pulling off one of the most daring stunts at BarCampMediaCity with his fake BBC Codelab idea, he decided to take the idea of the unconference to young people in the form of a day of informal learning – Hack to the Future or #h2df.

It is an un-conference that aims to provide young digital creators aged 11 – 18 with positive experiences of computing science and other closely related fields, ensuring that the digital creators of today engage with the digital creators of tomorrow.

We plan to offer a day that will inspire, engage and encourage young digital creator

The event was all about the young people and it was amazing to see over 200 young people surrounding the make shift board where the talks and tutorials were put. H2df wasn’t a talking shop, all that was put a side for the day and the teaching started. (If you are interested in hearing about the whole problem space, you can hear Alan and the rest of the #techgrumps waxing lyrical about this whole issue here…)

So inspired by everything, I decided to do a 30min class on learning Persistence of Vision Raytracer.

The way I see it, is PoVRay as its called on the street, helped me to learn how to script all those years ago, and I think theres plenty of mathematical & raytracing techniques to be learned while having fun. And now its very quick to raytrace on the modern machines we have. So advanced, PovRay doesn’t even really support multi-core processors (its over 20 years old!) In actual fact people do ask, what licence is it? And I have to say Free before Freedom (aka before the GPL!)

The lesson didn’t go well for many reasons including trying to get the online version of PoVray working on IE7 was a no go. Switching to my laptop wasn’t much better due to the cable length and my dodgy thinkpad. Anyhow I did get a chance to raytrace some stuff and do some povray hacking with the class, so I guess it worked. Although if I was to do it again, I would make a ton of changes including a having a free whiteboard and focus on the hacking of Pov.

I’m sure PoVray could be used to teach scripting and I was amazed to find out Mark Shuttleworth was also a PovRay geek. Such a perfect picture for Hack to the Future, don’t you think?

It was an amazing day and really well done to Alan and the team of Our Ladies High School. Unforgivable we also had to listen to his #h2df rap which I can help but cover my head and cringe when I hear.

Great work Alan, less rap more chat?


Listening to the next net generation

The teen demographic uses the Web constantly and in very sophisticated ways. They don't want to pay for very much, but if you can find something they will pay for (like ring tones), they tend to spend a lot. Safa Rashtchy, managing director of Piper Jaffray, interviewed five seventeen- and eighteen-year-olds about their relationships with technology.

Oh my goodness you have to hear the end of this podcast enclosure, what Teens want – starts at 15:20 mins and lasts about 8mins. Cant wait to hear the whole thing on IT Conversations really soon.

Generally the thoughts is free is good and there's some thoughts about spyware and advertising. Someone did mention paying artist of the music via iTunes but generally there was no thoughts beyond free download. Although you can listen to it and shake your head in shame, I dont. I use to think exactly the same way. Now at least I'm a little more aware of the issues and the cultural shifts. I'm sure the teenagers on stage will alter there views a little over time. But honestly its refreshing to hear the younger generation talk frankly about there habits.

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