Sunday, 8 February 2015

Who are you?



I hope you have 'flipped' and watched the YouTube link. Defining who we are is complex. What I know is that despite all the progress with discrimination laws there is still the temptation to judge and define people from labels. I emplore everyone to define people by what they can do and not by what they can't do. Unfortunately when looking to support people we are still too quick to list failingings and not celebrate what is good.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Where did all our coders go?

Where did all our ‘coders’ go?

I was busy preparing some information for a Primary school on coding, looking at the various options and spending some time on the Raspberry PI; all very exciting stuff with some excellent ideas for coding and the curriculum. It was as I was looking at the excellent products from The FUZE, particularly their special edition version - http://www.fuze.co.uk/product/fuze-t2-se/ - that it struck me. We’ve been here before……..you’ll get why if you follow the link and look at the graphic.

Thirty years ago when I started teaching we were using quite basic and simple computers, along came the now iconic BBC B and the excellent BBC BASIC programming language (DefPRoc this and DefProc that, REPEAT UNTIL…..) We were working with our students to write programmes and a few of us even wrote our own programmes to fill gaps in the curriculum. As a teacher of music and maths I wrote a simple application that allowed students to put their tunes into the computer as a series of numerical values (great cross curriculum stuff going on there) and the computer played the music to them – they found it very inspiring. 

So we were coding then and we are coding now. From the BCC B came the Acorn company that was eventually bought by Apple, became Xemplar (see here for a whole history of Acorn - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acorn_Computers0 ) and then disappeared. Along the way Acorn also produced RISC OS and RISC PCs. 

Great thing happened from all this as ARM holdings sprang up who now produce the designs for processors that power 95% of the worlds smartphones…….yes 95%! So what a success for UK PLC – but this powers a small part of the economy. Where are all our coders going to go and what are they going to do with the skills they are acquiring? If the hype is to be believed then the Internet of Things will proliferate with smart devices in our homes and lives doing everything from ensuring that vulnerable people are warm enough, to telling us what food is out of date in our fridges.

There is some really good stuff going on in government with the digital by default agenda and the focus by BIS on digital skills. So let’s get behind all this and support the startups, the young people with great ideas for new companies and give them the support they need to create new businesses, that will drive our economy and ensure that, for all of us who are getting that little bit older, the Internet of things is made real by products and services that are invented, coded and made in the UK.

James Penny