A year and a half ago, the government committed to computer science and coding education in schools throughout England and Wales with a goal of replacing simple technological literacy with skills that match what Britons need in an increasingly-global, high-tech economy.
Andy Silvester writes in Director that, “changes to the curriculum introducing coding and technical skills could well be seen in 15 years’ time as the moment that Britain capitalised on its early adoption of the digital economy” — but it appears that teachers have a long way to go.
A Virgin Business Media/YouGov poll in late 2014 found that three in four teachers were incorporating technology in their lessons to varying degrees, but only 15% identified themselves as being “totally computer savvy.” The numbers have surely increased since the official push toward coding and computer science, with Jane Bird writing in The Financial Times that numerous applications in non-tech disciplines have been discovered by teachers willing to experiment. She reports that, “Programming can be used to tell stories as part of creative writing in English, to devise solutions to environmental problems in geography, and to create presentations or role-playing games in personal, social, health and economic education.”
There’s hope; the fastest-growing segment in the education technology realm may be an element familiar to and warmly embraced by students — games. A new report from Project Tomorrow’s Speak Up initiative, which is “dedicated to ensuring that today’s students are well-prepared to be tomorrow’s innovators,” suggests that more teachers are turning to games and digital resources in the classroom.
In “From Print to Pixel: The role of videos, games, animations and simulations within K-12 education,” 48% of US teachers surveyed said that they are actively using games in the classroom, which is twice as many as measured five years ago.
Pushing the boundaries of education technology is increasingly necessary in schools, as the European and UK economy are already clamoring for more and better skills. A Euractiv report suggests that by 2020, Europe will experience a shortage of 800,000 professionals with technical skills.
Katie Gallagher of Manchester Digital writes in Computer Weekly that the North of England is hoping for schools to deliver more on computer science and its related skills. Gallagher says that Rentalcars.com, Sainsbury’s and Bet365 have looked to the region for development, and other companies are eager to make use of a highly-trained workforce:
“Dr. Robin Johnson, course director of digital apprenticeships at Manchester Met University, said: “At Manchester Met University, we are finding that a lot of young people aren’t aware of the opportunities available to them because the courses covered in schools and colleges are so light on IT.””
Paul Shepherd, founder of Coup Media, has taken a more aggressive approach, writing in WalesOnline that he’s fed up with the slow adoption of skills that cross over from technology into logic and are broadly-applicable:
“Kids deserve the right to study computer science from an early age and to a good standard. Right now, they don’t always have that option and that’s been the case for a long time… The issues are clear and we don’t need a review of a review to understand them. We just need to act, and fast, before the next generation gets left behind.”
With teachers in England and Wales embracing changes to computer science and coding with a mix of excitement and caution, the Department for Education’s goal to “ensure every child leaves school prepared for life in modern Britain” is nearing — but at a pace the Department for Education has yet to determine.