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Westminster Briefing: Computer Science Resources for Educators

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Westminster Briefing: Computer Science Resources for Educators

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Last week, the folks who run the Westminster Briefing series of events kindly invited me to speak at their computer science in the curriculum event. It was a great session, with approximately 65 delegates, all of which were hungry to learn more about how they can embrace the opportunity to help prepare learners of all ages to be the developers of the future.

Simon Peyton Jones (CAS) and Bill Mitchell (BCS) both did a brilliant job at talking about the changes to the curriculum and why computer science should be more widely adopted. My role during the session was to talk about how industry can help support the sector to more easily and effectively integrate computer science into the curriculum.

With only 20 minutes to cover the wide range of support and resources available to the sector, and a need to also touch on some of the economic and social drivers, it wasn't possible to touch on everything, but hope it was useful to those who attended.

Great coders are todays rock stars

Will.i.am's great line in the recent Code.org video says it all - "great coders are todays rock stars". Despite this, though, the limit in the system is that there are still not enough people with the right skills and experience to take advantage of all the opportunities around today, and for the future.

When I look back at my first real introduction into computers, it was in primary school with the BBC Micro. This then sparked a wider interest in computers, which led to me getting a Spectrum ZX at home.

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The games would almost take a day to load and only had 48K of memory, but I would spend hours on this device both playing games and inputting code from books to try and create my own arcade and sports games. Hours of fun, especially when you found a mistake in the code and only by working back through the code line by line from the book would it be possible to discover where the error was made. Good times!

Fast forward to 2013, and many devices later, this passion for technology still remains to the point where I am looking at getting back into coding myself using the wide range of resources available today.

The challenge moving forward is to ensure that there is a vibrant and supportive ecosystem in place to ensure that others continue to be attracted into technology and can be inspired to embrace the opportunities that a background in technology can provide.

So if 'great coders are today's rock stars', how do we help develop a support ecosystem to help more people reach rock star status?

In addition to great educators and a strong curriculum, industry support and a wide range of programmes and resources are important to help a future generation of developers realise their full potential.

Industry Support

So on the subject of industry support, what support and resources are offered to ensure that what is made available is relevant, scalable and offers progression?

A selection include the following:

Awarding body partnerships

Qualifications developed in partnership with industry, such as AQA's GCSE in computer science, offer learners the ability to get to grips with real world, practical programming techniques that give them a solid understanding and foundation of what makes technology work. Furthermore, supporting course materials that align to the skills that industry require offer enhanced employment opportunities for the future. A quick search on Monster.com reveal the opportunities available and the importance of selecting the technologies that are most in demand.

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Industry Certification

Linked to the industry skills mentioned previously, industry aligned certification help holders, regardless of level, demonstrate to hiring managers that they have the necessary skills for specific roles and challenges.

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When reviewing certification options, it is important to consider progression and the ability for a chosen path to provide students with the future ready technology skills they need to be successful in college and a career, such as the IT Academy.

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Programme and Free Resources

  • Microsoft Virtual Academy (MVA) provides free online IT training & learning of Windows, Microsoft Technologies through courses designed by industry experts.
  • DreamSpark - DreamSpark is a Microsoft Program that supports technical education by providing access to Microsoft software for learning, teaching and research purposes.
  • Kodu - Kodu is a new visual programming language made specifically for creating games. It is designed to be accessible for children and enjoyable for anyone.

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  • TouchDevelop - Create apps everywhere! TouchDevelop is a programming environment that runs on iPad, iPhone, Android, PC, Mac, Windows Phone.
  • Imagine Cup - Microsoft’s Imagine Cup is the world’s most prestigious student technology competition, bringing together student innovators from all over the world. If you have a great idea for a new app, bring it to life through Imagine Cup. With Microsoft resources and support, you can make a great app and bring your dreams to life!
  • Partners in Learning - A global community of educators dedicated to improving student learning worldwide.

In many ways, this only really scratches the surface in terms of the support and resources available to help us prepare the developers of the future, and we will be adding to this over the coming weeks and months on the blog. In the meantime, it would be great to hear about how you are helping to prepare the developers of the future. Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

  • Interesting Article, I had a ZX41 then a ZX Spectrum with extra keyboard and 2 little disc drives....how machines have moved on!

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