Archive for July 2012
As you can see, I got a little bit excited when TBL appeared on stage (with his NeXTcube), but it was clear recognition of the UK’s contribution to the Digital Age and its impact on the entire world. There was also a hat tip at the beginning of the ceremony to engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel (albeit some Americans thought he was a Dickensian character), although it would have been nice to have recognised Alan Turing in his centenary year.
The message from TBL was “THIS IS FOR EVERYONE“, even live-tweeting from the ceremony:
Tim Berners-Lee (@timberners_lee) July 27, 2012
The Web is more a social creation than a technical one. I designed it for a social effect — to help people work together — and not as a technical toy. The ultimate goal of the Web is to support and improve our weblike existence in the world. We clump into families, associations, and companies. We develop trust across the miles and distrust around the corner.
Weaving the Web: The Original Design and Ultimate Destiny of the World Wide Web (1999)
A great message to take away from the London 2012 Olympics.
Last week on the Linux Kernel Mailing List, a minor question was raised about the suitability of certain magic constants in the support code in the Linux kernel for Microsoft’s Hyper-V virtualisation environment. This was widely reported a week later. So how did a hexadecimal string cause so much offence? Well, it turns out that the constant passed through to the hypervisor was 0xB16B00B5, or in English, BIG BOOBS. And this was not an exception: when the code was originally submitted it also contained 0x0B00B135 (BOOBIES). While this looks to be a puerile joke, it could be potentially problematic because Azure (Microsoft’s cloud computing platform) may depend on this constant, so changing it could break things.
Even though the Linux kernel itself contains a fair amount of profanity, Microsoft swiftly apologised: “We thank the community for reporting this issue and apologize for the offensive string. We have submitted a patch to fix this issue and the change will be published in a future release of the kernel.” (in fact, the patch changed the string to its decimal representation: 2976579765). However, as Matthew Garrett notes on his blog, this can be easily attributed to straightforward childish humour (and the use of pseudo-English strings in magic hexadecimal constants is hardly uncommon; you can even generate hex poetry, if you so wish), but sniggering at breasts contributes to the continuing impression that software development is a boys club where girls are not welcome.
July 2012 marks the return of Cardiff Science Festival (a.k.a. Gŵyl Gwyddoniaeth Caerdydd), after a break of nearly seven years. Science festivals are popping up all over the country, especially with the popularity of Cheltenham Science Festival and the long-running British Science Festival (this year taking place in Aberdeen), so it’s about time Cardiff put itself back on the science map.
So, starting Monday 9th July, Cardiff will play host to a spectacular line-up of scientists and science communicators from across the UK in a range of science-themed events, lectures, exhibitions, music and comedy shows across the city. There are more than forty family and adult events over the week, including a few in which I am taking part:
- Engineer’s Question Time, with Professor John Harries (the Welsh Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor) and Eluned Parrott AM (Assembly Member for South Wales Central) on Thursday evening;
- A Raspberry Jam (organised by Lucy Bunce with CAS Wales and Technocamps) on Sunday morning, if you want to show off or learn more about the Raspberry Pi;
- The first Welsh Science Showoff on Sunday evening, where I will attempt to justify to a room of scientists why everyone should study a bit of computer science.
It’s shaping up to be an excellent week! While the majority of the events are free, many require registration, so please check the CSF website, as well as @CdfScienceFest on Twitter, for the latest news, information and updates.
Computer science touches upon all three of my education priorities: literacy, numeracy and bridging the gap. It equips learners with the problem-solving skills so important in life and work.
The value of computational thinking, problem-solving skills and information literacy is huge, across all subjects in the curriculum. I therefore believe that every child should have the opportunity to learn concepts and principles from computer science.
Indeed, computing is a high priority area for growth in Wales. The future supply and demand for science, technology and mathematics graduates is essential if Wales is to compete in the global economy.
It is therefore vitally important that every child in Wales has the opportunity to study computer science between the ages of 11-16.
This is how Leighton Andrews AM, the Welsh Government’s Minister for Education and Skills, opened his keynote speech at the 2012 CAS Wales/Technocamps Conference at Swansea University on Friday 22nd June. It was a clear declaration by the Welsh Government of the importance and wide utility of computer science education. Building on last year’s successful inaugural conference, the 2nd CAS Wales/Technocamps Conference had the bold tagline of “Delivering Computer Science for Wales“.
The Minister’s speech touched upon a number of key issues, highlighting computer science as a key underpinning STEM discipline, recognising the value of learning how to program, as well as the wider educational impact of computational thinking, problem-solving skills and information literacy across all subjects in the curriculum. He also agreed with the findings of the Royal Society’s report Shutdown or restart?, recognising the three distinct strands of computer science, information technology and digital literacy. As part of a broad and balanced curriculum, the Minister reiterated that there should be flexibility in the programmes of study to let teachers deliver a tailored curriculum that best meets the needs of their learners:
I have asked my officials to look at the current ICT Programme of Study at Key Stages 2 and 3 and explore opportunities where computer science may be incorporated within the curriculum.
And more importantly, in response to the headline recommendations of the Digital Classroom Teaching Task and Finish Group to improve digital learning in Wales:
I am pleased to announce today an additional £3m of funding over the next three years to support a range of measures to improve computer science, digital literacy and ICT in schools and colleges across Wales.
While it remains to be seen quite how this money will breaks down, this is a clear Ministerial commitment to promoting and supporting the teaching of computer science in Wales (further to my letter to all state-maintained secondary schools and colleges in Wales in April). There is also a clear imperative for investing in CPD to upskill ICT teachers across Wales to teach computer science:
I believe that provision for continuing professional development for teachers is critical here. The Welsh Government will work closely with delivery partners such as Computing At School and Technocamps to ensure that this CPD programme is well-coordinated and has a significant impact on learner outcomes in digital literacy, ICT and computer science.
I would encourage headteachers to ensure that their school is engaged with Technocamps. I am also keen to promote the Computing At School initiative by encouraging ICT teachers across Wales to take advantage of this excellent free service.
A huge thanks to all of the keynote speakers and workshop leaders who made the 2012 conference a success, especially Technocamps and Swansea University. Check out the Storify of the conference and the Bring & Brag event, as well as images from the day.
This is a significant milestone in government support for computer science education in Wales (UK?), but it all depends on how we progress from here. Will 2012 be the year of computer science in Wales?
Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.
Douglas Adams (1952-2001)