Archive for January 2013
A great clip from Tomorrow’s World, first broadcast in 1969, of Nellie: “a computer set to revolutionise the classroom“. In this clip, the boys of Forest Grammar School in Berkshire demonstrate how Nellie can be programmed to solve mathematical equations and play music, as well as the importance of computer maintenance…
At present, only 30% of computing jobs are filled by women and when it comes to the number of female speakers at computer conferences, the figure is much, much smaller. In an attempt to address this problem, men are now signing an online pledge to boycott conferences where there are no women on the panel. But just how effective can this tactic be? Should men be doing more to get women and girls into computing? And does the problem really lie with conference organisers or in the fact that just not enough girls are taking computer studies at school? Jenni talks to Aral Balkan, a web designer, who has signed the pledge, to 13 year old Amy who loves computer programming and to Dr Tom Crick, Chair of Computing At School in Wales.
On Friday, I was a guest on BBC Radio 4′s Woman’s Hour, discussing females in IT, along with Aral Balkan and 13 year old Amy Mathers. As you can see above from the somewhat incongruous screenshot, the original focus of the programme had been on “male geeks rising up for women” (something with which I was not particularly comfortable), but I felt I had been invited on to discuss the educational aspects of the problem. As I’m sure you’ll agree, Amy was the stand-out star of the show, displaying an impressive understanding of computer science and the value of learning how to program.
Unfortunately, there has been an orchestrated social media backlash due to the choice of two male guests, which got picked up by the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail the following day. Without wanting to add to the furore, there appears to have been a lot of noise made with very little fact-checking, detracting from the focus on the underlying problem; I suggest you read Aral’s excellent blog post, as well as the response from the editor of Woman’s Hour.
On 19 November, I chaired a seminar to consider the future of computer science and ICT in schools in Wales. The seminar was attended by representatives from a range of key stakeholders including schools, the National Digital Learning Council, Further Education, Higher Education, awarding organisations, industry and the media.
Following a lively and engaging discussion, there were a number of key themes that emerged that I am keen to consider further, they include:
- ‘ICT’ in schools needs to be re-branded, re-engineered and made relevant to now and to the future;
- Digital literacy is the start and not the end point — learners need to be taught to create as well as to consume;
- Computer science should be introduced at primary school and developed over the course of the curriculum so that learners can progress into a career pathway in the sector.
- Skills, such as creative problem-solving, should be reflected in the curriculum; and,
- Revised qualifications need to be developed in partnership with schools, Higher Education and industry.
I have established a Steering Group to take forward consideration of the future of computer science and ICT in schools. The group will consider the key findings of the seminar, develop proposals in relation to their implementation, and provide a report on the way forward.
The membership of the Steering Group is comprised of representatives from a cross-section of key stakeholders and includes:
- Chair: Stuart Arthur (Box UK)
- Chair: Dr Tom Crick (Cardiff Metropolitan University)
- Chair: Janet Hayward (Cadoxton Primary School, Vale of Glamorgan)
- Gareth Edmondson (Ysgol Gyfun Gwyr, Swansea)
- Simon Pridham (Casllwchwr Primary School, Swansea)
- Lucy Bunce (Y Pant Comprehensive School, Rhondda Cynon Taff)
- Maldwyn Pryse (Estyn)
- Peter Sishton (e-skills UK)
- Chris Britten (Ashgrove Special School, Vale of Glamorgan)
- Glyn Rogers (Ysgol Gyfun Gwynllyw, Pontypool)
- Ben Lidgey (Monitise)
- Charlie Godfrey (Fujitsu)
- Professor Khalid Al-Begain (University of Glamorgan)
- Hannah Mathias (St David’s College, Cardiff)
- Professor Faron Moller (Swansea University)
The group will report to me by July 2013 and provide recommendations on the way forward.
The recommendations will inform the wider review of assessment and the National Curriculum in Wales, which I announced on 1 October. Any necessary changes will be considered as part of any revisions to the National Curriculum in Wales.
This is a hugely positive step by the Welsh Government, especially in light on the wider review of assessment and the National Curriculum in Wales (as well as the recently published 14-19 Review of Qualifications); it also complements the activities of the National Digital Learning Council. I am very much looking forward to co-chairing this review and developing a modern, rigorous and challenging ICT curriculum for Wales.