Computer-mad children turn to volunteers to fill schools IT gap

Tech bosses have decried the poor IT content in the national curriculum, but here and abroad, mentors from the industry (and kids) are doing it for themselves. This is from the Guardian…

When David Jay became frustrated by his inability to find out what was on the school lunch menu, he took action in the way only a technically minded 11-year-old would – he decided to create an app for it.

David would have won the approval of Dick Olver, chairman of defence giant BAE Systems, who last month attacked the Department for Education’s proposed new design and technology curriculum for focusing on cookery and gardening and not meeting “the needs of a technologically literate society”.

Olver is not alone. Google chief executive Eric Schmidt, has complained that Britain’s ICT curriculum gives pupils no insight into how software is made, and Mike Short, president of the Institution of Engineering and Technology, has said computer science must be taught as a subject in schools or the UK could lose its globally competitive position.

Young David’s idea was to take the food choices from the menu published online by the independent Thomas’s school in Battersea and write a program for his phone to display what they would be eating that day. But, in apparent confirmation of Olver’s concerns, the school can take no credit. The app idea emerged not in a classroom but on a Saturday afternoon in the offices of Forward, a web company in Camden, north London, which hosts monthly session teaching children computer skills, including writing code.

This Coder Dojo – which borrows the Japanese term for a martial arts school – is one of 180 around the world. From Brooklyn to Uganda to Bolivia, IT professionals are giving up their spare time to teach children as young as seven how to become tech wizards.

Started two years ago by a young Irish computer enthusiast, James Whelton, the movement has spread rapidly, with an ethos of volunteer-led teaching in an industry increasingly concerned by a shortage of skills in information and communication technology, or ICT.

At the Camden dojo, 15 other children, parents in tow, are being mentored by professionals as they work on their projects for three hours on a Saturday afternoon. Andy Kent, one of the Camden mentors, says the dojos do not focus on teaching particular skills, but allow children to question how technology works. It is the modern-day equivalent of taking a radio apart and putting it back together.

“I think there is a certain stigma attached to coding,” he says. “If you like football, you go and do more of it at the weekend, but we don’t really have that for tech stuff, or any academic things.”

David’s father is Alan Jay, one of the founders of film database IMDb before it was sold to Amazon in 1998. He says: “It is a logic and a language, just like learning French, and if you teach them when they are young, they don’t think they’re learning something complicated.”

More at:  Computer-mad children turn to volunteers to fill schools IT gap

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