Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Making code work

Coding is, apparently, the new Latin.  According to the headline of the BBC article, making code appear to be like the ancient language is a step toward making it accessible to the masses and is a good way to encourage the disengaged students of today to fizz with excitement.

The quote that coding is like Latin, stems from the author of the Next Gen report looking at the potential for the industry in the UK.  While the author's credentials certainly stack up, as does the portfolio stacked alongside it, I can't help but think that the tone of the report (over 88 pages) and indeed the article that talks to it, misses the point.

A blog posting isn't going to be much better mind.  However, the two cents from this direction would seem to point the need for evangelising of what the code actually does, by teachers and industry professionals who genuinely get-it.  This isn't the realm of the type of IT teacher I had.  The focus is way too strong on applications and relational databases.  And while that's great, as recent Googlers have pointed out, the UK is lagging behind international competition when it comes to teaching coding.

That's not to say that the state of the industry is in the UK is anything less than impressive, it isn't.  We have a formidable talent pool and some of the best dev folks in the world.  We should be pretty proud of this and really use their expertise to energise the next generation.  This is not like learning French.  You can't stand in front of a classroom and spout best practices; you need to motivate, stimulate and get inside of the students.  And encourage them to do the same with existing systems.  And then get cooking on their own.

Yes, there's a need for maths and physics and yes that attracts a certain type, but with a the energy of inspirational teachers it's possible to reach out to a wider group.

I'm no developer, but I've been lucky enough to work with some of the best in the world and the level of passion is infectious (and at times a little bit worrying!), but it's this passion and joy for what they do, that gets into students.  It's what needed to create truly compelling digital products.  I look forward to seeing what the UK can continue to contribute, but let's keep the enthusiasm for the subject front and centre and really encourage students to get off-piste with their work.  Carpe diem.

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