Kraig Brown of the Digital Xtra Fund envisions a future where every student will play a part in the online revolution with the aim of equipping every young person in Scotland with the skills to succeed in the digital age. Via Andrew Collier
In Scottish education, COMPUTING studies have long been a subject of intense debate. At a time when digital skills are more important than ever, in the last decade or so, the number of secondary school teachers majoring in the topic has fallen by more than 20 percent.
As students lacking a sound base in computer science and IT are at a distinct disadvantage in further education or employment, this reflects nothing less than a core deficiency.
Several attempts have been made, including a 2014 proposal by Skills Development Scotland and ScotlandIS, to resolve the issue.
Published a few weeks ago, the Logan Review called for computer science, just like math and physics, to be regarded as an important topic.
Logan has been well received by and wide, although some within the industry believe that his aspirations should have gone further. The Digital Xtra Fund, a Scottish charity set up in 2016, is amongst them.
It awards grants to schools and organisations, funded mainly by business partners such as Baillie Gifford and Skyscanner, to encourage the next generation to recognize and use technology.
Kraig Brown, Manager of Collaboration and Production, is very supportive of Logan, but feels that there is a significant aspect missing. He is concerned that computer science education, especially through extracurricular activities, is not being adequately addressed in elementary schools.
He says, “Logan talks about treating computer science like math and teaching it formally starting in the first year in secondary school,” I am especially interested in how, at the elementary level, we approach digital literacy.
“The report should have included a further recommendation that there needs to be a focused and coordinated campaign to upskill all primary teachers in Scotland in digital skills, starting at P5-P7.”
“In addition, Brown said, examples and collaborations should be offered to teachers to show how computer skills from the viewpoint of a primary school student apply to the real world. Brown agrees that the implementation of computer science at the primary level helps to concentrate the minds of students in their growth at a crucial period. “I accept that from S1 onwards it needs to be compulsory,” he says.
But if you do that, the hearts and minds of young people, and particularly young girls, will still not prevail. They have a stereotypical image of what a career is even then. He firmly believes that coding in elementary school should be taught.
I know it’s easier said than done, and teachers aren’t as secure in this as they should be, although some do a good job at it. “Again, a good place to start would be P5 to P7.” Brown adds that learning simple coding is no more difficult than learning to read.
At the age of seven or eight with Logo, I can still recall learning to program on an early Apple machine and feeling,’ I did that! “‘” he is telling.
Then if anyone had told me what kind of future I might have had with those talents, my mind would have been blown away. 30 years later, at a time when the world is becoming more interactive, why are we going backwards? ”
There are clear advantages to building relations between teachers and business, but he is mindful of the size of the challenge. “A big part of what I’m trying to do is get our partners involved in extracurricular activities,” he says.
“However, that’s a lot better said than done. People work at their jobs from Monday to Friday and may not be as optimistic as they will be in the boardroom standing in front of a group of 11-year-olds.
They are not sure how to teach or handle these children, and they really need teacher assistance. But teachers also need to know how to incorporate this, which is very tight, into their time.
“However, we have to do that. I realize that could mean cutting [from the curriculum]a lot of other items, and not everyone would agree with that. Yet we have to do things the way the world progresses — if we don’t, our young people will be left behind.