In an interview with The Herald Kraig Brown of the Digital Xtra Fund explains why it is essential to begin learning computing from primary school age.
Written shortly after the publishing of the Logan Review report Kraig positively supports its’ recommendations but believes it needs to go further.
“Logan talks about treating computing science like maths and formally teaching it from first year at secondary school”, he says. “I’m particularly interested in how we approach digital skills at the primary school level.
“The report should have included another recommendation stating that a focused and coordinated campaign to upskill all primary school teachers in Scotland in digital skills needs to be undertaken, starting at P5-P7.”
He also believes it is very important to establish linkages between teachers and industry, but also that this is a significant challenge, and so the key is to involve them in extra-curricular activities such as coding clubs.
Coding Clubs – Inspiring Scotland’s Future Digital Makers
The Digital Xtra Fund is a Scottish charity with a mission to inspire young people about technology and computing science through the positive promotion of the opportunity it offers.
Due to the generous support of their industry partners such as AWS, Baillie Gifford, CGI, Chroma Ventures and JP Morgan as well as many more, Digital Xtra Fund has awarded £725,000 to 102 initiatives across Scotland and helped over 35,000 young people have meaningful engagements with tech to date. The Edinburgh Reporter describes that they are inspiring Scotland’s future digital makers.
The key infrastructure required to engage kids into programming are coding clubs, and the Digital Xtra Fund plays a critical role in enabling them.
For example with their support West College Scotland set up the Renfrewshire Coding Clubs, to inspire young people to become the next generation of coders and technologist, through a programme of extracurricular activities, a network of college STEM Ambassadors, and a CPD programme to engage teachers in the local community.
Brendan Dick, BT Scotland director, said: “BT is right behind Digital Xtra Fund because we believe every young Scot needs to learn digital skills as a basic along with reading and writing.”
Coding Clubs Blueprint
Renfrewshire and other schools supported by Digital Xtra form a blueprint for others to emulate.
Senior staff from the College’s computing faculty work with a team of West College Scotland STEM Ambassadors to run the weekly clubs, recruited from the College’s HNC and HND students. This provides the students with a unique opportunity to share their knowledge and enthusiasm for computing science with school pupils, while giving the college students valuable work experience that supports their current studies and their future careers in STEM.
- CPD sessions delivered in association with Microsoft Education. Minecraft is a key tool for engaging children into new learning models.
- Support from The Micro:bit Foundation, who donated 500 micro:bits to this project, which allows them to learn to code using a block programming-type language and create games, graphics, and sounds, giving each teacher their own classroom set to help make coding in the classroom fun and easy.
- Sessions on virtual reality tools held at West College Scotland’s Virtual Reality Lab on their Paisley Campus. Vendors like Avantis are pioneering a ‘Metaverse’ approach to digital learning.
- Southmuir Primary School is building a STEM workforce of the future thanks to its coding club for girls.
- Digital makerspaces provide a way for youth workers to engage with young people, supporting them to learn key skills around coding and computer science.