Digital EconomySkills and Careers

Sir Ian Livingstone – Hacking the Curriculum

The legend of the UK gaming industry has a vision to transform Education and Computer Science.

Ian Livingstone is a stalwart legend of the gaming industry, recently knighted to recognize him for the decades of work he has dedicated to building the industry we all know and enjoy today.

This article tells the story of his history from the first gritty battle to found the Games Workshop through creating the Fighting Fantasy interactive book series through his senior leadership of UK gaming companies producing mega titles like Tomb Raider.

It’s also a story that the BBC tell through a short film describing the journey From the back of a van to the London Stock Exchange.

Hacking the Curriculum

Hacking the Curriculum: Creative Computing and the Power of Play: How Digital Skills Can Save Us from the Robots.

It is Sir Ian’s most recent work that is especially relevant to this site, our initiative to boost the adoption of Computer Science learning across Scotland.

In 2011 he co-wrote the Next Gen Skills Review (full report), an independent report into the skills required by the UK’s video games and visual effects industries, that led to his passion to transform Education through gaming.

In this TES interview he explains his book on the topic – Hacking the Curriculum.

“In a world that is being transformed by technology, it is important that children learn to think critically, creatively and computationally to help them become true citizens of the 21st century.”

He advocates digital creativity through coding and computational thinking as a form of play to bring the national curriculum in computing to life, requiring the curriculum to bring the arts and sciences together.

“Arts and sciences should no longer be a question of either/or. STEM subjects are vital, but it is the multi-disciplinary mix of STEM and the arts that promotes diverse thinking and self-determination.

Imagination is the key for the ‘maker’ generation. Imagination helps us dream what might be possible, and maths helps us understand what is possible.”

He highlights that there is a tendency to categorise computing as a branch of mathematics, rather than it using technology to enable digital creativity, and that gaming is key. It’s often seen as another dry science; maths-heavy and boring.

Playing games combines a broad mix of problem-solving, decision making, trial and error and computational thinking, stimulates the imagination and encourages creativity. They give players continuous assessment and allow them to fail in a safe environment.

This has culminated in Sir Ian launching his own school. With a goal to teach kids to be “creators and makers, not just users” the Livingstone Academy is inspired by his work with the Next Gen Skills Review.

Initially open to 150 Year 7 students and 60 reception pupils, the academy will eventually host 1,500 pupils — all of whom will be guided through a special curriculum that emphasizes the importance of STEAM skills: science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.

Digital literacy is almost on a par with literacy and numeracy. Computer science, you could argue, is the new Latin because it underpins the digital world in the way Latin underpinned the analogue world. For children to be citizens of the 21st Century, they need to know how this stuff works; otherwise they’ll just fall further and further behind as the world is transformed beyond recognition by technology. 


Editor of On a mission to build a world leading Scottish digital nation.

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