Image from Manifest Vegan‘s Flickr account
When I first moved into online marketing the digital industry was a very different place. Websites were still built in tables, Apps were what you got from the Post Office and loading a website on a mobile phone was the digital equivalent of watching a washing machine do its business.
Since then, things have changed considerably – the incredible rise of the smart phone, websites built in wonderful HTML5 and CSS3, Google starting to get its house in order via an army of penguins and pandas, and so much more.
And at the very heart of these amazing changes have been a load of talented code savvy men and women. Their work has had a deep impact on the world changing how we consume information, interact with the internet and communicate with each other.
But their skills are like oil: there’s massive demand but limited resource. If the digital industry is to maintain its rapid evolution and growth then a brand new generation of digital experts are needed. It’s our pubescent, hormone crazed youth that will help to shape and define where our industry goes in the decades to come – not us.
But given that the software and technology needed to get into development is so expensive how do you inspire and encourage a new generation of children to engage with technology, if they can’t afford to buy it? The answer might be in a Raspberry Pi.
Image from Raspberry Pi
Put simply, the Raspberry Pi is a tiny and cheap computer for kids. For merely $25 you’ll receive a credit-card sized computer readily installed with the minimal but powerful operating system Linux, and an ability to hook into a TV and keyword.
It was created with the intention of providing children with a highly affordable, accessible and programmable computer that they can buy, learn to programme on, adapt and even break, without feeling restricted by price or fear of an angry parent. By destroying the paradigm of spending hundreds of pounds on a computer to become a member of the digital age, they hope to install creativity, enthusiasm and experience into a new generation of talented programmers.
And what’s exciting about the Raspberry Pi is that kids are already buying them and using them to make incredible devices like robotic arms, robot rovers and even night vision.
A 7-year old has already written three computer games using his Raspberry Pi!
The Raspberry Pi may be the tool for kids to learn code but who’s motivating them to pursue it as their dream job?
Information and Communications Technology (ICT) has been an outdated and dull school subject for decades. With a heavy focus on learning how software works rather than how they are built, ICT has become as useful to the digital industry as a water pistol in a sword fight. So, it was no surprise to hear that the British government has suspended it from its National Curriculum until September 2014, with teachers given free license on how and what to teach.
But if our industry is to keep moving forward, children must learn how software is developed in order to inspire and encourage. With no government sponsored guidelines available and many teachers ill equipped to pass on the skills needed, it’s a potentially bleak situation – until now.
A digital literacy campaign championed by the Guardian and supported by Google, has led to a number of experienced developers volunteering their time to teach. And one example of this digital philanthropy in practice is the coding event for young people: Young Rewired State.
Young Rewired State
Young Rewired State is an annual hack fest for developers and designers aged 18 and under. Code savvy children are given a subject, a challenge, open source data to work with and support from experienced developers. They then code, engineer, make and break for a day building their own prototype solutions and ideas. There are prizes for the best ones.
What is important about Young Rewired State is that children are given an opportunity to plunge themselves into the digital world, flexing their development creativity at a time when ICT’s role in education is in a state of decay. It installs confidence and knowledge in children that will help them to grow their skills and talent further.
With a UK digital industry thirsty for new talent but computer programming in education nowhere to be seen, affordable and adaptable technology like the Raspberry Pi, events like Young Rewired State and the time of experienced developers to teach will be crucial if our industry is to maintain its rapid growth.