What got you interested in IT? Your first tablet? Smartphone? Hooking up your first computer to the TV? Building your first computer? Your first success with a punch card? Watching Tron? For me, it was playing about with a ZX Spectrum. Typing in lines of code; waiting 10 minutes for a game to load; blowing up a speech synthesiser after an slippage in re-assembly; hacking Football Manager so you won..well..if it was good enough for James T Kirk...
Learning to code is something many aspire to do at some point. It's not only a great way to create cool stuff, it's a marketable skill. Yet, I look at a good deal of IT in schools and am concerned that the teaching emphasis is on using the use of packages at the expense of designing and building and learning ways to make ideas happen. While at every skill needs rules to be learned the process of originality and inventiveness needs an environment where messing about is easy; where it is fine to fail.
Last week I attended Pi Night at British Computer Society's Central London Branch where Rob Bishop, developer for the Raspberry Pi Foundation, talked about the foundation's goals and I got to see a the crust taken off a couple of Pi projects that people had brought in.
If you're not aware The Raspberry Pi foundation's aim is to "promote the study of computer science and related topics, especially at school level, and to put the fun back into learning computing". Under this remit the Raspberry Pi Foundation developed a single-board computer named the Raspberry Pi which you can buy for about £25; Maplin are now selling a kit.
Do I have one. Yes. Two in fact. I did buy my first in a flush of nostalgia, got it, fired it up and then did very little with it :(
I could say a difficulty was to have "a project" to give using the device some structure. From the meeting covered I've seen how to use a Pi in a Big Trak and then from there how to build an arcade machine, out it into a keyboard. Inspiring stuff. At the same time, I was under the impression that IT in schools was staid; but since sitting down with my kids and talking through what they've done in terms of IT - they've looked at programming with software such as Scratch, and architecture and design isn't lost when you've access to games such as Minecraft.
I don't believe ingenuity can't be taught by rote: ingenuity is not a set of tick boxes to be ticked. But, it can be improved with practice. I'm look forward to practicing more.