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UK government backed Year of Code starts badly

Website is down, boss can’t code
Thu Feb 06 2014, 15:24
doublefacepalm

UK GOVERNMENT BACKED coding carrot the Year of Code hasn't gotten off to a good start, with it being revealed that it is being led by someone who can't code and with its homepage having been down all day. 

This week saw the UK Year of Code come to something of a head and its professional spokespeople despatched into the world to spread its message, that message being that anyone can create a website.

Present coding instruction is no good, they say. It is boring and irrelevant and is doing no one any favours. It needs a kick up the computing arse, and people who can't code and can't keep a website online have put themselves in charge of the kicking action, a relationship with the technology promotion firm Index Ventures and a £500,000 spending budget.

"The new computing curriculum will give our children the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century. That is why we replaced the obsolete and boring curriculum with one that is forward-thinking, modern, and drawn up by teachers, industry experts and leading technology firms," said Education Secretary Michael Gove as he announced the government's backing and investment.

"I want IT firms, university computing departments and software developers to use this fund to share their knowledge with the next generation."

Code year partners and associated firms include the aforementioned Index Ventures, as well as Songkick, Codeacademy, brand management firm Albion and Kano. The Year of Code's official adviser is Saul Klein.

Klein sits on the boards of Index Ventures, Codeacademy, Songkick, Albion and Kano. The group is chaired by Rohan Silver, who used to be the prime minister's technology advisor until he left to join Index Ventures as its entrepreneur in residence.

Lottie Dexter, who also works with members of the Conservative party, was chosen to lead this, catapult the message and go on the BBC's Newsnight and clear up the coding question to people who do not have much grasp of it.

Her appearance and statements have been widely ridiculed, and not least of all because she admitted to not knowing how to code. "It doesn't mean anything to me because I don't know how to code," she said.

Dexter was grilled by Jeremy Paxman, which is traditionally not an easy ride. He asked her what the main goals of the initiative are, and after some back and forth, she surmised that it is to teach children, but first teachers, how to make birthday cards, apps and web pages from scratch.

The ability to make a Valentines card will be key to future success she explained. "Code is the language you use to instruct computers," she said. "We need it for the 21st [century] jobs market."

Newsnight also provided a video in which at least one person said that learning to code is like learning several languages at the same time. We assume that any teachers expected to hack together a file server in a handful of lunchtime lessons and then show five year olds how to do it were not supposed to hear that.

There is concern about "how coding is taught" according to one student, who compared learning to code with a boring French lesson.

The government's entry into this debate has the apparent backing of a number of outfits, including the Science Museum and Google.

Google and Raspberry Pi are already deeply committed to teaching the young to code, and have already shared their own kit and experiences with children and students. Their work started over a year ago.

On Twitter exasperated coders and lecturers moved to distance themselves from the government line.

"Govt 'expert' to get UK coding says you can learn in 1hr, but doesn't know any or bothered learning before Newsnight," said journalist and lecturer Sunny Hundal.

"Coding can be fun, engaging and inspiring despite the #newsnight report," added computing teacher Alan O'Donohoe.

The author and mathematician Simon Singh also questioned whether Dexter is the right person for the job. "Can tech community pressure Govt to appoint someone who knows & cares about coding?" he asked.

A year of code has already been carried out in the US. There luminaries like Snoop Lion, nee Dogg, weighed in on the importance of code-izzle. µ

 

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