The Young Rewired State Festival of Code 2012 (YRS) took place at Custard Factory from 10th – 12th August. The festival saw many many hundreds of children (up to and including 18 years of age) descend upon Custard Factory to present apps, websites, webapps, appsites, prototypes and other useful codey things to a panel of judges.
A week prior to the festival I was a mentor for a group of children at 3D Native at The Public in West Bromwich. I only spent one day day as a mentor, but it was a really good insight into what young people are creating on computers today. Of the four projects created during that week two were presented:
The first creation, Quake Awake, is a website where users can look at earthquakes that have happened near a user-specified location and when they happened. Potentially very useful for those looking to live abroad!
The second creation to be presented, Statlete, allowed a user to look at useful data about Olympics.
The other two apps can be seen/downloaded from the Young Rewired State code website
Unfortunately, none of the projects from 3D Native went on to win an award, but the skills learnt are definitely prizes in themselves. The children at 3D Native, and indeed all of the participants, should feel very proud of their achievements.
Programming since age 6
One of the things that really stood out to me across all of the teams was the high level of skill and the age of the participants. Some of the children had been programming since the age of 6 and were writing – not playing – their own games since age 7! All of the things that were created utilised a whole number of APIs, programming languages and data sets. Google Maps was definitely a popular choice for many of the apps
No one event can be attributed to this enthusiasm for programming from such a young, but things like YRS, hackerspaces (of which fizzPOP in Birmingham is one), and more accessible computing (Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Open Source software) are helping. I know that there’s been a recent push to get Computer Science being taught in schools over ICT (Information and Communications Technology):
The current information and communications technology (ICT) curriculum in England’s schools is a “mess” and must be radically revamped, the education secretary has announced.
From September it will be replaced by a flexible curriculum in computer science and programming, designed with the help of universities and industry.
Michael Gove called the current ICT curriculum “demotivating and dull”.
Most of my own experiences of computing in education – even up to degree level – have been that of a user, not a programmer. Of course there is a need to learn how to use a word processor, write documents, use e-mails etc, but computers are so much more than devices to use. They are tools for creation. The children who participated in YRS clearly see this potential and I just hope there’s more support in and outside of education/the National Curriculum.
I don’t know if there’s one magical thing that can get people (not just children) to do more programming and creating with technology, but I support anything that helps to do this and so I’ll most definitely applying to be a mentor again for YRS 2013. Did I mention that they’re already accepting applications to take part?
On the other hand, maybe we just need to start offering more free cake
Lots of photos from YRS are available on Flickr