Serif in Education

The Year of Code – and don’t forget creativity!

I read this recent BBC News article with interest. In it, Journalist Rory Cellan-Jones examines the ‘Year of Code’ and talks to both supporters and critics of it http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-26150717.

You might have already seen the Newsnight clip of Lottie Dexter, spokeswoman for the campaign, who admitted she herself doesn’t know how to code (if you haven’t, you can view it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-7x7GYItzS4).

Critic Emma Mulqueeny, who’s been out there spreading the gospel of coding for years with her Young Rewired State organisation and its Festival of Code, explained:

“(The Year of Code) doesn’t know what it’s doing, it’s not focused, it hasn’t looked at all the research that people have done.” She frowned upon the fact that Lottie can’t code, suggesting someone like Ms Dexter shouldn’t be leading the campaign because she doesn’t know enough herself about the subject.

So when it comes to the Year of Code, and coding in schools in general, is it really the blind leading the blind?

In some ways, having a spokesperson for The Year of Code who cannot code herself, lends itself to the fact that many current ICT teachers are also going in somewhat ‘blind’, and perhaps means that she can relate more to teachers’ challenges. However, many teachers aren’t at all blind to coding, as some are already experts in this field, and some would argue that we should be utilising their skills in a more focused and technical approach.

One particular paragraph in the article, which I liked, says: “But there is also a lot of goodwill out there, particularly amongst those IT teachers who have been campaigning for years for a more stretching and creative approach to computing education. If the Year of Code can take a breath, sit back and work out what it wants to achieve, then maybe it can regain some of its lost credibility.”

I would like to focus on the word ‘creative’, as we all know Serif is a company that makes creativity in ICT a reality!

‘CODING’. To me, that word just sounds so technical. So uncreative. The more I think about it, the more I have to remind myself that there is still so much creativity in the new ICT world.

Coding is, of course, imperative for our future as a global leader. Rory’s article mentions that “90% of the country don’t know how to code, 70% of adults don’t know that coding will be in the curriculum come September, and 100% of teenagers think it will be vital for their future job prospects.” We are all behind teachers who come September, will be teaching coding in a brand new Computing curriculum and we want to support them as much as possible.

I would also like to consider, though, that creativity still has a vital role to play alongside coding. Coding is a new element of the curriculum, but there is a lot more that is also involved. Essentially, Computing is redefined ICT.

Firstly, as I’m sure many coders would agree, coding doesn’t at all mean being uncreative. Even in writing code, students are creating something brand new that has never existed before, stemming from their creative ideas. They have to choose characters, routes, paths, layouts… and can be creative in their choices! We have received reports back from the “coal face” of Computing of excited teachers using Serif DrawPlus as a key tool to add to and enhance the graphic elements in Scratch.

Aside from the new coding element, creative aspects such as web design, animation, digital video and imagery are all still going to be an important part of the curriculum come September too. The official Government programmes of study for the new curriculum explain that once students have got to grips with coding, they will then be able to explore creative routes and build on this newfound knowledge:

“Building on this knowledge and understanding, pupils are equipped to use information technology to create programs, systems and a range of content. Computing also ensures that pupils become digitally literate – able to use, and express themselves and develop their ideas through, information and communication technology – at a level suitable for the future workplace and as active participants in a digital world.”

The moral of my short story is, folks, let’s not forget that coding and creativity will sit (happily) alongside each other in the new curriculum. In fact, I have high hopes that coding will encourage students to become even more creative as their interest and passion grows for ICT.

The Year of Code seems to be doing its job in creating a buzz around the new curriculum. But perhaps its time we also started a Year of Creativity, too!