A to Z of services          A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P R S T U V W Y Z

Posts Tagged ‘BBC’

Creating the Next Generation of Coders

Friday, January 27th, 2017

Coded on a BBC Micro and released in 1984, space trading simulator “Elite” went on to sell over a million copies and influences the genre to this day.

If you went to school in the 1980s you’ll almost certainly have run into the BBC Micro at some point. Launched in 1982 and designed with an emphasis on education, this unassuming grey box became the gateway for an entire generation of young people to learn about coding, computing and software development. British technology luminaries such as David Braben (who used the BBC Micro to develop “Elite”, one of the most influential and best-selling video games of all time) and David Darling (founder of Warwickshire-based games development company Codemasters) owe their careers to a decision 30 years ago to not just teach young people how to use new technologies, but to provide the resources for them to apply their own creativity as well.

Fast forward to 2017, and we have access to technology whose power and scope is beyond anything that could have been imagined by those 1980s schoolchildren. Now more than ever, it is important to make sure our children have a solid understanding in how these technologies work. We don’t expect them to all become technology and computer entrepreneurs, but we don’t expect everyone who learns English to become a writer or everyone who learns Maths to become a mathematician either. We teach reading, writing and maths because they are essential to understanding the world in which we live. If it isn’t already, knowing how technology works will soon be as important to get on in life as those other basic skills.

With that in mind, the BBC has updated the venerable old Micro for the 21st century. The BBC Micro Bit, inspired by similar devices such as Raspberry Pi, is a far smaller (about half the size of a credit card) but also far more powerful device than its predecessor. Simple programming tasks, like setting its LEDs to light up in a certain pattern, can be done using just the Micro Bit itself. However, it can also be connected up via Bluetooth or USB to other Micro Bits or electronic devices to create and use more complicated programs. The dedicated www.microbit.org website also contains enough software and tools so that the Micro Bit’s possibilities are limited only by the imagination of its user.

The Micro Bit has already made its way to our country’s schools, but here in Tameside we want to go above and beyond in the name of teaching our children about technology. Our commitment was enshrined at the start of last year in our “Every Child a Coder” 16 for 2016 Pledge, and after the success of our Tameside Hack in the summer we’re in the process of finalising our plans to hold a second Hackathon over the February half-term. We’re also putting on free starter sessions for young people in Years 6, 7 and 8 at Hyde Library to help them find their way around the BBC Micro Bit and program some great projects. The first session took place this Monday, but spaces are still available at the time of writing for the second session on the 30th January. The event is completely free and you can book your place on the dedicated webpage here.

I’ve always had the view that education is not just a means to get a job and build a future, although those are undoubtedly important. It is a valuable thing in and of itself. Maybe one of the children at our Hackathon or Micro Bit sessions will go on to create the next great video game or computer program in 20 or so years, but I won’t consider our work a failure if that doesn’t happen. If we can open our young people’s minds to the possibilities and opportunities that technology can offer them to understand not just the world, but themselves, then that is an excellent return on investment in my book.

Making Digital Tameside a Reality

Monday, November 16th, 2015

We are continuing work on our project to transform the Ashton Old Baths into a state of the art digital and business hub.

It has been a fact through history that the people who could master the technologies of their time enjoyed a massive advantage over those who could not. This covers everything from stone tools used thousands of years ago to the steam engines that powered the Industrial Revolution. In the modern world we may not be using stone tools or steam engines as much anymore, but the basic concept is still an important one. In today’s Information Age, not knowing how to use the internet and digital technologies can be a significant barrier to full participation in society and the economy.  Research has shown that the average person could save up to £560 a year on online shopping alone, and for the vast majority of jobs today some degree of digital skills (or, at the very least, the willingness to learn them) has become an essential requirement.

That’s why the report on digital exclusion, produced and released by the BBC, the Local Government Association and the London School of Economics, is an incredibly valuable piece of research. The report combines eight metrics, covering digital infrastructure and skills in an area and the age, health, education and income of an area’s population to calculate the risks of people in a given local authority being digitally excluded. This allows for a complete picture of why digital exclusion is a risk. For remote areas such as the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, it could be because the digital infrastructure does not reach the people living there. For deprived inner city areas, the digital infrastructure may exist but the people there lack the income or skills to access it.

The latter is the case for Tameside. The infrastructure in the borough provides 93.4% of the population with at least the minimum speed of broadband internet if they can access it, but only 74% of the population have all five of the basic digital skills (defined as managing information, problem solving, communicating, creating and transacting) and of those only 35% have used all five of them in the past three months. That is something we urgently need to address. This is much bigger than just making Tameside look good in a survey. For the unemployed or underemployed, digital skills are a gateway to more and better jobs. For the young, digital skills can be an incredibly powerful educational tool. For the elderly, digital skills can be a resource to keep in contact with friends and family to keep loneliness at bay. It is also estimated that local and central government could save up to £5 billion a year if as many services as possible were provided online.

Digital exclusion is not an insurmountable problem. All we need to do in Tameside is make it easier for individuals and organisations to

get online by giving them the infrastructure and the skills they need. The work on this has already begun. We are improving our digital

We are also making sure our young residents have a grounding in coding and digital technology through courses at Tameside College and the new Sixth Form building.

infrastructure by launching a £3 million renovation of the Ashton Old Baths. Formerly the first municipal swimming pool in the country, it will be reborn as a high-tech business hub with one of the fastest internet connections in the country to support the development in new digital and media businesses in Tameside. We’ve also teamed up with MadLab and CodeUp Manchester to arrange three free coding workshops for adults in Tameside in the run up to Christmas. Reserving a place on one of the courses costs £3, which is reimbursed when the course is completed. For more information, including dates and times please check our website here. We want every resident, business and charity in Tameside to have the skills and confidence to make the most of the digital world, and we have an opportunity and an obligation to make it happen.

Tameside Logo