So it transpired that my eldest recently managed to get in to the school's limited place computer club & I
somehow managed to get roped-in to helping out after offering assistance the other year. ;-)
It's been an interesting time being back in a classroom setting with all the associated flood of memories from teaching KS3 & KS4 years ago.
Back in the day I was frustrated at the lack of "actual computing" that happened before the great ICT shakeup of recent years.
It's been marvellous to see the children, adept at using electronic devices, tackling some of the simple tasks
we've thrown at them so far to assess their abilities (ranging across three years at the school).
The interesting thing that I've picked up along the last few shorts weeks is that there continues to be quite a bit of mystique around computers and hardware.
I came from a very privileged position of having a microelectronic engineer dad who built me a computer for
Christmas when I was about four years old. None of this "grabbing some cards & a motherboard" ,
this was the early 80's and he was constructing with Z80 microprocessors.
My curiosity continued through Commodore Vic 20's and C64's, then on to an Atari ST1040STFM. Commodore's demise before I could get my hands on an A600 meant that I eventually managed to get my hands on an ex-business trash-can Amstrad PC1512 to begin my PC adventures. After a year or two of that I managed to get my hands on a 486DX2-66 motherboard which led into a 486DX4-100 machine, then a Pentium 75 ( with the floating point bug ), an AMX K2-200 , Dual Celeron 500 , dual P2-266, Celeron 500 , Athlon 1.2Ghz, P3-1.2Ghz.... oh my I've gone down the rabbit-hole...
Why am I prattling on about what computers I had? Why am I? Oh, yes, the point ... the point is that I wanted to investigate putting things together, taking things apart, looking at the schematic diagrams for my computers, making them better, do different things - interface with other computers. In short, I wanted to learn about them and learn how they could work for me.
I get that not everyone wants to do this, I completely understand this and I don't think everyone NEEDS to know -
that's why we have a diverse set of skilled employees across many industries. What I do think is that somehow in
a generation's quest to make life easier for people we've somehow lost the "get stuck in and get your hands
cut to ribbons on the metalwork" adventure we once had. Everything is pre-packaged, sealed, factory set and
In our smart world, with smartly designed objects of art we aren't teaching the kids to investigate, to ask the questions, to grab screwdrivers and work out how things tick.
That's why I love that my lad is in this club with a teacher who wants to push the kids on as they understand things. This is the reason I love the Raspberry Pi and Microbit training that's happening across the country.
In the first session I managed to get my hands on one of the Microbit controller boards - I've been after one
for a while now and it was wonderful to finally get to play with one. The look on the kids faces when I got
the device to scroll a "booting..." message, followed by the ability for them to press button A or B
and have it display which button was pressed, then give an "OW!" message when you shook it was
"THAT is a COMPUTER!?"
"WOW HAVE YOU SEEN THIS!?"
"give it a shake, that's AWESOME"
That's the spark, right there, that says "how do I do that?" and then you can share how you got your
bundle of wires and components to do your magical bidding.
I'm super excited for what the group could start to work through over the coming weeks - it's a very mixed ability group and not everyone will be in a position to want to learn some of the Microbit programming, but I'm glad the sense of adventure hasn't been lost, it's just been film-wrapped and sprayed with some corporate scent.