Update: The Raspberry Pi has now been released. See here for more information.
Back in January, Michael Gove revealed his intention to carry out a major overhaul of the UK's school ICT curriculum. Now while I'll admit to not being Gove's biggest fan, I do agree with him on this and I'm relieved that there is finally a proposal to shake up ICT lessons, which have simply become dull and uninspiring.
Coming from the generation who witnessed the personal computer boom while at school, I was fascinated up until taking my ICT GCSE, when as students we increasingly found ourselves more competent than the teachers.
Long gone were the days of using monochrome displays on an Acorn BBC Micro computer, waiting excitedly (and patiently) for my work to be printed on perforated paper, or playing basic games and drawing in Paint when Windows' domination began.
By 2005, the internet had come along, we all knew everything about computers (what teenager doesn't!), and to be quite honest I got more fun from animating the Word Assistants (the dog and the wizard were my favourites) and trying to access blocked websites than learning how to mail merge.
Therefore I'm glad to finally see the Education Secretary describe ICT lessons as teaching "a curriculum that is out of date, that is basically glorified typing." He went on to say they're "not about creating the new applications of the future….it's not about being genuinely creative."
Talking to pupils who currently attend my old school, it doesn't seem like anything has changed since I left. While the school has started to upgrade to Windows 7, some PCs are still running XP and Office 2003, so pupils have more up-to-date software at home.
So what's going to change?
Current ICT lessons that focus predominantly on Office are set to be replaced with an 'open source' curriculum in computer science and programming, which can only be good for improving pupils' knowledge in using technology to solve problems, rather than constantly teaching processes and skills. By allowing pupils to gain a deeper understanding of the technical and creative ways of using technology, they will be much more prepared for working in a world where these skills are going to be required, and empowering our next generation of entrepreneurs.
Over the next few years, the way technology is used in education is going to be very exciting, and pupils, teachers and parents will be able to see the benefits. The Raspberry Pi computer is launching later this month, and the MIT Center for Mobile Learning's App Inventor (formerly Google App Inventor) will be launching during the first quarter of 2012. Both of these technologies will likely play a part in enabling kids to learn computer programming.
Of course, there is also the work that Apple has done in reinventing the textbook for the iPad, working with publishers to engage a more tech-savvy generation. But that deserves its own blog post!