When I was growing up I was lucky enough to see the first generation of home computers to appear in the UK and see what they were capable of.
I remember being in primary school (probably part of the youth club at the time) and playing games on all the different computers, and games devices from companies such as the Spectrum, Amstrad, Atari etc.
Later on my family invested in an Acorn Electron and later still the BBC Master ( the follow on and bigger brother of the BBC model B) which I taught myself how to program using one of the more popular computer programming magazines which was about at the time. The magazine was not platform specific, as most are today, but provided details on how to write the same game using all the most popular home computers at the time, something that was handy as my friends had different makes of computer.
I later went on to look into how these program’s were saved on the BBC and Acorn Electron to tape and later to disk using basic techniques to hide the code from prying eyes like mine and I even tried to send a ripoff version of PacMan to the BBC in a vain attempt to create something for Red Nose day.
Once in high school I was introduced to my first Mac within the Secretarial Studies department and was amazed at the small floppy disks it used and how it loaded a full word processor package and OS from just one or two disks.
Being used to playing with computers I took a few computing courses in the school and via day release at college, my first introduction to PCs, but most of the time I was ahead of the teachers or bored with business programs and wanted to know about networking the BBC micros in the lab rather than writing code in COMAL, BBC Basic or whatever we were using at the time.
Anyway, to get back to the reason for my post. Nowadays the schools I see are not even giving kids the chance to explore IT like I did back in the day.
I see kids stuck on Windows XP machines, using MS Office and programming in Visual Basic (and an old version at that).
Where is the diversity and choice I had as a kid? Why can’t schools offer up to date programming languages? Why aren’t they being shown how to program iPads or Android phones? Surely there are options available for Scottish schools, even with their limited budgets.
I’d love to see someone like Apple or Microsoft taking a small struggling Scottish school and giving them the chance to see what real IT is about.
I fear that it’s not just the budgets that are to blame but the short sighted view of the education system that hasn’t moved with the times and appears more concerned with central purchasing and saving money instead of providing an exciting and rewarding experience for their learners.. Maybe they think IT is just dull and boring?
There is such a wide range of possibilities with technology today, if you can think it up it’s probably possible if you just sit down and sort it out.
I think Apple have got it right with their iBooks to try and engage pupils with interactive books that draw them on and enable them to learn, rather than trying to teach them.
I sense that there’s still barriers to the uptake of Apple kit in Scottish schools because of the focus on cost saving and central purchasing. This is a shame as the pupils will miss out on all the wonderfully opportunities available to them and will leave school with a jaded view of IT and it’s capabilities.
I guess I’m just a dreamer and I think that life could be soo much better, but I guess that life is just not like that. 😦
Update (23/04/12): Today is the 30th Anniversary of the launch of the ZX spectrum, from the legendary inventor Sir Clive Sinclair. It’s great to see that Google have honoured the event with a Google Doodle and reading about this iconic machine brings back many fond memories. Wonder what we will think of our current tech when we look back in another 20 years?