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Cracking the code…

cracking the code

Never mind all the technological advances in the world of computers – read this and going back to ‘BASIC’ will make perfect sense!

BY KATE NEWTON

You may have heard about the Government initiative to make the teaching of coding compulsory in schools as part of the new National Curriculum, starting this September – but what is coding, exactly? Well, put simply, it’s what you use to create or edit computer software, apps and websites. Facebook, games and the apps on your phone are all made possible with code. Basically, coding is the language we use to tell a computer what we want it to do.

Even if you have grown up playing computer and video games and finding your way round them is second nature to you, you may never have thought about creating your own games and programs.

Back in the 1980s, young people were the first to have access to home computers like the ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, Amiga 500 and, partly in schools, the BBC Micro (thanks to the BBC Computer Literacy Project). These all sound like the dinosaurs of the computer world now but back then everyone learned, or taught themselves how to program on them – mostly by trial and error or out of pure curiosity – because they were so accessible and easy to use.

Kids may have stopped coding and writing their own programs for a number of reasons – the rise in popularity of devices with limited access, like Playstation and Xbox which replaced the aforementioned machines in homes, being an obvious cause. Programming skills began to diminish when ICT lessons in schools concentrated mainly on teaching pupils how to use Word and Excel or how to write webpages. Computers are becoming more sophisticated. The easy availability of ready-made games and the hours spent playing them because they’re so enjoyable inevitably took the place of people writing their own programs and inventing their own games.

Being able to write your own code can give you the knowledge and empower you to do many things you wouldn’t otherwise be able to do. You could create your own apps, start your own business or become a programmer for other businesses. Being able to code could be a big help too if you’re interested in a career in technology, industry, engineering or science. It is an impressive addition to your CV or personal statement.

By turning the technology clock back 30 years and reintroducing simple, cheap computers which seven year-olds (and 70 year-olds!) can use in school and at home, it is hoped that (not only by the current Government but also by the computer science industry) that young people’s coding abilities will quickly improve as they progress through school. This new generation of enthusiastic coders and programmers will redress the balance in the alarming lack of people with vital coding and programming skills.

If you want to know more about the basics of coding, go to: http://www.codeclub.org.uk 

About Lynette Daly

Lynette is the publishing editor of Moving On magazine. Moving On is devoted to helping young people make good choices for their future – education, qualifications and careers. Moving On really wants to motivate you! Our articles cover a range of topics to inspire and give ideas. Our magazines are delivered free to all schools, colleges and sixth forms in England and is also available online.

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