We decided to change things up a little for our next podcast and take a look at the next generation of coders, how they are taught and what we need to do to encourage more young people and a more diverse group of people into a tech career.
This is a genuinely fascinating discussion, with so much to say we have split this into two episodes. This first episode concentrates on tech education and we will dig deeper into the issues of diversity in tech in the second episode.
We were delighted to be joined by Matthew Applegate of Creative Computing Club. Matthew is an inspiring figure in the world of tech, he works with children from across our region to help them get into coding and tech from an early age and stick with it right through to university and employment.
From the IJYI team we have Julia Hunter, George Markham and Inky Simmons who all took a different route into their careers.
Julia, who also runs local CoderDojos has a lot of experience of working with primary school age children to encourage them to take their first steps into coding.
George recently graduated with an MSc from the University of East Anglia and is the IJYI member of staff with the most recent experience of making their way into a tech career through the education system.
Inky came to IJYI straight from college on an apprenticeship and as a non-binary person has a real insight into what the lack of diversity in the tech sector means for society as whole.
Welcome back to a podcast coming to you Live and direct from E Gs Ipswich Boardroom. Here in sending Ipswich today, we have a very interesting show ahead. Every podcast from E J is interesting. This one is especially interesting because it's about young people. So we can unpick some of the issues affecting diversity affecting way coding is taught in affecting the impact that has on the software we use on businesses in future. So joining us today we have Matthew Applegate, who is the founder off the Creative Computing Club. He's also a mental. He's a BAFTA Award winner on a Microsoft Award winner as well. Welcome Mat. Also today we have from E G. Julia Hunter, who is a software developer. But she also has led the coda dough Joe Initiative here in Egypt. We'll be hearing more about that later on. She also runs the Code Club and joining us here is inky Simmons, quality engineer on you Axe design On Also joining us is George Markham, who is a relatively recent graduate. And you're a software engineer here in Egypt. Hello. Great. You're the voice of the young people. Okay? So because I can't be I'm obviously the oldest. I'm Andrew Walker. I am a freelance writer. I like Salmon old friend of Edie's. But the truth of matter is they haven't changed the code on the door. Keep had yet. So I keep letting myself all right. So the first question
I want to ask just to sort of frame it for the people who are listening. Why do we need to teach coding at school
coding, as a friend of Bill Thompson said, is the language of the 21st century. If you don't understand that, you can't really take part in it. In all of the things that are going on in the world, you're quite limited. If you can only speak the spoken language of English, if you want to learn the language of technology, it is code.
So in terms of
code, I mean, I think Cody's are important thing to be tall. I mean, when I was in school, the kind of I T lessons was pretty much as much has just learned Cem like how to use words to use excel and things like that. We didn't really touch very much on the coding, and I think it's important that they make it kind of amore known thing for kids these days because, like, what was the developers of future gonna be like? You know where we're gonna make the developers of the future if they're not, if we're not getting them interested at a young age, Yeah, And where? Yeah, When I was at school, I think I was one of the last students do the old courses before they trained side. I completely missed all of the exciting stuff that they get to do now. But I am to self teach myself how to coach, because there was quite literally no way and no one to teach me in school. So I think it's great that this off coding classes being taught, actually at secondary school now rather than just at a level and beyond, you get kids interested and, you know, like he says, that is the language of the 21st century. Everything is code. I
also think that if you know, as to mentioning that if young people aren't aware of that, these opportunities they never gonna go from on dhe a lot of the work, you know, we're doing at the moment is in primary schools to make them aware from a very early age that this is something they can choose when they go into secondary, because it isn't promoted enough, actually in secondary because quite often taken new schools aren't capable of teaching it very well, so they don't tend to promote it as well. So we are preparing them from very early stage to be able to go into secondary school. I want to be a developer. I want to go and do this. I want to make this because if we don't, they won't speak up about it. So it's very important that they are aware of it.
Julia, why do we need to teach code in schools?
So I'm quite concerned. Really Thinking hurts the future. The fact is that technology is already affecting the lives hugely 20 years, 40 years down the line, that that's going to increase exponentially. Our don't think Children day school really appreciate the degree to which they need to be getting a grip on how technology of exercise and understanding how it works. So I think that making sure that Children are understanding fundamentals and earlier just is so important
this leads us on now
to the current state of play, so it's important that we're teaching coding in school now. It's five years since the national curriculum was changed on the old. I see t cause if you did, George.
So you're really out of touch with the young folk.
incredibly. So you did the old I see t course. They they didn't have. I see t obviously when they didn't have computers, that's not true. They had a BBC micro. We used to play land on it, which was awesome game, but that that was it. So five years later, since they started teaching coding replace, it replaced. I see T with computing. Surely everything's fixed and everything's fine now.
Um, not exactly. It's still very much in its influencing. The problem we're having is those IittIe teachers were originally geography teachers and the geography teachers who are now pushed in the I T and are now being expected to teach programming. And they don't have the relevant skills to do so, And there hasn't been a set period of time to put aside to allow them to train. There's not been adequate. Funding has not been adequate opportunities. So although they are trying, they are quite often very unsuccessful in doing so because, you know, these are teachers who have been pushed down a route because they were good at the printer. So the geography teacher was get at the printer. So it's now i t. But now, because he was i t. He's now computer science on these Aren't people who are, you know, dedicated and passionate, you know, towards computer science. They're just the people who were in the room.
It's is it kind of like the difference between lots of people work with software all day long, whether they realize it or not. Most people got computer on the desk, but it doesn't mean they know how it works in the same way that we all might drive a car. But we can't necessarily change a spark plug
very much. We do need both types of people, you know, we do need people who can use the software, but we also need people who can make the software. The problem is, we're producing way too, you know, way too many people who can use this software and actually, most software you retrain and reload. When you get a job, you relearn the software that the company uses anyway. It's kind of a little bit relevant. Train that school When kids using APS with farm or you know, significant abilities at home, you know they come to school no getting bored with the stuff laying at school, because actually, they're doing way more interesting stuff at home with technology. So the problem is, we need to really, really push coding schools on, you know, run CVD sessions for teachers, give them opportunities outside school, give them time off to develop their skills, if that's what they're going to teach.
So, Julia, what was your route into software engineering? How did you find yourself in? That is presumably you missed out on a coding education as well. A sort of younger age.
We did have some BBC computes school, but mostly I wasn't really very interested. It didn't It just didn't get interested the idea of working with computers. But I was technically inclined, and I went to study engineering festival on. Then I ended one of the conversion courses, which are still available. Results of commercial courses to take people with degrees in computing and I think that's still a very popular routes. And so that's how I went is competing. Um, but it wasn't something that initially was a fascination for me. It'll
now presumably that is a different story for Pinky on George. Or is it not? Is a different story for George because in keys too old,
Well, I mean, I can. My interesting computing kind of came from, I guess, being in i t lessons. We did do one very short kind of week on code where we used the program called Scratch, where it was just kind of to build a game. Since then, I was always getting into trouble in I t lessons, because instead of actually doing the work, I was opening up scratch and building my next game. So it wasn't actually following the curriculum with Word and Excel and all that just because I want it. When I'd learned that I could actually make games rather than just play them, I then wanted to make loads of stuff and kind of work out how they all fit together. I then went to college, and I did kind of like Web design on a lot of Web development stuff there. Which kind of cemented to me that Yeah, this is definitely what I want to get into. And then after that, I was looking for apprenticeship and, well, I've been here ever since. Maya. I t career started. Yes. Say when actually quite similar. We had one less, not scratch. And I thought, Oh, this is cool. You can actually do stuff with computers and stuff, just staring at them. But I am. I was a musician and playing it tough for a long time. And I had a little off studios out with an old apple iMac. I hadn't, um, trying to get my guitar plugged in to record stuff got me interested in how we actually worked. Because I had no idea how to record anything that I wanted. That sort of led me down, learning more about the internals and things and that night. So I went through higher education process through that.
So I didn't ask you, Matthew, how you got into coding.
Um, Well, I don't like you. When I was 10 and I broke into my first military bank when I was 12. Um, it was basically I was stationed in Germany on American Air Force Base, and there was very little to do apart from tinker with computers. I wasn't punished. Luckily, um, I actually got more access to military computers, ended up working with Army payroll computers in Kreuzberg, Germany. I got kind of known as being a computer hacker in terms of breaking this career e of video game systems not in a dangerous way, but in a way that I wanted to kind of enable developers to make their own. So far on the machines s O, I would break into no security in two weeks when they really released a new machines so people could make so far on again it I wasn't punished for. And actually, now an official intended developer it because of the things that didn't past actually. So it's so to
be clear, you hacked military computer. Now that sounds like the beginning of an awesome movie or a lengthy prison sentence. You
It was before
that they took that kind of thing seriously. So I think the laws came in about other laws that would have affected me, came in just after, but actually it was the fact that yeah, I didn't actually get caught for breaking into the online system. Got caught breaking into the actual bank because they use the same part of it on the actual door, which was Ronald Reagan. Reagan. That kind of sets you the time. I I just was fascinated by computers and one foot, you know, a straight A student in American high school. Absolutely loved it. We could use computers. We got the sensual Macintosh is that you donated by Apple and we had an after school club, and that was really transformative for me to be able to go there. No, be forced to do work but be able to explore. Code came over. The England went to Charlie High School. They told me I would never work in computers. I would never be smart enough to ever working computers on, and they didn't have any committees like these. So I left English school without any qualifications whatsoever. Having my confidence absolutely destroyed. Two years later, Aero snaps up by one of the biggest technology companies in
the booth. Getting teachers to teach it was quite
a controversial move. There was a lot of challenges that were raised by teachers unions at the time about, you know, the expectation that they were gonna have to scale up in something that is really quite challenging. And presumably this means that there are a few gaps in the way that coding is tour are difficult to bridge for young people who were then going through the educational system, and I want to go into coding later on. So here we are in an agile development company on presumably, you can't just leave school having bean through the coding provisioned there and walk in here and get a job right that it's more complex than that.
I think that we have in the past offer apprenticeships to people will think he's that s o it's not decided. It's impossible that something has the aptitude. But I suspect what would be said would be that you would need to demonstrate that aptitude so well that was developing it by our clubs, such as the Creative Computing Club or despite being able to show you develop their skills on your own. I think that the emphasis is really Thio get involved in coding on get practical experience. However you do that above and beyond what you know school
and you run the code a dodo here. Can you tell us more about that? Is that the role of the coded au to actually bring young people in and give them up a sense of what they're gonna need toe have if they want to do something like a friendship or go into software engineering through a different route?
Coded Oh, Joe is it's an organization that facilitates events for Children just to come along and have a go. It's something to do with coding is this might be Children who have got lots of experience already or might be sure you haven't done anything. Or perhaps what they do, it's school isn't very hands on. They do not suspect based activities. Instead of writing code on, it's free to access for everybody. It's inclusive on the lively host sees events for us, and we work in partnership with them thieves. Actually, that is on dhe way, just going on a certain day. We have resources on Children, just turn up and tell us what they're interested in or suggest something, and they just have a go. So it's just just a way to get a taste of something. Ready it, Perhaps there? No, they don't have the sort of environment at home where they could do that easily. Or just curious. It's just an opportunity for people to have a go.
And is that the same kind of mission as the Creative Computing Club?
We're a pipeline, essentially from primary school to employment. We do run introductory sessions, but we're a bit more long term. So students tend to stay with us about 45 years through their G says he's a levels, and then when they're off to university, we also do a lot of work. We've getting students apprenticeships. We get them teamed up with companies, summer jobs. So it's a lot more off, kind of in depth learning about students because we do work with a lot. Since we're on the spectrum, Well, you know what? Kids who have learning difficulties, so we have to learn about them and how we can fit them into the world of technology. I think Cody Jodrell, what they do is really, really important to get young people a taste off, you know, getting involved in technology and that can lead onto them either. Self learning or draining the computer club to kind of develop the skills further. But what we do is we are essentially a pipeline from eight years old, all the way up into employment.
No one anticipated
outcome off. Having greater emphasis on computing coding in school was obviously to try and affect the divers. Tick off the coding community because traditionally software is has had been characterized by predominantly male dominant, be white sort of geek characters mentioning no names. I'm holding my hand both hands up here. You can't see exits a podcast. But yes, when I was involved in computers, I take all of those boxes also overweight on dhe exercise oversight. We'll take those as well. Have you seen a shift in that sort of stereotype? Is there a more diverse software market place out there?
I think there is now. I mean, the If you look at the stats from the Roehampton report, I think it's like 20% off of GCC students are female on. Then you look at a levels. There's even less, but I think you could go to a code club that's actually significantly different. We actually work with 40% females or people who identify as female so that diversity is coming through. It just might not be coming through when it comes to choosing exams. And that's why our work in primary schools we think it is really, really important to encourage these young people that, you know, you could go into whatever into whatever you want in
technology. Now I know Julius thought about this one quite a lot because there is a big drop off. Isn't there between primary school and secondary school to do with educational choices? So what do you think is behind that?
I've thought about it a lot on dhe. I really still don't know. I think my experience has been Samos Matthews in that primary school age. There seems to be the system, a lot of interest from girls on DDE. I don't know if it's the kinds of things perhaps that we're we're doing with clubs at that. With that age groups of example, I volunteered in primary schools before the promise with my Children went thio on ice to run a lunchtime club on. I would have at least half would be Girls Club. We would be working on scratch would be working on building animations we still worked was on animation competition on they really, really loved it on dhe. So I know that the interest is there at that age, but I don't know when they go to high school, if they're working on different kinds of projects with different kinds of technologies or if it's the learning and teaching methods used, I'm not sure water tears, but by the time they get to high school, it's no longer perceived as being something that's interesting to girls. And I don't know, a
lot of schools will work with our very limited on their class sizes. So even some of the biggest high schools we only have 20 computer science students on dhe. They have to pick and choose, which shouldn't go into that on. I don't know. Why is, um uh you know why we're having such low numbers? But it's it is a real issue. It is something we highlight.
George Pinky. You're the ones who are most recently in education. Have did you get a sense that this was a boys club?
Uh, yeah, yeah, definitely. When I was under grabbed me, Julia, we're talking about There was so 300 students in school of computing. I think I counted 15 um, women in that cohort
out of 303
100. Yeah. So it's something I say Something's happening actually changed when I did my master's. There were no women on the advanced computing course, but there was on a significant number on the conversion course. So it's obviously something is going wrong about game women. Just so people that don't identify its white men into technology As a non binary person, I literally currently do not know any other non binary people that are actually involved in the tech on. That's something I've kind of hoped would really change. I think the encouragement needs to be there as well for anybody who's kind of like not sis white male to get in detect because anybody can do it. It's not about you know, your gender. It's know about what you looked like. It's literally just if you have the interest you could you could go there and you can do it. You know nothing is stopping you, and I think that we really need to kind of put that to everyone and just kind of say look, it doesn't like, doesn't matter what's out there right now. It's like if you have the interest to do it, then you know you should go ahead and do it.
And I want you to hold that thought, because we're gonna be coming back next week to do another session about education coding in schools. On the issues that arise from that and how it's affecting the software business with our experts are actually thank you very much to George Markham.
on to inky Simmons.
You're very welcome
to Julia on Matthew Applegate.
Thank you very much for having.
And don't forget to join us next time on the e e g way. That's e g spelt I j Why I pronounced e G because everything we do is a great example off coding and you'll find this at E g limited on Twitter. Finally, I got it right. First time. Yes. All right. I'm clapping. No one else's loudly, But trust me, if you've been in the other pod cars, you'd be like, you know, thinking of God. I just know maybe not ago. I'll take a damn ego. Maybe I just I don't know, maybe just a total something. God, no would be, you know, a better state