Reading John Naughton's piece in The Observer today about how much of a mess the teaching of computing in schools is prompted me to think of the experiences of my thirteen year old daughter.
As you might have guessed both of my daughters have been used to having all sorts of Macs around the house and using them since they were old enough to walk to do all sorts of interesting things. Mollie, who at thirteen has to take ICT as an obligatory subject, is having her head done in by a curriculum that assumes that she will end up with some wage slave job using Powerpoint and Excel. Not only does the curriculum not include much of the geekier possibilities that John talks about in his article but it doesn't even touch on the exciting creative and social possibilities of computing.
Mollie has achieved a level of sophistication in her use of computing that amazes even me. Having shown her Scrivener she has tapped into her love of reading and has now written about 30,000 words of her own, very impressive, novel. She has taken the narrative of her novel and cajoled the avatars in Sims 3 to act it out and then done screen movies of their "acting" which she edits, adds music to, and shares on YouTube. She has also recently scripted, shot, acted in, and edited a video of four short humorous skits as part of her Spanish course. She then finds and connects with other youngsters doing cool stuff with their computers on YouTube and ends up meeting up with them at Summer In The City and talking about all the amazing things they are creating.
Sure, computers are just a means to an end, but that end can be life enhancing. Steve Jobs said a computer should be a bicycle for the mind. Shame the school system seems determined to confine them to being little more than the modern equivalent of the typewriter. Wouldn't it be better to inspire youngsters with their potential to change the world and giving them the tools to do so?