Mobile apps and wearables are fast becoming an integral part of our daily routines, and as they become more prevalent, more people are starting to wonder how digital coding actually works. Most of us use software every day, but not so many of us have the skills or the knowledge to create it.
2014 saw the mixed success of the Year of Code campaign, and now in 2015 computer coding takes its official place on the National Curriculum for the second school term. From the age of five, children are now to be taught to create simple programs, to use technology safely and respectfully, and to understand what algorithms are – and that’s just key stage one.
As the NSPCC launches a social network awareness campaign for young people this month, the changes to the curriculum may not have come a moment too soon. In the year following 2011/12, contacts to charity Childline regarding cases of cyber bullying rose 87%. According to Matt Forde of NSPCC Scotland: ‘We know that children take risks online, sometimes without realising it.’
Back in 2013, The Telegraph predicted: ‘This is not just an evolutionary change – this is a massive revolution in the study of computing, which until now has consisted almost entirely of lessons in how to use Microsoft Office programs.’ It is a move which could be enabling the digital natives of the future to compete successfully in the global digital sector at a time when enterprise cloud apps are taking off.
Unsurprisingly, older professionals and the merely curious are also signing up in a bid to gain some insight into the language of code. Savvy London-based start-up Decoded is cashing in on the trend for code, offering ‘digital enlightenment’ to all. On a one day course, participants are enabled to build and create their very own app using geolocation – an empowering project for those baffled by tech speak.
Recently, Decoded co-founder Kathryn Parsons garnered much attention for her involvement in the flourishing ‘Silicon Roundabout’ start-up. As a female technology industry figurehead, she assumes an important role when according to the ONS, only 17% of tech jobs and 8% of engineering jobs are held by women, while just 7% of computer studies A-Levels are taken by girls. Interestingly, Kathryn started out as a linguist – and creative skill sets come in useful in code too. For Jane Martinson of The Guardian, ‘it is a subject that is just as much about creativity as algorithms. This is just the start. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day.’
Both men and women, young and old, may stand to benefit from the increasing accessibility of coding and from speaking in code themselves – as well as from an improved awareness of how to use developing platforms such as social media more carefully.