Friday, 18 April 2008

The demise of Computing in schools and the rise of digital culture?

The subject of Computing goes through peaks and troughs. I remember fighting off students for my HNC Computing day-release class in the early 1990's, whereas today most day-release classes have vanished. So the subject is going through a lull in popularity. But I'm confident that it is only a lull and it will return to its former popularity in a few years time.

I attended another meeting of the Schools Computing group this morning at Jordanhill College. The group has had considerable success in raising the profile of the problem, and there is an action plan to try to improve the popularity of the subject in Scottish schools.

I recently mentioned that some of the most exciting developments in our sector happen in the library area. We're about to update the Advanced Diploma in ICT for Librarians, and, as part of that development, we're going to develop one or more units relating to Digital Culture. I've asked a developer to create a framework covering SCQF Levels 6, 7 and 8. This framework will include various topics such as Web 2.0, e-citizenship, e-democracy, netiquette, social networks, e-learning, citizen journalism, and online activism. It will embed the "new literacies" of digital literacy, media literacy and information literacy. These unit(s), once developed, could be added to any qualification framework.

I believe that that is part of the solution for our subject. We may have to re-invent ourselves for the 21st century by embracing areas like digital culture and information literacy. Scotland continues to need talented software engineers but the subject may have to evolve to include these new areas.

We have already diversified our qualifications by developing awards in IT, Interactive Media and Computer Games. As a result, the number of students doing HN "Computing" awards has fallen by less than 10% over the last five years - at a time when university entry to Computing courses has fallen by 50%.

Continued innovation is needed during the current lull to maintain numbers for this vital part of the Scottish economy.

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