Good news, comrades! There was a press release last Monday from the Scottish Government about the new Curriculum for Excellence learning objectives for Technologies. I saw it over someone's shoulder on the bus on the way to start a new computer game making study in a school. Talk about co-incidence?
I haven't quite decided what I make of the draft learning objectives (http://www.curriculumforexcellencescotland.gov.uk/outcomes/technologies/index.asp ). On the one hand, I think they are forward looking, have lots of useful transferable skills and will equip people to use technology competently. On the other hand, there is a lack of computer science, which speaking as someone who leads a recruitment group in a computer science department, is distinctly unsettling. There is a lot of great stuff about pupils using technology to produce their own creative content - great! But there is not so much on teaching children basic underlying concepts which would enable them to make software instead of just using it.
Except, and this is important!!: have a look at this particular set of objectives:
"Early-> first (up to 8 yrs) : I am developing problem solving strategies, navigation and co-ordination skills, as I play and learn with electronic games, remote control or programmable toys.
Third: (12 - 15 yrs)
Using appropriate software, I can design and implement a game or other application which is interesting and entertaining.
Fourth (Up to 15 yrs):
By learning the basic principles of a programming language, I can design a solution to a scenario, implement and evaluate its success."
Yes, gentle reader, the little children are indeed going to learn how to make their own computer games! And from the looks of it, the intended progression from making games is to learning underlying programing skills. As far I can see, the elements at stage 4 may be optional specialisms, so not all secondary pupils will be re-compiling their linux kernels just yet.
Being a nit picker, I have a minor quibble about the progression from the 2nd to 3rd levels. It is much harder to make an educational game successfully than it is to make an entertaining one.
I wonder whether there was a reasoned argument that computer science skills were best approached through game making rather than any other method. Is it a deliberate strategy informed by years of research? It could be, I have made that argument myself. Or did it happen to be the only one they could think of at the time? I suspect it may be related to Derek Robertson's year-long pilot game making scheme at Learning Teaching Scotland (which I was involved in through Adventure Author) so there is some likely to be evidence of some sort behind it.
Leaving aside nit picking, this is fantastic news! I am pleased to live in such a forward looking country. It is streets ahead of the rest of the UK. My colleagues south of the Border are jealous. "Scotland: the Best Small Country in the World", as the posters at the airport say.