20 Mar 2020

Digital Xtra Fund response to Covid-19 Outbreak

The following letter was sent to the 2020 grant recipients in response to the Covid-19 outbreak and resulting school closures. Digital Xtra Fund will flexibly work with our grant recipients and hope these amendments will still enable them to achieve their goals. We are also exploring opportunities with our partners and supporters to develop online and remote learning content to help ensure our young people are able to continue to learn and develop in these unprecedented times.


Dear Sir/Madam,

I realise this is a difficult time and many of you will be facing immense disruption with both your organisations and your families. I truly hope you are well.

I am getting in touch to assure you the Digital Xtra Fund Board of Trustees and myself are acutely aware of the situation and are keen to alleviate any uncertainty you may have around your grant. We are hopeful we will soon be able to continue our work engaging and inspiring young people in tech. If anything, the Covid-19 outbreak has shown us more than ever the power of technology to help society and bring people together in difficult times. However, we also understand it has created unprecedented challenges for many of you to deliver the activities as originally proposed. As such, Digital Xtra Fund has announced the following to support the current grant recipients and will flexibly work with you to help achieve your goals:

  1. The required delivery period for all grant recipients has been extended by 6 months to 30 June 2021 with final reporting due 31 August 2021.We hope this will enable many of you to still engage the young people who will be missing out in the coming months. We will require a revised Project Plan, but not until the picture has hopefully become clearer for you.
  2. In addition, any 2020 grant recipient will be able to amend their activity proposal to focus on engaging young people remotely should they wish. Activities will still need to focus on tech and young people, but the methods in which you engage and inspire them are now entirely adjustable. Online resources, Webinars and YouTube videos are some ideas, but please also keep in mind young people who may have limited access to devices or connectivity at home.
  3. In the unfortunate situation where you feel your proposed activity is no longer viable, Digital Xtra Fund will agree to cancelling your 2020 grant award with no penalty to applying in the future and will work with you to cover costs already incurred.

With yesterday’s announcement that Scottish schools will be closed for the foreseeable future, the content and resources created to engage young people in tech outwith the classroom will now play an even more important role. Many of the schools, organisations and people Digital Xtra Fund has supported will be at the forefront of ensuring our young people continue to learn and develop. We hope that these actions will help alleviate some of the immediate uncertainty around your funding and look forward to working with you moving forward.

One final note – thank you. Thank you for your hard work, for caring about our children’s future and for your resilience. And most of all, thank you to the teachers, educators and volunteers who have stepped up over the past few weeks to continue teaching and supporting our children at personal risk to yourselves. As a Funder, but mostly as a parent, I am genuinely grateful for all you do.

Yours sincerely,
Kraig T Brown
Partnerships & Development Manager
Digital Xtra Fund

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17 Mar 2020

Scottish Financial Enterprise opens up new Unified Schools Programme nation wide

Young professionals from the Scottish financial services sector to provide insights for young people 

While the tech sector in Scotland is thriving, many of the young people who participate in initiatives supported by Digital Xtra Fund will find their skills in demand in other important sectors as well. Once such sector, the financial services sector, employ more than 160,000 people in Scotland and make one of the largest contributions to the economy. As new technologies transform the industry at an accelerating pace, the range of career opportunities is increasing and constantly evolving to offer an expanding and exciting range of options to young people across Scotland.

Scottish Financial Enterprise, the representative body for Scotland’s financial services industry, is offering to send young professionals from the financial services industry to schools and youth organisations to provide insights about a career in financial services and what can it offer. As part of this pioneering programme, they will also discuss the innovative Unified Schools Programme (USP) which is a new unique opportunity for young people to experience an immersive three-day visit to a financial services firm and learn first-hand about the industry. Piloted in 2019, SFE are now opening up this opportunity Scotland-wide.

If you would like an SFE Young Professional to visit your school or youth organisation or are interested in learning more about USP or the financial services industry more broadly please contact: [email protected]

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21 Feb 2020

Digital Xtra Fund Awards Record Number of Grants in 2020

Twenty five grants totalling £110,000 have been awarded across Scotland to help boost interest in computing and technology to help inspire the next generation of developers, designers and digital leaders.

Digital Xtra Fund announced it has increased its 2020 funding round by £35,000 and will now be awarding £110,000 to 25 tech related initiatives thanks to additional support from the Fund’s industry partners. The funding will enable these initiatives to engage young people across the country and help boost interest in computing and technology.

This announcement comes hot on the heels of The Scottish Government’s  ‘Report on STEM in early years of education’ which found that gender imbalances and disadvantages from living in areas of deprivation or rural isolation are creating serious barriers to engaging young people in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths). It also highlights that systemic change is required to overcome these barriers and an increased focus on long-term interventions in school and early learning settings – including through extracurricular activities. Digital Xtra Fund emphasises awarding grants for initiatives that target girls and young women or are delivered in areas of high deprivation or rural settings.

The Report also highlighted that school staff are often paying for resources themselves or parents are called upon to fund and support activities. Specifically, a 2014 study by the Learned Societies Group found “98% of [primary school] respondents drew on additional funding for practical activities, with parental sources the most common source for extracurricular activities”.

Kraig Brown, Partnership and Development Manager at Digital Xtra Fund, explains: “The fact that almost all primary schools must rely on parents or teachers to fund extracurricular activities flies in the face of this Report’s recommendations. How can we hope to engage more young people from areas of high deprivation when the main source of funding is parents? Let’s be honest, technology is expensive, and we can’t rely on schools or parents to fund this.

“The good news is Digital Xtra Fund have increased our industry partnerships this year which will allow us to award £110,000 to 25 initiatives across 22 Local Authorities. This is a record amount since the Fund became a charity in 2017. The bad news is it’s still not enough; Scotland as a whole needs to invest in computing education and quickly, but with an ongoing shortage in computing science teachers we need to engage young people outwith the classroom too.

“The number of tech job opportunities in Scotland has risen from 12,800 to 13,000 per year while the number of people entering the job market with relevant tech skills has risen from around 5,000 to 6,600. While the increased number of skilled people is a step in the right direction, the lack of young people learning relevant tech skills is causing real problems for industry in Scotland. We need to show more young people the amazing opportunities available to them with a career in tech. Ensuring all young people have access to exciting, relevant tech activities is the simplest way to do this.”

To date, the Fund has helped 55 initiatives engage nearly 30,000 young people across Scotland by awarding a total of £550,000. This year’s grant recipients include an App Development course hosted by Heart of Midlothian Football Club focussing on Tech for Good, a Robotics Club at The Nicolson Institute in Stornoway and the expansion of FIRST LEGO League Jr in Scotland with The IET. The Fund’s industry partners will also have an opportunity to engage with supported initiatives to help provide context to the skills being taught.

Digital Xtra Fund brings together businesses, organisations, and individuals with a common goal to help young people succeed in a digital world through an annual grant awards programme. Key Partners include AWS, Baillie Gifford, Skills Development Scotland and Skyscanner as well as Accenture, BT Scotland, CGI, Cirrus Logic, Fujitsu, Incremental Group, Micro:bit Educational Foundation, ScotlandIS, Sky UK and The Scottish Government.

For further information about Digital Xtra Fund and this year’s grant recipients, please visit: www.digitalxtrafund.scot.

 

Created in 2016, Digital Xtra Fund is a Scottish charity which supports high-quality, extracurricular computing initiatives across Scotland that inspire young people to understand and create with technology, not simply use it.  The aim is to encourage young people to consider careers in computing to fill Scotland’s digital skills gap.  To date, the Fund has awarded £550,000 in support of 55 initiatives helping schools and organisations engage nearly 30,000 young people across all local authorities in Scotland.

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07 Feb 2020

Scotland tops UK for Digital Proficiency in Schools

Lenovo has commissioned a report from CEBR, Technology in UK Schools, detailing insights into the use of technology in UK schools in 2020, examining the types of technology that have been adopted, how this has been applied, and the ways in which this has shaped the learning environment.

Please see below for the key findings, methodology, recommendations, calls to action, and an overview of Lenovo’s education portfolio in 2020. The full report is also available to share.

This has been achieved by conducting a survey of 2,000 teachers, covering a range of different school types across the UK, alongside one-to-one interviews with experts from the education and tech sectors from Lenovo’s education network in the UK.

As a leading provider of educational technology, Lenovo is committed to building smarter technology to empower students and teachers through personalised education solutions. A trusted technology partner to institutions around the world, Lenovo is enabling new models of teaching, learning and collaborating through cutting-edge solutions, all while managing cost, efficiency, and security.

This report presents a view of:

  • The digital proficiency of schools in the UK, looking at region, school size and category among other factors, rated using a Digital Proficiency Scale developed by CEBR for this report
  • The provision of technology in schools, both for direct use by pupils and in the classroom for teaching purposes;
  • Recommendations and calls to action for improvement in digital proficiency
  • Case studies with first-hand teacher experiences and perspectives

Key report Findings

  • Nearly one in ten (8%) schools fall into the inadequate category on the Digital Proficiency Scale developed within this report. One in five (20%) are in the excellent category.
  • One in five (18%) of all private schools fall into the highest scoring group, compared to just 5% of the state schools in the survey.
  • Scotland emerges as the part of the UK with the highest level of digital proficiency in schools.
  • Examining the digital proficiency at different stages of the educational system reveals that secondary schools and sixth form colleges score slightly higher than primary schools.
  • Smaller schools have on average a slightly lower overall score whereas bigger schools have a higher degree of technological proficiency.
  • The survey revealed that the number one priority for teachers is to increase the number of computers available to students in school, followed by more provision of training for teachers on the use of technology.
  • Nearly half of students access school computers at least four times a week.
  • It is not very common for schools to provide laptops or tablets that students can bring home. Only 3% of the teachers work at schools where all students are equipped with laptops or tablets that they can bring home.
  • Microsoft Word and coding are the most common digital skills on the school curriculum.
  • Teachers are using technology to digitalise their administrative work. 79% of all teachers surveyed responded saying that they are performing some or all their administrative tasks digitally.

Recommendations

  • Based on the survey results, but also informed by one-to-one expert interviews and a review of existing literature Cebr has developed the following recommendations:
    • There is a need to expand the provision of training to teachers, in order to maximise the effectiveness of new technologies.
    • Continue to re-orient the curriculum towards developing digital skills for the future such as coding, web-design and technologies of the future.
    • Encourage information sharing among teachers to improve and inspire usage of new technology and digital skills in classrooms.
    • Expand funding opportunities for investment in new technologies to address the shortfall identified by teachers and unlock the gains associated with higher workforce productivity in the longer term.

Calls to action

1. Engage with the teaching community as new technologies are introduced: while only a small percentage of teachers feel there is too much technology in schools, more than two in five (42%) believe the use of technology is currently about right. In order to maximise the effectiveness of new technologies, it is essential that they have the support of the teaching community. This can be achieved by expanding the provision of training to teachers (currently just a quarter of teachers receive training on the use of technology more often than once a year), as well as collaborating with staff on an ongoing basis to ensure that technologies are implemented in a way that aligns with the school’s objectives.

2. Continue to re-orient the curriculum towards developing digital skills for the future: as technology evolves, routine tasks are increasingly likely to become automated, and workers will instead be required to interact with computers in a more involved and creative way. It is therefore essential that schools continue to shift their focus towards developing these deeper digital skills. While it is encouraging that most schools now teach computer programming, the fact that only one in five (21%) include topics relating to technologies of the future such as machine learning or artificial intelligence highlights that there is still progress to be made.

3. Sharing information: the interview with digital technology lead and computing teacher Donna Shah gives further insight into how teachers use technology to share information with colleagues, students and parents. Software programmes such as Microsoft Teams allows communication to increase between teachers and can speed up administrative processes which allows for teachers to spend more times with students. In addition to this, information sharing among teachers can also improve the technological and digital skills of teachers, as they are encouraged to share and learn from each other, which in turn leads to an increase in the quality of digital skills teaching in the classroom.

4. Expand funding opportunities for schools: while there are ways in which schools can upgrade their technological proficiency in a relatively cost effective way, many of the areas of weakness identified in this research require considerable investment in order to be addressed fully. Although the initial costs of technology can be steep, the feedback from teachers and the wider literature is that technology delivers a sizeable boost to educational outcomes, and in the longer term would result in higher workforce productivity.

Methodology

CEBR conducted a survey of 2,000 teachers at UK schools across all regions of the United Kingdom and conducted in-depth interviews with industry experts in order to create this report and its recommendations.

You can read the full report here

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30 Jan 2020

CGI partners with Digital Xtra Fund to support the development of digital skills in young people across Scotland

CGI is committed to the development of digital skills in young people, enabling them to build successful careers and support an increasing demand in the Scottish economy.

In addition to already supporting STEM camps across the UK and encouraging more girls into tech through their Daughter to Work days, CGI will now be helping inspire the next-generation of IT professionals in Scotland by partnering with Digital Xtra Fund for the 2020 grant awards.

Created in 2016, Digital Xtra Fund aims to give every young person in Scotland access to innovative and digitally creative activities regardless of their gender, background, or where they live. Through an annual grants programme, the Fund supports the delivery of extracurricular computing and digital tech activities which boost interest in computing and technology among young people aged 16 years and under. The programme is supported by like-minded companies and organisations like CGI and will see 25 initiatives across Scotland supported in 2020.

The aims of Digital Xtra Fund are to:

  • Enable high-quality, exciting digital skills activities for young people across Scotland via the grant awards programme
  • Inspire the next generation to understand and create with technology, not just consume it, through supported extracurricular activities
  • Engage Industry Partners in supported activities, giving industry experts and young people the opportunity to connect in informal and creative settings

 

Robotics Club at TynecastleCGI and Digital Xtra Fund have a common will to help young people succeed in a digital world whilst promoting diversity and inclusion. In particular, both the Fund and CGI seek to promote digital technologies as an attractive career path while also improving participation of girls and other underrepresented groups in digital tech and supporting activities in areas of high deprivation and rural isolation.

CGI is looking forward to supporting Digital Xtra Fund as part of their CSR strategy and helping provide exciting digital skills activities for young people across Scotland, via their team of dedicated and passionate IT professionals.

 

About CGI:

Founded in 1976, CGI is among the largest independent IT and business consulting services firms in the world. With approximately 77,500 consultants and professionals across the globe, CGI delivers an end-to-end portfolio of capabilities, from strategic IT and business consulting to systems integration, managed IT and business process services and intellectual property solutions. CGI works with clients through a local relationship model complemented by a global delivery network that helps clients digitally transform their organizations and accelerate results. With Fiscal 2019 reported revenue of C$12.1 billion, CGI shares are listed on the TSX (GIB.A) and the NYSE (GIB). Learn more at cgi.com.

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16 Oct 2019

J.P. Morgan collaborates with Digital Xtra Fund to help combat technology skills crisis

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J.P. Morgan has joined forces with Digital Xtra Fund to help tackle the technology skills gap in Scotland.  The firm has signed up as a Gigabyte Partner with the charity which funds extracurricular digital activities such as coding and robotics clubs for young people across Scotland.

Research commissioned by Skills Development Scotland in 2019 estimated there are over 13,000 tech job opportunities available in Scotland every year – an increase of 16% on previous forecasts. However, with only around 6,600 people entering the Scottish job market each year with relevant tech skills, there is simply not enough talent to fulfil this many positions. This difference in supply and demand means some businesses and organisations face inhibited growth while others may need to leave Scotland in search of more talent.

Anderston Primary School pupils take part in 'Tech Heroes' supported by Digital Xtra Fund“There is currently a huge IT skills gap in Scotland, and the only long-term solution is to encourage more youngsters to become interested in computer science and STEM subjects in school so they will consider a career in technology when they leave,” explains Robbie Robinson, global co-lead of Tech for Social Good Youth Programmes at J.P. Morgan.

“This is the key reason why J.P. Morgan has become a Gigabyte partner with Digital Xtra Fund. All businesses need to invest in tomorrow’s workforce now otherwise the skills gap is going to persist.  Young people need to be inspired by technology and made more aware of the fantastic career opportunities that are available.

He adds: “If our economy is to thrive, we need people with the right skills and that starts from a young age.  Digital Xtra Fund has done a great job of reaching out to girls and other under-represented groups in tech and we want to see this continue.  .”

J.P. Morgan runs Tech for Social Good, which fosters innovation and provides opportunities for J.P. Morgan employees to use their technology expertise to give back to the communities in which they live and work.

Anderston Primary School pupils take part in 'Tech Heroes' (Digital Xtra Fund)Kraig Brown, Partnerships and Development Manager at Digital Xtra Fund, comments: “J.P. Morgan’s support is vital in enabling us to make a real impact on the lives of young people around Scotland. Our partners not only provide financial support but their staff can also volunteer to speak with young people about careers in tech, putting a personal face to the variety of roles these skills can lead to.

“Bringing together industry and young people is a key element to what Digital Xtra Fund is trying to achieve. Negative stereotypes about careers in tech are still very much alive when speaking with young people and their families. Connecting young people and industry professionals, especially those who only recently started their careers, can make a significant impact on young peoples’ perceptions about what is a career in tech as well as the variety of opportunities available in Scotland. It is especially important we have relevant role models and mentors to inspire more women and minorities to pursue roles in tech too.

Brown adds: “J.P. Morgan supports many amazing philanthropic initiatives around the globe, so to have their support for our work here in Scotland is hugely appreciated and also speaks to the importance of what we are trying to achieve. These skills are vital for both young people and to the future Scottish economy. Only by working together can we make a positive difference.

Digital Xtra Fund is currently accepting applications for the next round of grant awards. Grants of up to £5,000 will be awarded to organisations delivering extracurricular activities that teach young people skills such as coding, data analysis, cybersecurity, and computational thinking helping inspire Scotland’s next generation of technologists, developers and digital leaders.

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07 Oct 2019

‘Resilient Robotics’ at Port Ellen Primary School is teaching the next generation how to code

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A robotics club from Port Ellen Primary School on Islay has been hailed by Digital Xtra Fund as a great example of what schools can do to equip the next generation with the vital tech and interpersonal skills they will need in the future.

Resilient Robotics was launched at Port Ellen Primary School in January by Class Teacher Jo Clark. A robotics club for children aged between 8 – 12, it teaches children how to code, create apps and build robots. Among other resources, the club uses Marty the Robot built by Scottish firm Robotical; an educational robot designed for kids.

Jo Clark, who submitted the school’s Digital Xtra Fund grant application, explains the idea behind Resilient Robotics was to create a robotics club where the children not only learn new technical skills, but also develop resilience, improve self-confidence and, most importantly, have fun.

Resilient Robotics at Port Ellen PSShe explains: “Developing children’s resilience and self-confidence is a key aim. Learning programming and building robots requires skills like investigating, debugging and perseverance. There is a lot of trial and error when it comes to programming; children need to know failure is part of the design process. Overcoming difficulties while creating robots develops resilience and, once they are successful, is also very rewarding.

“I think lots of children don’t understand the outcomes of being able to code, but once they see what they can achieve, they are hooked. They follow instructions, generate algorithms, and use their skills creatively, developing progressively more complex ways of working as they go on. From simple exploring with Spheros using apps, to building a responsive robot in Marty using Scratch, to more diverse and creative programming using the micro:bit Inventor’s Kit – the children are inspired and motivated.

“We are very pleased with the success of the programme and are especially delighted it is being adopted in neighbouring Primary schools and now at Islay High School. You can see how much the children are getting from it, and how much they are going to benefit from developing these skills at an early age.”

Kraig Brown, Partnerships and Development Manager at Digital Xtra Fund, added: “It is essential we equip children with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in a technology-driven world, no matter what career or industry they may become interested in.

Resilient Robotics at Port Ellen PS“What is especially fantastic about Resilient Robotics is the success it has achieved in terms of sustainability. The original grant from Digital Xtra Fund supported the pilot programme at Port Ellen Primary School, however, it was quickly realised there was an excellent opportunity to expand this initiative across the island, including at the High School, as well as on Mull and Jura. The fact that some of the resources are also being translated into Gaelic will only add to the project’s legacy. It’s a fantastic programme which will make a real difference in the lives of young people from the islands.

Brown adds: “Resilient Robotics is a shining example of the kind of initiative Digital Xtra Fund is looking to support. As a grant awarding charity, it is always the goal to see supported initiatives take root and grow and we hope other organisations and schools can take inspiration from its success.”

Digital Xtra Fund is currently accepting applications for the next round of grant awards. Grants of up to £5,000 will be awarded to organisations delivering extracurricular activities that teach young people skills such as coding, data analysis, cybersecurity, and computational thinking helping inspire Scotland’s next generation of technologists, developers and digital leaders.

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02 Sep 2019

£75K grants round announced to combat digital skills gap

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Digital Xtra Fund has launched the latest £75k funding round in support of extracurricular activities that boost interest in computing and technology among young people across Scotland.

This comes on the heels of alarming figures from SQA showing a massive drop in Computing Science Higher entries in Scotland in 2019. The Fund is urging educators and industry to come together to combat the digital skills gap which is threatening to undermine the Scottish tech sector.

Recent SQA figures showed a 21% drop in Computing Science Higher entries in Scotland as well as a 2% drop in Nat 5 entries. This alarming decline is by far the largest drop across any subject and continues a worrying trend that has been ongoing for some time.

These figures also have a direct effect on Scotland’s job market with around 12,800 digital tech job opportunities annually – a 16% increase on the previous forecasts – but only around 5,000-6,000 people entering the market each year with relevant tech skills.

Kraig Brown, Partnership and Development manager at the Digital Xtra Fund, explains: “We will be awarding £75,000 to tech-related activities for young people and it could not come at a more important time. We cannot ignore the latest figures regarding participation in Computing Science or what this means for the future of tech in Scotland.

“We are at a crossroads; we need to decide now if Scotland will be a leader or a follower in this digital world – and it all starts with young people. Scotland is prime placed to be a digital leader with an abundance of universities and colleges and a burgeoning tech scene, but inspiring young people to be the digital leaders of tomorrow is essential to maintain this momentum. Without more skilled and creative talent, Scotland will inevitably fall behind. However, a lack of understanding about what are careers in tech, coupled with negative stereotypes and strong gender imbalances, are creating serious challenges to engaging and inspiring more young people to take up computing.

“Our grants programme is a fantastic way for organisations or schools to be able to explore new ideas, build on previous successes and facilitate increased collaboration. We need to bring together educators, industry and organisations who focus on teaching young people digital skills to attract and excite more children in technology.

Brown adds: “Our goal is for all young people to have access to digital activities which teach valuable skills as well as provide ‘real-world’ context so participants understand why these skills are so important and the amazing opportunities they can provide.”

Sam Pattman, Sponsorship Manager at Baillie Gifford who support the Digital Xtra Fund grant awards, says: “Digital skills are a serious challenge across Scotland, which is illustrated by the number of tech jobs that companies struggle to fill due to the skills shortage. The solution lies in educating our young people and collectively we need to work together to inspire more children to become interested in computing science and technology. This is why initiatives like the Digital Xtra Fund are so important – it’s about working together and supporting exciting digital initiatives to give more children the opportunity to understand what a future in tech may be. We are delighted to be increasing our support for the Fund.”

Digital Xtra Fund has today opened applications (02 September 2019) for initiatives supported in 2020. A total of £75,000 will be awarded to digital skills initiatives across Scotland with grants available up to £5,000. Grant applications can be downloaded on the Fund’s website and applications will close 31st October 2019. To date, the Fund has helped engage nearly 30,000 young people across Scotland by awarding a total of £550,000. Last year’s funding supported 22 initiatives, covering topics from robotics and coding, to app development and the Internet of Things (IoT). To access further information please visit https://www.digitalxtrafund.scot/apply.

Digital Xtra Fund brings together businesses, organisations, and individuals with a common goal to help young people succeed in a digital world through an annual grant awards programme. Key Partners for 2019/20 include Baillie Gifford, Skills Development Scotland and Skyscanner as well as Accenture, BT Scotland, Cirrus Logic, Incremental Group, Micro:bit Educational Foundation, ScotlandIS, Sky UK and The Scottish Government.

Created in 2016, Digital Xtra Fund is a Scottish charity which supports high-quality, extracurricular computing initiatives across Scotland that inspire young people to understand and create with technology, not simply use it. The aim is to encourage young people to consider careers in computing to fill Scotland’s digital skills gap. To date, the fund has distributed £550,000 in support of 55 projects, achieving an active engagement of nearly 30,000 young people across all local authorities in Scotland.

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18 Jun 2019

Gender Imbalance in Tech Industry Starts at School, warns Digital Xtra Fund

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Gender imbalance is a huge challenge for the digital technologies industry, with women making up just 23% of the Scottish tech workforce despite 51% of the population being female.

Digital Xtra Fund, a charity set-up to encourage more young people to take part in extracurricular digital activities and inspire them to consider a career in tech, is warning businesses that this gender imbalance starts from a very young age and the best way to tackle it is through inspiring more girls and young women early on.

The percentage of girls taking computer related studies at National 3-5 has dropped from 32% in 2012 to 18% in 2018. Kraig Brown, Partnership & Development Manager at Digital Xtra Fund, says this is the number we need to focus on to make a real difference to the future workforce.

He explains: “It is essential we inspire more girls to get into tech from primary school, leading to increased uptake in secondary and therefore more women completing Higher and Further Education with a variety of technology related qualifications. Only by focussing on the talent pipeline from the beginning can we make a tangible difference in the end. However, despite considerable effort, we simply do not have enough computing science teachers to reach the level of engagement required to achieve this, and these numbers are getting worse. In 2008 there were 766 computing teachers in Scottish secondary schools, while in 2017 there were only 582 – a 24% reduction.

“More needs to be done out with the classroom to support teachers and engage more girls and young women in tech. We need to show young women what is possible and make it fun by supporting accessible and relatable activities. Taking tech out of the classroom can also help make the link from something they enjoy and is important to them, to a future career. When you are shown how to do something, such as coding or data analysis, and also understand why the end result is relevant, it’s only natural to be drawn in. For example, research has shown that girls are more likely to engage with STEM subjects when there is an obvious benefit to society or their communities which is why we see a higher proportion of women in life sciences and medicine than in other areas of science and technology.”

Digital Xtra Fund is currently supporting several initiatives who are doing a fantastic job engaging girls and young women including: Glasgow Life, who are targeting young women by combining technology with fashion and design; Banchory Primary School in Clackmannanshire who are combining coding and robotics with music and dance; and Firpark Secondary School in North Lanarkshire who are running an all-female VEX robotics after school club.

Brown adds: “In addition to engaging girls at a young age, it is also important we improve the links between education and industry to ensure these young women, their parents, and teachers have the opportunity to understand the range of rewarding job opportunities in the tech sector. These links also give girls and young women the opportunity to see and speak with women currently in these roles to act as examples and mentors. This is where organisations like SWiT (Scotland Women in Technology) who have partnered with Digital Xtra Fund to support activities targeting girls and young women, play a pivotal role in inspiring the next generation of women in tech.  SWiT  raised funds contributing towards a donation of £5,000 to the Digital Xtra Fund this year.”

Elaine McKechnie, Vice Chair for SWIT commented: “We are delighted to support such a great cause for women and young girls in Scotland that can really impact a positive shift in gender for the future workforce.  The Digital Xtra fund is exactly the type of organisation we’re proud to partner with as part of the Scottish eco-system to encourage more women in tech.”

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06 May 2019

May I have a slice of pizza with some extra data please…

Barefoot Computing, a BT-sponsored programme helping teachers bring computer science to life in the classroom, are very excited to introduce their latest data-focused resource…a Pizza Party! Each Barefoot Pizza Party is a five-lesson resource that teaches 7 to 11-year-old pupils about data. It teaches young people about collection, analysis and evaluation using something nearly every 7 to 11-year-old can understand – pizza.

Using various methods of collecting and analysing data, pupils will work together throughout the five lessons to plan a pizza party for their class. To help facilitate this, Barefoot are providing the first 200 primary schools to request a workshop using the code ‘PIZZA’ with a pizza box full of goodies. This includes a poster, stickers, a lesson overview, a recipe card, a shopping list and a chef’s hat.

Once the school has completed their workshop, they will be provided with a £25 gift voucher that can be used to purchase the ingredients for making their own pizzas. This has been done to ensure that all primary schools, no matter their budget, can enjoy a pizza party. There are also suggestions provided of how to take part if a school doesn’t have cooking facilities.

Schools that have already had a workshop can get involved too simply by downloading the resource. Every week from 6 May 2019 until 28 June 2019, a prize draw will take place with a winning school chosen at random. That school will then be sent their own pizza box, with 40 additional boxes created exactly for this purpose.

As with all other Barefoot resources, this is fully curriculum aligned and completely free. This campaign, with its inclusive incentives, is designed to draw attention to data – an often overlooked, yet crucial element of computing. Pizza Party makes data not only relatable, but exciting. And the promise of delicious homemade pizza means that pupils will stay engaged right until the end.

Teachers can register and download the resource from the Barefoot website from the 29 April onwards.

 

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