21 Oct 2020

Scottish schools must crack the code on digital learning

The following Editorial appeared in The Herald on 21 October 2020 as part of their ongoing series about the Future of Education.


With the aim of providing  every young person in Scotland with the skillsets to thrive in the digital era, Digital Xtra Fund’s Kraig Brown envisions a future where every pupil can play a part in the online revolution. By Andrew Collier

COMPUTING studies have long been a subject of intense debate within Scottish education. At a time when digital skills have never been more important, the number of secondary school teachers having this as their main subject has dropped by more than 20 per cent in the last decade or so. This represents nothing less than a core deficiency, as pupils lacking a solid grounding in computing and IT are at a distinct disadvantage when they go on to further or higher education or a job.

Various attempts have been made to resolve the issue, including a 2014 plan by Skills Development Scotland and ScotlandIS. The Logan Review [Scottish Technology Ecosystem Review], published a few weeks ago, called for computing science to be treated as an essential subject in the same way as maths and physics. By and large Logan has been well received, though some within the sector feel that its ambitions could have gone further. Among them is Digital Xtra Fund, a Scottish charity created in 2016.

Primarily backed by business partners including Baillie Gifford and Skyscanner, it provides grants to schools and organisations and aims to inspire the next generation to understand and create with technology. Its Partnerships & Development Manager, Kraig Brown, is highly supportive of Logan but believes that one important element is missing. He is concerned that it does not sufficiently address the issue of teaching computing at primary level, particularly through extracurricular activities.

“Tech Heroes” at Anderston Primary School in Glasgow

“Logan talks about treating computing science like maths and formally teaching it from first year at secondary school”, he says. “I’m particularly interested in how we approach digital skills at the primary school level.

“The report should have included another recommendation stating that a focused and coordinated campaign to upskill all primary school teachers in Scotland in digital skills needs to be undertaken, starting at P5-P7.”

In addition, he says, teachers should be given examples and partnerships to demonstrate how computing skills relate to the real world from the perspective of a primary age pupil. Brown thinks that an introduction to computing at primary level will help to focus the thoughts of pupils at a critical time in their development. “I agree that it needs to be mandatory from S1.

“However, if you do this, you’re still not going to win over the hearts and minds of young people, and particularly young girls. Even by then, they have a stereotypical impression of what a career [in tech] is.” He strongly believes that coding should be taught at primary level.

“I understand that’s easier said than done, and teachers aren’t as confident about this as they probably could be, though some do a fantastic job at this. Again, P5 to P7 would be a good place to start.” Learning basic coding, Brown adds, is no more difficult than learning to read.

“I have a distinct memory at the age of seven or eight of learning to code using Logo on an early Apple computer and the feeling of ‘I did that!’ which came with it. If someone had also told me at that time about the kind of future I could have had with these skills, it would have blown my mind. Why is it that 30 years later we are going backwards at a time when the world becomes more digital?”

Creating linkages between teachers and industry has obvious advantages, though he recognises the scale of the challenge. “A big part of what I try to do is to get our partners involved with the extracurricular activities.

“That’s a lot easier said than done, though. People are working in their Monday to Friday jobs and they maybe aren’t as confident stepping in front of a group of 11 year olds as they would be appearing in the boardroom. They’re not sure how to teach or approach those children and they absolutely do need help from the teachers. But the teachers also need to know how to work that into their time, which is at a premium.

“We do need to do this though. I appreciate that may mean a couple of other things need to be bumped out [of the teaching programme] and not everyone is going to agree with that. But the way the world is going, we have to do it – if we don’t our young people will be left behind. Leaving it until S1 is too late.”

Kate Forbes MSP taking part in "Tech Heroes" at Anderston Primary SchoolIf this approach is to succeed, he concedes, it will need support from the very top.

“Head teachers and deputy heads would need to buy into it before the teachers, but they need resources given to them by Education Scotland, by local authorities, and by the Scottish Government and the SQA.

“There are also plenty of other organisations that could get involved, he adds. “There’s the Edinburgh Science Festival, science clubs – there are loads of bodies that could help. I would love every school in Scotland, both primary and secondary, to have a coding club.”

He also believes that this primary-led approach could help address the gender imbalance in computing as long as it is presented correctly. “Demonstrating the use of technology for good is a brilliant way of engaging more young women – most girls respond better to collaboration and improving their communities.

“If we can apply tech to those concepts, I think we will immediately see an uptick in the number of young females that are interested in it.”

Brown also believes the education system needs not to view technology in isolation, but to recognise it blends into other areas. “You can incorporate it into other things – digital creativity is huge. Being able to code is only half the battle. Being able to come up with something to code is potentially more important. That’s where creativity comes into play – being able to see where technology fits into what we do now.

“Sitting young people down and teaching them commands isn’t going to work. It’s got to be fun. They need to be able to say ‘that’s cool – I’ve done this’ and then ask themselves what’s next.”

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02 Sep 2020

Digital Xtra Fund excited about Scottish Technology Ecosystem Review

Digital Xtra Fund would like to share the following statement in response to yesterday’s announcement that Scottish Government will be accepting in full the recommendations from the Scottish Technology Ecosystem Review. As a Scottish Charity that supports extracurricular digital tech activities for young people, we are extremely pleased with the recommendations as a whole and, in particular, recognition of the importance of extracurricular activities when engaging young people with tech (Recommendations 7 and 25). We hope to work with the Scottish Government to continue to support the hard work of schools and organisations across the country to engage more young people with technology both in and out of the classroom.


Digital Xtra Fund is delighted to hear the Scottish Government’s commitment to the Logan Report’s recommendations especially with regards to the Foundational Talent Pipeline in support of Scotland’s Technology Ecosystem. As a small yet mighty charity supporting extracurricular digital tech activities for young people, Digital Xtra Fund has seen first-hand the positive impact these activities can have through our grant awards programme.

Every young person in Scotland should have access to innovative and digitally creative activities regardless of their gender, geography or background. It’s vital that we inspire the next generation to understand and create with technology, not simply consume it. As a charity, we support this goal by providing micro-grants to high-quality extracurricular activities thus enabling them to purchase much needed equipment and cover operating expenses. Support for these networks and our schools ensures more young people have an opportunity to learn these essential skills and understand the breadth of career opportunities these skills can provide. Over the years, we’ve helped organisations and schools engage over 38,000 young people and awarded grants totalling £660,000. An enormous thanks to our industry partners who have been key in supporting us throughout this process (and, worth saying: if any of this resonates, we’re always on the look-out for additional industry partners to help increase the Fund’s impact).

However, there is still much more to be done to underpin these skills within the Scottish education system so they become embedded in the learning experience of every young person. We need to start teaching young people to be creative with technology from a younger age – learning the basics of coding is no different than learning to read. We need to actively engage more girls and young women in technology so they see tech as an attractive career path. We need to prioritise Computing Science throughout the educational experience while working with industry to provide exciting context for these skills. None of this will be news to those who have been fighting this battle for years, however, this Review and the wider recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic provides an opportunity and a route map to achieve these goals.

Finally, it will also require support from the top. This is a pivotal moment in Scotland’s education reform history. Scotland is at a crossroads and we need to decide now if we will be a leader or a follower in this increasingly digital world – and this change starts with young people.

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10 Aug 2020

Fun for your Iclementalists – kids’ app builder competition

Incremental Group is involved in many initiatives aimed at encouraging young people into technology careers including proudly supporting Digital Xtra Fund as well as a number of other STEM initiatives.

As part of their commitment to getting the next generation excited by science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), Incremental is running an app builder competition exclusively for your little ones – your Iclementalists!

Suitable for kids of all school ages (primary and secondary), the app builder competition will put problem solving, logic and creative minds to work. For early years children, questions can be completed by an adult assistant or older sibling. There is also a printable version for those who would prefer to hand write their answers.

What is the competition?

Do you love using apps on your phone or computer? Do you like making TikTok videos or do you prefer playing Pokémon GO or talking to Alexa? Have you ever had an idea for a new app? If you could, what app would you build? Tell us all about your app idea for your chance to win a £50 Amazon voucher and a mockup of your app!

The successful app builder winner will have demonstrated that they have used their problem-solving abilities to creatively come up with their app idea.

Incremental want you to think of a problem, task or activity and how you can solve it with an app. Be creative, think differently and most of all, have fun!

For younger participants, Incremental are excited to hear your ideas and see your creative skills. You can also skip any questions you can’t answer. For older children (secondary), they will be looking for more detail but creativity and problem solving is still key!

How do I take part?

Visit Incremental’s website for more details on how to take part including tutorials and an online competition form.

The deadline for competition entries is the 30th August 2020 and the winner will be contacted after this date.

Incremental would also love to see you working on your apps on social media with the hashtags #Iclementalists and #IncrementalAppBuilder. Tweet us @inc_group_uk or tag us on Facebook or LinkedIn. Their favourite post will win a prize!

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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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