20 Apr 2023

Digital skills gap to be tackled as new tech clubs aim to address a shortage of key skills

The growing demand for digital skills in the Scottish economy is to be addressed with support to create a new series of tech clubs across the Highlands region.

Skills Development Scotland (SDS) is working with the Scottish Government and Highland Council on the initiative which aims to train volunteers, provide teaching resources, and tech kit as well as trial online delivery to ensure people in rural areas don’t miss out.

The pilot programme kicks off on 27 April when the first ever hybrid tech club event for Highland secondary school pupils takes place. Participants will “code a data selfie” learning data science and coding skills to create their own unique piece of art.

Phil Ford, Head of Digital Economy and Financial Services at SDS said: “The digital skills gap in Scotland has now become critical and many tech jobs go unfilled every year.

“This is particularly true of the Highland economy where digital skills and jobs are now essential in non-tech sectors like agriculture, energy, tourism, food and drink and the creative industries.”

The expansion of tech clubs across Scotland was a key recommendation of the Scottish Tech Ecosystem Review, which was followed by last month’s publication of the Digital Economy Skills Action Plan.

Beth Brown, Senior Lead Manager for Developing the Young Workforce at Highland Council added: “Tech clubs can help young people develop vital digital skills, particularly for those who may face barriers in accessing formal tech subjects in the curriculum.

“The clubs offer an enriching experience for all young people regardless of background and skill. There are some fantastic tech clubs in Scotland, and we want to see more of these in the Highlands.”

Partners involved in the initiative hope to encourage technology experts and companies, schools and colleges, the third sector and community groups like libraries and youth clubs to get involved and improve the career prospects of young people in the Highlands.

As a key partner of Digital Xtra Fund, Skills Development Scotland’s tech club resources – which can be used outwith the Highlands as well – will be hosted on the Fund’s website for anyone interested starting or volunteering at a tech club near them. For more details, please visit www.digitalxtrafund.scot/directory-of-resources.

A short video is available here explaining more about digital tech clubs and the support available.

Highland secondary school classes can sign up here for the first hybrid tech club event on 27 April.

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20 Jan 2023

Young digital engineers graduate from club at Fraserburgh campus

The following piece was written by Morag Kuc and originally appeared in The Scotsman on 20th January 2023


A class of young digital engineers has successfully graduated from a new after school Digital Engineering Club run by North East Scotland College’s Fraserburgh Campus.

The group attended a presentation to mark the successful completion of 10 weeks hard work and fun.

Each student received a certificate of participation from guest speaker Sam Buchan, Mechanical Engineer at Score Group plc.

The group of 14 pupils, from Fraserburgh and Mintlaw schools, was tasked with renewables and robotics projects.

Dr Leann Tait, Academic Improvement Lead said: “We have been delighted with the numbers joining the club and this first group of young engineers has been really engaged and eager to get involved.

“We wanted the club to be relevant to the North East, so incorporating the Renewable Energy Sector was an obvious choice.

“Combined with the robotics area pupils have had the chance to use equipment and technologies they don’t typically have access to.

“We have been fortunate with our funding from the Digital Xtra Fund and Science Aberdeen which have allowed us to run the club for an hour each week.”

The young engineers worked with different technologies including: AutoCAD software to design wind turbine structures as well as building models and looking at efficiencies of the different designs; Tinkercad, an online simulator to build physical circuit plus Dobot robots.

The Digital Engineering Club is based in the Fujitsu Innovation Hub at Fraserburgh Campus, a flexible and innovative digital learning space designed to promote active and collaborative learning through a dynamic and flexible layout.

NESCol is part of the Fujitsu Education Ambassador Programme which aims to enhance learning and teaching and unleash every student’s potential by putting digital technology at the heart of education.

Robin Macgregor, Vice Principal for Curriculum & Quality said: ”It is fantastic to see the Hub being used to help develop the digital skillset of local school pupils.

“Together with the fantastic equipment housed in our Future Skills Zone, funded through a generous donation by a local benefactor, Fraserburgh Campus is exceptionally well placed to help increase the digital confidence and skills of the surrounding community.”

The club is open to any student in S3 or S4 with a keen interest in engineering who is looking to learn.

The club, which is funded by Digital Xtra Fund as part of Round VII (2022/23) grant awards, will run again from Wednesday, January 25. To book your place contact [email protected] using code RCNDE-D222A

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05 Dec 2022

At what age can a child start coding?

The following piece was written by Marc Scott and originally appeared in Raspberry Pi Blogpost on 8th November 2022.


Coding, or computer programming, is a way of writing instructions so that computers can complete tasks. Those instructions can be as simple as ‘move a toy robot forwards for three seconds and then make a beep’, or more complicated instructions, such as ‘check the weather in my local area and then adjust the heating in my house accordingly’.

Why should kids learn to code?

Even if your child never writes computer programs, it is likely they already use software that coders have created, and in the future they may work with, manage, or hire people who write code. This is why it is important that everyone has an understanding of what coding is all about, and why we at the Raspberry Pi Foundation are passionate about inspiring and supporting children to learn to code for free.

When young people are given opportunities to create with code, they can do incredible things — from expressing themselves, to addressing real-world issues, to trying out the newest technologies. Learning to code also helps them develop resilience and problem-solving skills.

But at what age should you start your child on their journey to learn about coding? Can they be too young? Will they miss out on opportunities if they start too late?

No matter at what age you introduce children to coding, one key element is empowering them to create things that are relevant to them. Above all else, coding should be a fun activity for kids.

Learning programming

You might be surprised how young you can start children on their coding adventure. My own child started to learn when they were about six years old. And you can never be too old to learn to code. I didn’t start learning to program until I was in my late thirties, and I know many learners who decided to take up coding after their retirement.

Acquiring new skills and knowledge is often best accomplished when you are young. Learning a programming language is a little like learning a new spoken or written language. There are strict rules, special words to be used in specific orders and in different contexts, and even different ways of thinking depending on the languages you already know.

When people first introduced computer programming into the world, there were big barriers to entry. People had to pay thousands of dollars for a computer and program it using punch cards. It was very unlikely that any child had access to the money or the skills required to create computer programs. Today’s world is very different, with computers costing as little as $35, companies creating tools and toys aimed at coding for children, and organisations such as ours, the Raspberry Pi Foundation and our children’s coding club networks Code Club and CoderDojo, that have the mission to introduce children to the world of coding for free.

Getting hands-on with coding

By the age of about four, a child is likely to have the motor skills and understanding to begin to interact with simple toys that introduce the very basics of coding. Bee-Bot and Cubelets are both excellent examples of child-friendly toy robots that can be programmed.

Bee-Bot is a small floor robot that children program by pressing simple combinations of direction buttons so that it moves following the instructions provided. This is a great way of introducing children to the concept of sequencing. Sequencing is the way computers follow instructions one after the other, executing each command in turn.

Cubelets can be used to introduce physical computing to children. With Cubelets, children can snap together physical blocks to create their own unique robots. These robots will perform actions such as moving or lighting up, depending on their surroundings, such as the distance your hand is from the robot or the brightness of light in the room. These are a good example of teaching how inputs to a program can affect the outputs — another key concept in coding.

Visual programming

As your child gets older and becomes more used to using technology, and their eye-hand coordination improves, they might want to try out tools for visual programming. They can use free online programming platforms, such as ScratchJr on a tablet or phone or Scratch or Code Club World in a computer’s web browser. To learn more about these visual programming tools and what your child can create with them, read our blog post How do I start my child coding.

Children can begin to explore Scratch or Code Club World from about the age of six, although it is important to understand that all young people develop at different speeds. We offer many free resources to help learners get started with visual, block-based programming languages, and the easiest places to start are our Introduction to Scratch path and the home island on Code Club World. Children and adults of all ages can learn a lot from Scratch, develop their own engaging activities, and most importantly, have fun doing so.

Text-based coding

At around the ages of nine or ten, children’s typing skills are often sufficient for them to start using text-based languages. Again, it is important that they are allowed to have fun and express themselves, especially if they are moving on from Scratch. Our Introduction to Python path allows children to continue creating graphics while they program, as they are used to doing in Scratch; our Introduction to Web path will let them build their own simple websites to allow them to express their creative selves.

There is no correct age to start learning

In my time at the Raspberry Pi Foundation, I have taught children as young as five and adults as old as seventy. There is no correct age at which a child can begin coding, and there are opportunities to begin at almost any age. The key to introducing coding to anyone is to make it engaging, relevant, and most of all fun!

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04 Jul 2018

Inverness Science Festival: Community Coding

Sphero

This year Digital Xtra Fund has introduced over 3,200 young people to digital technologies through supporting 11 high-quality initiatives across Scotland. Since January, we’ve highlighted each of these initiatives, taking a closer look at how they inspire, enable, and engage young people to be digitally innovative and creative, and give them a better understanding of the future career opportunities digital skills provide.

 

Community Coding in the Highlands

Our final blog looks at the Inverness Science Festival, delivered by the University of the Highlands and Islands. Through a broad programme of community and schools’ events, this project introduces young people to inspirational events and stimulating digital technology, giving them the chance to get hands on and excited about coding, no matter their location or economic background.

With a focus on remote and rural schools, this multi-faceted project trains teachers and volunteers to support science, technology, engineering, maths and digital extracurricular clubs (STEMD), provides equipment, administration and resources to coding clubs, creates a pool of trained mentors, and inspires people through lectures, workshops, and hands on events at their exciting annual Science Festival.

Inverness Science Festival 2Over 1,500 students from the Highlands took part in this year. Primary school pupils have had the opportunity to participate in digital-based workshops and presentations, learning about coding, computer game creation, and hardware and programming, giving them experience of digital signals, binary code, Light Bot, Scratch, Code Bugs, Spheros, and Ardunios. School teachers and S6 pupils have been given support and training to boost their knowledge and confidence, and will now host STEMD clubs for S1-S4 pupils. In addition, the Inverness Science Festival took place in May, offering digital-based interactive pop-up activities at their popular Family Events, alongside structured workshop sessions.

Giving young people access to and opportunity to get hands on with digital equipment and technology has been key across this project. Support from Digital Xtra Fund has allowed Inverness Science Festival to invest in digital equipment, including code-a-pillar, Spheros, micro:bits and Bit:bot robots, Raspberry Pi, Arduino rocket kits, and snap circuits. By offering this equipment and their expertise to schools, clubs and community groups, the Inverness Science Festival breaks down barriers caused by a lack of local equipment, knowledge, or funding. Support from Digital Xtra Fund will also help create a lasting legacy as the equipment will remain available long-term for local groups to borrow free of charge from the University of the Highlands and Islands.

Boy Assembling Robotic Kit In Bedroom

Evelyn Gray, STEM Administrator at the University of the Highlands and Islands said, “The team at Inverness Science Festival have loved being part of this year’s Digital Xtra Fund initiatives. The support has enabled us to successfully expand our current digital offering. Our regular workshops stimulate students’ interest in digital technologies while the availability of equipment that we can ‘loan out’ enables us to build upon this enthusiasm, allowing students to continue the learning journey at their own pace back at school.”

Digital Xtra Fund’s annual grant rounds, which support the Inverness Science Festival and many other inspirational projects, are made possible by the valued support of Scotland’s tech industry, supplying sponsorship, insight, and in-kind support that all go towards our goal of giving every young person in Scotland access to a digitally creative activity. Find out more about supporting Digital Xtra Fund and inspiring Scotland’s digital future.

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