28 Jun 2022

How a Kirriemuir school’s STEM club for girls is breaking down gender stereotype

The following post was written by and originally posted in The Courier.


Traditionally girls have been less likely than boys to go into careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. But that’s a trend that one Kirriemuir school is helping to reverse by challenging the stereotype that girls don’t engage well with STEM subjects.

Southmuir Primary School has a STEM club exclusively for girls, which provides fun activities such as coding and robotics.

Teacher Karen-Ruth Phillips started the weekly club for P4 to P7s to allow girls to enjoy coding and STEM subjects in a creative way.

With grant-funding the school bought new robots and equipment and there has been great interest.

Karen-Ruth said: “Global current research points out that if we want to increase the level of female participation in computer science at secondary school level and beyond, we need to address it within the primary school setting.

“There have been many studies which suggest that girls may be more motivated by projects where the aims were more people-focused and targeted towards their interests.

“So we chose activities with a creative element, whilst still covering the basic skills and regularly monitored engagement.

“We did this by asking the girls to indicate their enjoyment level after each block of activities we completed over the year.”

 

Strictly Come Dashing

Activities girls liked most included making a virtual pet and a dance party where they coded characters to complete routines.

They even held a Strictly Come Dashing competition, where they coded dances for Dash and Dot robots and guests voted for their favourites.

Karen-Ruth said: “These creative approaches to the use of the robots encouraged the girls to persist in progressing through the Dash and Dot structured puzzle challenges.”

Girls earned digital badges and certificates and were given insights into potential future careers from women like games creator Laura Molnar, of 4J Studios, and cyber security consultant Kayleigh Gall, of CGI Glasgow.

 

What do the girls say?

Carly, 9, said: “I liked coding the Dash robots because they made me laugh. I loved doing the dance competition.”

Stacey, 9, said: “Some parts of the Code.org course were hard but I was determined to finish it. I enjoyed building and coding the VEX GO robots the most.”

Eve, 10, said: “Making the VEX GO robots, especially the Hexbug animals, was the best bit. I liked the way they moved.”

Erin, 8, said: “I enjoyed designing a coin flipping robot with our micro:bits. I would like to become a robotics engineer.”

Mya, 11, said: “The talks have made me consider a career as a games designer.”

 

The start of a STEM career?

Karen-Ruth said: “It has really ignited interest in the girls and opened their eyes to a whole new way of working.

“A survey that I conducted found that more than two-thirds of the girls would now consider a career in STEM, with 13% saying they definitely would do so.

“The girls themselves feel that the project has helped them develop their team work and resilience and has given them more confidence.

“What’s especially pleasing is to see them learn and get excited about coding, their enthusiasm has been a joy to watch.”

The club launch received a £5,000 grant from the Digital Xtra Fund, supported by IT and business consulting service CGI.

Kraig Brown, the charity’s partnerships and development manager, said: “Our goal is for young people to have access to innovative and digitally creative activities, regardless of their gender, background, or where they live, and this has been encapsulated perfectly by Southmuir.”

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16 Jun 2022

Ethical Dilemma Cafe Kicks Off Community Ethics In Tech Project

The following post was written by MozFest Community member Craig Steele and originally posted on Mozilla Festival website. Image Credits: Connor B. and Craig Steele.


How much do you value your personal information? Would you be willing to hand over some personal information in exchange for a free coffee? That’s exactly what I did when I visited a café where the currency is your data.

Being part of the Mozilla community

I’ve been a fan of Mozilla (and Firefox user) ever since I first joined the web. Then, in 2013, I was awarded a “Digital Makers Fund” grant from Mozilla, Nominet, and Nesta to grow CoderDojo, a network of volunteer-led coding clubs for young people in Scotland.

Since then I’ve continued to follow the Mozilla Foundation, and have joined the community every year at MozFest. At the most recent MozFest, my colleague Daniel and I led an interactive activity where we looked at how data science is used to defend rhinos from poachers

The Mozilla Festival is a key moment on my calendar. It’s a great way to connect with likeminded technologists and creatives. I always learn something new, and usually leave filled with ideas. It’s that excitement that drew me to take part in the Ethical Dilemma Café spin-off event.

My trip to the Ethical Dilemma Cafe

The Feel Good Club on Hilton Street in Manchester, was transformed into the Ethical Dilemma Café. Mozilla and the BBC’s Research and Development department worked together to create this event to get people thinking about data consent and privacy.

So what is it? The Ethical Dilemma Cafe is a cafe with a catch. Even before stepping inside we were warned we were consenting to have our personal data tracked in the café. By opening the door, we were agreeing to those terms and conditions.

Inside, there were microphones and cameras placed beside the tables; watching and listening to everything going on inside. Some of those cameras and microphones could be controlled remotely by visitors to the website.

To get the free coffee, Daniel scanned a QR code on his lanyard, and then logged into the “Coffee with Strings” app. This is the point where you have to answer a personal question, handing over sensitive details to get your free coffee. Once you’ve answered you get the virtual token to exchange at the till.

Being spied on while you sip a latte isn’t something you’d normally expect in a local coffee shop, but the café is a metaphor for today’s Internet. Often online we’re given something we really want – the latest music, news articles, entertaining videos on YouTube – but it’s not truly free – we’re trading some of our personal data in exchange for what we want.

Other things to explore in the café

As well as the free coffee, The Ethical Dilemma Café had a bunch of things to see and do. There were installations, talks, and workshops by BBC R&D, Lancaster University, Open Data Manchester CIC, and Northumbria University.

My highlights include Edge of Tomorrow, an arcade game by Lancaster University. This game explained some of the environmental effects that can be caused by cyber attacks.

A data visualisation from Open Data Manchester got us to use lego blocks to plot our happy places. The coloured bricks representing our happiness levels, and where we placed them on the map corresponded with the place we were most happy.

Daniel and I crushed into The Caravan of the Future, an immersive design showcasing what the living room of the future might look like. Using voice assistants, we were able to speak directly to the caravan and it adjusted the lights, temperature, and environment to suit us. Based on the way we looked and our facial expressions it even tried to recommend a TV show it thought we might enjoy.

Want to help school pupils fight biased algorithms?

This research trip was the perfect start to our own new education project: we’re creating an “Ethics in Tech” interactive learning resource that will help primary school pupils learn about racist, sexist, and ageist computer algorithms. We need to prepare the next generation of digital leaders to understand the dangers of biased algorithms. To fight inequality, they need to know how to spot them, and how to tackle them.

As part of the research and development phase, I want to connect with technology professionals across the country who have experience creating algorithms that directly affect people. Get in touch with me if you want to learn more.

The “Ethics in Tech” project is supported by Digital Xtra Fund, a Scottish charity that helps enable extracurricular digital tech activities for young people, and is funded by the Scottish Government.

The Ethical Dilemma Café challenged me to think about the value of personal data, and how data and algorithms shape our world today. It was fun taking part in this small scale event, and it definitely got me more excited for next year’s Mozilla Festival.

About the Author

Craig Steele is a computer scientist, educator, published author, and creative technologist, who helps people develop digital skills in a fun and creative environment. His company, Digital Skills Education, offers digital skills training across Scotland and internationally.

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23 May 2022

National roll-out of micro:bits to Scotland’s primary schools

The following article originally appeared on Micro:bit Educational Foundation website on 23rd May 2022.


Scotland’s Education Secretary celebrates world-leading investment in Computing Science at primary age with school visit. Methilhill Primary School in Fife, Scotland, welcomed Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, Shirley-Anne Somerville, for a visit to meet children using the new micro:bit coding devices. The tiny computers are being given to all primary, secondary and additional support needs schools in Scotland as part of a landmark investment to improve the quality of, and participation in, computing science and digital literacy in Scottish schools.

Delivered by education non-profit, The Micro:bit Educational Foundation, the micro:bits are pocket-size entry-level coding devices that offer children an enjoyable entry into coding and computing science. There are over six million devices already in use across the globe, including most UK secondary schools. In the coming weeks, all primary schools across Scotland will receive twenty devices alongside a host of new teaching resources tailored for primary school level in a world-leading investment from the Scottish Government to develop digital skills in even younger children.

During her visit, Somerville saw the devices come to life in the hands of children aged between 6-8 in an exciting, interactive lesson around health and wellbeing. micro:bit ambassadors shared an insight into the wide range of capabilities the nifty devices offer, while teachers at the school explained first-hand how the new investment is helping integrate digital skills and computational thinking into lessons across the entire curriculum as part of the Scottish Government’s Scottish Technology Ecosystem Review programme.

Investing in future skills

Digital skills and computational thinking can greatly enhance a child’s creativity and life chances. However, recent research from The Micro:bit Educational Foundation found that 61% of primary school teachers in the UK responsible for teaching computing have no background in the subject, while three in five cite lack of resources as a barrier to teaching computing.

Shirley-Anne Somerville, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, Scottish Government: “It has been inspiring to see first-hand how these devices can help to get children thinking creatively and to be enthused about technology. It’s an exciting prospect to imagine these scenes being replicated in schools all over Scotland in the coming weeks and months, and we’re proud to be leading the world in creating quality engagement in computing sciences among our young learners.”

Aimée Fagan, Head of Partnerships at Micro:bit Educational Foundation, said: “Digital literacy and computational thinking are increasingly important core skills, and we know the earlier you learn them, the better. Today has been a brilliant showcase of the possibilities micro:bits offer in the hands of younger children and how accessible they can make the first steps into computing.”

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Alix Rolland, Deputy Head Teacher at Methilhill Primary School, added: “We’re committed to embedding computing science and digital literacy into our classrooms, right across the curriculum. It’s been a joy to see the first of many micro:bit sessions at Methilhill Primary School today, and the support from Micro:bit has given our teachers the tools and confidence they need to get our children inspired by technology.”

About Micro:bit Educational Foundation

The Micro:bit Educational Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation founded in the UK in 2016, with the aim of inspiring every child to create their best digital future.

We do this by:

·      developing hardware and software that inspires young people to get excited about technology and the opportunities it presents for them

·      creating free, user-friendly educational resources to support teachers in delivering engaging and creative lessons

·      working with like-minded partners to deliver high-impact educational programmes across the globe.

The micro:bit launched in the UK in 2016 by giving free devices to every S1 / Year 7 student as part of BBC Make it Digital, an unprecedented and highly ambitious project. It is now not only being used in most secondary schools to teach 11 – 14-year olds but is also popular with primary school teachers for 5 – 11-year olds.

The Foundation has donated micro:bits to key institutions, including the National Centre for Computing Education’s schools lending scheme in England, Digital Xtra Fund in Scotland, Ulster Universities and Libraries NI in Northern Ireland.  Through these schemes, approximately 30,000 devices were donated directly to schools, libraries and NGOs.

The Foundation offered up to 5,000 micro:bits to families in the UK wanting to continue learning at home during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Following a single tweet, the Foundation received 8,500 requests in 13 hours.

Editorial enquiries

You can contact the Micro:bit Educational Foundation at [email protected]

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06 May 2022

Scottish pupils to learn about dangers of biased data to help tackle inequality

The following was written by Poppy Watson, and originally posted in FutureScot.


A new learning resource will teach Scottish pupils about the dangers of biased computer algorithms – equipping them with the skills needed to spot and tackle inequalities such as racism, sexism and ageism.

The ‘Ethics in Tech’ lesson content is being created by Digital Skills Education, which develops and delivers digital skills projects across Scotland and internationally.

The interactive resource will show primary school pupils how personal data is used to make decisions that affect our everyday lives – whether that’s what song a music app recommends, or whether someone is eligible for free school transport.

Craig Steele, director of Digital Skills Education, says these decision-making algorithms can have benefits – but they can also go wrong.

For example, one technology company identified their algorithm used for recruiting new employees was found to be biased against women. This led to fewer women being invited to job interview.

He said: “We need to prepare the next generation of digital leaders to understand the dangers of biased algorithms. To fight inequality, they need to know how to spot them, and how to tackle them.”

The online programme will be made available free-of-charge to schools in Scotland in early 2023, before being made available worldwide.

Daniel Devine, project manager, Digital Skills Education, said: “We want to show pupils how to use data and code to make decisions in a ‘fair’ way. We’ll challenge them to create their own algorithm that uses data to rank or select students and try to be as fair as possible. They’ll implement their algorithms using computer code and see the results.”

As part of the research and development phase, the organisation wants to connect with technology professionals across the country who have experience creating algorithms that directly affect people.

The project is being funded by Scottish charity Digital Xtra Fund, which supports digital skills initiatives for young people across Scotland.

Kraig Brown, partnerships and development manager at Digital Xtra Fund, said: “Over the past six years, we’ve supported over 100 activities that have helped thousands of young people to create with technology.

“These new Ethics in Tech activities will now also encourage young people to ask if they should, ethically speaking, build something and if so, what elements they need to consider beyond the code.

“It will be one of three new Ethics in Tech projects being developed in partnership with the Scottish Government. We’re thrilled to be working with Craig and Daniel who already have lots of experience creating unique and meaningful tech activities for young people.”

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31 Mar 2022

Digital skills to receive major boost as 57,000 micro:bits are donated to Primary Schools

The following article originally appeared on businesswire.com on 30 March 2022.


The Micro:bit Educational Foundation, in partnership with the Scottish Government and Nominet, will donate 57,000 micro:bits across UK primary schools. Support from the Scottish Government will see every primary school in Scotland receive devices while England, Wales, and Northern Ireland will prioritise primary schools that require additional support. With many secondary schools now using micro:bits in the classroom, the project aims to boost support for younger children and provide  teacher resources.

The Micro:bit Educational Foundation, who is the organisation behind the single-board microcontroller, has announced plans to help even more primary school children take their first steps into digital creativity and computing. In addition to the donation of hardware, comprehensive teaching resources and online Continuing Professional Development courses will also be made available.

As digital skills and computing become increasingly important core skills, this major boost to teaching these subjects will see approximately 3,000 UK primary schools receive around 20 devices each. Support from the Scottish Government will see every primary school in Scotland receive 20 devices, with the Foundation and Nominet working with primary schools in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to prioritise 22,000 devices to those that need additional support the most. Delivery of devices will begin from April onwards.

Having launched in 2016, today there are 6 million micro:bits being used by children all over the world, including most UK secondary schools. The Foundation has also seen growing adoption and demand from primary schools to teach 8 – 11-year-olds with the devices. With this major project, the Micro:bit Educational Foundation aims to boost usage in primary schools even further, providing the devices and resources to help teachers make coding exciting, accessible, and something they can teach confidently to younger children.

Teaching digital skills from a young age has impressive results and understanding computational thinking can greatly enhance a child’s creativity and life chances. However, research underpinning the project from the Micro:bit Educational Foundation and Nominet found that 61% of UK primary teachers responsible for teaching computing have no background in the subject, 3 in 5 also cite lack of resources as a barrier to teaching computing and digital skills.

Gareth Stockdale, CEO of the Micro:bit Educational Foundation, said: “Digital literacy and computational thinking are critically important not only to the future of our society, but to the future of children who will one day shape that society. They are increasingly important core skills, and we know that the earlier you learn them, the better. The micro:bit has become an essential tool that teachers and students alike have come to love. We’ve seen fantastic adoption in secondary schools, and we’re delighted to support and empower even more teachers to unlock children’s creative potential at primary level.”

Roll-out of the micro:bits will also complement a three-phase research programme, as the Foundation looks to assess, monitor and address the challenges, concerns and successes UK primary teachers experience improving digital literacy and in bringing micro:bits into the classroom.

Interested teachers and schools can visit the Micro:bit Educational Foundation website for more information.

Adam Leach, CTO, Nominet, said: “We are so pleased to see the continued roll-out of micro:bits in classrooms across the UK, enabling so many more primary school children to explore and develop their skills in digital creativity and computing. It’s exciting to think about the potential passion for technology this programme could set alight. On a practical level, it is really important that access to learning these essential skills is provided to children who might not otherwise have the opportunity to discover, experiment and master them. Each one of the 57,000 devices will impact on developing children’s core digital skills as citizens of a digitalised world – and perhaps even put some of them on a pathway to help fill the digital skills gap in the UK’s digital workforce of the future.”

About Micro:bit Educational Foundation

The Micro:bit Educational Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation founded in the UK in 2016, with the aim of inspiring every child to create their best digital future.

We do this by:

  • developing hardware and software that inspires young people to get excited about technology and the opportunities it presents for them
  • creating free, user-friendly educational resources to support teachers in delivering engaging and creative lessons
  • working with like-minded partners to deliver high-impact educational programmes across the globe.

Note to editors

  • The micro:bit launched in the UK in 2016 by giving free devices to every year 7 student as part of BBC’s Make it Digital, an unprecedented and highly ambitious project. It is now not only being used in most secondary schools to teach 11 – 14-year olds but is also popular with primary school teachers for 8 – 11-year olds.
  • The Foundation has donated micro:bits to key institutions, including the National Centre for Computing Education’s schools lending scheme in England, Digital Xtra Fund in Scotland, Ulster Universities and Libraries NI in Northern Ireland. Through these schemes, approximately 30,000 devices were donated directly to schools, libraries and NGO’s.
  • The Foundation offered up to 5,000 micro:bits to families in the UK wanting to continue learning at home during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Following a single tweet, the Foundation received 8,500 requests in 13 hours.
  • A key aim of the Micro:bit Educational Foundation was to bring the benefits of the micro:bit to children and teachers around the globe, and is being used in projects across Africa, Asia, Australasia, the Americas and Europe.
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15 Mar 2022

Digital Xtra Fund calls on industry to support digital skills with match funding from Scottish Government and Skills Development Scotland

Digital Xtra Fund is calling on industry to step up and support digital skills for young people. The Scottish charity – which funds meaningful extracurricular tech activities for young people through an annual grants programme – has secured £100,000 from the Scottish Government and Skills Development Scotland (SDS) to match fund industry’s support for the next cohort of activities. The funding has been made available on the back of 2020’s Scottish Technology Ecosystem Review by Mark Logan, which recommended that school stage extracurricular tech activities be strategically supported.

Economy Secretary Kate Forbes said: “The Scottish Government has granted £70,000 to Digital Xtra Fund to inspire young people across Scotland to boost their digital tech and coding skills and to discover future tech career opportunities. I echo the Fund’s call for industry to step up and support these extra-curricular clubs, which are helping to develop the next generation of entrepreneurs.”

The Fund now has until June, when the next round of funding recipients will be confirmed, to match fund the support. Current industry partners who have already committed to supporting the Fund’s next cohort include Chroma Ventures, Baillie Gifford, CGI, J.P. Morgan, Scotland Women in Technology, Accenture, Cirrus Logic, Incremental Group, and ScotlandIS.

Southmuir Primary School STEM ClubChris van der Kuyl, Principal, Chroma Ventures, said: “Our investment in human talent must begin at an early age through primary and secondary, en route to colleges, universities, or apprenticeships. Extracurricular activities like those funded by Digital Xtra Fund play such an important role for young people on that pathway, especially for those who may not have computing opportunities in the classroom.”

Paddy Burns, Principal at Chroma Ventures and a Trustee with the Fund, agrees: “This is an amazing opportunity for the Fund’s partners to effectively double their contribution and inspire even more young people. We need more businesses to step up to the plate and help enable more exciting activities that also show young people the breadth of opportunities in tech.”

For the 2021/22 academic year, Digital Xtra Fund and its partners identified, financed, and aided 22 initiatives – ranging from coding clubs at four schools in Angus, a ‘Games for Good’ programme at Heart of Midlothian FC’s Innovation Centre in Edinburgh, to a COP26-related collaboration around climate tech with SCDI’s Young Engineers and Science Clubs. If successful in match funding Government’s contribution, the Fund will be able to fund 35 to 40 new activities in 2022/23.

Kraig Brown and Maha AbhishekKraig Brown, Digital Xtra Fund’s Partnership and Development Manager said: “We are very excited to be able to offer this match funding with support from the Scottish Government and SDS. Scotland has the potential, the resources, and the will to punch well above its weight in tech innovation. However, the first step is inspiring young people to learn the digital skills they will need. The Scottish Technology Ecosystem Review highlighted the importance of extracurricular activities to inspire young people to create with tech and not simply consume it. Our hope is this funding is a first step to bring industry and government together to give every young person in Scotland an opportunity to positively engage with technology.”

Since being launched in 2016, Digital Xtra Fund has awarded £725,000 in funding to digital skills initiatives, helping schools and organisations engage nearly 45,000 young people. In January, Digital Xtra Fund invited applications for its seventh cohort of initiatives which will drive digital skills for young people across Scotland in 2022/23. Applications close on Tuesday 5th April.

For more information: https://www.digitalxtrafund.scot/apply

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01 Feb 2022

Digital Xtra Fund invites applications for initiatives to drive digital skills for young people across Scotland

Digital Xtra Fund, a Scottish charity that is backed by both the public and corporate sectors, has invited applications for initiatives to drive digital skills for young people across Scotland in 2022/23.  Since being launched in 2016, Digital Xtra Fund has awarded £725,000 in funding to digital skills initiatives, helping schools and organisations engage nearly 45,000 young people.

Kraig Brown, Digital Xtra Fund’s Partnerships and Development Manager, said: “Our mission is for every young person in Scotland to have access to inspiring and meaningful digital tech activities regardless of their gender, background, or where they live. Everyone realises that digital skills are absolutely integral to the success of our future economy – and to the future success of our young people too – but at the same time, commentators agree that the state of computing science in our schools is behind the curve to achieve these successes. That should be worrying for all of us – government, industry, educators, parents, young people, the whole gambit. We need to do more and soon.”

In 2021, Digital Xtra Fund worked with government and industry partners to identify, finance, and support 22 initiatives for young people aged 16 and under – ranging from coding clubs at four schools in Angus, a ‘Games for Good’ programme at Heart of Midlothian FC’s Innovation Centre in Edinburgh, introducing hundreds of young people to cyber security at Aberdeen Science Centre, and a COP26-related collaboration around climate tech with SCDI’s Young Engineers and Science Clubs.

Baillie Gifford, Chroma Ventures, J.P. Morgan, Cirrus Logic, Accenture, Incremental Group, and ScotlandIS have all committed to supporting Digital Xtra Fund again in 2022/23; and the charity plans to announce further financial supporters over the next few weeks.

Kraig Brown added: “We are currently lining up this year’s funding from both the public and private sectors, which will allow us to deliver even more this year and next.  By scaling up, we can start to build critical mass and become even more impactful.”

Southmuir Primary School STEM Club“It is also no longer enough to just teach young people how to use technology, we need show them how it can be applied to real life – particularly in areas such as climate tech or health tech where it can make such a positive impact. Supporting innovative and meaningful projects is key to inspiring the next generation of digital leaders. Engaging with industry to help provide this context and guidance is also increasingly important. Yes, there are a lot of moving parts and it isn’t always easy linking those parts together, but we are talking about a fundamental change to the education and skills landscape for young people – of course it will be challenging. But it has to happen and Digital Xtra Fund is at the forefront of that change.”

Schools or organisations interested in applying to the Round VII grant awards for activities delivered during the 2022/23 academic year can now apply on Digital Xtra Fund’s website. Additional support, including guidelines for applying, case studies, and links to upcoming webinars can also be found on the Fund’s website.

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20 Dec 2021

Southmuir Primary School is building a STEM workforce of the future thanks to its coding club for girls

Digital Xtra Fund is helping schools and organisations across the country create extracurricular clubs where children and young people can learn the importance and context of digital skills by using tech in informal and creative ways. One such initiative is a STEM club at Southmuir Primary School, a small, rural school in Kirriemuir, Angus, set up exclusively for 32 girls to learn all about coding, with a view to pursuing a career in STEM.

The club aims to provide an engaging way for girls to learn to code, with a view to pursuing a career in Science, Technology, England and Maths (STEM). Run by Karen-Ruth Phillips, PT Raising Attainment, it has been funded by Digital Xtra Fund, whose backers include IT and business consulting services firm CGI. CGI’s Kayleigh Gall was also among those to provide a Career Insight talk this term, focusing on her role as a cyber security consultant as well as Laura Molnar of 4J Studios, who gave a talk on game design.

Southmuir Primary School STEM ClubThe club has been a massive hit since it was set up thanks to the £5,000 grant provided by the Fund. Above all, it has provided girls from P4 to P7 – who otherwise might not have encountered such an opportunity – the chance to get hands-on with tech and enjoy learning to code. Participants can also earn digital badges and certificates for completing different Code.org courses and work towards their Wonder Workshop Dash Puzzles – linked to robots called Dash and Dot also bought for the club thanks to the grant award. These robots have been especially appreciated by the girls and have resulted in a very high percentage of engagement at the club, which meets once a week on a Wednesday.

Girls from Club recently put their STEM Club robots Dash and Dot through their paces at a special Strictly Come Dashing Christmas Competition, as ‘judges’ Maha Abhishek, Digital Xtra Fund Community & Grants Officer, and Kayleigh Gall of CGI looked on. The 32 youngsters enjoyed their last session of the club before the Christmas break by coding special dances for the robots to perform to festive music. They also received the digital badges and certificates they’ve earned thus far.

The club has regularly surveyed the girls on how they enjoyed their work, and whether it had changed their attitudes towards a future STEM career. Universally, as the weeks went by, they saw an increase in coding skills confidence, an enjoyment of coding, and requests to continue coding activities in class time. The brother of one girl in the club was also so envious of his sister’s enthusiasm for coding he and his friends requested the school to set up a boys’ equivalent club, which has now been set up, with girls from the STEM Club supporting it.

Southmuir Primary School STEM ClubKaren-Ruth Phillips said: “The club has fostered a fun way of learning coding and STEM. Engagement levels have been really high and the girls have not only enjoyed it themselves, they have even got their parents looking into additional coding and STEM activities for the girls as well. Our thanks go to the Digital Xtra Fund for their support, as well as CGI and Kayleigh for her Career Insight talk.”

Kraig Brown, Digital Xtra Fund’s Partnerships and Development Manager, said: “Our goal is for every young person in Scotland to have access to innovative and digitally creative activities, regardless of their gender, background, or where they live. This goal has been encapsulated perfectly by the excellent STEM Club at Southmuir. Karen-Ruth and the school have given the girls the opportunity to learn so much in a fun, engaging and creative way. They have given their students a chance to learn about the vast opportunities with tech. With this year’s grant awards totalling £100,000, Digital Xtra Fund expects around 7,250 young people in Scotland will be given the chance to learn fundamental digital skills; many of whom would not have had an opportunity otherwise.”

Southmuir Primary School STEM ClubLyndsey Teaz, Vice President and Scotland Business Unit Leader (Interim), said: “We are not only delighted to maintain our strong support for Digital Xtra Fund, but also provide through Kayleigh Gall the opportunity for the girls of Southmuir Primary School to learn all about what it is like working in the wonderful world of technology and STEM. CGI believes passionately in supporting the communities in which we live and work and it has never been more important to encourage talent and innovation in our sector. It is tremendous to see so many young people being helped on their journey and we look forward to seeing the results over the coming months and years.”

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12 Nov 2021

Tech firms urged to inspire future generations

Employers offered guidance and training for classroom lessons

Tech employers are being encouraged to bring their industry to life for young people through an innovative series of live lessons being delivered in Scotland’s schools.

Tech Industry in the Classroom sees employers from across the digital sector using their industry experience to offer pupils an insight into their day-to-day work.

With Scottish Careers Week taking place from 15-19 November, energy firm SSE is delivering a live lesson with Johnstone High School in Renfrewshire focusing on data security.

Tech employers are also now being invited to join the first in a series of training sessions explaining the resources available for taking part in live lessons, including a best practice guide to virtual engagement, and to make use of a new online toolkit offering further support.

Tech Industry In SchoolsMark Logan, author of the Scottish Tech Ecoystem Review, is amongst those encouraging employers to take part. He said: “Partnerships between school and industry are essential if we are going to strengthen the talent pipeline.

“Engaging schools in this way provides young people with a richer idea of what a career in tech could offer them. It brings the curriculum to life and shows the real-world applications of what is taught in the classroom.

“I’d ask tech employers of all types to consider how they could play their part in attracting the next generation of talent.”

Next Tuesday’s lesson involving SSE and Johnstone High School will focus on the role data security plays in tackling climate change, with the lesson aligned to the National Progression Award (NPA) in Cyber Security.

Michael Wallis, SSEplc Group Chief Information Officer, said: “The biggest challenge facing us all is the climate emergency and it is the young people of today whose future is really being threatened by this.

“At SSE we are reimagining the world of energy so we can protect their future and the planet. That’s why I am proud of our support for the Scottish Careers Week where we can share our vision with those who want to join us on our journey to net zero.

“Emerging digital technologies, artificial intelligence and cyber security sit at the heart of our response to climate change. We’ll be holding a live teach-in to showcase cyber security – just one of our many career opportunities.

“I hope it will encourage young women and men to consider a career in technology and see how it is helping to create a better world of energy.”

Tech Industry In Schools

Next Thursday also sees the first of a series of employer training sessions looking at the different resources employers can use to deliver classroom sessions, covering topics such as Ethical Hacking, Digital Forensics, Software development and also looking at our Best Practice Guide for virtual engagement with learners.

Each of the three sessions will be different, covering different topics and are free to attend.

Employers can also make use of the Tech Industry in Schools toolkit launched last month which aims to make it as easy possible for the tech industry to sign up to the myriad of education-related programmes available.

Claire Gillespie, Digital Technology Skills Industry Manager at Skills Development Scotland (SDS) added: “The success of our pilot programme of live lessons showed this concept has a great deal to offer. It gives young people a genuine insight into the tech sector and helps employers engage with potential new talent.

“As the adoption of new technologies continues to accelerate, it’s hugely important that tech employers grasp the opportunity to show young people how digital skills can unlock an increasingly vast array of exciting new careers.”

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05 Nov 2021

Dundee Digital Fortnight aims to inspire the future tech workforce

Chris van der Kuyl, one of Scotland’s leading entrepreneurs in the technology, media, gaming and entertainment sectors, has helped kickstart the Dundee Digital Fortnight, as city partners prepare to showcase the skills needed by young people to develop a career in the local technology sector. He is issuing a rallying call for pupils and students to get ready to play their part in the exciting opportunities that lie ahead for the city.

Van der Kuyl is co-founder and chairman of Dundee-based 4J Studios – best known for developing Minecraft for Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo games consoles – as well as Principal of Chroma Ventures alongside his business partner, Paddy Burns. Chroma Ventures is one of Digital Xtra Fund’s key Gigabyte Partners with Burns also sitting on the Fund’s Board of Trustees.

Dundee Digital Fortnight aims to inspire the future workforce needed to take the local industry to the next levels. 

Meg Brough, Cheryl Torano, Chris van der Kuyl and Mark FlynnChris van der Kuyl said: “The global games industry is bigger by revenue than every other entertainment sector combined and Dundee has more games developers per head of the population than anywhere else in the world. We have a real opportunity to lead the way in this and other technology-based sectors but it will require a focus on developing skills and talent over the next decade and beyond. Initiatives like Dundee’s Digital Fortnight will play a part in inspiring the city’s next generation of coders, games developers, and data analysts. Well done to the whole team involved in creating this programme of events.”

Dundee Digital Fortnight is being organised by the city council along with a range of partners including Abertay and Dundee universities, Dundee & Angus College, Amazon Web Services, Waracle, Developing the Young Workforce Dundee & Angus, Skills Development Scotland and Showcase the Street. Both Amazon Web Services and Skills Development Scotland are also key Gigabyte Partners for Digital Xtra Fund.

The initiative is designed to encourage young people to aim for a career in the city’s digital and technology industries by showcasing the opportunities available now, and the prospects that could be open for them in the local sector in the future.

That could be games, apps, cyber security, or the many ways that local companies use tech for their everyday business.

Dundee City Council city development convener Councillor Mark Flynn said: “We are using this fortnight to harness the power of technology to encourage young people to develop the skills they will need to play a part in the digital future.

“Dundee is a city where great things are already happening and we want as many people as possible to be able to take advantage of exciting opportunities in this wide and diverse sector.

“That is why it is vital the partners can encourage them into appropriate training pathways to prepare them for the years ahead.”

The fortnight will take place between November 8 and 21 and will include in-school events, online sessions and other activities. These will explain the skills that are required to work in the digital sector and showcase how they are applied to real life projects.

It will coincide with the  Dundee esports league to spark gaming revolution in Scotlandevent at Dundee Contemporary Arts, as well as taking in a range of activities to be delivered by Amazon Web Services (AWS).

These include a Deep Racer Championship and a Get IT event to encourage girls aged 12-13 to consider a career in tech by challenging long standing gender stereotypes. AWS will also be launching their reskilling programme, AWS re/Start, with a reception for local tech employers.

Cheryl Torano, business development manager of Abertay University cyberQuarter, added: “Since the start of the pandemic, we have all become more dependent on technology in our daily lives, with remote working becoming the ‘new normal’ and people of all ages using connected devices to keep in touch.

“As a result of this, cyber-attacks in the UK have doubled within the past year, so young people should be empowered to use technology safely and responsibly, or even to consider cybersecurity as a career option.

“Cybersecurity offers an interesting, meaningful and well-paid career path where people can make a difference to the lives of others, and graduates coming out of courses like Abertay University’s Ethical Hacking programme will quickly progress into jobs that are both highly-skilled and personally rewarding.”     

Gillian McGovern, Head of Sector for Creative Cultural and digital at Dundee and Angus College, said: “The increasing need for digital skills is becoming a major priority both local and globally. As a college we are constantly looking for new ways to increase awareness and to educate both students and parents of the job opportunities in this sector.

“Some of the initiatives have included establishing partnerships with local business to create talent pipelines and arranging early intervention programs for schools to promote the wide variety of digital courses and job opportunities that sit alongside these skills sets.

“We are extremely excited about being a part of the digital skills fortnight.  We will be showcasing at DCA from November 18 to 21 where people can meet lecturers and students, find out about studying Computing and Esports and take part in a variety of fun games and competitions. These include Design a game Character, Esports and Gaming Jargon, VR game competitions, Retro games Competitions, Mini Gaming Tournament and Robot Assault course.”

John Davies, Director of Regional & Devolved Government, Amazon Web Services, said: “AWS is delighted to be rolling out digital skills programmes in Dundee for every age and stage.

“The past 18 months have seen a reshaping of the world of work, with more focus on digital skills in every part of the economy. Tech is a sector which is constantly evolving, and the demand for digital skills is increasing. We’re launching digital skills programmes for schools, for colleges and universities, and for people who are looking to retrain for a career in tech, so that everyone can play a part in building the future.”

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