'Boring ICT' blamed for drop in computing students

'Boring ICT' blamed for drop in computing students

By Rob Crossley in London

January 11th 2011 at 5:56PM

Braben reveals prototype micro PC to encourage student programming

Frontier Developments boss David Braben believes that “boring” ICT lessons in school share blame for Britain’s thinning computer science graduate base.

The Elite co-creator said “I have always had a problem with ICT” in UK schools.

“Every child I’ve spoken to has told me that ICT is dull They hate it. The majority of ICT lessons teach people how to use certain MS tools and how to find the on and off switch,” he said.
Braben claimed that the addition of ICT to the UK national curriculum over the past decade had correlated with the fall in British computer science graduates. He then showed a chart which appeared to corroborate his claim.

“I think it was very well-meaning to try and make ICT universal but I think it has backfired,” Braben said.

Speaking at a game education event in London, the industry veteran called for schools to teach "programming and things which are actually exciting” at school level.

This is particularly important because PC use is restricted at the home, he said, because parents will exclude children from using their home computers for numerous safety reasons.

“The PC at home has this barrier with young people at the home,” he said, “and ICT lessons in school only discourage students from exploring and experimenting with computers.

“A lot of kids don’t have access to home computers, but games consoles don’t have this barrier.”

Braben believes that games consoles have become an important new source for students’ creativity in the field of computer programming.

“Even Halo, a game which is often criticised [by the wider media] features something called Forge, which players can lay out maps and manipulate gameplay,” he said.

While Braben heaped praise on game creation tools built by the likes of Media Molecule, he said “the real problem is that there’s this huge gap between Halo Forge and c++ programming.”

Education can and should fill that gap, he said.

With this in mind, Braben revealed a micro-sized PC that pupils can carry between home and school. The device, built by tech group Raspberry Pi, is touted as providing students with access to a full PC experience.

The USB-powered device includes wireless networking, a Linux OS, an ARM processor, an HDMI output.

Braben wants to trial the device later in the year.