The BBC was at at the forefront of technology in schools in the 1980s after it launched its BBC Micro computer brand

BBC to push technology education

The BBC wants to lead a push for a new generation of Britons with world-class computer skills to drive the digital economy.

The corporation was at the forefront of technology in schools in the 1980s after it launched its own computer brand, and now it hopes to re-enter the fray by inspiring young people to develop coding skills and understand the value of digital creativity.

The push comes against a backdrop of skills shortages in the technology sector, which the BBC wants to address with a major focus in 2015.

It is among the schemes outlined by director-general Tony Hall today as he pledged that the BBC would have a new-found commitment to educating the nation.

Next year the focus will be on the legacy of the First World War, while 2015 will see efforts devoted to digital skills and 2016 will be a celebration of Shakespeare.

"If informing the world is vital to the BBC, so is educating. I feel passionately about this. Every year I want a big educational project with national impact," Lord Hall said.

Corporation bosses intend to establish partnerships with the technology industry and say they will work with government and educators to build the project.

The BBC said: "Whether it's apps, websites, games, computer code, robotics or digital art, a range of BBC tools and resources will give people the skills to solve problems, tell stories and build new businesses in the digital world."

Ralph Rivera, the BBC's director of future media, said: "The BBC has played a hugely important role inspiring a generation of digital and technology leaders in the past, but now it's time to reignite that creativity.

"Digital skills are absolutely fundamental in the modern world, and we're in a unique position to help people develop them and provide a safe online playground to try them out. We want to transform the nation's ability and attitude towards coding, and bring together different organisations already working in this area."

Responding to the BBC’s plans, Professor Will Stewart, chair of the Institution of Engineering and Technology Communications Policy Panel, said school involvement will be crucial.

He said: “There is a real need to get more young, and older, people to learn about computer coding and to gain a full insight into the concepts of communications between modern computing devices including smartphones and remote services.

“The potential here is enormous and the BBC announcement is welcomed, though we need to make sure the school backup is also in place. The BBC micro initiative in the 1980s showed that such efforts can be very helpful.

"We need to be teaching simple computer programming in an interactive and interesting context. This could be achieved by programming robots or computer-controlled models or setting design challenges in conjunction with the design and technology curricula, and by developing apps that run on smartphones or dedicated platforms such as Raspberry Pi.

“Consistent and high quality teacher support will be particularly important, but It is clear that at present there is still a shortage of teaching staff with the necessary knowledge and practical expertise.

“For computing, a greater focus on skills such as programming and algorithms – this is a bit broader than 'coding' – will place greater demands on the abilities of teachers.

“In particular, it may be challenging to deliver this effectively in the early years when there are fewer opportunities to engage specialist teachers. The availability of suitable programming tools and other resources would also be critical to the success of teaching these skills.”

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