May 24, 2012

Google To Rescue Computer Science Education

Michael Harper for

Last August, Google CEO Chairman Eric Schmidt gave a lecture at the Edinburgh International Television Festival where he announced a partnership with UK´s National Film and TV School to train young film-makers. Then, he started criticizing the countries education system.

"Your IT curriculum focuses on teaching how to use software, but gives no insight into how it's made. That is just throwing away your great computing heritage," he said, according to the BBC.

"If I may be so impolite, your track record isn't great.”

Schmidt´s words must have hit home, as the BBC reports Secretary of Education Michael Glove decided to revamp their curriculum to include programming and other tech skills.

As a nod of approval, Schmidt has now announced a partnership between Google and Teach First, a UK educational charity.

Schmidt also said money would be available to purchase "teaching aids, such as Raspberry Pi's or Arduino starter kits".

Schmidt announced this partnership on Wednesday at London´s Science Museum.

"Put simply, technology breakthroughs can't happen without the scientists and engineers to make them. The challenge that society faces is to equip enough people, with the right skills and mindset, and to get them to work on the most important problems,” Schmidt said.

Despite the changes brought about by Glove in the UK, Schmidt still insisted the state of computer science education in the UK is in a “sorry state.”

Google will help fund Teach First, a school which trains “exceptional” graduates in a 6-week class, then sends them out to teach other classes for 2 years.

According to a press statement by Teach First, this partnership with Google will help to train 102 teachers, or 34 for each year of the 3-year partnership. During the course of this partnership, Google will also support more than 60 ICT teachers and more than 40 science teachers.

“Through joining forces with Google, Teach First will be able to ensure that more than 20,000 pupils from low socio-economic backgrounds will benefit from having access to inspirational ICT and science teachers,” Teach First CEO Brett Wigdortz said in a statement.

“This partnership has the potential to help a generation of young people access the technologies of the future.”

As a part of the agreement, Google will also provide bursaries for these school teachers to purchase new classroom equipment, such as Raspberry Pi units.

"The success of the BBC Micro in the 1980s shows what's possible. There's no reason why Raspberry Pi shouldn't have the same impact, with the right support," Mr. Schmidt said.

Raspberry Pis are ultra-small computers, running GNU/Lunux on an ARM chip. The entire chip isn´t much larger than the sum of its ports, which include: 1 LAN, 1 USB, RCA video and audio, and a small power slot. All told, the Raspberry Pi unit is about the size of a credit card and can be plugged into a TV and a keyboard. The device can be used to do many tasks a regular PC can do, such as games, word-processing and high-def video. The makers of the small computer hope these devices will be used to teach the next generation about programming.


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