Monthly Archives: July 2012

Relaunching my blog

I’ve been blogging here for over a year so I decided it was time for a bit of a clear out.

When I started, I didn’t really know what exactly I was going to be blogging about but I imagined it would have something to do with leaving the BBC and starting to teach journalism rather than do journalism.

But things haven’t quite turned out like that and I find myself writing increasingly about my painful efforts to learn to code or my (slightly less painful) efforts to make other people learn to code.  I find myself becoming a little evangelical about it!  Who’d have thought?

I also decided that I should stop describing my life in terms of what I used to do and why I stopped doing it.  Instead, I focus on what I’ve become and what I’m learning.

Why the coffee cups?  I just like espresso shots.  That never changes.

Making Code Club Happen

  1. Finally, I decided to start a thread on our local Marple Online Forum.  I didn’t expect much of a response.

    Are there any people out there with computer programming skills they’d like to share with school children?  A group of parents at a local primary school is setting up an after school Code Club.  It’s part of a nationwide project to get a network of computer clubs across the country.  Check out the website http://codeclub.org.uk/  
    The government is changing what children learn about computers at school so that there’s more of an emphasis on programming rather than just learning about office software.  We want to be at the forefront of that national push!
    So if you have the skills and share our passion for this project, please check out the Code Club website, see if it’s for you and get in touch.
    Thank You.

    There was an immediate and positive response!  It seems we’ve flushed out an army of closet coders with a social conscience.  One guy PM’d me, sounds really keen to volunteer and has the perfect skill set to help us out and an employer willing to support extra-curricula social projects.

    Lots of people on the forum stopped arguing about the pros and cons of having a new supermarket in town and started to show off their knowledge of arcane computer languages instead.  They got told they were “off topic” and got moved to another “Programming Show-Offs” thread.

    But the really exciting thing is that we seem to have started something big here in SK6.  As a direct result of that thread on the forum, another local school has signed up to CodeClub and parents at another school are meeting the head teacher next week to persuade him to sign up too.  This is fantastic.  If everything works out, it means the local volunteers can get together to support each other, share ideas, perhaps set up hack days at the weekend when all the schools can come together.

    And perhaps the Goyt Valley will become the next Silicon Valley…

    The Big Lesson I learnt from this process is that not everyone out there knows about CodeClub yet so we need to keep on talking about it EVERYWHERE.  There are plenty of 40-somethings out there who developed a love for computers in the 80s with the BBC Micro etc and are really excited about the opportunity to tap into that enthusiasm again and rekindle that passion.

    So if you’re a frustrated volunteer who can’t find a local school.  Or if you’re a parent who can’t find a local volunteer.  Don’t give up just yet.  There are people out there.

Should journalism students ditch shorthand and learn to code instead?

That was the slightly provocative question I posed in an article for the website WannabeHacks.  

“Coding is the new Latin”, says Alex Hope, the co-author of a report last year which urged the government to get British school children learning how to program.

But should coding become the new shorthand for journalism students? Most are currently required to spend hours practicing their shorthand to get up to the NCTJ-required 100 wpm. Would their time be better spent learning the basic logic of computer code?

It’s a hot debate at the moment, especially in the US, where several colleges are already offering a joint MSc in Journalism and Computer Science.  It makes sense to me because so much journalism these days relies on complex search engines and so much news is consumed on phones and tablets.  Surely new journalists should have some idea about the programming that goes into this in the same way that I had to answer questions about Ohms Law for my first radio traineeship at the BBC.

But most of the debate is amongst the academic community and experienced professionals.  I wanted to find out what new and aspiring journalists thought.  Do they want to be part of the new generation of journo-programmers?

Perhaps you’re already coding ninjas? Perhaps you think it’s a dangerous fad which will only create journalists who can’t write and computer scientists who can’t code. 

So, I’ve set up a quick survey to find out what journalism students and those just starting out think.  If you fall into that category, please take part!  If you don’t, perhaps you’d care to pass it on to someone who does.

Click here to take part in the survey.  Thank you!