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Mozilla Drumbeat Keynote on Web Education

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I gave this presentation on web education at Mozilla Drumbeat Festival 2010.

I gave this presentation on web education at Mozilla Drumbeat Festival 2010.

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  • Full Name Full Name Comment goes here.
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  • Thank you for sharing this inspiring presentation Anna. It is so well put together, and your analysis is as relevant in 2012 as it was in 2010.
    ~Sidneyeve
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  • Ok I want to learn HTML , I need to learn how someone can direct me
    Andy
    andy@andyphotographer.com
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  • Video / audio can be found here: http://vimeo.com/16908771
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  • Excellent presentation that makes some very thought-provoking points about UK education and ITC
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  • I got into this industry when I was 13 by playing games. Specifically this one which is called Neopets. You create a pet which you look after, and earn neopoints to buy it food and toys by completing tasks.
  • It had a section where you could create a page for your neopet by typing HTML in a text box. There were also competitions for the best page which I entered every month but never won.
  • This is one of the tutorial pages for writing HTML. It was a pretty good guide considering it was aimed at kids between the ages of 7 and 15.
  • When I outgrew Neopets, I moved onto Myspace which let you customise the layout. This was the cool thing to do at the time, when I got my first job as a mascot strawberry, I created a myspace page for it.
  • While all this was going on, I was also being taught web design in school. The course material was hugely out of date, but it took me a couple of years to realise this. It took me another year to re-learn everything I’d done. I set up a website last year called Scrunchup after realising there was there were all these young developers but no real community for them. I felt angry that I’d spent so much time learning how to build websites at school, only to find that my skills were horribly outdated. I also wanted to highlight work other people have created, and provide resources on topics like accessibility that they probably wouldn’t learn about at school.
  • In January 2009, 2 articles came out on A List Apart that made me feel that I wasn’t alone. This is Brighter Horizons for Web Education by Aaron Walter. He highlights the issue that our industry is so broad that it’s difficult for educators to keep up with what’s going on.
  • and Elevate Web Design at the University Level by Leslie Jensen-Inman. While I agree with everything these articles say, what I think often gets missed is that web education is happening not just in Universities, but in high-schools, primary schools, and at home.
  • By the time they’re in university, it’s already too late. People like me grabbed hold of technology at such a young age that the education system couldn’t keep up. I turned down offers at university and went freelance straight out of school because the courses were so out of date. I didn’t want to pay to take a course that didn’t feel like good value for money. So there’s a whole bunch of people dropping out of school or choosing not to go to university because it’s in such a bad state.
  • Our industry has a shortage of skilled workers. European Schoolnet (which is a network of the Ministries of Education in Europe) wrote a white paper in 2009 claiming that this year, Europe would be facing a shortage of 70,000 workers in IT.
  • With the number of students struggling to get jobs, but so many job vacancies in IT, there should be a landrush. But schools and universities seem to be lacking the ability to attract students. One reason for this is the general level of understanding among today’s students. It’s not that they’re not capable enough…
  • But that education can’t keep up with them. In many schools, the students will be teaching the teachers. If that were the same for other subjects like Maths and Science, people would be outraged. But with IT, that’s seen as normal.
  • This is an article by the Royal Society that reveals that the number of students studying computing and ICT in schools is falling.
  • They state that the design and delivery of ICT and computer science curricula in schools is so poor that students’ understanding and enjoyment of the subjects is severely limited.
  • They said “If we cannot address the problem of how to educate our young people in inspirational and appropriate ways, we risk a future workforce that is totally unskilled and unsuited to tomorrow’s job market.” I’m going to take you through the course I was taught at school. Every student in the UK between the age of 11 and 15 takes a course in IT. This includes a module in web design.
  • The majority of exam boards teach out of date courses. This is a specification for next year’s students that specifically requests “the use of table to position text and graphics”.
  • Here is some student documentation on how to create a website for a coursework project in Powerpoint.
  • And the same for Word…
  • In tables. In this they say “One clever way to make your page clearer is to use an invisible table”
  • It seems most people give up on the subject as soon as it stops being compulsory. In england, there’s been a 33% drop in A-Level ICT students in the past 6 years, from around 30,000 in 2004 to around 20,000 in 2008. That’s fewer than are taking Sociology, Media, Geography, History and Psychology.
  • There’s also been a 57% drop in A-Level computing in the past 8 years. And the higher education route doesn’t look so promising either.
  • This Wikipedia’s definition of semantic HTML “ Semantic HTML is the use of HTML markup to reinforce the semantic s, or mea ning, of the information in webpages rather than merely to define its presentation (look).” Now I’m going to show you what the largest academic institution in the UK has to say about HTML in one of their computing courses.
  • I took this straight out of the textbook. “HTML does not include tags that ascribe meaning to information; its tags are only for:styling…”
  • Ofsted is an organisation that assess the quality of schools and teaching. They wrote a report in 2009 on The importance of ICT based on a 4 year study of almost 200 secondary and primary schools in England on their performance in ICT, and whether the funding that they’ve been provided has been value for money, It’s quite a scathing report. In one part it states that the higher attaining students didn’t feel challenged, and so did not achieve the results they were expected.
  • One question I get asked a lot is “why aren’t there more women in the industry”. The answer is very simple. And that is that there weren’t many girls who were interested in this stuff 10 years ago. And the situation is getting a whole lot worse. Fewer and fewer girls are taking IT related subjects. Less than one quarter of IT graduates are women.
  • I think the reason is that we’re teaching young people how to use office tools that don’t inspire them. This isn’t IT. This is training kids how to work in an office.
  • It’s not just the students who are losing out because of this. Educators feel frustrated about the situation too. These are the comments of secondary school IT teachers:
  • "..We've got a PC for every 4 pupils.." "..We've just got a new VLE.." "..We have no idea what we are supposed to be doing with all this stuff.." “No one is willing to put themselves out there, and really push the boundaries of what is possible.”
  • “ ICT should be about the fundamentals of technology, which for me is the most interesting part of IT.” “ There are endless possibilities out there in this and other related fields.” “ All we're gearing our kid's up for is a life in an office. No wonder there's no stampede for that career path.” The government is trying to get more and more people into university, and I really don’t think it’s for everyone. As a result, there isn’t a lot of support for young people starting out on their own. But despite all these challenges, young people are thriving in this industry.
  • I now work for a company where the lead developer is one of the most talented I’ve ever met, and he’s 18 years old.
  • A few months ago I interviewed Nick and David from the US who run this site called Upload Robots. It’s a file storage system which they built in fifth grade and are running while still in high school.
  • “ Being so young, VC backing was not an option as it’s too risky to invest in a couple highschoolers.”
  • “ We also have to constantly conceal our age because we are dealing with people’s important documents, and they might not trust us because people, including ourselves, are inherently ageist.”
  • This is Matt Mullenweg He created Wordpress before he could even legally buy a drink in his country. He also co-founded the group who invented Microformats. I think that’s pretty impressive. Just think of what else we could achieve if our curriculum was more inspiring and relevant.
  • I believe this is a problem we have to face now, and the only way things are going to change is if the industry gets involved in educating and the next generation of developers. We need to do this now or they will turn their backs on the industry before they’ve had a chance to see what it’s really like.
  • The director of education at the Royal Academy of Engineering summed it up by saying“Young people have huge appetites for the computing devices they use outside of school. Yet ICT and Computer Science in school seem to turn these young people off. We need school curricula to engage them better if the next generation are to engineer technology and not just consume it”.
  • Thanks to this conference, we’ve got a better chance than ever before to make things right for the next generation of developers. I’m not sure what the answer to this problem is, but I’m hoping that by the end of this event we’ll be a step closer to solving it.

Mozilla Drumbeat Keynote on Web Education Presentation Transcript

  • 1. The current state of web education in schools Anna Debenham Mozilla Drumbeat
  • 2.
    • http://www.neopets.com
    I learnt HTML playing Neopets
  • 3.
    • http://www.neopets.com
    I typed it into a box on the website
  • 4.
    • http://www.neopets.com
    The site had a set of HTML tutorials for kids
  • 5.
    • http://myspace.com
    I learnt my first CSS customising a Myspace profile
  • 6.
    • http://scrunchup.com
    I created Scrunchup for young people learning web design. Here’s why:
  • 7.
    • http://www.alistapart.com/articles/brighter-horizons-for-web-education/
    “Schools that teach web design struggle to keep pace with our industry, and those just starting their curricula often set off in the wrong direction because the breadth and depth of our medium can be daunting.”
  • 8.
    • http://www.alistapart.com/articles/elevate-web-design-at-the-university-level/
    “Let’s face it. Technology moves fast; academia doesn’t.”
  • 9. “The problem is that many of the pre-higher education age group have nowhere to go if they want to be taught web design or development.”
    • Chris Mills http://my.opera.com/ODIN/blog/2009/08/19/how-do-we-educate-the-web-standards-kids
  • 10. “Europe is about to face a shortage of 70,000 skilled workers in the tech sector by 2010”
    • http://goo.gl/VrCI
  • 11. “One reason for this is the general level of understanding among today’s students…”
    • http://goo.gl/vG4T
  • 12. “… their use of technology often outstrips that of their teachers.”
    • http://goo.gl/vG4T
  • 13.
    • http://goo.gl/8WeM
    Article by the Royal Society “ICT and Computer Science in schools - damaging to the UK’s future economy” “ ICT and Computer Science in schools - damaging to the UK’s future economy”
  • 14.
    • http://goo.gl/8WeM
    “…students’ understanding and enjoyment of the subjects is severely limited.”
  • 15. “…we risk a future workforce that is totally unskilled and unsuited to tomorrow’s job market.”
    • http://goo.gl/8WeM
  • 16.
    • http://goo.gl/Iddx
    ICT specification for next years’ GCSE students
  • 17.
    • http://goo.gl/GSSF
  • 18.
    • http://goo.gl/GSSF
  • 19.
    • http://goo.gl/GSSF
  • 20. 33%
    • Number of students taking exams in this subject in England
    in 6 years A-Level ICT
  • 21.
    • Number of students taking exams in this subject in England
    57% in 8 years A-Level Computing
  • 22. “Semantic HTML is the use of HTML markup to reinforce the semantics , or meaning, of the information in webpages rather than merely to define its presentation (look).”
    • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semantic_HTML
    Wikipedia definition of semantic HTML
  • 23.
    • Excerpt from an Open University textbook for a course on computing
    Definition of HTML by the largest academic institution in Europe
  • 24.
    • http://goo.gl/k64K
    2009 Ofsted report on “The importance of ICT” based on a 4 year study of almost 200 secondary and primary schools in England on their performance in ICT based on a 4 year study of almost 200 secondary and primary schools in England on their performance in ICT
  • 25.
    • http://goo.gl/k64K
    “ Higher-attaining students were insufficiently challenged .”
  • 26.
    • http://goo.gl/k64K
    “ the number of girls choosing to study computing post-16 has fallen to an all-time low . … and the number continues to decline.” … and the number continues to decline.” … and the number continues to decline.”
  • 27.
    • http://goo.gl/k64K
    “ Schools do not challenge sufficiently the value of deploying a set of adult productivity tools to help pupils and students develop their ICT capability.”
  • 28. “Just up-ing the number of PC's in schools won't get you anything.”
    • http://www.itpro.co.uk/626212/ict-education-fails-at-a-level
    (Teacher comment)
  • 29. “We have no idea what we are supposed to be doing with all this stuff”
    • http://www.itpro.co.uk/626212/ict-education-fails-at-a-level
    (Teacher comment)
  • 30. “All we're gearing our kid's up for is a life in an office. No wonder there's no stampede for that career path.”
    • http://www.itpro.co.uk/626212/ict-education-fails-at-a-level
    (Teacher comment)
  • 31.
    • http://message.uk.com
    “I coded my first plain HTML website when I was 11, using Frontpage. It was horrible, but I thought it was freakin' awesome!”
  • 32.
    • Nick Cammarata and David Merfield from http://uploadrobots.com /
    Upload Robots Built by 5th graders Built by 5th graders
  • 33. “Being so young, VC backing was not an option as it’s too risky to invest in a couple highschoolers.”
    • Nick Cammarata and David Merfield from http://uploadrobots.com /
  • 34. “We also have to constantly conceal our age because we are dealing with people’s important documents, and they might not trust us because people, including ourselves, are inherently ageist.”
    • Nick Cammarata and David Merfield from http://uploadrobots.com /
  • 35. Matt Mullenweg
    • Photo by kris krüg from http://www.flickr.com/photos/kk/98025271
    Created Wordpress before he could legally buy a drink in his country
  • 36. “We are now watching the enthusiasm of the next generation waste away through poorly conceived courses and syllabuses.”
    • Professor Steve Furber, Fellow of the Royal Society
  • 37. “We need school curricula to engage them better if the next generation are to engineer technology and not just consume it”
    • Professor Matthew Harrison, Director of Education at The Royal Academy of Engineering
  • 38. Let’s fix this