Weekly News Roundup 14th August

In this week's news we consider the benefits of computational thinking, new toys aimed at challenging the gender gap in computer engineering and new research on young people's technology use.

Smartphones are the ‘device of choice’ for young people

Smartphones have overtaken laptops as the ‘device of choice’ among the British population according to a new report by Ofcom. 34% said that their smartphone was the most important digital device, ahead of the laptop, which was cited by 30% as their device of choice. This trend is particularly prevalent among 16-24 year olds, of which 60% say their smartphone is the most important digital device, followed by laptops at 21%. Taking photographs and storing images, enabled by the increasing affordability of good smartphone cameras, was identified as an important driver for the popularity of smartphones over other devices. 60% of adults use their phones to take pictures, and not surprisingly this trend was even more evident among young people. Nine out of ten young people use their smartphone to take and store pictures. According to Ofcom, 1.2 billion selfies were taken in 2014 and nine out of ten 16-24 year olds do this regularly. Over a quarter of this age group take selfies at least once a month, compared with 9% of the population overall. Read more here.

Benefits of coding and computational thinking

Maggie Johnson, Director of Education and University Relations for Google, has written a blogpost for the Huffington Post discussing whether coding is an essential skill for young people to acquire. Johnson argues that computer programming has three layers. At the core is the ability to write code, which, while not all children will need in their future careers, Johnson argues at least should have studied. The second level is ‘computational thinking’, an understanding of how computers, algorithms and data function, which Johnson argues all children need to be familiar with. The third layer is ‘digital literacy’, including online safety and privacy, which is a necessary skill for everyone. Johnson argues that learning the basics of coding supports the development of computational thinking and digital literacy and also gives children a good basis from which to decide whether computer programming is something they want to pursue further.

Toys aiming to bridge the gender gap in computer engineering

There has long been a lack of women in professions related to computer science, and research has shown that this gap has roots in stereotypes formed at an early age. According to an American study, girls are already forming negative stereotypes about maths and sciences from the age of seven. The toy company Wonder Workshop aims to turn these trends around with the robot toys Dash and Dot. Through various apps children can write code for the robots and control their movement. Wonder Workshop has also developed a Teacher’s Portal, to facilitate the use of the robots in the classroom to support problem solving and creativity. Read more here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *