Programming a new generation of digital makers
From apps to films, in 2015 every young person across the UK will make and share something digital, say Oliver Quinlan and John Bevan.
Young people are avid consumers of media such as websites, apps, gadgets and electronics. But increasingly, they are also customising and making these things themselves, from coding interactive experiences for others online, to tinkering with electronics to create sensors and accessories for their smart phones or Raspberry Pi computers.
Most of us have already accepted digital technology as an everyday presence in our lives. When it comes to manipulating and making things with this technology, the story is rather different. In 2015 this will change and, for a whole generation of young people, the manipulation of this technology will feel as natural as reading and writing.
We’ve been working with organisations that have been making this happen already. Since 2012, our Digital Makers fund (with Mozilla and Nominet Trust) has funded organisations across the UK who are providing opportunities for young people to learn about technology through making:
- Code Club has been bringing expert volunteers into primary schools to run programming workshops.
- Apps for Good has been enabling young people to design apps that solve problems in their communities.
- Technology Will Save Us has opened up the world of creating mobile games consoles to young makers.
- Black Country Atelier and Fab Lab Devon have been enabling them to realise their ideas with the latest 3D and rapid prototyping technologies.
In September 2014 computing became a part of the National Curriculum taught in schools across England, with aspects of programming and computer science in lessons for all young people aged six to 14. By summer 2015 all young people will have had lessons in computing, allowing them to develop their skills outside the classroom in their own time, just as those with passions for musical instruments or sports do already.
Comparing digital making to music or sports is ambitious, but in 2015 the BBC’s Make it Digital initiative will bring digital creativity to a mainstream audience. We anticipate that huge numbers of young people across the UK will respond and take advantage of digital making for self-expression.
It’s not just about an interest in technology. As tools become more diverse and powerful we will see young people getting involved in digital making in order to make things happen in other fields they are passionate about, and develop their own careers.
This already happens in music. The tools available on an iPad today are more sophisticated than the equipment some of the most iconic albums were produced with. 3D printing technologies are opening up the world of hi-tech manufacturing to anyone with access to a few thousand pounds worth of equipment in a school, library or ‘Fab Lab’.
It is entirely possible for children to design and print the kinds of toys they are currently playing with, or for teenagers to use digital tools to customise and create cutting edge fashions long before they hit the high street.
Digital making will move beyond a niche interest for budding technologists and will become a means of expression for a vast range of hobbies and interests. It will shift from being a hobby in itself to the method of expression and creation.
It might happen in the classroom, in a local workshop or even at home at the kitchen table, but in 2015 every young person will make and share something digital.