We've all heard about how the UK ICT curriculum in schools are not living up to 21st century standards. The current curriculum teaches kids how to use computers and software, but not how to make them. This is quite problematic given that there is a shortage of programmers and developers in the workforce at the moment. Furthermore, more of these programming jobs are bound to spring up in the near future with the rise of entrepreneurialism and start up culture.
In order to address this problem, the Center for Digital Inclusion (CDI) Europe has developed a program called Apps for Good. CDI describes Apps for Good as "An award-winning course where young people learn to create imaginative mobile apps that change their world. Students create apps that make a difference and solve real life issues that matter to them and their community, giving them a launchpad in social enterprise and the exciting world of technology, design and innovation."
The course makes use of a 5 step process which include problem definition, market research, solution design, product design and finally, build and test. At the end of the course, the students will have learned how to make an app, developed social skills and nurtured their entrepreneurial skills. CDI trialled the course on young unemployed youth ages 16 - 25 before rolling it out to schools, and the students came out with job interviews and even jobs for some. One of them, Satwant Singh Kenth, went on to become an Apps for Good educator.
Satwant Singh Kenth says that most people who were on the course with him were actually qualified with university degrees. They just didn't have the right skills or couldn't find a job at the time. As an educator, he found that one of the main issues students have is that they really lack confidence when they start out. However, since the course develops social and networking skills as well as technical skills, the students eventually become more personable and have more confidence in themselves after the course.
Debbie Forster, interim CEO of CDI Europe, says that the Apps for Good course is unique in that it teaches both entrepreneurial skills and the technical skills required for start-ups to succeed in a practical environment. She also says that their extensive partner network provides the opportunity for their students to be mentored by leading industry professionals. For example, Apps for Good Awards 2012 allows for the best student teams to present their app infront of top industry experts.
Part of the issue with ICT education lies in the fact that a coding curriculum typically involves teaching a set of principles or frameworks and making the students work through various exercises, which can seem 'boring' to kids. Debbie Forster claims that part of the reason that Apps for Good works so well is that the teachers only teach basic coding principles and leave the students with a lot of resources to play with. If a student gets stuck, the educator and the professionals in the partner network steps in to assist in solving the problem at hand. When students are left to code in teams, the material sticks more. This method also enhances their research and social skills.
Currently, Apps for Good can be delivered either within a school's curriculum or as an after school club. Applications for school partners for 2012/3 are now being accepted, deadline is April 2012. To find out more about the course and how to become a partner, visit www.appsforgood.org/course.
Follow Jamie Tolentino on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jamietolentino