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Ian Livingstone

What motivated the
creation of a digital
I’m really passionate about
advancing the creative industries in
the UK – whether that’s analogue or
digital. The ICT curriculum was allowed
to be in a sorry state for 30 years but
it was the Next Generation Review I
co-authored in 2011 that offered the
number one recognition that Computer
Science should be on the curriculum as
a core discipline.
ICT was all about using technology,
Word, Powerpoint, Excel, but not
necessarily about creating your own
stuff. It’s a bit like being taught how to read but not how to
We were committed to ensuring we could get children
from being consumers to creators of technology and that
learning to code creates a fundamental shift in our ability
to create content.



Q. How is it looking one year on?
We’re the first country in the world to make Computer
Science a mandatory subject at primary and secondary
school so this gives us a huge advantage. But we have to
make sure others don’t catch up.
We often talk about equal opportunities but I truly
believe that equal digital opportunities is possible. The
gatekeepers of the analogue world don’t exist in the digital
world. We need to offer the right support to help every
child become a digital citizen and we have to reach women
pre-puberty if we want to encourage them to get involved
with this, rather than them getting to the point where they
think it’s too geeky. Like learning a language, it’s sooner the
better with this.
Q. Are all schools on board with the change?
It’s a big change for schools, who historically haven’t even
been allowed to access the open web. Not all schools are
embracing it but there are some great organisations getting
to work on making things happen. Computing at Schools is
working with 400 teachers to create a centre of excellence
that could see some 16,000 teachers better equipped for
the new curriculum.
SUMMER 2015 •

Q. Why did you found your own
state ‘gaming school’?
There’s a real misrepresentation in
society about the value of gaming but
this will not be a school where kids
sit around playing games all day. The
school will simply be applying the
principles of games-based learning,
which I believe will help kids get skilled
up for jobs that don’t yet exist.
It’s about shifting the pedagogy from
rote learning to learning by doing.
Knowledge is important, committing
things to long-term memory, but
so is know-how. Qualifications are
important too but so are skills. Not
everyone is academic. We want to teach thinking, not
memorising. It’s about embracing problem solving and
communications skills, and creating a portfolio of work
from project-based learning.
Q. Should we be worried about kids
using too much tech?
There has to be a balance in children’s lives. If they get
hold of a tablet, there’s a whole world they want to access,
and they’re data hungry. Using Facebook and other social
media and surfing the web might create a tendency to
disconnect from real world relationships and become
less empathetic with fellow human beings. But it’s about
But given the potential for using technology as training
tools, simulators for pilots and surgeons, replicating
disasters, it has to be a positive thing. Researchers are
using gaming technology, crowdsourced gaming content,
to research the breakdown of the proteins found in HIV.
There’s increasing sophistication in this technology that
goes far beyond the lambasted video game titles that are
Q. Are businesses helping to improve digital skills?
There’s backing from companies including Microsoft and
Barclays for the BBC’s Make it Digital campaign, which will
see 1m Micro Bit computers distributed in schools. It’s a
lower spec Raspberry Pi that could be transformational for
schools. If even half are used in their true way, it will be an
important step.  n