HUGE step forward for digital literacy

It’s no secret that the leverage available to information technology innovators is HUGE.  I can’t think of another human endeavor that, with the investment in an Amazon EC2 node or two and a few weekends of software development, can change the lives of people around the world.  If you need a moving example of this power check the video (below) that describes a project undertaken by The MicroLoan Foundation.

From the caption on the YouTube video:

On February 25, 2012 the MicroLoan Foundation undertook a very special fundraising initiative. They took to Westfield Shopping Centre where a unique billboard allowed donors to text 70300 to make a £2 donation to our cause. As the donation came through, the donors name displayed on the billboard and each donation was displayed live. As more people donated the billboard began to display a picture of the women the donation helped. Thank you to everyone for your donations. Please visit our website to make a donation to help women build a better future for themselves and their families.

It’s not much code, not much technology, but it was CREATED from scratch and had (and is having) a powerful effect.

Video:

It’s important to differentiate between two kinds of leverage which are often glommed together:

  • leverage from USING information technology
  • leverage from CREATING information technology

While I’m delighted that my children are learning to USE computers at their school (shout out to Fredericksburg Academy!) what they REALLY need to (^H^H^H^H MUST) learn is how to CREATE technology.

So, if we recognize the importance of digital literacy what aggressive things are governments and school administrations doing to get it done?

A great example comes from Great Britain!

Would you have guessed Great Britain?  Apparently, Eric Schmidt‘s harsh remarks about the UK’s educational system had a good bit to do with it.

The UK Department of Education has developed a new National Curriculum.  While it’s in draft state as of this writing, it’s aggressive.  I love it.

From the draft curriculum:

A number of areas of computing are covered, starting with Key Stage 1 (ages 5-7) which should be able to implement simple programs, show an understanding of algorithms and how they are implemented, and organise, store, manipulate and retrieve data in a range of digital formats. It goes on to incorporate understanding of computer networks, search engines and using software together on a number of different devices to accomplish different goals by the ages of 7-11. By the ages of 11-14, students are expected to know 2 or more programming languages, understand sorting and searching algorithms, Boolean logic and have a far more in depth knowledge of networking, the hardware involved and performance implications of them.

So, let me get this straight, we want 11 year olds to understand networks and 14 year olds to understand searching algorithms and the performance implications of networking and hardware?

Totally awesome.  I’m deeply impressed that the UK was able to field such an aggressive (albeit draft) curriculum without it being watered down!

Arne Duncan, take a note!

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