As one of the awardees, in partnership with Renfrewshire Council, we will use this support to deliver coding clubs in Renfrewshire secondary schools, targeting S1 & S2 pupils. The clubs will use the BBC Micro:bit, distributed to Renfrewshire schools last year, to develop digital skills and an interest in digital careers.
Amanda Wilson, a Paisley Campus Computing Lecturer who will help manage the clubs, explains:
The project will provide the pupils with the opportunity to learn how to code with the Microbit as well as other engaging activities such as being able to make your own digital name badge, rock paper scissors game, thermometer or pedometer.
Amanda continues: "As the clubs progress and the pupils enhance their abilities & knowledge, we will aim to take this further and connect the Microbit to speakers and program it to play music. They can also try connecting it to conductive objects to create their very own unique controller for playing games with or connecting Microbits together to play games with friends”.
The clubs will also encourage the pupils to learn how to create games and apps using TouchDevelop, a unique programming environment which allows you to code and play your games and apps on phones, tablets or PC’s.
This stimulating introduction to coding will aim to encourage the pupils to continue with STEM subjects in their options choices and hopefully even further into the future with their career path.
David Renton, Curriculum Quality Leader for Computing will lead the project and the coding clubs will run alongside staff training sessions for teachers in Renfrewshire schools. There will be 3 sessions run in partnership with Microsoft & Paisley YMCA. Over the course of these Sessions the teaching staff will learn how to code using Touch Develop and the Micro:bit and will be able to end the course with the skills and resources needed to teach coding and computer science in their schools using a Micro:bit.
More about Digital Xtra
Digital Xtra aims to make extracurricular digital activities accessible to all young people aged 16 and under, whatever their background and wherever they live in Scotland. In particular, funded projects bring new opportunities to those in harder to reach, rural and disadvantaged areas. Digital Xtra previously awarded £250,000 to 12 projects in August 2016.
The Scottish Government provided the initial funding to launch Digital Xtra in May 2016 in partnership with organisations including Skills Development Scotland (SDS), Education Scotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and ScotlandIS. It is expected that the Fund will expand and go from strength to strength through the financial support of industry, employers and other funding bodies.
Minister for Further and Higher Education and Science, Shirley-Anne Somerville said:
“STEM subjects can open the door to significant and wide-ranging career opportunities: as well as improving literacy, numeracy and confidence, they can also provide the specialist knowledge and skills necessary to work in the ever-increasing STEM sectors of the economy and continue Scotland’s proud history of excellence and innovation in STEM.
“This government is determined to close the digital skills gap faced by all sectors across the economy which is why we are extremely proud to fund Digital Xtra through the digital skills investment plan. Initiatives like this are absolutely key to inspiring more young people to pursue a career in STEM and I’d like to congratulate all those who have been successful in securing funding for their projects, I look forward to seeing the end results.”
Claire Gillespie, key sector manager for ICT and Digital Skills at SDS, said: “At a time when businesses and organisations across all sectors in Scotland are experiencing increased demand for employees with high level digital technology skills, it's vital that we show young people that they can be the makers of technology and help them to realise the potential of technology careers.
“Extracurricular activities are a great way of engaging young people and with the help of Digital Xtra they are available more widely than ever before.”
A diverse range of digital projects were selected to receive the funding including existing initiatives looking to expand their activities, as well as innovative new projects and pilots that could be rolled out further in the future.
Phil Worms, Computing and Schools Project lead at tech industry body ScotlandIS, said: “In its first year the Digital Xtra Fund has supported a wide range of innovative projects that will directly reach over 15,000 young people in Scotland. Over time the Fund has the potential to make a real difference to the skills landscape in Scotland but it requires the support of industry now if it is to succeed and grow.
“Digital Xtra won’t solve the skills gap overnight but if it continues to support organisations that engage young people in digital activities from an early age it will help provide us with a talent pipeline for the future. There are many opportunities for individuals and organisations to join us; from becoming an official funding partner to supporting regional activities to providing us with specialist expertise.”
More information about the fund, can be found at www.digitalxtrafund.scot