Click here for the main article. The five-page feature also included a manifesto for teaching computer science in the 21st century, profiles of several teenage coders, the views of some experts, a look at what's happening in the rest of the world, and a couple of short article: Girls and Coding and The Teachers' View.
What lies behind all of this is a growing consensus that the way we have been teaching young people about IT (or ICT, or whatever you want to call it) has been both boring and misguided.
Instead of educating children about the most revolutionary technology of their young lifetimes, we have focused on training them to use obsolescent software...
... as passive consumers of closed devices and services...
As Depala Kush, one of the young people profiled in the feature, put it:
"My [ICT] coursework was a 60-page Word document explaining how I made an Excel document and how it worked, and it was painful and tedious."
The Observer feature promotes the idea that gaining a practical understanding of computer science through learning how to code should be at the heart of computer education. I think it is enormously exciting that we could be on the brink of introducing new approaches that should enable young people to understand how they can use and control technology for creative and innovative purposes.
It's also interesting, though, to note that some of the young people featured in the profiles learnt about coding outside the school system. This is what some of them said:
If it was left to the school I wouldn't have done any of this. When it's not forced down your throat at school, I think you can learn it much quicker.
If I'd never gone to Young Rewired State [week-long projects during the school summer holidays] in 2010 and 2011 , I wouldn't have come anywhere near as far as I have. I owe a lot to those weeks.
Two examples of how young people really learn! And it's interesting that the pressure to move away from a boring and uncreative ICT curriculum is coming from young people themselves and from a journalist (John Naughton) rather than from the educational establishment. Although to be fair I should point out that Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Education, did make all the right points about the IT/ICT/computing curriculum at a speech at the BETT show back in January.
Right now I feel optimistic about the future of IT/computing education!