We Don't Need No (Computer Science) Education

(x-ray delta one on Flickr)

I'm cautiously optimistic about Michael Gove's reform of ICT to become more like Computer Science. It's deperately needed (and has been for about 10 years) as outlined in these articles in the BBC and the Guardian:



I personally feel like I was massively let down by IT lessons when I was at school. I never felt like IT lessons were remotely fun or interesting - they were typing lessons merely that taught us how to be good worker drones. I was far more interested in science (which I still love), and so I started Biochemistry at Cardiff. I found that this wasn't the subject for me, and started to become more and more interested in the web and it's possibilities. Now I'm studying Web Technologies and I love mucking around with code. I'm extremely lucky to be able to do switch like that, and I'm sure that there's others out there who aren't.

The revamp is great news as it seems to focus much more on creating rather than only consuming, a path that I think has dangerous consequences.

However (you knew it was coming), I'm not convinced about the so called "open source" curriculum. Feels very much like a buzz word to please the geeks, rather than a concerted effort to change across the country. If "schools and teachers [have] freedom over what and how to teach" what's to stop a school that is unmotivated and/or incapable of updating the curriculum from doing so?

If we're serious about creating a new generation of makers and hackers then the government needs to step up and provide a concrete curriculum. I realise that this top-down approach is very much against the hacker mentality, but I worry that we've neglected technology education for so long that we've lost the skills to teach it.

I'm also skeptical of how the government will handle this guidance, and only listen to the huge corporations that have pushed hard for this. While we must thank them for bankrolling this change Microsoft, Google, IBM and others should have equal input as (real) open source initiatives and small scale hackers. Raspberry Pi springs to mind. As does Apps for Good. And Codecademy

So that's education sorted. Now we just need to overturn the Digital Economy Act and invest heavily in internet infrastructure, and we'll be golden :)

Stop Mandelson's plans for disconnection

This post is mostly thanks to the Open Rights Group and their blog.

Peter Mandelson proposed new laws back in August to cut internet connections of persistant file-sharers. And while I do not support piracy this law is ridiculous, unlawful and unethical. The Open Rights Group argues pretty much the same thing in their blog posts and yesterday they posted encouraging their readership to write to their MEPs. The ORG have said that Amendment 138 is the one to watch for, and support as it would stop Mandelson's plans for disconnection.

Below is the email I wrote to the five MEPs that represent me:

I am writing to ask you to support Amendment 138 - the right of every

European citizen to have access to the internet as part of theirfreedom of expression, and that it should only be withdrawn as the result of a court order. The right to express yourself is a fundamental human right - the internet is becoming a more important tool in doing so. For example, the Iranian election dispute was widely broadcast thanks to video clips posted on the internet. Very soon nearly all (non person-to-person) communication will take place over the internet, making any attempts to ban people from the internet are tantamount to press censureship. Amendment 138 would also stop violations of Article 23 of the Declaration of Human Rights (the right to work). Many people use the internet for work, and any disconnection or "throttling" of the connection to the internet would prevent them from doing so. Article 12 of the Declaration of Human Rights states that "No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his correspondence". Disconnection from the internet would prevent someone from doing this. Finally I believe that you should support Amendment 138 because disconnection from the internet would violate Article 10 of the Declaration of Human Rights. This states that everyone has the right to a fair trial - a disconnection as described my Peter Mandelson would not include a trial. This would violate Article 10. The main reason disconnection of internet connection has been suggested is to protect the copyright of the music industry. As described in the excellent blog post on the Open Rights Group website (http://www.openrightsgroup.org/blog/2009/p2p-consultation-org-responds) the music industry has "repeatedly blocked online music services" through unfair licensing terms. The ORG suggests that government introduces new licensing terms that would be reasonable and non discriminatory - a level playing field and an open market. As I have shown above I believe that disconnection or "throttling" of a person's internet connection would be thoroughly unlawful and unethical. The unfair licensing terms should be reformed to produce an open market. Please support Amendment 138.

What to do if you support The ORG

Quoted from the ORG's blog

Write to your MEP today. Let them know that Amendment 138 is their greatest stand for citizen's rights, and that it must survive. Parliament has stood up for the people and must preserve this amendment in its role as defender of our rights.


Two of the MEPs have emailed back (as of 3:00pm on 1/10/09) - Sharon Bowles MEP (Lib Dems) and Caroline Lucas MEP (Greens). Both of them agree with that internet disconnection is wrong and Caroline Lucas has clarified the bill:

The "telecom package" is in reality a set of 5 Directives. The legislative proposals are designed to protect the rights of the consumers with regard to telecommunication services. During the Telecom Package's First Reading a number of important provisions won support from MEPs, including access to more flexible contracts, better emergency services and improved information about prices and tariffs for telephone users. However, there was less agreement on the critical issues of data protection and "unlawful" use of the internet. You might know that an initial compromise between the EU's 3 institutions was reached ahead of the First Reading vote, but that the issue of net neutrality remained controversial.