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John Spencer

Dr John Spencer began his teaching career in 1981 armed with a Sinclair ZX81, thereby demonstrating two things at once: Firstly he was in at the very start of ICT in the classroom and secondly he is a sucker for duff technology. Thereafter he taught joining a start-up open source company as their Head of Education in 2002. Now John is bringing his iconoclastic disposition and tendency to throw a spanner in the works to blogging.

Women go back to the kitchen - to bake Rasberry Pi?

WIll coding be the new cotttage industry?

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There is no escaping it, if the future looks dodgy for the young unemployed it is far worse for females than it is males. The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement made it very clear that it will be the low paid public sector workers who will feel the brunt of the upcoming redundancies and that means truthfully mostly women with young children.

This is a cunning plan. This particular demographic is neatly divided into two. The well-paid career mothers and the part-time lower-paid mums. The former are cash-cows for the state as not only do they pay higher rate tax they spend a fortune on child-care workers who are Russian doll-like taxed in turn (80% of every penny they earn ultimately goes back to the Chancellor). In contrast, the latter group are largely being taken out of tax by a steady increase in the tax threshold (watch out a sleight of hand is coming) which sounds good but isn’t.

Call me paranoid but if you aren’t paying tax then HM Gov. does not need you. Bye-bye jobs, hello home, hello kids. Hello coding.

What? No it’s not fantasy, amongst my college students in recent years have been two women, both single parents and both part of small groups in the same situation who are learning and doing code (mostly for Android phones). Surely women couldn’t do this stuff, that’s why almost none go to do CompSci at University. Nonsense, women can do whatever they want to do and that includes coding.

All they need is time and a computer. Maybe Raspberry Pi has the answer. I had read about this confection in this magazine only recently: a $25 computer to re-invent computing in education.

Nah, the Turnip Prize applies here I’m afraid. The Turnip Prize is the antidote to the Turner Prize for art and you may assume an attempt at irony is being invoked. The Turnip Prize has three very useful criteria which are: Not much effort should be made; the title should contain some pun or word-play and finally it should be s**t. Raspberry Pi qualifies on all three. Cheap computers are two a penny (hah) and cost is not a real barrier to coding. Ironically Pi computers will output to TV screens ... er this is where I came in with my ZX 81 turnip too.

However Raspberry Pi has one thing fundamentally right. Learning to code does not require sophisticated or expensive equipment. You just need a computer, some free software, some support and some time.

It is just possible that the next generation of UK coders will come from a surprising sector.

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