The OpenSure Free Press 3rd October 2011

I didn’t expect to be writing the first October edition of the Free Press in blazing sunshine – it was summer in April, the monsoon season in August and now it’s summer again in October. Here’s something to take your mind off the elements.

Back to school for the IT curriculum
The IT curriculum in British schools has come in for a lot of criticism recently and quite rightly so. It’s boring and fairly pointless, going no way towards teaching children the skills they need to keep Britain at the forefront of programming and developing, a position it has historically held but is now in very real danger of allowing to slip away. As Eric Schimdt of Google said so famously:

I was flabbergasted to learn that today computer science isn’t even taught as a standard in UK schools. Your IT curriculum focuses on teaching how to use software, but gives no insight into how it’s made. That is just throwing away your great computer heritage.

There are a number of approaches that would solve this problem. Teaching coding is a good start, and this is the subject of a very tiny trial described in this article. This represents a move away from teaching computer-literacy to helping children develop a deeper understanding of computing, or in Willetts-speak:

[It] will transform the IT curriculum away from computer literacy, which we believe many young people can do earlier, towards instead how they develop software and computational principles; how they can create their own programs.

With perfect timing, we came across this article on the value of IT degrees which opens:

Learning to code in your bedroom will prepare you for the IT job market just as well as a three-year degree costing £27,000.


Open your eyes to Open Source
This Guardian article about Moorfields Eye Hospital’s OpenEyes program is a prime example of how and why open source works. A group of medics at Moorfields, feeling that patients’ and their own requirements weren’t being met by “disparate electronic systems, imaging devices, emails and paper notes”, has collaborated on OpenEyes,

a collaborative, open source electronic patient record (EPR) project for opthalmology

OpenEyes has the advantage of

the potential to save several million pounds over three years as a result of improved efficiencies and the reduced amount spent on storage, fire protection and transportation of paper notes

The article is well worth reading, not least for a discussion of the place of open source in reducing NHS costs. We give the last word to Bill Aylward, consultant ophthalmic surgeon at Moorfields, talking about the role of open source over proprietary systems in providing tools to meet the NHS’ requirements:

“I think the commercial model is not one that is suitable to deliver it in my view, or at least it’s had its chance and failed. If you throw £11bn at a problem and commercial companies give it their best shot and fail, that’s telling you something.”

The end of the web as we know it?
Is more or less the title of this article about the power of social media giants such as Facebook to affect levels of traffic to your site. The article begins with a useful run-down of how different types of hosting allow differing levels of control over your own site and is worth a read for that alone. It goes on to explain how social media influences traffic, people’s behaviour and therefore the number of visits to your site. It’s interesting, informative, thought-provoking and rather scary. You may want to follow it up with this article on how to lock down your Facebook settings.

The Green Bit

h.Energy Week
15th-23rd October is h.Energy week. We’ll be taking part at the exhibition at The Courtyard from 4-10pm on Monday 17th October, with an emphasis on energy-efficient computing, but able to advise on any hosting or computing queries you have. October’s GreenLight meeting is on Thursday 20th, to fit in with h.Energy, and will have an energy-efficiency theme. Visit the GreenLight site to find out more.

Other bits and pieces that have caught our eye recently include:

  • Should you let employees work from home? This infographic helps you decide…
  • Nerdy day trips
  • The infinite USB port
And lastly, a little something from Dilbert, but you’ll have to visit the official site to see it. Doesn’t it make you feel old?

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