Programme development executive Laura Martin talks about Ukie's push into improving computing education across the UK

Ukie’s Digital Schoolhouse programme is the trade body’s answer to the UK skills gap, aiming to teach children about computing and video games by bringing industry expertise together with teachers to reach children at a young age.

This means Laura Martin, a programme development executive working at Ukie on Digital Schoolhouse, has a more unusual role in education than the university lecturers we usually feature, but she has a unique insight into the problems with computing education across the country, and how they can be solved.

Building for the future

“Our aim is to bridge the gap between industry and education to help the digital skills deficit and prepare the next generation for jobs in the future,” says Martin. “The programme aims to engage students and teachers through the computing curriculum.”

The UK is a video games powerhouse, but our computing education at a primary level still isn’t where it needs to be to take care of the skills deficit in video game and programming jobs in the country.

So why games? Martin answers: “We use games because a lot of students, and people in general, have a basic instinct to play. It’s diverse, because games appeal to all genders, ethnicities and backgrounds. It engages with all students equally.”

The Digital Schoolhouse programme puts teachers into classrooms to talk about and experiment with play.

The world of technology moves so quickly that the programme could even be preparing students for jobs that don’t even exist yet. Meaning that the Digital Schoolhouse has to think about how to futureproof students when the concepts being taught don’t exist.

“With our workshops, rather than teaching a student programming on a computer first, we do an unplugged activity that doesn’t involve technology, which establishes the concepts, and then hopefully they can adapt those lessons to whatever happens in the future.”

Digital Schoolhouse isn’t just trying to futureproof students. It’s looking to grow itself, too. Martin hopes that the project could go international in the next 18 to 24 months: “As more and more schools join the programme, the more our brand is recognised.

“Word-of-mouth from local schools helps us grow. They’re great ambassadors for the programme and as soon as they tell their colleagues and other schools in the area about us, they want to get involved too.”

Laura Martin is the programme development executive for Ukie’s Digital Schoolhouse programme, focusing on closing the digital skills gap between education and industry. She is new to the video games industry but with a background in events and training for not-for-profit organisations, including Hope For Children. Improving education for the better is a common goal in her career to date. Most recently, Martin has delivered the National Esports Tournament 2018 and was listed in The GamesIndustry.biz 100 Future Talent (UK).

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