Programming in High Schools

By | 18/11/2010

I’ve just finished writing a proposal for using Unreal Development Kit (UDK) to help teach programming in High Schools. The visual scripting tool within UDK, called Kismet, provides a solid visual introduction to programming logic. As i was writing the proposal I came across the following quote by Douglas Rushkoff’s when he was researching his new book “Program or Be Programmed, full article here:


“Just last year, while researching a book on America’s digital illiteracy, I met with the Air Force General then in charge of America’s cybercommand. He said he had plenty of new recruits ready and able to operate drones or other virtual fighting machines – but no one capable of programming them, or even interested in learning how. He wasn’t even getting recruits who were ready to begin basic programming classes. Meanwhile, he explained to me, colleges in Russia, China, and even Iran were churning out an order of magnitude more programmers than universities in the US. It is only a matter of time, he said – a generation at most – until our military loses its digital superiority.”

predator-uav army-uav-xbox-controller

I used to work as a programmer in the UK defense industry, and I can tell you that programming kit like that is a lot more interesting than just using it. We have the same problem here in the UK as in the USA with too many pupils taking Information Technology courses and learning how to ‘use’ software, rather than Computer Science courses in which they learn to ‘make’ the software. So I’ve been working on a proposal to use UDK to teach programming to high schools pupils: rather than playing games they can make them, using the same tools which are used to make the games they play, and pick up some ‘real’ skills on they way.