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Ask an adult in the Guardian

Ask a grown-up: where is the internet?

Google engineering director Mike Warriner answers six-year-old Millie’s question

Mike Warriner

Google’s Mike Warriner. Illustration: GNM Imaging

 

Every time you do something on the internet, your request travels to a group of special computers inside huge air-conditioned buildings known as data centres. There are many thousands of these around the world, and each computer holds a part of the internet – some may have pictures, emails or videos on them; others contain indexes, for example a “map” of where data can be found.

The network that connects the computers is what we call the internet. A company such as Google has hundreds of data centres – usually situated near water for cooling, electricity to keep the computers running and near to you – so that the internet is as fast as possible. The web is made up of 60 trillion pages, and it’s growing all the time. When you search for something, it could take 100 computers inside one data centre to understand your question, find possible answers and bring them back to you in a useful form – and generally all in less than a second.

 

Microsoft, Google and IBM to help train computing teachers

Original Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/microsoft-google-and-ibm-to-help-train-computing-teachers

Government announces 7 new programmes to train more than 45,000 computing teachers.

Top computing firms including Microsoft, Google and IBM are joining forces with the government to train more than 45,000 teachers ahead of the introduction of the rigorous new computing curriculum in September – equivalent to around 2 teachers for every school in England.

It is the latest scheme to complement more than £3 million worth of support from the Department for Education (DfE) to schools. So far nearly 7,000 teachers have already received training from the network of 400 ‘master teachers’ established by the British Computer Society (BCS), while Computing at School (CAS) is running workshops to help train primary teachers. There are currently more than 15,000 IT teachers in secondary schools.

This latest project sees DfE and leading tech firms, alongside organisations including the BCS, University of Hertfordshire, Code Club and Oxford University, funding 7 new training projects.

These initiatives will provide a mix of national conferences, 1-day events, individual training sessions, and resources including 2 computing curriculum guidance books for every secondary school in England.

The projects are the result of a £500,000 match fund launched by DfE in February. Industry groups and computing organisations were invited to submit proposals for training projects that would be match-funded by the government.

Microsoft provided £284,000 for a joint project with the BCS and CAS to expand a network of computing hubs and schools to provide training for 30,000 primary teachers and 12,000 secondary teachers.

Another project is backed by £52,500 from Oxford University’s philosophy and computer science faculties, the university’s Van Houten Fund and a private philanthropist. This scheme will provide resources and offer training to secondary school teachers in how to use 2 popular software systems, developed at Oxford, that will help them run coding and computer science lessons for students.

The match fund programme is the latest initiative by the government working with the computer industry to ensure teachers at primary and secondary level have the right support and are equipped with the skills they need to teach the new curriculum.

Education Minister Elizabeth Truss said:

Our new computing curriculum will excite children about the endless potential of technology and give them the skills they need to make that technology work for them. That’s vital in the 21st century and could help them go on to create the next big app.

But great teachers are a key part of this and that’s why we are continuing to work with the industry and computer experts to invest in our teachers and make sure they are ready to open up this exciting world to our children.

The new, more demanding computing curriculum was drawn up in conjunction with teachers and experts including the BCS and the Royal Academy of Engineering, with input from Microsoft, Google and leaders in the computer games industry.

The new forward-thinking curriculum, which is already being taught in some schools, will teach children the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century and make computers work for them.

Starting in primary school, children will be taught how to code, create programmes and understand how a computer works. In secondary school, they will learn even more complex skills such as how to use at least 2 programming languages to solve computational problems.

Michel Van der Bel, Managing Director of Microsoft UK, said:

Young people have grown up with technology at their fingertips and they have a natural enthusiasm for it. But if we want the next technology success story to be based in Britain, then we need teachers who have the right skills and the confidence to encourage, support and enable them to do so.

Industry support is vital to help bring the curriculum to life, which is why Microsoft has partnered with the Computing At School group to deliver a series of personal training sessions and to develop a suite of online training materials as teachers get ready for those first lessons.

Mike Warriner, UK Engineering Director at Google, said:

The UK has a proud computing history, but with more and more industries wanting computer scientists, coding has never been in more demand. It’s great that teachers will be trained with the skills they need to teach children from a young age and hopefully inspire the next generation of developers and programmers.

We’re passionate about this area too and we have already donated £120,000 to Code Club as well as around £1,000,000 over the last year to support other organisations like Teach First and the Raspberry Pi Foundation to help education experts bring computer science skills to more children in the UK.

The first 7 projects range from major national projects helping thousands of teachers around the country to programmes which will provide bespoke, personalised training to teachers across London.

The projects are:

  • the BCSCAS and Microsoft will create another 100 CAS hubs, where teachers and lecturers meet to share ideas for developing the teaching of computing in schools, and another 250 lead schools for their Network of Excellence to train teachers across England. This brings the total of hubs and lead schools to 200 and 500 respectively, allowing them to help up to 30,000 primary teachers and 12,000 secondary teachers understand how they can go about designing, developing and delivering their own teaching and learning resources for the new computing curriculum. DfEhas provided £150,000 for this project with a further £284,000 provided by Microsoft
  • Edge Hill University will use its funding to develop teacher training resources and deliver 4 national conferences as well as 80 full-day training events for a network of at least 400 teachers across 4,000 primary and secondary schools. DfE has provided £49,316 with £10,000 provided by Rising Stars and £39,316 from Promethean
  • the project funded by Oxford University, will help teachers and pupils in bridging the gap between block-based programming languages and code-based languages such as Java or Python, which are used by industry. It will offer training to 170 Computing At School master teachers in 2 complementary software systems – the Turtle System and GeomLab. Those master teachers will then share that training with more than 750 secondary school teachers. Resources including an online web community will also be provided. Oxford University’s faculties of computer science and philosophy, the university’s Van Houten Fund and a private philanthropist have provided a total of £52,500, which has been matched by £52,500 from DfE
  • Code Club Pro will train nearly 3,000 primary teachers through a national programme of computing teacher training. Volunteer expert trainers and teachers who have received an additional 16 hours of training will be recruited to run it. Google has provided £10,000 for the project alongside £25,000 from ARM, £10,000 from Postcode Anywhere, and £41,314 from DfE
  • the University of Hertfordshire will provide every secondary school in England with at least 2 hard copies of a comprehensive secondary computing curriculum guidance document, as well as access to an online version of the guidance provided as an eBook. This will be the first time free resources of this type will have been delivered to all secondary schools. The project is funded by £15,000 from the Raspberry Pi Foundation and £15,000 from DfE
  • the London Connected Learning Centre (CLC) will provide tailored computing teacher training to 10 primary and secondary schools. Computer scientists and other technologists will also lead seminars at the schools to help teachers better understand how computing is used so they can put the subject into a real-world context for students. Resources will then be shared with more than 60 schools in the CLC’s London network. The project has been backed with £15,000 from IBM and £15,000 from DfE funding
  • Beautiful Education will provide personalised training programmes for 30 teachers at 10 secondary schools in Hackney to help build up the skills they need to deliver the new curriculum. The Hackney Learning Trust has provided £15,000 for the programme which has been matched by the DfE

In total, the organisations have provided £426,500, alongside £338,000 from DfE.

Introducing children to computing and coding from an early age is all part of the government’s long-term plan to ensure young people have the first-class education they need to succeed, and make sure Britain leads the global race in innovation.

These latest projects will complement ongoing work by government to train teachers in how to deliver the new curriculum.

These include:

  • providing the BCS with more than £2 million to set up a network of 400 ‘master teachers’ to train teachers in other schools and provide resources for use in the classroom
  • providing £1.1 million to Computing at School to help train primary teachers already working in the classroom through online resources and school workshops
  • increasing bursaries for those wanting to become computing teachers. Scholarships of £25,000 – backed by Microsoft, Google, IBM and Facebook – are being offered to computer science teachers

A second round of bidding has now opened for organisations to bid for further grants from the programme. Bidders must have sponsors willing to provide at least 50% of funding for projects. This will be matched by DfE.

Successful bids must demonstrate how their support will have a positive impact on the quality of teaching of computing in schools. Innovative and creative solutions are encouraged. For details of how to bid go to theContracts Finder or Funding Central websites.

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Engineering is key to Britain’s future, not just its past

Original: http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/mar/03/engineering-is-key-to-britains-future-google-uk

The UK’s engineering skillsbase is lagging behind Slovenia and Romania, argues Google UK’s engineering director, Mike Warriner. How can the UK inspire a new generation of talent?

child coding a computer game
The UK is facing an urgent shortage of engineering and technical skills, which has seen the government introduce computer science to the schools curriculumPhotograph: Kevin Jarrett/flickr

Since the industrial revolution, Britain has been a cradle of invention. From railways connecting our cities to the world wide web connecting our globe, Britain can take pride in its part in the development of many of the technologies that have transformed our lives.

Even at the dawn of the technological revolution – from radio and television to the computer – Britain was playing a key role. But in recent years, the most significant technological innovations have happened elsewhere. Today, as more and more of us are learning what technology can do and how to use it, fewer people are learning how to build it.

The reality is that for all Britain’s proud heritage, we’re not as good as we were at nurturing the skills and talent that are needed to be at the leading edge of innovation. That needs to change.

Computer science as a skill is declining, and Britain is falling behind. The UK currently ranks 32nd globally in terms of the percentage of population that are computer engineers, lagging behind Slovenia and Romania. In fact, there has been a near 60% decline in the number of people taking computer science A-Level since 1998.

Technology breakthroughs can’t happen without the engineers to build them. And I’m not just talking about tech companies like Google. As an engineering company we will always need talented engineers, but technology is no longer the sole preserve of start-ups and software companies. Companies from architecture to manufacturing are using and relying on technology to run their businesses. This, in turn, creates jobs and value to the economy: digital employers hire 15% more people on average than those who are not digital. By 2015, there will be an estimated 900,000 unfilled ICT positions in the EU.

Britain today does not lack for smart people with the potential to lead the next wave of invention. At Google in London, I’m lucky enough to sit among some of the brightest technological minds in the world.

Like many of my colleagues, my own interest in computers started from a young age, long before I was thinking about career options. Since I was four, I’ve been fascinated with how things work – pulling things apart and then putting them back together again. I’ve introduced my son and daughter to coding too and they love playing with Scratch, a free programming language for creating your own games.

I want to see more children across the country excited about computer science, but to make this happen we need to start early. If we can get children interested and give them the help they need to turn these skills into a career, we’ll end up with more computer scientists. Google work with many partners from Raspberry Pi, to Young Rewired State, to Code Club and Teach First who get young people exposed to, and involved with, programming.

This week we’re also celebrating Hour of Code which aims to persuade as many students and their parents as possible to try computer coding for at least 60 minutes during that week. We know you can’t learn to code in an hour. Like most skills, it’s not that easy. But you can spark interest and excitement in an hour and there are lots of organisations ready to support children to take the next step after that.

Thanks to initiatives like these, the UK today is beginning to close the gap in tech skills. Computer science is coming on to the primary school curriculum for the first time in September, making the UK one of only two G20 countries to make this investment. This is a fantastic development but it’s also a huge challenge. More than 200,000 teachers will be affected by the curriculum changes. That gives us about six months to get them ready. We’re working with Code Club Pro to launch the first teacher-training scheme of its kind, but much more needs to be done to equip teachers with the skills they need to inspire the next generation of programmers and developers.

We want to see more ground-breaking technology invented right here in Britain. To do that, we need to continue to invest in computer science education and help students, teachers and parents understand its importance in our lives.

We need to make sure innovation is part of the UK’s future and not just our history.

• Mike Warriner is UK engineering director of Google