BBC revisits the Computer Literacy Project

September 2, 2014 | 11:17

Tags: #bbc-micro #computer-literacy-project #education

Companies: #bbc

The BBC has re-entered the realm of computing education, some 30 years after its last major initiative, with the provision of programming content designed for children as young as five.

The BBC has long offered free educational content, from programmes to lesson plans and interactive features on its website, but its interest in teaching users to compute can be traced back to the 1980s. Following increasing interest in home computing, previously impossible due to the high cost and extreme complexity of computing hardware of the day, the BBC signed an agreement with Chris Curry's Cambridge-based start-up Acorn to build a microcomputer dubbed the BBC Micro. This system, featuring the BBC BASIC programming language, became the heart of the BBC's home computing output as part of the broadcaster's Computer Literacy Project.

While the project had its detractors, in particular those who believed the partnership with Acorn was a breach of the BBC's non-commercial charter and a considerable detriment to rival companies like Curry's former employer Sinclair, it proved a huge success. Hand-in-hand with the UK governments Computers in Schools programme, it drove adoption of home computing and raised a generation of children comfortable with programming.

Three decades later, the BBC is back on the Computer Literacy agenda - but this time without the questionable commercial tie-up. The broadcaster has published programming and computing study guides, quizzes and various other support materials as part of its Bitesize educational programme. These will be joined later in the year with technology-themed TV programmes, including a Newsround spin-off dubbed Technobabble and a new series of kid-friendly science show Nina and the Neurons subtitled Go Digital.

The educational material is live on the BBC Education site now, with the TV content to appear later in the year.
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