I read so many computer / tech articles every week I thought I should share them in a more coherent way so for the last three weeks I’ve been blogging what I’ve been reading. Whenever I read something it invariably reminds me of something else I read so I usually add those in as well…
Table of Contents
- Delivering a culturally relevant computing curriculum: new guide for teachers (5 August 2021) Raspberry Pi blog
- UK ‘heading towards digital skills shortage disaster’ (22 March 2021) BBC News
- Quiz – Can you spot when you’re being phished? from Google
- Keeping old computers going costs government £2.3bn a year, says report (5 August 2021) BBC News
- Alan Turing £50 note binary puzzle (3 August 2021) Bank of England Museum
- Also from Twitter… mental models of file directory hierarchies among students, and using tech to track lost items.
- QR Codes Are Here to Stay. So Is the Tracking They Allow (26 July 2021) New York Times
- The voices of women in tech are still being erased (3 August 2021) MIT Technology Review
- Fun ways to transmit data… carrier pigeon internet protocol, broadband over wet string
- Short radio programmes about the contemporaneous history of computing (1988-2001) Waveguide, from the BBC
1. Delivering a culturally relevant computing curriculum: new guide for teachers (5 August 2021) Raspberry Pi blog
“…However, learning materials often reflect the historic stereotype that computing is a subject and career for White men. This includes how topics are presented, as well as the language and media assets chosen to introduce them. Learning materials that present this view of computing may prevent a diverse group of young people from engaging with them or identifying with the subject.” – from the linked 20-page PDF, “Culturally relevant and responsive computing in the classroom: A guide for curriculum design and teaching“.
2. UK ‘heading towards digital skills shortage disaster’ (22 March 2021) BBC News
Wide-ranging article covering the drop in IT-related GCSEs being taken, concerns about a lack of both basic digital literacy and more advanced technical skills for jobs, with additional sections on attending university versus vocational training and diversity in recruitment. Highlights a new (in March) 46-page PDF research report “Disconnected? Exploring the digital skills gap” from the Learning & Work Institute, commissioned by WorldSkills UK, and Enginuity.
According to the 4-minute video from Enginuity to accompany the report’s release the most in-demand skills are likely to be in Big Data, App and Web-Enabled Markets and the Internet of Things.
The Turing Institute and Raspberry Pi are partnering to provide a monthly seminar series on educating young people in AI, machine learning, and data science.
See also: Preparing for life in a digital world (2018) IEA, Netherlands
Findings from the IEA’s International Computer and Information Literacy Study (ICILS) 2018.
3. Quiz – Can you spot when you’re being phished? from Google
Give it a fake email address and it’ll show you some example emails. You pick whether it’s a phishing or legitimate one and it tells you what to look for. I scored highly… but not a perfect score.
Is this email phishing or legitimate? (email@example.com is the example address I gave them to play with). Answer at the end.
4. Keeping old computers going costs government £2.3bn a year, says report (5 August 2021) BBC News
“Some government digital services “fail to meet even the minimum cyber-security standards,” it adds, and data can not be properly extracted from them, making them “one of the greatest barriers” to civil service innovation.”
See also: Old-school computing: when your lab PC is ancient (1 June 2021) Nature – “It’s so old I can’t find any information about it on the Internet.”
5. Alan Turing £50 note binary puzzle (3 August 2021) Bank of England Museum
The BOE Museum tweeted “The new £50 polymer note features ticker tape depicting Alan Turing’s birthday in binary code. Think you can crack the code? Take our challenge to solve a cypher using binary code!” with a link to the puzzle in PDF form.
6. Also from Twitter… mental models of file directory hierarchies among students, and using tech to track lost items.
Mental models of file management hierarchy versus search (11 August 2021) Dr. Saavik Ford
An interesting thread from @saavikford after discovering that undergraduate students on their astrophysics programme struggle with file / directory systems, and that there seems to be a generational difference in the ways people store, categorise and search for information on computers.
A man recovers his scooter, impresses police with his use of tech to do so (10 August 2021) Dan Guido
A couple of Airtags attached to his scooter let @dguido track the location of his stolen scooter to a shop with a couple of Police officers for support “…and my two patrolmen get a parade of high fives from their peers. No one can remember the last time they solved an e-bike crime! I teach them all how to use Airtags.“
7. QR Codes Are Here to Stay. So Is the Tracking They Allow (26 July 2021) New York Times [Archive version: https://archive.is/gLkmj]
QR codes, which let you point a smartphone camera at them to open a web page or app, have been increasing in use throughout the pandemic allowing people to ‘sign in’ to a particular location for Covid tracing or to read a restaurant menu on their phone, select and order items and then pay for them – all without touching anything.
“But the spread of the codes has also let businesses integrate more tools for tracking, targeting and analytics, raising red flags for privacy experts. That’s because QR codes can store digital information such as when, where and how often a scan occurs. They can also open an app or a website that then tracks people’s personal information or requires them to input it.
As a result, QR codes have allowed some restaurants to build a database of their customers’ order histories and contact information. At retail chains, people may soon be confronted by personalized offers and incentives marketed within QR code payment systems.”
8. The voices of women in tech are still being erased (3 August 2021) MIT Technology Review
Technology historian / author Mar Hicks on the (literal) female voice belonging to voice actor Bev Standing which was being used without her permission by TikTok to provide the option to have video text read aloud. Other examples, particularly of women being removed from jobs after whistleblowing or not getting proper recognition for their work, illustrate some endemic problems for women in tech. Hicks wonders if the increase in films / books etc that correct the record of women’s contributions (e.g. Hidden Figures) can keep up with the pace of erasure.
9. Fun ways to transmit data… carrier pigeon internet protocol, broadband over wet string
Pigeon-powered Internet takes flight (2 January 2002) CNET
“One of the Internet’s most obscure technologies has come to life: transmitting network information by carrier pigeon.”
April Fool’s Day in 1990 led to the creation of a jokey technical standard for data communications using pigeons – RFC 1149 – IP over Avian Carriers. A decade later the Carrier Pigeon Internet Protocol was tested…
“The main reason for the long ping times was the neighbors’ pigeons,” (Vegard) Engen (one of the people involved) said. “They were out flying in the valley. When our pigeons were released, they did not want to go home. They would rather fly with the other pigeons.”
There are of course real examples of people using this by necessity, e.g. photographers in remote locations returning images by pigeons (known as a sneakernet).
Broadband over ‘wet string’ tested for fun (13 December 2017) BBC News
Two-metre lengths of string, soaked in salted water, managed to transmit data at speeds of 3.5 megabits per second. From the BBC’s write-up “The point of the experiment appears to have been purely to see if it was achievable.” Here’s the Twitter thread that kicked things off.
10. Short radio programmes about the contemporaneous history of computing (1988-2001) Waveguide, from the BBC
Waveguide was a radio show about radio which covered a wide range of topics (effects of sunspots on radio transmissions, the World Service, which frequencies were changing and when, the Radiophonic Workshop etc) including some relevant to computing history.
- Preparing Computers for the Year 2000 (released 17 December 1998) BBC Sounds – getting computers ready for the Millennium, when dates would change from 1997, 98, 99 to “00” in 2000.
- There are also programmes about listening to internet radio and 3G will soon bring the internet to your phone…
Previous “Computing in the news roundup and retrospective” editions
Answer to the Quiz
This one’s legitimate :)