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Since March this year a group of children and adults have been meeting on Saturday afternoons in Douglas to develop their Computing skills, in particular how to program and control computers, how to create with computers, and how to innovate. So far the club has run courses and lectures on programming (in Scratch and Python), robotics, crypto-currency, 3D game development, Wordpress for websites, satellite communications… with volunteers from around the island providing their expertise whether as IT professionals or expert hobbyists. was set up by Owen Cutajar, with support from other technology enthusiasts, as somewhere to share knowledge - be that teaching people how to program, or helping each other with their own creative projects - inspired by Owen’s frustration at the modest technology coverage in his son’s school curriculum. The turnout at the first meeting was phenomenal, standing room only demonstrating a real demand from both adults and kids for an opportunity to learn more, and has grown from there.

So what makes it so compelling? Why are parents choosing to stay and learn with their children instead of dropping them off and going shopping? Why are very experienced IT developers spending their Saturdays helping others learn the most basic concepts of programming? Why are accountants, lawyers, civil servants, CSPs and many others with no professional role in IT amongst the regular attendees?

In three words, Imagination, Innovation, and Interaction. members are learning to create. Computing is one of the most creative disciplines in the world today - possibly the most creative in business, and creativity is addictive. Computing is also one of the most collaborative disciplines, its knowledgebase so broad that its existence is predicated on collaboration between a range of specialists, teamwork is essential for success. Collaborative creativity is inspiring and rewarding, the days of computing being a solo activity in the back bedroom are long past and the Internet has become a platform for global social interaction.

These factors mean that learning Computing in a positive environment such as is not only emotionally and intellectually rewarding, it also teaches the base skills required in many, maybe most, major industries. Collaboration is essential in the workplace and is often deprecated in schools where the focus is on individual performance. The social interaction skills developed in environments such as will stand their members in good stead for the rest of their working lives. Similarly imagination and innovation are essential to the competitive enterprise - gone are the days when we merely executed the processes and procedures laid down by management, today’s employees are expected to think, innovate and solve their work problems for themselves. In many organisations collaboration and innovation skills are the qualities which distinguish the high flyers and tomorrow’s leaders from the also-rans, and both need to be learned and nurtured in order to overcome our natural tendency to selfishness and conservatism.  

Obviously an understanding of Computing is also essential in modern business, with so much process executed through IT systems managers are dependent on their IT advisors unless they understand IT themselves and can imagine how new systems could be created, and many workers need good IT skills in order to do their jobs well.

Put like that it’s easy to see the attraction of It helps in developing social interaction and collaboration skills, it teaches creativity, empowers inspiration and innovation, and it’s fun - for both adults and children. Kids learn skills that will be essential in their adult lives, and adults learn more about the digital world in which they now have to function even if they left school before the PC was invented.

As the island looks towards an increasingly digital future, with a major part of our economic growth strategy dependent on e-somethingorother, initiatives such as will prove to be essential in equipping us to cope with that future. If you’re not attending yet perhaps you should be, simply to equip yourself for what lies ahead. You’ve probably heard the saying - The Geeks shall inherit the Earth.

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