Computing Skills Crisis

Britain faces ‘growing shortage’ of digital skills – The Telegraph, July 2014

IT skills shortage still tops the technology agenda – Computer Weekly, November 2013

TIGA Warns Of UK Skills Shortage – Gamasutra, August 2010

Anyone involved in the computing or IT industry has been aware of this type of story that has been headlining the popular press in recent years, and although measures have been put in place to help close the skills gap, a serious omission is likely to compound the problem.

Where are the skilled educators to deliver courses to fill the IT skills gap?

Qualifications authorities can develop new courses designed to offer skills needed for the next generation of IT professionals, but who is going to teach the courses? Teaching is an aging profession. For many it has been a ‘job for life’, meaning that there is an aging population of lecturers, and there is a serious lack of newcomers to the profession. While the long holidays may have been an attractant in the past, any current trained software developer or network engineer is unlikely to be attracted by the salary of the average college or university lecturer.

£75,000 is not an unusual salary for a skilled software developer whose skills are in demand. That is almost twice the salary of a college or university lecturer, so who could blame the IT professional for remaining in their current job?

At a recent meeting of college computing managers the topic of retiring staff and the inability to recruit new staff was raised. Several college managers voiced their concerns that core skills would be lost and could not be replaced. Other managers complained of the lack of time and funding to train their current staff, with colleges already strapped for cash and under increasing budget constraints.

Another story from the education sector has staff complaining to college management about the lack of development time and training, but being told they weren’t a ‘special case’. Their argument is that it is unfair that lecturers in other disciplines, that are not subject to the rapid change of technology, do not suffer the same pressures as those in computing.

Indeed, what has changed in mathematics in the past 20 years, compared to computing? In 20 years we’ve seen the Internet, the Web, apps, mobile, C#, Python, virtual reality, cyber security, big data and countless new technologies that directly impact on education. How can anyone keep up with this rate of change and be adequately prepared to teach it?

It’s about time that someone with serious political clout addressed the issue lest Scotland become a digital backwater instead of the powerhouse it is hoped to become.



William Wallace comic book

December 15, 2015 Leave a comment

Over the past 9 months I’ve been working on my second comic book, Wallace and Moray: Guardians of Scotland. Now the comic is ready for printing and release on March 5th at Dunfermline Comic Con.

The graphic novel tells the origin stories of William Wallace and Andrew de Moray, and how they joined forces at the battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297.

I’ve both written and illustrated the book myself this time, spending a lot of time both in the creation and the research. I felt it was necessary to ensure accuracy as much as possible as other depictions of historical characters have often failed to hit the mark. However, it has been necessary to exercise artistic license in some areas, where there is a lack of historical evidence or conflicting accounts.

Read more on the Scotsman newspaper Heritage section.

The current comic is still available from, and both will be available from in March 2016.


Categories: Uncategorized

After Effects Workshop 2

After Effects Workshop 1

The following are additional materials and further reading for my After Effects introduction workshop.

Green screen tutorial

Removing a green background and compositing with other images to create an animated flying carpet scene.

Keyframes and motion

The following video is a good demonstration of what can be achieved using keyframes for motion in After Effects, including Easy Ease, Hold Keyframes, the Speed Graph and 3D positioning.

Keylight Manual

The above tutorials only cover the basics of using Keylight, but this manual provides a guide to all of the features of this popular plugin.

Keylight Manual for After Effects (pdf)

Manuals and practice videos

48 Hour Animation Jam

March 16, 2015 Leave a comment

This past weekend was spent at the 48 Hour Animation Jam in Glasgow, #theAniJam with a team of my students. Organised by animation company Smudge Digital, the event was held at the Citizen M hotel in Renfrew Street.

On Friday we drew a theme from a hat and ended up with ‘cheese’. We were also given a ‘clock’ as an object we needed to include in the film. We also saw the other 11 teams and heard which themes they’d drawn, which included ‘rock’, ‘air’ and ‘trip’.

Back in our room we took advantage of the wall-sized whiteboard to produce a mindmap and brainstorm ideas. We finally settled on the idea of ‘Say Cheese’ – the phrase associated with taking photographs. After throwing this idea around for a while we decided on creating a story about a family who try to take family portrait photographs, but fail each time. Set over the space of several years, the story shows the family growing up and ageing in each photograph, and each time something occurs that prevents the photograph from working. Our final film can be seen on Youtube. Please press the Thumbs Up icon to ‘like’ our film, Say Cheese!


By the Saturday and Sunday there was quite a sense of cameraderie in the hotel as each team worked on their animations. Teams happily wandered around, seeing what others were working on, chatting and sharing a beer or coffee.

By Sunday afternoon the pace was fierce, especially for the 3D animators who had found the deadline a serious challenge.

The 7pm deadline came round very quickly, but my team had most of the work complete well in advance, with some extra time at the end to create an animated credits scene. At 9pm we gathered at the Centre for Contemporary Arts to view all of the films, which were being shown at the awards ceremony of the Glasgow Short Film Festival. The screening had its share of laughs – sometime at the antics of the on-screen characters and sometimes at the poor quality animations. There was also some tears – sometimes from laughter, but also from those that had failed to complete their animations in time.

So now we look forward to the results of the judging on Monday 23rd of March.

The technical stuff:

The animation was created using mostly Adobe Photoshop, Flash and Premiere Pro. Most of the graphics were produced in Photoshop, with a few being created in Flash and Illustrator. The animation was assembled in Flash and exported as swf files. These files were then converted into mp4 format using Swivel. Sounds and music were created in Garage Band. Finally, the film was assembled and edited in Adobe Premiere Pro, where the sound and visuals were combined.

The team at work

The team at work


Film screening at CCA

Film screening at CCA

CAS Conference Resources: HTML + CSS

November 23, 2014 Leave a comment

Here are the resources for my session at the Computing at School (Scotland) Conference 2014 & also the Education Scotland events in November /December 2014.

HTML/CSS resources (zip)

There are additional resources in the zip file that I didn’t have time to cover during the session, however these contain notes on how to use them.

Here’s a good ‘story’ that explains computational thinking in a non-computing way – Searching to Speak (pdf)

Game Development with Javascript – webinar and resources

Some delegates at the conference also had a go of the Oculus Rift Virtual Reality headset that I brought along – see their reactions in the video below! I’m looking for ideas on how the headset can be used in education. I f you have any ideas, then please leave a comment or get in touch.

Education Scotland Higher Computing Science Support Event

Notes and resources from my presentation at the Education Scotland National Qualifications support event for Higher Computing Science on Thursday 29th May 2014.

Text Tools

Learn to code websites

EnchantJS Resources


Presentation [Google Drive]

Tasks to go with the example files [Google Drive]

Zip file containing all of the examples from the presentation.