New Year Honours: Isle of Man computer bus pioneer awarded BEM – BBC News


imageNew Year Honours: Isle of Man computer bus pioneer awarded BEM Published

31 December 2021

Image source, IOM GOV Image caption, Alex Townsend taught lessons on the computer bus for 22 years A pioneering teacher who helped tens of thousands of children on the Isle of Man learn computer skills has been recognised in the New Year Honours.

Known as “the computer bus man”, Alex Townsend has been awarded the British Empire Medal.

The 62-year-old said the accolade was a tribute to everyone who had “embraced what they learned” from the project.

Castletown Commissioner Colin Leather and Tynwald Sword Bearer Bernadette Williams were both appointed MBE.

Ms Williams has been honoured for her 40 years of service to the Royal British Legion and her role as the official bearer of the ancient Sword of State at the annual open air sitting of Tynwald, which she has carried out for the past 25 years.

Image source, STEVE BABB Image caption, Bernadette Williams has been the Sword Bearer at Tynwald Day for 25 years Mr Leather has been recognised for his “long service to the community” of the town, after serving as board chairman on six occasions, secretary of the Castletown Festival for 30 years, and spending more than a decade fundraising for the Southern 100 Club.

Paying tribute to those he had worked with over the years, he said although he was “utterly shocked” to receive the award, he had not been “just a one man band”.

The 76-year-old said together they had worked to recognise the heritage of the town, while “bringing it into the 21st century” by attracting businesses to the town.

His ambition had always been to “really get the town to gel together to be something that the people could be really proud of”, he added.

Image source, IOM GOV Image caption, Colin Leather has been involved in activities in Castletown for more than 40 years Mr Townsend headed a project to convert a single-decker bus into a mobile classroom, which visited the island’s primary schools for 22 years.

Launched in 1998, it was used to teach about 100,000 students IT skills including design work, filmmaking and coding.

He said his initial vision to help children to “learn the creative use of computers” at a time when the internet was in its infancy had lasted more than two decades “despite some predictions it would only last six weeks”.

In 2014 he was recognised on a list of “pioneers” who had made a “profound impact” with the use of technology giant Apple’s computers.

Mr Townsend retired from the role in April 2020 at the same time as the bus itself was retired from service .

He said: “This honour recognises and is a tribute to all of the teachers and the countless young people on this island, who embraced what they learned on the bus itself and in the associated training sessions.

“To them, those that backed it in the beginning and the many others who in one way or another kept the computer bus wheels turning, a very big personal thank you from me.”

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