Computing: Are you ready?


The programmes of study for the new computing curriculum will come into force in September 2014. ICT teacher James Dent looks at how professionals and schools in his area are preparing.

It is an exciting time for ICT and computer science teaching professionals. There are lots of opportunities to try new ideas, enhance subject knowledge, develop teaching pedagogy and gain support for the subject. 

We are already doing some innovative things within the existing ICT curriculum, including aspects from digital literacy, computer science and ICT.

In Hertfordshire, formal meetings of ICT teachers appear to have come to an end. However, we’ve continued to meet up through the local Computing at School (CAS) Hub, where we share ideas and develop subject knowledge and pedagogy on an informal basis.

We are getting to a point now that local hubs are emerging with various people co-ordinating events across the region. It has been splendid to have primary and secondary colleagues together at the same time, comparing teaching of the subject across key stages.

ICT teachers everywhere have been preparing for the curriculum changes for a while now. In Hertfordshire, we have set up a “local ICT curriculum group” with the initial remit to develop an effective key stage 3 ICT curriculum.

This initiative has prompted colleagues outside of teaching to become interested and we are fortunate to have some people from industry involved in development of the curriculum too. Overall, it is a bit like a “Wiki curriculum” as most of the development is over the web in collaboration with others. Many of the high-quality resources and teaching materials we use already will sit effectively within this new curriculum.

During a recent hub meeting, we had a discussion around the draft computing programme of study (the consultation for which ended earlier this month) with mixed reviews. Fortunately we have been monitoring draft copies of the programme of study as a group in order to support development of the local curriculum.

Over the past few years, many of us have been forced to deliver ICT qualifications that have more to do with points rather than prizes. As such, we believe that it will be important to choose and teach qualifications that suit the young people in our schools, ensure their progress, and that we are sufficiently prepared to teach.

There are some really good support materials out there for the suite of computer science qualifications that are popping up. There are lots of hardware initiatives about too, such as Raspberry Pi, Arduino and Senseboard. These are all excellent support for teaching, learning and development of our subject – and for generating enthusiasm for future study.

Fortunately, groups like CAS and the Network of Excellence are also putting on training sessions ensuring that we are prepared to teach our subject well and that we have the right tools for the job.

It is important that we embrace technology we already have available to us in school and ensure young people can be creative and exploiters of technology. There are lots of solutions available to enable programming in school. Furthermore, those of you that have been teaching for a while might find many of the resources that you have used in the past worth revisiting.

A few weeks ago a colleague provided me with Making Logo Work from 1988. It had some superb “fundamental programming” and Turtle-style practical activities to try out. This resource has provided the inspiration to develop some great, effective and straightforward programming activities to try in school.

Most ICT teachers have carried out some form of programming at one point or other, whether it is Scratch or Visual Basic in Excel (creating shapes is a good way of introducing basic programming concepts).

Elsewhere, many schools are experiencing interest around the computer science agenda from outside of teaching. This is something we must embrace. A few schools have started Raspberry Pi clubs and have had parents and people from industry wanting to show young people what they have been up to with their Raspberry Pi and provide them with guidance. We are busy people – any additional support to get to grips with technology must never be turned away.

Gifted and talented students also have lots of great opportunities in our subject, including competitions and schemes, such as the Manchester University Animation Competition, Apps for Good, Digital Leaders, Mozilla Badges, Raspberry Pi Jams and more. It is amazing to see some of the talent that is showcased through these excellent initiatives.

Our subject is always changing and always will. This is the reason why most of us choose to teach it. We just need to “carry on regardless”, always ensuring young people make great progress.

  • James Dent is associate head of IT at Richard Hale School in Hertfordshire. He is also a member of Hertfordshire and Borders Computing at School Hub. 

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