The start of every term is always busy for primary schools and September, the start of a new school year, is especially busy, so many teachers will still just be getting to grips with the new National Curriculum and the new Computing curriculum in particular. Whilst there are many new elements to this new subject, there are also many areas that would have been covered by the old ICT curriculum so teachers will be familiar with some elements and have materials that may fit the new objectives.
One element that is relatively new is the area of coding which is covered in the Computer Science section of the Computing curriculum. Some teachers will remember teaching algorithms through the use of Logo and using floor turtles that required a set of instructions to be entered to move it around obstacles or around the floor. Screen versions of this were also used. However, to many teachers this will be a new area and may give them some cause for concern.
At EducationCity, we have been busy producing new resources to cover this area and there are also some freely available resources for organisations such as CAS. Where schools have not already made choices about which resources to purchase, they need to look very carefully at what is available to make sure that the resources not only meet the relevant objectives but are also engaging for children to use.
We have developed Code Crunch to meet the demands of this area of learning, it is an engaging student tool that takes children through the process of learning about algorithms in an intuitive and engaging way.
Although much of the press coverage around the new Computing curriculum has focussed on the coding element, it is important for schools to recognise that this is only one element within one section and that the Digital Literacy and Information Technology sections are just as important.
Coding is an area that is important to introduce to primary age children so they gain an early understanding of what it entails but awareness of digital technology and its power in all forms is probably more important still.
The importance of the objectives in this area speaks for themselves. Children need to be aware of the ever increasing uses of technology in the world around them, but more importantly, need to be taught how to use technology safely and respectfully in order for them and others to stay safe.
As with many areas, teachers will need to use their resources carefully, making sure they hit the objectives head on and are tailored to the ages of the children they teach. In the area of safe use of the internet and social networking sites, schools need to ensure they have a policy and that teachers are vigilant when finding areas of misuse. There is ample advice around on this from the DfE, other agencies and local authorities. EducationCity also offers advice to schools on issues like this through their education and customer support teams. EducationCity has developed a range of Learn Screens, Activities and Tools to help with this important area. Each Activity comes with a Lesson Plan, Teacher Notes and in many cases, a follow-up Activity Sheet. We also have a range of ThinkIts linked to this area that are free to our subscribing schools.
This section contains elements that teachers will be familiar with and have taught within the old ICT curriculum. It is important for children from an early age to realise the potential of 'Information Technology' in their learning and when and how it is best to use it. Availability of devices so that children can choose when to use IT for a specific task will remain an issue until there is a 1-2-1 ratio of devices to children within our schools. However, that doesn’t stop teachers from advising children that there are times when the use of IT can be extremely useful, not only to complete a piece of work, but also to present their findings. Again, teachers need to be selective about the choices of resources for this important area as this is the area that will potentially pervade all areas of the curriculum. Having the right kinds of technology to enable children to make the choice and also engaging resources that teach them when and how to use them, are equally important. An understanding of the various kinds of technology and how they work together is important from an early age and will aid children’s overall understanding of its potential both now and in the future.
As with the Digital Learning section, EducationCity has developed a range of resources that meet the objectives of the Computing curriculum in an engaging and informative way. Lesson Plans and Activity Sheets save teachers time and effort and can be built into whole school planning. Using commercially produced resources alongside freely available resources can keep costs down. Other areas of support, such as the BBC Learning website can be very useful. In 2015 the BBC will focus on ‘Making it Digital’ so both the ‘Bitesize’ and the new ‘iWonder’ websites will be worth keeping an eye on. There are also links to high quality commercially produced resources that have been through a rigorous process to be mentioned on the ‘Linking Out’ area. Using the BBC resources alongside EducationCity would be a very useful way of meeting the requirements of the Computing curriculum in a cost effective and value for money way.
Don’t forget that Computing is only one of a number of subjects alongside other Foundation subjects and the Core subjects, but there are areas within the Computing curriculum that can have beneficial impacts across the whole curriculum. Be selective in your choice of resources and work with companies that offer good customer support, both in terms of extra advice and high quality engaging activities for children. I’m sure that you as teachers are, as always, taking on board the new elements of the Computing curriculum and enhancing both your teaching and children’s learning through a better overall understanding of the true value of digital technology in schools.