More computing ideas...

Written by: Lauren Hyams | Published:
Hands-on: Pupils during a Code Club Pro workshop (Photo: Code Club Pro)

Continuing our focus on the computing curriculum, Lauren Hyams from the not-for-profit Code Club Pro explores the new-look subject and offers some practical suggestions for the classroom

At Code Club Pro, we have found that once teachers understand the language and core concepts of the new computing curriculum, they are really excited about it. There is so much scope for creativity in computing, you do not even need to use a computer to learn about some of the key concepts.

What is more, some teachers are surprised to hear that only one third of the computing curriculum is new. Many parts of the old ICT curriculum are in the new curriculum, so there is still a lot of information you will already be comfortable with.

"Computational thinking" is also a useful cross-curricular tool as it teaches children vital skills like critical-thinking and how to solve problems, which can help them with a range of other subjects.

Here are some ideas to help you engage with your pupils in the computing classroom.

Use real examples

The language found in the computing curriculum can feel daunting, but a lot of terms are simple to explain if you use real examples. An algorithm for example, is just a set of instructions to achieve a particular outcome. It seems a lot less complicated (and more fun!) when the algorithm is to make the perfect jam sandwich.

Download the Algorithm lesson plan on making the perfect jam sandwich (http://code-it.co.uk/resources/sandwich_algorithm.pdf) and watch the video (http://bit.ly/1zLgESb).

Be playful

Teaching computer science often means programming through play and it is a subject that lends itself really well to hands-on learning. The teachers we spoke to in our pilot training really enjoyed the practical bits of our training. There's lot of fun options you can find online (Google: "MaKey MaKey, the banana piano, this works with Scratch").

Start with scratch

Using a software program like Scratch means children can create animations and stories that mimic the structure of computer code. Kids can then start coding straight away without theory to grapple with beforehand.

Cross and extra-curricular

There are lots of ways to integrate the computing curriculum into other topic areas. Part of the history curriculum asks for historical events after 1066 for example and Britons have been instrumental in developing communications and the internet. An interesting class project could be learning about morse code, binary and the internet. Encourage parents to engage and share learning with their child too. If parents are feeling daunted by it, they can learn with their kids.

A case study

Pipers Corner School, an independent day school for girls aged four to 18 in High Wycombe, wanted to ensure school staff were confident in teaching the new ICT elements of the curriculum. This included tackling programming software such as Scratch in order to be able to implement it as part of their classroom practice.

Staff wanted to understand the breadth and depth of the new coding addition. While there was a general familiarity with programming, teachers were still unsure as to how little or vast their knowledge should be.

It was important for them to understand what good practice looked like in each of the school's year groups, and what the government's expectations were for that knowledge.

David Leith, head of prep department at Pipers Corner, explained: "The methodical thinking that coding requires lent itself nicely to other important areas of the curriculum. We found learning about thinking skills and problem-solving particularly useful. Coding skills also lent themselves to specific subjects such as maths, science and even PSHE. That methodology of deconstructing an issue and having systematic thoughts has had huge benefits. Someone told me that coding is to problem-solving what Latin is to languages and I think that's a really useful phrase in terms of underpinning a problem-solving approach."

Pipers Corner is running a Code Club as a lunchtime activity. It is now embedded into the curriculum for years 4, 5 and 6, so all teachers feel better equipped and have a better understanding of the curriculum, how they can deliver it, and how that progression can work through their year groups. Teachers are more qualified, and as a result, far more confident in coding.

Mr Leith continued: "Parents are kept updated too. We use a newsletter to keep them in the loop and the feedback has been incredibly positive – mostly due to the exposure to programming in a real-world context, the applied learning, and the external experience. The training we did with Code Club Pro was of real benefit – going through the fundamentals flushed out important questions and the more progressive issues as well. Some of our teachers learnt how to use Scratch for the first time."

The school has also been involved in a Google coding competition project to actively seek out women in the workplace for programming type roles.

  • Lauren Hyams is head of Code Club Pro – a not-for-profit organisation led by volunteers from the tech sector to help teachers demystify the computing curriculum.

Further information

Find out more about Code Club Pro's not-for-profit training and their four training modules on topics including demystifying the curriculum, key stage 1 computing, and key stage 2 programming at www.codeclubpro.org. There is a small charge for sessions to cover Code Club Pro's costs, but fees go straight back into their work to train teachers.







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