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Computing in the Curriculum

EQUIPPING STUDENTS WITH SKILLS
FOR THE FUTURE

The technology industry is growing at a rate of 5.7%, providing an abundance of opportunities for students to gain workplace relevant skills.

Recent research from IDC says that a staggering 90% of UK jobs by 2015 will require computer skills. It’s important to arm students with the necessary skills they need and to teach computing disciplines with long term value to equip them for the future.

The Department for Education (DfE) has recently recognised the importance of computing in the curriculum, not only for the economic future of the UK, but to also enrich students’ lives and skill set and allow them to play an active role in a digitally led world. Which is why, from 2014, Computing will become part of the national curriculum across the UK.

Computing and ICT – what’s the difference?

According to a recent report endorsed by Microsoft and Google, Computer Science teaches students how to be an effective creator of computational tools (e.g. coding and programming) whilst ICT focuses on how to use them. Computing is about far more than just ‘computers as a technology’. And as suggested by Computer Scientist Edsger Dijkstra, “Computer Science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes.”

Computing in the curriculum – why is it so important?

In a recent Microsoft conference, Simon Peyton Jones, Chair of the Computing at School Group (CAS) brought forward that for too long the curriculum in schools has been heavily focused on how to use IT as opposed to regarding computing as its own discipline. Computing can no longer be seen as a ‘geek’s game’ as it’s a fundamental component to enhance and develop workplace relevant skills for students’ future employment opportunities*.

Introducing computing into the curriculum helps to equip students with the ability to solve problems, design systems and programs and understand the power, influence and limitations of both human and technological intelligence. Computing is a skill that empowers and is a powerful tool for students to be competent with and use to their best advantage for future success. Those who have these skills are better able to conceptualise and understand computer-based technology and thus become better equipped to function in a modern, 21st Century society.

What do you think?

With Computing in the curriculum fast becoming the next big thing in education we chat to some of the UK’s educational ICT leaders and teachers to find out what they think about this impending change.

What are your thoughts on the new computing curriculum?

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“Pupils are becoming increasingly more digitally literate and by
the time they reach Secondary education, do they really need to
learn how to use a suite of well known software applications? I’d argue not and a cross curricular approach to ICT is what’s needed.

“The new Computing curriculum will give pupils a better understanding of how computers actually work. At a young age pupils can learn
the basics by programming Roamers and Bee Bots and as their understanding grows, they can create games, apps and websites. Who wouldn’t want to create their own app or game?

“Computing is no doubt going to prove difficult for a lot of our pupils though. It’s a science, an academic discipline that wasn’t seen previously within ICT. There is no easy route to success and it will be an impossible taskto try and 

face1engage all pupils in thinking like computers.”

Sam WoodICT Co-ordinator, Fountains High School

“Having received the new
curriculum for Computing, I’d
say I was fairly uncertain about the changes brought in. Change isn’t easy and the new curriculum is very different to the one that we’re used to. My initial thoughts were what funding is available to support the changes? We’ll have
to invest in teacher training to ensure we’re equipped with the right skills
and confidence to teach the children and also buy new software to go alongside it. In addition to this, because the new curriculum is focused on content creation as opposed to using programmes, we would have to build in word processing lessons to make sure that pupils are not lacking in essential IT skills when they leave primary school. This puts additional pressures on
the timetable.

Teachers are good at finding ways
to make things exciting, so focusing
on making lessons different will be important to motivate pupils.
The children will enjoy this change as they like to create things and watch the results, such as coding, which makes objects move.”

Sally Oxley
Head Teacher, Oxhey First School

“The new computing curriculum is striking both dread and
fear into teachers up and down England. ‘Two sides of A4…
is that it?’, ‘Where are the QCA units to go with it?’, ‘Algorithms – if I don’t know what they are, how am I supposed to teach them?’

“However, this is not the case in the London Borough of Havering, where the School Improvement Service have been working with publishers Rising Stars to develop Switched on Computing to provide schools with high-quality teaching materials that will help teachers deliver the new Programme of Study for computing with ease and confidence. Written for the new curriculum, Switched on Computing offers creative units using the latest software in a format that is designed for teachers of all levels of experience to pick up and use. The 36 units cover the new Programme of Study for computing, including programming and computational thinking. It delivers clear progression of skills from Year 1 to Year 6. Supports teachers of all levels of experience with software demos and detailed step-by-step planning and embeds e-Safety to ensure safe and 

responsible use of technology too.”

Dave Smith

face2Twitter: @haveringict

Computing and ICT Advisor,
Havering School Improvement Services