A fantastic piece from our guest blogger Kate Bartlett, a student teacher at the forefront of education and on the front line of National Curriculum 2014.
“I’m really excited to be writing this guest blog for TheSchoolBus! As an aspiring classroom teacher one topic which stands out to me as the most relevant is Computing.
Now, I’m a 1st Year BEd Primary student and so far I’ve only had one placement in a classroom which lasted a fortnight, so I haven’t really seen the current ICT curriculum in practice, nor have I had much experience or exposure to teaching ICT or seen it being taught. I have to say though, I get the feeling that teachers are apprehensive about the idea.
Changes to the curriculum in any subject area are always going to cause some sort of disruption, but this seems to be on another level. As a Digital Literacy specialist, I’m learning this new addition to the curriculum from the off; however, lots of teachers will have been used to teaching the old ICT curriculum, so this is quite a big change.
I have started exploring computing from a very basic level of entry meaning I’m starting right where everyone else is and I’ve been looking into some apps and resources that can help you and your class with the new computing curriculum. I hope it will be of some help!
1. Apps and software are to support learning
The thing I have to stress most about these apps and software is that they are there to support the children’s learning within the computing curriculum. They are not the be-all-and-end-all…children need to know exactly why they are being shown these programmes and why they are doing the things they are in lessons. Without this background knowledge and theory, the skills they acquire will be obsolete.
2. Use software, but also discuss the basics
There are a few pieces of software that I’m pretty sure teachers will have been introduced to already, Scratch being one of them. Scratch is a piece of software that allows children to programme, remix and create their own animations and video games. It allows children to explore the concepts of algorithmic thinking and coding. I do get the impression though that this is the only thing children are really having exposure to. Scratch is not the only piece of software out there and as one of my fellow tweeters (@kvnmcl5m) said: “Think of Scratch as the tool that leads to writing code – you don’t want children thinking everything is built using Scratch. Be careful not to create #deathbyscratch.” Children need to be introduced to a range of apps and software to begin to develop a rounded knowledge of computing.
Again, just showing a child Scratch and expecting them to “get it” isn’t all that beneficial. Discussion should take place around the concept of algorithms first; for example, what is an algorithm? Taking the children right back to basics and using a relatable reference will help with this initially. For example, the process of doing a jigsaw puzzle is an algorithm. There are some well-known games that involve algorithmic thinking such as Guess-Who? These are great to show children these thought processes don’t just exist in an online medium; algorithms are very much a part of everyday life. This should hopefully remove the barrier to learning this, for both children and teachers.
Another great programme to teach particularly young children about coding and algorithms is Beebots. This may be more recognisable as floor robots that you can programme to move and turn, but the online version will also introduce children to using a computer. It involves children inputting a set of commands to programme the direction the Bee-Bot will move. It may be quite difficult for children to remember exactly what they have inputted, so I would ask children to write down their commands as they go. Effectively, this is the children writing an algorithm!
3. Utilise Twitter to learn more about computing
An important point to remember about this though is that there is way more to the computing curriculum than algorithms and coding.
A lot of the concepts around computing are already being performed in everyday life; it’s taking it to this new, unknown platform that is the scary part. Another huge piece of advice is to utilise Twitter as a learning tool; follow the creators of these programmes and learning/technology specialists and ask questions! I’ve gained so much information and advice in doing this. Also talk to fellow teachers, it’s a great way to share concerns and realise you’re not only the only one feeling anxious about this new step.
If you’re interested further in computing apps and software that can aid learning I’ve been reviewing several over on my blog. The link is www.kateelizabeth93.wordpress.com if you are interested!”
Follow Kate on Twitter @kate_bartlett93