Is teaching computing an intimidating prospect for an ICT teacher?


Computing

When I did my GTP several years ago I did next to no training in computing. As we all know the curriculum was very much ICT based and that was fine with me. The skills I have very much fitted in with the curriculum I had to teach.

Things are now changing. Gove has told teachers that they don’t have to stick to the old curriculum now. Over the past year and a half I have been able to teach my own curriculum anyway, as I have moved to an independent school. But it’s very clear there is a need to teach computing in schools before KS4.

I agree this should happen, and its very exciting. However, it is also quite intimidating. I have spent almost 7 years (including my training) just teaching ICT with very little computing. Where do I go from here? Well, I have already started teaching visual programming using Kodu, I am also in the middle of writing a computer science scheme of work to be delivered next year.

My biggest worry is programming. The reason I didn’t choose programming at university was because I find it very difficult. For me it is like using a new language. I am very much of the opinion programming is not for everyone. Although, I understand it is very important.

I am sure there are other teachers like me who do not program. If the government want programming in schools they are going to need to stump up some money for training courses.

There has to be room for both ICT and Computer Science.

I would also very much like to rebrand ICT, for me it is old fashioned. Perhaps Digital Literacy would be more appropriate?

There are several teachers who I follow on Twitter working on Digital Studies. Is that the rebrand we need? I don’t think there is one answer but would certainly like to  rebrand ICT at my school.

This has been a very cobbled together blog post, so I apologise if it does not seem to very coherent. Over the next few weeks, when I have more time I would like to expand on my thoughts.

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16 comments

  1. I think the thought of teaching computer science is a bit intimidating – which is why I think with #digitalstudies we have the right approach. It places usage of programming languages into a broader relevant context and gives pupils and teachers the chance to work not only programming but also other aspects of digital literacy, creativity and society issues as well.

  2. Does the current syllabus have both ICT and Computer Science? Just wondering. And yeah most people are simply intimidated by the words computer science. Peeps need to come up with a way of making it more interactive and slighlty easier for the students.

    1. For KS3 there is not really much mention of computer science. Although states schools no longer have to stick to that. So teachers can teach what they like. I agree, I would love to observe a really great computer science lesson. Some people advice as to how to best deliver computer science and in fact what to deliver to KS2 and 3.

  3. I think the recommendations (particularly the terminological reforms) proposed in the Royal Society report (see page 8) are relevant here.

    Also, we have to remember that computer science != programming; it is important, but the “get kids coding” movement should not dominate the wider curriculum and qualifications debate.

  4. If you are already working with Kodu to get into programming, then try BYOB (http://byob.berkeley.edu) next. This is a modification of Scratch (anything you can do in Scratch you can do in BYOB). so you program by dragging and dropping blocks (no nasty syntax to remember or type). A lot of students will have already met Scratch so it’s not intimidating, but BYOB (the name stands for Build Your Own Blocks) removes the low ceiling that Scratch has, and implements some concepts that can be used for demonstrating concepts at A-level Computing (which is where I use it) and is used in a non-computer science major at the University of Berkeley).

    It’s like Kodu in the way that you can’t easily write a program with an error that stops it running.

    It might sound scary but give it a go: with file extensions (let me know if you’d like any material for these) it can be used to deliver GCSE Computer Science, simulate physical processes, produce animations, games, …

    John

  5. Like you Matt, my background is in using and then teaching ICT – no programming or computer science experience beyond writing a few lines of code for my ZX81 in the early 80s. The other teacher in my department also has no computer science. So, yes, we are a little intimidated! But we have been playing around with Scratch in KS3 for a number of years now – Year 7 are just starting to build their own Pong game. Scratch will be the mainstay of coding at KS3 – with additional HTML and macro-writing. Meanwhile we will look for training for being able to teach Computer Science at GCSE level. I think everyone needs ICT or digital literacy. It’s a bit like driving a car. Nearly everyone wants to or has to learn but only a few want to, or indeed do, learn how to be a mechanic. And yet we need mechanics so I am all for promoting Computer Science but not at the expense of ICT. I think we could get a GCSE group of about 10 for CS. My plan is to deliver KS3 digital literacy/ICT in Y7 and Y8 and then in Y9 have a choice of project-based work for students to choose and for us to support. These projects will either be coding-based or graphics/multimedia-based or more traditional ICT-based.
    ICT is not compulsory at KS4. About 60-70% do take it – depending on the options block – less popular with SMT since EBACC. Many take Media and/or Graphics and others take Business Studies. I see our role as preparing students to take these subjects as well and I think now we’ll be preparing for CS as well.

    1. I’ve always thought that the driver/mechanic analogy is not quite right and is open to being easily dismissed e.g. “not every one needs to know how to fix a car”, etc (but while that is probably true, knowing how a car’s major systems work is actually quite valuable; for example, acceleration and braking).

      So, a more robust analogy (IMHO) would be the difference between being the driver of a car or the passenger; if you are the passenger, you are passive and unable to control where you are going. If you are the driver, you are in control and can make the car do what you want it to do. Ditto for technology: if you are in control of the technology (and have a deeper understanding of how it works, its capabilities and limitations), you are ultimately more empowered than by just being a passive consumer of technology.

      This is not to play down the importance of digital literacy; it is of huge societal importance. But this is how I see the difference between computer science and digital literacy.

  6. Hi Matt,

    As a languages teacher, I think there are many parallels and lessons to be learnt from how, over the last 4 decades, the focus as shifted from grammar teaching (programming) to a more practical balance of knowledge and skills (digital studies) in which children learn grammar implicitly rather than explicitly and in which a better understanding of the grammar resulted from learning the language and not vice-versa.

    I recently blogged about this analogy a little greater depth here. Coincidentally, we choice a very similar photo to illustrate our respective posts!

  7. Great post Matt. I qualified 16 years ago and things have changed a lot since office studies! Quite rightly ict is a compulsory subject across the key stages but due to a wide range of factors has got some bad press over the years. The work of #ictcurric has gone some way to addressing the issue but it pains me to say it Gove did us all a favour at BETT. I agree that all students should be able to code and see a place for computer science but firmly believe this is not wholly the solution. I see the new #digitalstudies curriculum as a way forward in secondary as marrying computer science with all that is good in #ictcurric. Our students need to be taught not just to code but also to be digitally literate, safe and confident digital citizens in an ever changing society who can author and use technologies confidently and demonstrate a high degree of capability to prepare them for their next steps in either education or employment. Brian deserves a lot of credit for the concept and I firmly believe that we will get this right in terms on content and assessment through digital badges to reclaim the ground for ICT. I’m not saying ICT is dead but long live #ictcurric through #digitalstudies

    Chris

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