The Empire Strikes Back: The Rise Of Ict From The Grave.
Fri 17 June, 2016
Coding was introduced to the Primary Computing Curriculum, because it was thought that teaching in Computing had become dry, lifeless and impractical. The idea was that it could inspire a generation of children with the power of coding, so that they would want to go on to fill all of the currently unfilled jobs positions within in technology sector and increase the standards of teaching at the same time.
However, has it actually made the situation worse?
Here are three things that we have noticed about Computing in the primary classroom.
1. "COMPUTING ISN'T A CORE SUBJECT"
Teachers time is constantly under pressure. Each week new targets are set, new frameworks created and new expectations come to bear. All of this pressure, forces the things that are on the periphery, completely out of the picture. It is our experience that this is currently happening in primary schools across the UK.
As schools spend more time focussing on assessed subjects, such as Reading, Maths and SPAG, so topics such as Science, Technology and Computing are pushed out of the timetable. Too often we hear the phrase; "We just don't have time to teach Computing". This means that children don’t get regular exposure to Computing, which means they can’t possibly become the competent, confident users of ICT that they are supposed to be by the end of Key Stage Two.
2. "I JUST DON'T KNOW HOW TO TEACH CODING"
Another thing that happened when the curriculum changed, was a change of perspective from the average teacher. When you chat to schools, you quickly find that Computing feels like a subject where subject confidence is very low. The inclusion of technical vocabulary and the name change to Computing has alienated some teachers and led to classrooms that don't do Computing anymore, because teachers fear that they can't teach coding. This has driven the subject to be viewed as more of a specialist subject, which can only be taught by the few. Almost always, this is just a perception issue and once coding is shown to really be problem solving under a different name, this fear is removed, but the fear exists none the less.
3. "WHAT DO WE DO AFTER WE HAVE TAUGHT SCRATCH?"
The last issue we have found is that in the scrabble to be seen meeting the curriculum, large chunks of the curriculum that were not so widely published are forgotten. This means that the IT and Digital Literacy parts of the curriculum are often after thoughts, if they are event taught at all. Combine this with a lack of creativity in curriculum creation and instead of death by PowerPoint, children are turned off Computing by excessive exposure to Scratch.
SO, WHAT IS THE SOLUTION?
Computing needs a re-brand. Whether we call it ICT again or move on to a new name, such as Digital Literacy, Computing needs to find its way back into all aspects of the curriculum. We need children to get a wide exposure to different computing platforms, different software and a re-exposure to the idea of computers as learning tools. This means giving teachers the flexibility to teach Computing within other subjects, it means demystifying the more complex aspects of programming and it means investing in IT infrastructure that makes computing available on daily basis, to all the children in our schools. So that they see it as just another arrow in their learning quiver.
This article is the opinion of @SoftEggRob and was inspired by a tweet from Chris Leach (@chrisleach78), because it helped to crystalize a nagging idea that he has observed in his work with schools. Soft Egg are a IT support company that work with a wide variety of primary schools across the South East, South and South West.