By Mr A Ross, Key Stage 2/3 Lead Teacher of Computer Science
Our Prep computing curriculum introduces pupils to programming and key computer science concepts, enabling them to gain the knowledge and skills that will help them make sense of and contribute to the society and world they live in.
The rationale for having this as part of our curriculum is clear:
1.Society needs it
The society and world that is developing in front of us is increasingly reliant on humans being comfortable with the use and understanding of computers. Not every single person will work in a related field, but it can be argued they will be in contact with someone that is. If we do not teach young people to be digitally literate, and prepared for the future, then society will suffer.
We are becoming ever more reliant on technology in every aspect of our lives, as seen in the two national lockdowns. Many of the jobs that we have now will not be around in the coming years. Likewise, there will be jobs that do not exist yet that will need to be filled in the future, with AI, robotics, automation and cyber security coming to the forefront. With all of that in mind, it is imperative that students leave our school with a good grounding of computational thinking and problem solving so they are prepared for opportunities that will arrive their way.
2.Students need it
As an educator, there is nothing better to see than the face of a student lighting up when they have solved a big problem, be it fixing a bug in their code, managing to get a robot to follow a line around the floor, or making a sprite in their game do exactly as they wanted. The feeling of success after solving a problem that perhaps they would have given up on months or years earlier is one which often remains with that child.
Computing can be hands on, it can breed resilience. It develops problem solving skills and it opens a student’s eyes to the digital world. This can engage, enthuse and cause a real spark in students, if taught in the right way. To achieve this, we, as Computing teachers have a combination of good subject knowledge and engaging pedagogical approaches, to increase young people's understanding of how computational thinking can lead to success in life. An example of how we achieve this is seen by our recent successes in the UK Bebras Challenge, in which all students in Years 5 through to 9 have taken part over the past few years.
3.Felsted needs it
Is computing a science? A branch of mathematics? Engineering? Technology? All these points can be argued.
“Over the years, pioneers have characterised the field of computing a great number of ways. Some argue that computing is a branch of mathematical logic, others argue that it is a design and engineering field. Some emphasize computing scientific nature while others its constructive character” (Sentence et al 2018)
What cannot be argued is that having a deeper understanding of computing and computational thinking will allow students to be better equipped in tackling mathematical, scientific or engineering based problems. Indeed, all STEM-based subjects can benefit from computing knowledge, and lead to improved outcomes for the schools that have it as part of the curriculum.
4.Is there any difference between the Computing and ICT curricula?
Felsted from a ICT based curriculum to a Computing curriculum several years ago. Despite the common belief that ICT and Computing are identical, there are several differences between the two curricula:
ICT (Information Communication Technology) focuses on the creative and productive use and application of technology and computer systems, especially in organisations. ICT includes Information Technology, Applied ICT, Digital Literacy and Skills, and e-safety, which is taught across the whole curriculum of Felsted. The subject allows students to be assessed on traditional Office Applications, with a bit of multimedia or web page design and to have knowledge of things about computers (hardware, software, communications), laws (like Data Protection, Computer Misuse) and how companies, organisations and society use computers.
Computing (or Computer Science) is the study of the foundational principles and practices of computation and computational thinking, and their application in the design and development of computer systems. The curriculum expects students to know a bit of programming (specifically python at Felsted, although more programming languages are introduced at A Level) and some very basic algorithms, some binary numbers and a bit more detail about computer internals. It is a more technical qualification than ICT.
In a nutshell, think of ICT as using tools, and think of Computer Science as creating tools.