Friday, 6 June 2014

Getting started with the new computing curriculum

Chris Thomas -
As a year 6 teacher and ICT Subject Leader, I am all too aware of how the term 'ICT' has become muddled over the years.
  • Some use it to refer to an extension of a lesson: 'Let's type our stories up in ICT'.
  • Others use it to refer to equipment: 'How are you using ICT in your lesson?'
  • Some use it to refer to an explicit subject: 'This afternoon we're doing ICT'.
However, even as an isolated subject, the muddying of the term has resulted in less and less explicit teaching of computing skills.
By replacing ICT with ‘Computing’, a clear message is being sent to schools; here is a brand new subject which demands a brand new focus - the teaching of computing skills and, in particular, computer science. But where does this leave teachers who have always presumed computer science to be an A-level subject, or even a degree?
Talk of 'algorithms', 'variables' and the need for 'simulating physical systems' will no doubt fill many teachers with fear - but it needn't.
The new primary computing curriculum can be broken up into three main areas:
  • Computer Science (let's call this ‘programming')
  • Information Technology (let's say 'how things work’)
  • Digital Literacy (let's say 'using software purposefully’)
For experienced teachers, Digital Literacy will feel very much like the ICT we are used to and will include skills on using Office applications, searching for information and e-safety.
Information Technology requires children to have a basic understanding of how computer networks and computer systems work, but note the word 'basic'. These are both important areas of the new curriculum, but very much the focus is on programming.

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