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Computing curriculum

Demystifying the new computing curriculum for schools E

mbraced by some, dreaded by others, shrouded in mystery for many: the new computing curriculum is set to sweep into schools from the start of the next academic year, bringing with it computer science as a core subject and a number of choices for schools that will determine whether it is a success or a failure.

However, it seems there are two elemental questions that have not yet been answered. Firstly, how can teachers truly engage pupils with the subject and, secondly, how can schools make sure that the teachers who will be expected to deliver this new curriculum are properly prepared to do so?

Debbie Forster, former headteacher and UK managing director of education technology charity Apps for Good, discusses the methods that can be used to support teachers, while also engaging pupils and equipping them with vital creative and practical skills.

“As all teachers know, making a subject compulsory doesn’t automatically make it attractive to students; in fact, my experience as an English teacher has taught me that the opposite is too often true. While making computing

compulsory in schools is a big step in the right direction, it is only one piece of the puzzle to arm our students with essential 21st century skills. Without the other pieces, we are simply embarking on a new way of creating a disengaged generation of students and discouraged teachers.

Start with the teachers

For the implementation of the new curriculum to be truly effective, it requires that teachers have access to adequate on-going training, materials and guidance so that they feel confident guiding their students and are not left overwhelmed by the changes. Making computer science a requirement in schools without ensuring our teachers are confident in delivering it could be the biggest pitfall schools have faced in recent years. At Apps for Good, we have tried to pre-empt this challenge. We partner with schools all over the country to deliver our free course that equips students to research, design and make apps and take them to market. We provide educators with our course framework that meets the requirements of the new curriculum. We also offer ongoing professional development, as well


as point teachers towards online coding resources and courses from organisations like Computing at Schools they can use to up-skill themselves in an ongoing way. Solid course materials and professional development are hugely important, but that is only the start to the support that teachers need.

Technology is changing daily, faster than any subject on the curriculum. To address this, teachers need access to people from the field to stay up-to-date. Apps for Good Education Partners can work with more than 750 technology professionals – our ‘Experts’ - who volunteer their time to help students develop or pivot their app ideas through one hour sessions. This allows teachers to draw on a diverse group of professionals who not only support the students, but also helps ensure teachers can deliver the more challenging areas of the course and make computing education more relevant to industry. Knowledge is important, but it is good pedagogy that brings classrooms to life. As a former headteacher I know that the best support for schools comes from other schools giving advice and sharing best practice. Our Education Partners give feedback to make sure the course

June 2014

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