As a school, we would say we were very confident using ICT. As big Apple users, we are part of our local ‘Apple Regional Training Center (RTC)’, hosting CPD courses and providing support for other schools in being innovative with computing. We regularly apply and take part in local authority projects, and we enjoy sharing our practice with other schools to help them develop their provision… but was the new curriculum a step too far for some of our staff? Was teaching a subject that they had never taught before, and moreover one that we had not even been taught ourselves, asking for too much?
For my ICT team and I, we never like to fail a challenge. So we started from the very beginning- a very good place to start! The first thing we did was rename the subject ‘computing’; it may sound simple, but it changed both the staff and the children’s perception from ‘let’s make another PowerPoint’ to something that was really quite different. But then we had to think about what ‘computing’ would actually look like in our school and throughout the curriculum.
At our local authority networking meetings, we had heard about ‘Switched on Computing’, a new scheme of work to support schools in developing the new Curriculum. We offered to trial it as a school in its pre-publication stage, as we always love to give our opinion on new things! We ran the same unit throughout the school creating ‘Scratch’ animations based on our topic work. Staff were given lots of support by our ICT technician and ICT HLTA, with some asking them to take the lead and some having them there for moral support, and off they went.
Well, ‘what happened next?’ I hear you say! There was an amazing buzz throughout the school. Children were excited about the animations they had made, with siblings asking each other what they had done. Children were going home, downloading the program, creating their own animations, and coming into class as ‘Scratch’ experts the next week.
Our ‘Digital Leaders’ (an extra-curricular club, made up of children who are highlighted as talented in ICT) had sneaky sessions on it before it was taught in class so they could be the ‘experts’. This allowed them to support the other children (and more importantly the teachers) in showing the best ways to use the program. Maybe the biggest result was that our staff actually saw all of the long curriculum jargon, which they thought they could never see their kids achieving in class, actually happening. Children were using words like ‘sequencing’ and ‘algorithms’ and they actually knew what they meant! We were so impressed that we not only sent copies of the work back to Rising Stars, who created ‘Switched on Computing’, to say ‘It actually works!’, but partnered with a school in Greece to share the animations that we had made. And as one teacher put it… ‘It was all surprisingly achievable after all!’
So, maybe the future does look bright for ‘computing’ at our school. We are sure it won’t be easy, with all our staff having to learn to become networkers, programmers and debugging experts, but we know with a solid curriculum map and scheme of work behind us, we are excited to see the new generation of ‘computer scientists’ raise up from our midst. Also, it wouldn’t happen without an invaluable support team, making sure the software is installed, the computers are booked out and ready and taking that extra time to understand the programs in detail. Once the kids naturally get the hang of this, who knows what the curriculum will move on to look like in the future!
Originally published on the Bett Blog…