As the dust starts to settle on the proposed National Curriculum changes, I have observed and read many blogs on how the change from ICT to Computing presents many challenges. I agree with the thinking behind the changes, in that we need to teach students how to use different hardware so that they can be the next generation of developers etc. rather than just consumers. However I feel that many teachers are already doing this by adapting the existing curriculum, by incorporating programming elements. I also feel that computing is not the be all or end or and that there are many other elements of ICT that should be taught to enable students to create various forms of digital media and become responsible digital citizens. If you have not already done so, read Matt Britland’s Guardian blog post ‘There is room for both computing and ICT in schools’ – this sums up brilliantly the needs and benefits to teaching both ICT and Computing together.
So moving on to our challenge as a school, I teach in a generic secondary special school for learning difficulties, with almost all the students operating at well below average NC level for English and Maths (they would not be at our school, if they were working at expected levels!!). The school caters for students working at P1 up to NC 5 so a huge range in terms of abilities. In KS3, the new curriculum states:
‘use two or more programming languages, one of which is textual, each used to solve a variety of computational problems; use data structures such as tables or arrays; use procedures to write modular programs; for each procedure, be able to explain how it works and how to test it’
Now with many of our students having severe literacy difficulties, they are expected to learn two other programming languages. I have done some coding myself and understand that different computer languages are similar, but still feel this is quite a challenging target for our students. Nevertheless, I believe that it is important that students learn to use computers for much more than viewing the latest YouTube video on their smartphone and look forward to adapting the curriculum to meet their needs. I have already seen my colleague Keith Manville (@open_sen) work with students at NC 1-2, coding simple sketches using Processing. The way in which he adapted this was to give the students different chunks of code to play around with and they soon picked up the understanding of the changes they made to the code was having effects on the what they saw on the screen. This is certainly one way in which we will have to adapt the curriculum to suit the needs of our students.
As far as a curriculum for SEN, over the last few weeks I have been thinking about the tools we could use to deliver this. The tools listed below are based on own experience and researching what others on Twitter and the web are using. They are listed in order of progression (obliviously more thought will need to be put in to make sure we meet all subject content for each Key Stage) This list is no where near complete and as I write there is a Google Doc being put together by Sheli BLackburn (@SheliBB) called Computing KS1-KS4 , which is collating all the tools you could use to meet the requirements of the curriculum.
Kodu – is a simple visual programming language created by Microsoft. It uses simple sequencing to allow students to program their own worlds and create games, stories etc. Have used this successfully with a range of students and are amazed how easy they picked this up.
Scratch – is a programming language that makes it easy to create your own interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art. Again it uses simple blocks of predefined code that students can build up and change the variables.
Greenfoot – teaches object orientation with Java. it is visual and interactive and visualisation and interaction tools are built into the environment.
Raspberry Pi /Arduino/Processing/Python – there has been lots written about the Raspberry Pi and the Arduino is a similar concept. This encourages students to look at the hardware as well as the software and involves them in creating coding software for the hardware. The nice thing about the Arduino is that it lends itself to robotics projects. It uses an IDE (integrated development environment ) written in Java derived from the Processing IDE. Like Processing, it was designed to introduce programming to artists and other newcomers unfamiliar with software development and hardware integration.
There will be few students at present who would be able to reach the Raspberry Pi / Python stage, but we need to have this progression in place to allow students to work their way towards being able to code using hardware like the Pi, especially when they reach KS4 and move into the Sixth Form. In addition, looking at the student cohort who are likely to access the Computing curriculum, they range from P7-NC5. This is a large range to differentiate for and we will have to ensure that the tools used are individulised to meet their needs and abilities, in order to allow them to access the subject areas and make progress.
The new curriculum certainly presents a challenge for our setting, though feel that by incorporating Computer Science with ICT allows the students to learn creativity skills alongside digital literacy and media skills, ensuring that are students are well-equipped for the digital world that they will be entering. I would be very interested in what other special schools are planning in terms of a curriculum for Computing so please add your comments.