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Useful articles and how tos.

Kickstart Computer Science in schools

September, 2013

This is not an article about how ICT is wrong, and kids should be programming, and we need a curriculum blah blah blah and so on – sorry to disappoint.

No. We know all of that. Here at Restech, we’ve been saying that for the past three years.

What’s important now, is how to implement all of that at a classroom level, and, like all good things that work, it is simple.

So let’s start with resources.

What do you buy? (Please do not answer with Raspberry pi).

Before you make that decision, decide what you want for your students.

Option A: You want your students to know what Computer Science is and have a good grasp of programming and answer the questions in the exam.

Solution:  Buy some textbooks, work through them in your ICT lessons, throw in an online simulator, do some practice exams and there you go. Job done.

Result: Your students will get their predicted grades, which are based on their performance to date and their general attitude to school. Brilliant.

Option B: You want every single one of your students to engage, to be programming, to want to learn the subject and to want to take it further.

Then to take the skills that they have learnt and apply them in all their other subjects and to understand why what they are learning is useful. You want them to enjoy your lesson and learn the subject content because its fun to know.

They all perform better than expected in the exam because they remember the work that they’ve done, because they initiated most of it.

Does that sound too good? It’s not.

For that to work, you need a physical output for the programs that the students are writing. Looking at a flowchart and writing one on paper is super dull – kids (and adults in fact) need to see the effect of what they are doing for it to have any meaning.

So, if you are currently looking to buy some robot/programming kits for your classroom, here are some things to consider:

-       Which year group/key stage do you want to use it with – this may be several

-       How often will you be using the equipment – every lesson? Once a term?

-       How much time do you have time to maintain it? For example, checking all the bits are there regularly, charging batteries, replacing broken parts etc.

-       How much do you/your staff know already and how much time and money is available for training?

Before you even begin to look at what is available, make sure the answers to the above questions are clear for you and any staff involved – it will make your teaching lives easier and save you time and money.

In my next few articles, we’ll be discussing a few different options and what makes them good or bad for the classroom.

In the meantime, here’s something to do: Write a list of the all the resources that you currently have to teach ICT – text books and interactive white boards do not count.

Then from that list – and be honest – tick the ones that you have learnt how to use and use frequently in the classroom to aid your students’ learning.

Circle the ones that you purchased, with good intention, but are now lying around with bits missing, or, more likely, in the IT technicians office, opened once and never fully implemented (I know far too many teachers who are guilty of doing this with Lego Mindstorms).

We like to hope that lots of teachers have a long list and more ticks than circles, but from experience, we think the lists are probably short, with more circles…

Feel free to let us know, and general comments are always welcome.