As Dr Bill Mitchell says "We've come a long way, but we now face new challenges. We've seen amazing progress since computing was introduced into the national curriculum in 2014, and we're leading the world in this field. Back in 2010 many were questioning the value of the then ICT curriculum. Whereas now, most recognise, including schools, parents, universities, employers and government, that computing with computer science as its core, is an important subject discipline that develops the thinking skills, knowledge and understanding that are essential for every student. Essential because we need our children to be effective, capable and safe citizens in an ever- changing digital world". You can read the full article here: http://www.bcs.org/content/conBlogPost/2690
There are also problems being experienced in many primary schools in terms of implementing an effective computing curriculum, namely, lack of teacher subject knowledge, lack of budget to buy or even maintain equipment and lack of time available to teach computing due to the pressures of teaching literacy and numeracy in order to achieve pupil targets. Logically however, if we can provide an excellent computing education at primary level they will be more computer science ready when they move into their secondary education. There is also the idea that many girls do not take up computer science as a secondary subject as without a good primary education in the subject they regard it as "geeky" or "too hard" and there is an absolute need to do something to address this gender imbalance.
One of the most difficult aspects of computer science that primary teachers find difficult to teach is physical computing (the use of software and hardware to build physical systems) as this involves not only teaching children to programme a physical device but also to get their pupils to build something that then has a physical output such as a buggy or a robot. This can involve soldering and many other skills that most primary school teachers have little experience of.
In January 2017, 2 things came together which resulted in the Primary Micro Bit Hub project:
- At the BETT exhibition in London it became apparent that many primary school teachers were very interested in the Micro Bit (a physical computing board) that had been developed by the BBC and other partners and given to every Year 7 pupil in the country in 2016
- The Government introduced a programme for "opportunity areas" aimed at increasing social mobility in those areas. Computing At School (CAS) was tasked with increasing support for teacher CPD in those areas and so it seemed sensible to combine these two things and create a primary physical computing project that would be rolled out into schools within the opportunity areas.
Government opportunity areas: North Somerset, Blackpool, Oldham, Derby, Scarborough, Norwich, Doncaster, Bradford, Fenland & East Cambridgeshire, Hastings, Ipswich and Stoke-on-Trent
This project aims to create a programme of support for primary schools in those areas (or in other areas that are classed as being deprived) focusing on a cross-curricular scheme of work (for more info see http://community.computingatschool.org.uk/resources/4991) which embeds the development of pupil's computational thinking skills and which uses the Microbit as the physical computing device with the aim of enhancing learning and motivation in KS2 pupils. The project aims to enable a CAS hub to provide the teachers in the project schools with the resources, skills and knowledge to confidently teach their pupils using the scheme of work and to provide ongoing support in terms of evaluating the effectiveness of the teaching and learning, and to produce a case study that exemplifies the impact of the project.
- Each CAS Hub to provide the support for 2 or 3 primary schools in deprived areas within their area
- Each CAS Hub will be provided with 1 class set (30) Micro Bits for their own use so that they can trial the project before working with their support schools. Each project school will be provided with 1 class set of Micro Bits.
- The CAS Hubs will work closely with their project schools to train up the teachers on the Micro Bit, focusing on a cross curricular SOW with computational thinking being embedded across all the teaching activities. They will also provide ongoing support in terms of evaluating the effectiveness of the teaching and learning. The Hubs will be expected to write up a meta case study using the information from the project schools.
- All the schools involved will be expected to do some form of quantitative data analysis on pupil attainment and write a case study using a template provided.
The Micro@bit Educational Foundation provides Micro Bits and USB leads
CAS- liaises between the Foundation and the CAS Hubs, manages the project communication and outcomes, provides training and support for the CAS Hubs and disseminates the findings from the project as widely as possible.
Progress so far:
July 2017- 3 pilots have been run in Lincoln, Leicester and Suffolk to test the effectiveness of the resources and the training rolled out to the CAS Hubs. Each pilot school has written up a case study and all of these will be evaluated during the summer break and the information will be used to improve the project methodology.
September 2017- CAS Hubs and schools in the opportunity areas will be contacted and invited to get involved with the project.
Pupils involved in the project work in teams to create an Iron Man model which is fixed onto a Micro Bit controlled buggy. They create a background for part of the Iron Man story and then retell part of the story and film it for an audience.