It is now nearly four years since the "new" computing curriculum was introduced into English schools, see what Neil Rickus, CAS Hub Leader and other CAS Members have learnt during this time and the realities of delivering the curriculum in schools.
This summer, I've been invited to present at the CSTA (USA's Computer Science Teachers' Association) conference in Omaha, Nebraska, and during one of the sessions I'm delivering I intend to discuss what we've learned during this time. Whilst I'm drawing on a range of sources for my talk, I also asked the opinion of CAS forum members to highlight the realities of delivering the curriculum in schools on a daily basis and a summary of the major talking points is outlined below.
Before continuing please note the views outlined in this blog post are not those of all CAS members and do not necessarily reflect my opinion. At the time of writing, there was also limited input from primary based teachers and their participation may have altered the themes of the discussion below.
The main theme evident in the forum posts was the need for a range of qualifications that meet the needs of all learners. As qualifications at KS4 often drive the behaviour of schools, it was argued the outcomes at this age group could have been a starting point when determining the new curriculum content. It is also important that the qualifications do not solely focus on theory, which has been a particular issue this year with the NEA not counting towards the final grade of Computer Science GCSE qualifications. It was also noted how many students find the content within the GCSE challenging, especially as they have limited prior subject knowledge and it may not provide a suitable path to their intended career, such as a role in game design or web development. The CAS Working Group on Assessment has regularly stated its concerns about the qualification landscape.
In order for the curriculum to be accessible to a wider range of pupils and prepare them with the skills they need for the future, a large number of posts, along with the recent After the Reboot report for the Royal Society, stress the need for an IT related qualification. Due to the prevalence of tablet devices, the need to teach even basic computer skills is becoming increasingly important and, as some schools now have a three year KS4, some children have no timetabled Computing lessons past the age of 13. More philosophical opinions related to this topic were also evident, such as the purpose of (Computing) education and whether this was to simply prepare pupils for the world of work.
Regardless of the qualification landscape, the need to promote the creative areas of the subject, such as through the use of Sonic Pi or Photoshop, makes the theoretical aspects relevant and engages learners. Producing creative outcomes can also help alter perceptions of Computing, including its links to mathematics, as this subject is often the focus of programming exercises, although mathematical content can facilitate a range of cross-curricular links. Finally, it was deemed rigorous, funded, teacher training, in conjunction with suitable resources, would have meant teachers felt more confident delivering the curriculum content and reduced the number leaving the profession.
Before concluding, it is worth noting that some posts highlighted how enjoyable pupils do find the subject and this was particularly evident when undertaking creative projects and/or using physical computing devices, which echoes recent research. Indeed, the main area of my practice that has developed over the past four years is the inclusion of open-ended, creative projects through taught sessions, which are delivered using a range of pedagogy (e.g. teaching methods suggested by Jane Waite). This approach is particularly beneficial when there is a purposeful end goal, such as working towards solving a problem impacting on students' lives, or even entering competitions (e.g. University of Manchester's annual Animation prize or the TeenTech Awards).
So, what next for the curriculum? The DfE has recently released an ITT (Invitation to Tender), which includes the provision for the new National Centre for Computing. This has significant funding available for teacher CPD and it will be interesting to see the impact this has significant funding available for teacher CPD and it will be interesting to see the impact this has on the delivery of the curriculum. The After the Reboot report mentioned above also echoed a number of the sentiments outlined in the forum post and may further influence developments in this area. The future direction of the subject, which the Computing National Curriculum states will, "change the world", looks set to be an interesting one...