How do we demystify the computing curriculum?

The English National Curriculum (2014) put emphasis on computing, computer science and traditional ICT skills. How can the International Computing Curriculum be approached for students and teachers? Recently, my home town was brought to a standstill by a visiting celebrity. When I was younger, this...

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The English National Curriculum (2014) put emphasis on computing, computer science and traditional ICT skills. How can the International Computing Curriculum be approached for students and teachers?

Recently, my home town was brought to a standstill by a visiting celebrity. When I was younger, this could have been a footballer, an actor, or a member of the royal family. Instead the second largest city in the UK was overwhelmed by the visit of a vlogger – a job which has only become a career path in recent years.

Technology is influencing new career paths

There’s been plenty of talk and estimates about the percentage of jobs students will be taking in ten or twenty years that don’t yet exist – look at a job agency website and you’ll see Social Media Manager, App Developer, Uber Driver…

All things that didn’t exist when I, and when a majority of teachers, left school. But even for the many jobs that do exist now, they have been changing and will continue to do so.

My job did exist ten years ago. It existed fifty years ago (even if I didn’t!). But no one could reasonably argue that technology hasn’t impacted on the way we all work and the expectations of different jobs. Clearly for almost everybody, technology is changing the way we look at and engage with the world. Examples of progress being rolled back and technology being removed are rare. To get the most from education it’s clear that students and teachers need to embrace a way of learning that takes account of this and encourages them to engage with new technologies. I would argue that school – and an effective and engaging computing curriculum – is just the place to instill this mindset in a safe and constructive environment.

How do we approach the Computing curriculum?

The English National Curriculum (2014) sought to do this: “Computing has deep links with mathematics, science and design and technology, and provides insights into… natural and artificial systems… pupils become digitally literate – able to use, and express themselves and develop their ideas… at a level suitable for the future workplace and as active participants in a digital world”.

All great ideas – but for the non-specialist teacher, how to actually do this in practice?

The same document does provide statements of what children should know in each key stage, but for many people the language used and the sheer brevity of the statements can be intimidating in themselves. With our new computing curriculum we’re aiming to demystify the subject – and the language used.

In developing our new curriculum we took the English computing curriculum as a base, but asked teachers across a range of settings to see what would most help them in delivering the subject and what features they wanted to see. We were told that teachers wanted straightforward objectives and support, but also to be sure students were developing all the skills and knowledge required for further study. In designing our International Curriculum we worked with teachers and subject specialists so you can be confident all the requirements of the English National Curriculum are met and the students are explicitly prepared to begin their Computing or ICT IGCSEs from Year 10. Each year of the curriculum provides easy to understand objectives, detailing what a student should know by the end of that year, and provides examples of what these look like in practice.

What about the future?

How can we be sure that we’ve ‘future-proofed’ the curriculum and prepared students for the ever-evolving world? We’ve chosen to base our curriculum – and the support – around the core-concept of ‘computational thinking’. This concept is not to be confused with coding or programming and is also beneficial for those who are not using a computer – the ideas underpinning it are valuable across all learning – for all ages. These include breaking big problems into smaller, easier to manage problems; being able to look for similarities among and within problems; the ability to remove parts of a problem that are unnecessary and focus only on the key information; and finally the skill of creating step-by-step instructions on how to do something, or how to solve a problem.

We’re confident that this approach means that students and teachers can look ahead to the future with confidence.

About the author

Kevin Hiatt is a Publisher at Pearson Edexcel, currently leading the development of the teaching resources and courseware for iPrimary and iLowerSecondary. Prior to entering the world of publishing, Kevin was a Primary School teacher in the UK and has kept up a passion for helping students and teachers learn and develop.

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