The Computing Curriculum: Suffolk's Interpretation

Kathryn Day Kathryn Day describes how she and her colleagues have approached the teaching of the Computing Programme of Study in Suffolk, England.

The approach we are taking in Suffolk to the Computing Curriculum is based on “Creative Computing: a design-based introduction to computational thinking” developed by the ScratchEd team. Creative computing, as the name implies, combines creativity with computing and draws on young people’s imagination and interests to show them how they can be creators rather than just consumers. The approach develops Computational Thinking – thinking in a logical way to develop a solution to a problem. It’s the way you have to think to be able to program computers successfully. But it’s also an approach that you can use in all areas of the Computing Curriculum, whether it’s Computer Science, Information Technology, Digital Literacy or Cyber Wisdom.

Computational Thinking has 3 aspects – perspectives, practices and concepts. It’s the perspectives and practices that we are applying across the whole curriculum, whether the solution lies in the creation of a computer program, a spreadsheet, a presentation, or an animation.

The three Computational Perspectives are:

Expressing – where young people realise that computing is a creative medium.

Connecting – where young people don’t work only in isolation but are allowed to work collaboratively to solve problems.

Questioning – where young people are empowered to ask questions about the world.

The four Computational Practices are:

Being iterative and incremental – where young people learn that to develop a successful solution they have to develop a little bit, try it out, then develop some more.

Testing and debugging – where young people learn that to make sure their solutions work they have to find and fix mistakes.

Reusing and remixing – where young people learn that they can make solutions by building on what others, and they, have done before.

Abstracting and modularizing – where young people learn that they can develop complex solutions by putting together collections of smaller parts.

How we’re doing it

Our curriculum is being developed by a team of nine Primary School teachers and eleven Secondary School teachers, including one who works in a Pupil Referral Unit. We are also working with our eight Special Schools to ensure all children and young people in Suffolk can access the Computing Curriculum.

Our starting point was to look at the Computing Programme of Study (in draft when we began work in May 2013) and to divide into strands. We identified 4:

The four Computing Programme of Study strands

Computer Science – understanding computational concepts and how to write computer programs; computers work, what computer networks are, and how we use IT in our lives;

Information Technology (IT) – understanding how computers work, what computer networks are, and how we use IT in our lives;

Digital Literacy – the ability to select and use digital technology to communicate effectively to a given audience for a specific purpose, including using new and unfamiliar technologies with increasing competence;

Cyber Wisdom – using technology safely, respectfully and responsibly, including legal frameworks and health and safety issues.

For each strand we are developing progression grids which take the National Curriculum “Pupils should be taught to…” statements and breaks them into yearly Learning Objectives outlining what young people should be trying to learn.

Learning outcomes

Learning Outcomes are identified for each Learning Objective and take the form of “I can…” statements which demonstrate what young people need to do to show that learning has taken place. We then search through the numerous resources being developed to support the Computing Curriculum and signpost to those quality assured by Suffolk teachers. If there are no resources to support our Learning Objectives we develop our own. We have developed the progression grids and resources to make them accessible for all teachers, including those who have little or no experience of Computing.

So far we have progression grids and resources to teach the Computer Science strand from years 1-9 (age 5-14). The Cyber Wisdom strand has progression grids and resources for years 1-6 (age 5-11). They can be found on Suffolk Learning.

The secondary team will be developing the Cyber Wisdom strand next while the Primary team is working on the largest strand – Digital Literacy. We will continue to revisit, review and develop our curriculum to ensure that it stays relevant and up-to-date.

About Kathryn Day

Kathryn is Computing and Technology Enhanced Learning Adviser for Suffolk County Council’s Learning and Improvement Service. Before training to teach Secondary ICT she had previous lives in the wine trade and archaeology. She considers herself to be a restrained and reflective adopter of technology – cautious of the lure of the latest gadgets and always putting learning first.

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