This week I ran a twilight training session for a local primary school to help them implement the Teach Computing curriculum. I am a big fan of the NCCE’s free scheme of work for many reasons, so evangelising this is not hard. They, like many schools, were feeling under trained for the delivery of the Computer Science strand of primary computing. I have a slide I love that boils down the primary commitment and explains it as ‘Algorithms, Sequences, Repetition, Conditions, Variables‘. This is a real eye opener for many as I use it to dispel the misconception that it is about progression of languages (e.g. Scratch, MakeCode, python) and more about conceptual understanding, and how to cement this through enough different contexts that learners achieve a level of mastery to apply this in new contexts. I can summarise this session in a few key points:

  1. CS is a creative subject – teach it in a way that enthuses learners with this. It is about problem solving and making new!
  2. Computational Thinking skills are at the core of primary computing – and can be developed through many curriculum subjects. Take opportunities to use them in maths, DT, science, anywhere that logical thinking and problem solving are needed.
  3. The Teach Computing curriculum gives a great progression of skills – sorely missing till now for computing teachers – as well as great quality lesson resources to support teachers at all confidence levels. Because the skill maps detail the progression of skills and knowledge, it is easier than ever to take the material and adapt it to your own school’s curriculum without losing the order of progression.
  4. Moving between blockly language is a useful transition, such as Scratch, MakeCode, code.org because the variety helps to give different contexts to understanding and so works towards mastery.
  5. MakeCode is a very versatile option to be able to link to work using Micro:Bits, Minecraft EE, Kodu, Teams assignments
  6. Parson’s problems are an excellent way to reduce the cognitive load when assessing understanding in computing. I will write more on Parson’s problems soon as there are so many uses for this technique in learning.
  7. Both Micro:Bits and Crumbles are excellent for physical computing, and not a replication of each other. It is well worth having a few of each. If you are using crumbles, you should definitely look at the Hacking STEM materials to effectively link CS to Design Technology and Science.

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