Blended aspects of primary computing: revisiting the computing curriculum

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Blended aspects of primary computing: revisiting the computing curriculum

Connected Learning Centre’s primary computing conference is a twice yearly highlight, bringing together primary computing subject leaders from a wide range of schools to discuss key topics, take part in practical workshops and share their experiences. After a packed six months that covered another full lockdown and a whole mix of remote learning, blended learning, face to face learning and the bedding in of new ways of using technology across school life, there was much to discuss. Here we sum up some of the themes and reflections from the day.

In a nutshell: key themes

  • The need to revisit the computing curriculum looking at its relevance in terms of the the pandemic increasing the importance of digital competencies, being discerning about information and keeping safe and responsible in a digital world (this is relevant whether in class/blended or remote learning)
  • The expanded role of the computing subject leader as both a subject specialist and leader in digital learning strategy (which includes preparing for more blended learning)
  • Increased and enhanced uses of technology in learning and across school life since the pandemic and ways to build on this going forward

Has technology become ‘woven into the fabric of education’?

We started the conference with a discussion in breakout rooms to consider the comment from the former education recovery commissioner, Kevan Collins, that “Technology has become woven into the fabric of education”. Teachers talked about how their schools have changed the way they use technology in all aspects of school life. Reflections included:

  • Schools are using digital resources more effectively
  • They are keeping learning management systems eg Google Workspace for Education as a key way of setting and feeding back on work, home learning, lesson planning and sharing
  • One teacher said, “There will never be another snow day”...
  • Parents evenings will probably not go back to face to face
  • Relationships with parents have improved and parents and teachers have more understanding of each other’s roles and responsibilities. Parents are more engaged in their children’s learning and understand the curriculum more.
  • Teachers have developed and are building on new skills

Scratch and accessibility

Two parallel workshops explored two aspects of the expanded role of the computing subject leader as both a subject specialist and leader in digital learning strategy. 

Rowan Roberts led a group looking at how types of Scratch and Scratch Jr projects that easily lend themselves to special projects, making links with topic work and other subjects. Check out her Padlet, which is packed full of examples. 

Peter Lillington focused on accessibility and inclusion and explored the many accessibility features contained in some popular apps, using the cross-platform app Book Creator as an example. He also highlighted the fact that we’ll be running some free sessions on the theme of iPad accessibility features in the autumn as part of CLC’s Apple RTC offering.

The most popular tool/feature Peter showed was the Microsoft Seeing AI app, which is available for iOS iPadOS and on Google Play. It was particularly poignant to see the CLC conference room in our centre in Clapham being described by the AI function of the app. This is where Peter was working alone, with empty tables, instead of the room being filled with coffee drinking, chatting teachers as in previous years at our computing conferences.

The unique role of the computing subject teacher

In a plenary session, Sarah Horrocks proposed the hypothesis that being a primary computing subject leader is a good route into senior leadership positions in school. She based this on how many teachers we have seen travel this career path over the past decade at the CLC, the need to be an expert with colleagues and SLT, and being able to inform and influence SLT. Teachers agreed that they had risen to the challenge of this leadership role even more since the pandemic, that they had taken a lead in supporting colleagues and helping headteachers make decisions about technology.

The Jamboard from the discussion shows just how varied the discussion was:

A perfect scheme of work and computing planning 

Computing schemes of work have been a hot topic at the CLC recently, with a number of schools keen to look at revisiting theirs. Unlike most subjects which remain more or less fixed, new options become possible in computing, and schemes of works may need to be reviewed and updated. There are some positives, if we take into account experiences of the last year, where increasing confidence in using digital tools because of remote and blended learning has been remarked on in many schools (for students and staff), and improvement in understanding of some aspects of the computing curriculum since it was introduced some years ago. For example, computational thinking and programming is definitely evident too, and this may mean the bar can be set higher, but there are likely to be also some negative factors or constraints. Here’s how the conference attendees rated a handful of these:

Whether schools have time to update their schemes of work in the short term is therefore a difficult decision, as time is at a premium. Sometimes schools are looking to commercial schemes of work or freely available planning from a variety of sources. What’s clear is that very few of these resources will have been updated to reflect an individual school’s circumstances and needs at this point in 2021, so any scheme is likely to need at least some tweaking, or perhaps more substantial adjustment. Our ‘CLC Milestones’, based on the national curriculum, stand the test of time to help teachers with their planning and are flexible enough to adapt to many contexts. Get in touch if you haven’t got a copy and would like one.

CLC updates

Finally, it’s not a CLC conference without a wealth of updates. We have been developing and refining a large-scale blended learning model for events and our recent Tate-inspired event was a great blended digital arts project - read learning points from it here. We have also worked with Westminster Abbey on a Making a Difference project and supported blended learning in Jordan. Our Empower2learn Erasmus project about personalised learning now has new digital cards as part of an Empower2learn toolkit. These are guides to sample tools and platforms, and still at pre-publication stage but the conference attendees were able to have a preview. With our Co-Make Erasmus project exploring computational thinking in the early years with teachers in Sweden, Denmark, Finland and the Netherlands, we know that the UK partner schools as well as the European schools have managed to incorporate the activities around sequencing movement in PE, dance or music and we’re starting to see some lovely outcomes. We’ll be celebrating these in more detail in the autumn.

We also shared info on Student paced learning on Kahoot , Kaligo digital handwriting  and Count On Me which is a new app still in development. The Scandinvian publisher is interested in us trialling it with a group of CLC community schools so get in touch if you are interested.

Finally, don’t miss our IBM BlendEd project - a programme of free professional development and resources for teachers to support blended learning pedagogy. 

And what did you say?

“Always so helpful to hear what other people have managed to do successfully and to share ideas and resources. Practical advice/tips much appreciated.”

I have had the best morning for ages – really stimulating and useful and it has reminded me how much I don't know and want to learn more about.”

“Excellent range of resources given and interactive approach. Brilliant to have individual sessions that covered so much!”

“I always feel more confident and inspired after each session. A time for me to refocus.”

“I can go back and show practical ways to enhance the learning in my school.”

“Made me feel confident to share information with teachers and therefore learning outcomes will improve for children across the whole school

Thank you!

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