Technological skills are still a relatively new focus within the curriculum, but teachers have recognised the value of teaching the digital world and are doing their best to equip their students with this vital knowledge for the 21st Century. Here we talk to teachers from across the UK about their approach to teaching computing and how the subject can help arm students with key skills that they can take beyond the classroom including teamwork, problem-solving and communication.
Owning your learning
Much of the traditional approach to teaching computing has been giving students instructions to realise set outcomes. While this type of learning is important, it’s equally valuable to give students the freedom and creativity to build something unique to them. This will help students see how technology incorporates their own interests and passions, as well as to help drive their learning forward.
Ivan Langton, head of ICT & Computing at Budehaven Community School says: “Teachers need to be able to foster interest amongst their students, otherwise they will just think: ‘this is just another thing on my timetable that I have to turn up to’. The ownership element really sparks their engagement, especially with the more technical elements that would otherwise have been a little off-putting.”
Bring the industry to life
Connecting learning to real-life situations can be beneficial in showing students how the technology sector works, and bringing in the expertise of an industry professional can enrich this further. As Alison Henderson, ICT lead at Lamlash Primary, says: “speaking to industry professionals as part of the Apps for Good course gave our pupils the opportunity not only to receive expert feedback on their projects, but also to ask questions about what working in technology is really like. It brought a real feeling of authenticity to what the students were doing.”
Sharon Corkery, Head of computer studies at Redden Court School, explains that her students found communicating their idea to industry experts daunting at first, but that the challenge was valuable: “The thought of having to present in front of important technology figure heads really terrified them. Students don’t just come up with an idea, but they have to convince others that their idea is workable and that includes communicating as a team.”
Teamwork: developing skills together
In the technology sector, teamwork is absolutely essential, with a range of skills – from coding to communication – needed to develop products and grow a business.
Brian Matthews, head of computing from Latymer Upper School says: ‘We don’t often get the chance for teamwork in computing, as most tasks are done individually on a PC. Collaboration and communication are crucial real-world skills for future employment. We use a variety of resources including the Apps for Good course and LEGO MINDSTORMS Education EV3 to encourage this collaborative problem-solving across the school, and it really helps the students to engage with the ideas.’
The different talents that students possess mean that their ideas will incorporate a greater variety of potential features and considerations of the outcomes they want to achieve. Nicola Goodey, KS3 Lead Co-Ordinator and Computing and Business Studies Teacher at Redden Court School said: “By working in teams, students can encourage one another and develop their skills together. Some of our groups really surprised me, as they pushed themselves to create some really innovative ideas and present them in a really professional way.”
Through this process, students may even discover talents they didn’t know they had, or be able to capitalise upon interests and skills that other subjects may not encourage as much. For example, at Stratford Girls’ Grammar School, four students were able to use their individual talents to design and market an app. Their computing teacher, Simon Reid, explains: “In the process of building their app, the girls took on various roles: Katie is the technical lead, Emily oversees business development, Josie is head of design and editorial, and Alex leads PR. It’s through this combination of technical and entrepreneurial talents that they’ve had so much success so far!”
By incorporating all of these elements into computing, students will develop new skills, gain a real-life understanding of technology and foster their communication skills. Through this process, more and more students will begin to see a place for themselves in the digital world.