By Sarah Wordlaw

We know how vital digital literacy has become, especially over the past year. Sarah Wordlaw explains why she believes Computing should be given greater attention in the curriculum.

We have an opportunity to change the face of education forever. The pandemic has caused a seismic shift towards a more digital world. Teachers, children and families have had to ramp up their understanding and proficiency in using technology. Not just to support learning, but in all facets of life: working from home, online banking and shopping. Those with weak understanding and poor computing skills have struggled greatly to stay afloat and this in itself has caused lots of hair-pulling and sleepless nights.

Like many educators, I have now also become tech support for families (and other staff members) and have had to brush up on a few skills myself! But I have been bowled over by the development of skills which my school community have shown throughout the lockdowns and I fully intend to continue to provide opportunities for further development of Computing skills post-COVID.

In my experience, Primary Computing is often under-valued as a subject. Perhaps there are not adequate devices in order to teach it effectively or enough time during the school week to do it justice. As we have found out, regular practice and an embedding of skills are both required in order to create digitally-literate children. Digital literacy has become arguably as important as traditional literacy during this strange time. When schools return to whatever “normal” may look like, I believe that Computing should be made a core subject, alongside Literacy, Maths and Science. Teaching Computing explicitly and discreetly through the core and foundation curriculum, will maintain the important skills learned during school closure and help prepare children for the ever-changing world ahead of them.

Children grow up in an ICT-rich environment: it is everywhere. It still amazes me how friends’ toddlers can use an iPad proficiently. In order to become fully-functioning adults, we must provide opportunities for them to learn and develop, and that also means that we as educators need to be at the top of our game with regard to digital literacy and computational thinking. I recently looked back at a Computing scheme of work I wrote 5 years ago and it is totally out of date! It is imperative therefore to keep ourselves up-to-date with relevant tech: apps, games, digital platforms, etc.

Primary Computing, taught well, should develop computational thinking while covering information technology, computer science and digital literacy. Computational thinking, explained simply, is the ability to take a complex problem and break it down into steps to solve it. This ability is an essential life skill! This breaking down of a problem is otherwise known as decomposition. The next step is pattern recognition – are there any similarities to other problems that can be drawn from? After that comes abstraction, only focusing on the relevant information in which to solve the problem. Finally, the process of developing a step-by step solution is called an algorithm. Algorithms are not only seen in Computing. We teach and use algorithms throughout the school day – think of the procedure of long multiplication, or baking a cake, or planning a science experiment.

The National Curriculum for KS1 and KS2 Computing states, ‘A high-quality computing education equips pupils to use computational thinking and creativity to understand and change the world’. In order to deliver this effectively, you can break the skills down into the following areas, whilst weaving computational thinking in all:

Safety, Research and Communication

This could include:

  • E-safety – know the risks and how to keep safe
  • Acceptable and unacceptable online behaviour
  • Apps – what are they? How do I know which ones are safe?
  • Data – how is my data stored? What is privacy?
  • Understanding what the internet is and how it works
  • Using search engines effectively
  • Using virtual maps
  • Communicating and collaborating online – social media, gaming, email
  • Using and creating QR codes

Graphics and Text (information technology)

This could include learning such as:

  • Learning to type quickly and correctly
  • Creating word collages
  • Using Word of Google Docs effectively – changing the size/colour/font of text
  • Creating digital mind maps  and digital flowcharts – great for decomposition!
  • Photo collages

Digital Creativity (information technology)

This could include learning such as:

  • Using graphic tools to create digital drawings
  • Digital 3D modelling
  • Creating avatars and understanding the purpose
  • Creating and editing digital music
  • Creating and editing audio recordings and podcasts
  • Creating stop-motion animations
  • Editing digital photographs

Multimedia Authoring (information technology)

This could include learning such as:

  • Producing multimedia videos
  • Creating online activities/games for someone to play
  • Creating websites/Google Sites
  • Authoring multimedia e-books
  • Creating on-screen presentations (Powerpoint, Google Slides, Prezi, Emaze)

Data and Programming (computer science)

This could include:

  • Coding
  • Use sequence, selection, and repetition in programs; work with variables and different forms of input and output
  • Creating computer programs (from Beebots in EYFS/KS1 to Scratch in KS2)
  • Data handling (Excel, Google Sheets, Purple Mash)
  • Controlling and evaluating computer simulations
  • Debugging

Imagine a child who is proficient in all of the above skills, building upon each skill throughout the primary school years. Imagine the problem-solving ability of that child. Imagine the learning resilience of that child. Computing teaches us to find new ways. To solve problems, to seek only that which is relevant in order to move forward.

We need to be actively developing our own digital literacy and keeping abreast of changes. We must keep ahead of the game and teach children to do so too. We need children to recognise when they are using their computational thinking in every subject. We should make explicit the link to this way of  thinking when problem-solving in all its forms. Let’s make links to these skills and children’s careers in the future. We have an opportunity now to maintain those skills we have been forced to develop.

Turn a negative situation into a bright and sparkling vessel for change. Let’s keep the pace up and make Computing a core subject!