In this blog, Jodie Lopez, ex primary school teacher and education technology expert, reflects on her thoughts about using technology across the curriculum.
If I were to ask you what computing lessons look like in primary schools these days, your mind might drift to thoughts of coding and algorithms. You might picture an ICT suite or rows of children on laptops after they have queued to get one out of the trolley. You may imagine hugely creative projects building and programming robots and drones. Or, your blood pressure may have just risen a bit higher as you think about trying to get your head around debugging or trying to get Year 2 logged on when they have all forgotten their passwords!
The rebranding of ICT to Computing has caused quite a few changes over the years. A lack of funding has also caused issues for many. The gap, from schools who are building drones to those who feel they are not able to cater for the full curriculum, has grown very wide. Partly this comes down to a lack, for many, of access to high quality CPD which makes them feel confident to deliver the curriculum. For others, it may be due to lack of resources to enable their own creativity and versatility, which may result in somewhat dry delivery even with the best of intentions.
Perhaps it is the order of the curriculum objectives which has caused this.
The first aim of Key Stages 1 and 2 Computing Curriculum states:
The national curriculum for computing aims to ensure that all pupils: can understand and apply the fundamental principles and concepts of computer science, including abstraction, logic, algorithms and data representation.
Primary National Curriculum, 2014
Next up we have:
… ensure that all pupils: can analyse problems in computational terms, and have repeated practical experience of writing computer programs in order to solve such problems.
Already, many teachers will be feeling out of their depth with regards to planning and teaching these two objectives unless they have received specific training at some point.
But next we have two more aims:
The national curriculum for computing aims to ensure that all pupils:
- can evaluate and apply information technology, including new or unfamiliar technologies, analytically to solve problems.
- are responsible, competent, confident and creative users of information and communication technology.
These aims sit very well alongside the aims of the older ICT curriculum. They seem much more familiar and less scary I think!
As I mentioned, it may be the order of the aims which makes all talk of the computing curriculum invariably delve straight into coding and such.
For me, these last two aims are the building blocks that every child could be learning across the wider curriculum, in order to contextualise and inspire the first two aims. These latter aims are very much based around the technology that every child will be using through their lives, in work and out of it.
I have always had a passion for ICT across the curriculum, and this may be evident already from my opening paragraphs. I love to see children using technology to enhance or replace ways of doing things in other areas of the curriculum. I love to see technology in classrooms all the time, rather than having to be wheeled in for one hour a week. I love to see children as creators using technology, and I love to see technology assist those children who need something different.
How does that work practically?
Well, firstly, we have to step away from the idea that computing or ICT needs a computer. Laptop/tablet/PC … whatever it is on offer… it is not necessary for those second two aims (and indeed there is a lot you can do away from a computer for the first two as well).
Kit, such as microphones (TTS Easi-speaks are great!), are durable and easy for children to pick up and use with no training. They make a great addition to any classroom and have such flexibility across the curriculum. From recording explanations in maths (the challenge of explaining without using visuals really helps children to embed methods) to narrating science experiments, commentating on competitive sports matches (every child loves to be a roving reporter!) and recording story ideas to playback later. There are so many uses for just one piece of equipment. A microphone, as just one example, is a piece of technology which helps children to create content as well as understand how technology is used in the world around them (they will have listened to the radio or similar at some point in most cases).
It can also help to bring in e-safety without having to set up big scenarios or risk them learning from mistakes made online. I talk to children about having a “stage name” for their recordings and about not sharing personal information. Then, when we later move to actually podcasting (adding the recordings to a pod stream online so that they can gather an audience for their work), they are ready to do that safely.
A microphone is something that can just sit around the classroom ready to grab when you, or the students, see a scenario it can work for. And the more they have that access, the more often scenarios will arise. I have set up wonderful podcast channels in the past which range from Nursery classes (singing nursery rhymes and coming up with their own versions during freeplay) to Year 6 (recording chapters of a novel to help improve vocabulary and playback their writing to help with editing) and without fail the creativity increases over time!
When we have children growing up wanting to be vloggers and YouTube stars to emulate those they admire, it is also a great opportunity to teach them the actual work that goes into the success. Writing a great script, keeping content fresh, and ensuring they protect themselves in a world of body conscious social media and the downsides such as ‘trolls’ and future bosses who may find out everything they have ever posted online. Good role modelling will help them to enter that world with a wise head on their shoulders, as well as being competent with a range of equipment.
And so …
From working to support SEND learners, to challenging pupils to extend past the curriculum bounds in any subject, equipment which is hands-on and available will enable every child to find a use, see a need, and benefit from the technology which will surround them as they grow up.
The reason I am writing this for TTS is that their equipment has been a favourite of mine for a very long time. All of their products have been very carefully designed to be ergonomic, allowing young hands and those who struggle with motor control to grip and use the tech easily. It is also useful for individuals who may need technology to assist them with their learning, and it can definitely be used to extend and get creative for anyone. There is also very little fear in even the most ‘technophobic’ (their words not mine!) of teachers as there is nothing they can easily break or go wrong with.
The technology part is very easy and that leaves more time, and more comfort zone, left for experimentation in all subjects.
Many thanks to Jodie Lopez for writing this blog for us.
Jodie Lopez is an ex primary school teacher who won a number of awards for her use of technology across the curriculum. She moved from full time teaching into working with education technology companies to help bridge the gap between schools and products/services on offer. Jodie is a mum of 2 young boys. As a Teaching Awards judge, she loves to see and hear about all the fantastic work teachers and school are doing. You can find Jodie at @jodieworld on Twitter where she is always happy to answer any questions you may have about technology for your school!