Introducing computer science has raised significant challenges for some schools. Over a series of three articles published at the beginning of the next few months, I will look at some of the challenges and potential solutions when delivering computer science as an Ebacc subject. These articles will focus on issues such as the expectations of performance, network infrastructure and the lack of specialist teachers.
The old saying (or song) regarding ‘Wise men build their house upon the rocks’ is one that holds true for a range of scenarios, and definitely for computer science as a subject.
The withdrawal of ICT has generally seen numbers within computer science GCSE increase at a phenomenal rate. As we tour the country introducing centres to our new specification, it feels as if there has just been a release of a new technology or gadget – everyone suddenly dropping their old way of working, and buying into the new. 'It's a new product and so it must be better and give better results.' or 'My smartphone model is being discontinued – this one looks the same so I’ll just go with this one instead'.
Too often however, when this occurs, the impacts of the switch are not always explored as thoroughly as possible, generally through lack of understanding about the new product or potentially through lack of research; thus the results of the swap are not always as expected.
As with any long-term project – building on firm foundations will help to ensure that a project does not fall over at the first sign of trouble. Crossing over to computer science is not a decision that should be taken without good discussion and planning. It is a unique subject – requiring a learner to possess both logical and creative skills, and then to be able to combine both of these in a wide range of environments/applications – a combination that is not always readily available! However, there are other options for ICT learners through our Cambridge National courses. The Creative iMedia is certainly proving to be popular, as well as offering a more traditional Cambridge National in ICT option.
Whilst there is likely never a perfect solution, hopefully the discussions and ideas will provide some food for thought and help support the effective delivery of computer science across schools throughout the country.
The key challenges that seem to be most common so far are:
Whilst there may be no ideal solution to all of these, in this first blog I will focus on 'Infrastructure' as this is often the one that can limit the potential for delivery of computer science.
Ability to deliver effective computer science will invariably lead to reliance on a robust network infrastructure. The demands of computing qualification (J275) have really highlighted a shift in the requirements of school networks to deliver generic office solutions for work production, into offering software products that require a depth of understanding to install, and then adaptation of user accounts and network policies to implement school-wide.
We have seen many challenges arise with the introduction of new software to networks, and here are a few:
There is now an increased responsibility laid at the feet of the learners to respect and use the network and software in a professional way. These are skills that any budding computer science learner will need to learn and not something to shy away from. Whilst the security of a school network is important, learners should be encouraged to respect that they have extra responsibility through the range of programs they can access.
Certainly, with the development of computer science as a whole, there will be, more than likely, other pressures placed on networks in the future that will pose challenges to implementation of the curriculum. Rather than holding on to the hope that these will not affect the network infrastructure, it would be good to develop Year 7 skills in respecting Network Agreements and Policy, which will hopefully develop a more enlightened and responsible generation of computer users, fit for the work place. As ever, there needs to be a healthy balance.
There is also some responsibility in facilitation of these resources, and for schools to be responsive to the demands of new curriculum. Technology will continue to develop, and who would bet against Virtual Reality or Augmented Reality, robotics and artificial intelligence or even quantum computing appearing in curricula over the next decade.
Many centres are facing challenges when implementing computer science curricula across Key Stages. The key things to think about when looking at delivery of computer science are:
Ceredig Cattanach-Chell - Subject Specialist - Computer science
Ceredig joined OCR in September 2015 incorporating his breadth of experience from education to support the reform and development of the new GCSE 9-1 Computer Science and Entry Level R354. A keen advocate of the challenges faced within the classroom, Ceredig led on concept and delivery of the delivery of the new Teacher Delivery Packs, which have become one of the flagships for the new GCSE’s success with teachers.
Prior to joining OCR, Ceredig has had eight years of educational and teaching experience across a wide range of schools, including primary, secondary, academies and SEN sectors. Ceredig has a degree in computer science from Liverpool University and a PGCE from Liverpool Hope. Outside of work, Ceredig is a keen modeller/painter, gamer and all around geek. From wildlife to war games, his varied hobbies ensure that he is never just ‘sitting down watching the box’.