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Starting from scratch, a teacher’s musings on computing at primary school

Published: Mar 17, 2014 3 min read

Rachel Jackson

Primary Specialist

National STEM Learning Centre

At the weekend I Skyped a friend in Australia, listened to music on my phone and drove following the voice of a SatNav whilst my son played an interactive game on an iPad. My life, like the majority of people in the UK, is full of technology, yet why do I feel nervous when I think about planning computing lessons for a Year 4 class?

With the lapse of ICT and the dawn of a new era, computing in primary schools is looking very different. On reading the computing curriculum, the words ‘algorithms’, ‘debugging’, ‘abstraction’ swam before more eyes as I frantically typed keywords into a search engine, (the irony not lost on me!). In my internet searching I came upon a very useful guide written by CAS (Computing at Schools) in association with Naace and other partners. It certainly helped to clarify some points for me; whilst offering suggestions for developing an exciting curriculum, it divides computing into the areas of computer science, information technology and digital literacy and provides detailed explanations of each.

Having read through the document I began to see that not only is computing deeply ingrained in the modern world, but it is constantly changing. I also felt excited; ICT was always an area where I learned something new. Making short animated films was not something I knew how to do until about nine years ago, yet I enjoyed teaching this as a project and the process and resulting films engaged all children and developed their use of technology. Why should creating programmes and debugging be any different? Scratch, LOGO and Kodu are commonly used in primary schools as an introduction to programming and finding and fixing mistakes in programs or ‘debugging’ is a great opportunity to develop thinking skills and work collaboratively. It also helps to show that correcting a mistake can be not only extremely rewarding experience but a process in which a lot may be learned.

I do not profess to be a computing expert, but I enjoy the benefits of technology and believe that it is both important and interesting for children to learn about how computers work and how to express themselves and develop their ideas through information and communication technology. I’ve started a thread in the primary resource group in which we can share ideas and resources related to computing, including a list of resources and links to various organisations which support computing at primary level. So whether it’s programming, computational thinking or e-safety then please post any ideas, resources or links you find.

You may also be interested in these primary computing courses from the National Science Learning Network: