Across the world, computing is taught to keep up with the ever-increasing need for a digitally literate global workforce, and the fundamentals of computing are the same wherever you are; understanding the concepts and principles, and then grasping its practical applications.
Likewise, the challenges facing teachers when it comes to teaching computing are similar: How can we engage pupils effectively? How can we develop the skills they need for their futures? How can we make an abstract subject tangible and relevant for pupils?
With 54 per cent of teachers in the UK believing their students know more about ICT and computing than they do, it’s almost inevitable for teachers to feel anxious about teaching a subject like computing; after all, it’s reasonably new for them too, plus it’s a topic that can’t be taught solely with a textbook.
So, what can teachers do to bring computing lessons to life and achieve success?
Don’t focus on ticking boxes
In all schools, there is of course a demand for successful outcomes, but this often translates into the need for excellent exam results. Yet there is an inherent danger in focusing purely on academic achievements, as it reduces the concept of learning to a tick box exercise and places teachers under pressure to fill children with the facts needed to “pass” exams.
This severely limits the possibility for creative mastery in the classroom; something that educators know is essential to pupils’ attainment.
Therefore, we should think outside the box when it comes to computing to ensure that pupils are learning in a way that enables them to develop the deep understanding of the subject needed to feel confident when it comes to sitting their exams.
This is where active enquiry comes in, as it gives pupils the opportunity to explore a subject and find answers or solutions independently, in turn strengthening their understanding. For example, you could challenge pupils to create a simple robotic device that moves forwards, stops at an obstacle, and then reverses. Or have them think about the algorithms that enable tablet devices to process information and instructions. By placing the learning in their own hands, they will develop a deeper understanding of concepts than if they were to solely read about them in a textbook.
Make it creative
At present, a large gap exists between the skills taught by computing education and those needed in today’s industries. There is sometimes a danger of limiting pupils’ imagination and creativity, greatly harming the prospects of a generation.
Hands-on learning is necessary for bring learning to life in classrooms, and teaching computing in a practical way will bring the element of creativity back into the classroom.
Hands-on tasks not only engage pupils more effectively, but also give them the opportunity to see the practical applications of ideas, making an abstract concept tangible. There are a wide range of practical resources available that schools can use to truly deliver exciting learning opportunities for pupils and place learning back in their hands. For example, using LEGO Education’s WeDo 2.0 or MINDSTORMS EV3 gives pupils the opportunity to take a task and make it their own, considering elements of design technology, scientific reasoning and mathematical calculations to create their own solutions to a problem, all the while using programming to bring their creations to life. The familiar LEGO® bricks not only make it fun, but they also bring learning to life through code.
When pupils are able to see their ideas come to life first-hand, computing concepts and ideas become real, capturing their imaginations and enabling them to grasp concepts and real-world applications, which in turn boosts their attainment and engagement in the computing classroom.
Need tips for teaching coding? Check out our cheat sheet with top tips for teaching coding here.
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