In this post I thought I would talk about the Computing Curriculum and an area that I think could be taught better, which is IT. Now when I say IT I don’t mean Computing from 10+ years ago I mean the area of the Computing Curriculum. Our Computing Curriculum is split into 4 areas, Digital Literacy, Computer Science, IT and Online Safety. Here’s a bit about each area:
- Digital Literacy- the area of the curriculum where things are made for a purpose, this is general media such as video, audio or picture. It could encompass green screen, editing apps, word publishing, creating PowerPoints or even apps.
- Computer Science- this area focuses on programming and coding, there are lots of ways to program which is the steps/ rules to make something happen or the coding which is the use of a language that tell it what to do.
- Online Safety- how to use the software and hardware appropriately, how to make them work for you correctly and how to consider the mark you leave online.
- IT- my understanding of IT is the ‘so what?’ of computing, it explains the why and how these things work whether its Software, Hardware or even thinking like a computer.
My view is that IT is an essential part of the computing curriculum and I think that schools find it a difficult area to teach. Often when I look at schemes of work and planning they suggest covering IT as a unit, I’m not convinced that this is the way to go. If we compared IT to another area such as verbs, would we teach this once a year and then leave it for the next year group? As with any subject and area I think understanding and enjoyment should go hand in hand in the way of fun, practical activities. In this post I will be looking at an area of IT called Computational Thinking, which just means thinking like a computer, there are a few types of Computational Thinking and the focus for this post is Decomposition.
What is it?
Put simply Decomposition is the process of breaking down a problem into smaller parts, this is best expressed by George Polya “If you can’t solve a problem then there is a easier problem you can solve. Find it.”
How could I teach it?
I think that most IT concepts should be drip-fed, I find this works well as a Plenary type activity which enriches the learning, almost in a “yes we’ve been doing this, children, but this is how it could be applied” or “this is what we’ve actually been doing”. Here are a series of activities that I have found useful when showing and developing Decomposition skills.
General (Any age):
- 20 Questions- this is the very familiar game where you choose a famous person, an animal or an object. The group/ class have 20 questions to guess correctly what it is. The children normally start quite clumsy with this such as: it is a lion? Is it a pig? Etc. but they get better such as could you find it on a farm?
- Divide and conquer-this is nice game, one person leaves the room whilst everyone else chooses a person. When the person returns they then have to try to guess, who in the room has been chosen. The people in the room must be honest. Again to begin with the children ask one by one but eventually they get the idea of is the person in this half of the room or on a particular table.
- Guess who?- this game is quite similar to divide and conquer but instead the person guesses using features about that person. In my class we play by the people all standing up just to make it similar to the game but that’s not essential just very fun!
Early Years/ KS1
- Explanations are great for Decomposition Skills such as, How to clean your teeth? How to get dressed etc. The key is working out the answer to a how question the step-by-step nature of an explanation is crucial.
- What happened at a crime scene? – this works all the way up to Year 6, it works with children or even guilty teddy bears! Come up with a crime, give a few clues and watch the Decomposition Skills unfold.
- Beebot – yes it’s programming but it’s also IT, often they can be covered together. So, lay a Beebot one a tile and challenge the children to reach a destination. Children could challenge each other or even act like a Beebot/Robot in the playground and respond to their partners commands.
- It is worth noting that Trial and error is very important, this is another type of Computational Thinking called Debugging.
Key Stage 2
- How does it work? – very similar to Key Stage 1 but rather than a personal recount of how they get dressed, instead the children could be challenged to explain how a bike works including the forces involved, or how does a kettle work, including how does it know when to switch off.
- I’ve bought a hotel- I really like doing this with Year 6, especially after SATs, I go in and explain that I have just bought a hotel, but I haven’t got a clue how to run it and challenge the class to work out everything I would need, what budget would be required; it’s great fun!
- Plan a party- a similar idea to the hotel buying, in that they are a type of project-based learning, but the difference is it is more personal for the class.
I hope I have given you some ideas for teaching Decomposition that you take back into the classroom I have tried to include things I have come up with over the years. There are some things I have developed from Barefoot Computing and Computing at Schools who are both fantastic for teaching IT lessons but we need to continue developing our lessons of IT, just as we develop our lessons of Green Screen or Photo Editing. Hopefully, I have convinced you to try to include these simple ideas in your IT lessons and as I have mentioned I think they work best when they are drip-fed.
So please include IT in your lessons and let me know how you get on!