How is Coding linked to the Curriculum

In 2014, changes to the national curriculum were made specifically in ICT to help with the introduction of coding to children, replacing ICT with ‘Computing’.

How is Coding linked to the Curriculum?

The shakeup of computer studies in schools has been trailed for a while, after criticism from ministers and technology companies of the existing ICT curriculum. The education secretary (at the time), Michael Gove, outlined the political rationale for the changes in a speech this January:

“ICT used to focus purely on computer literacy – teaching pupils how to word-process, how to work a spreadsheet, how to use programs already creaking into obsolescence; about as much use as teaching children to send a telex or travel in a zeppelin.

Our new curriculum teaches children computer science, information technology and digital literacy: teaching them how to code, and how to create their own programs; not just how to work on a computer, but how a computer works and how to make it work for you.”

This isn’t about getting children to become developers – but really to encourage children to be creative. Coding is very much about creativity, allowing children to think logically through breaking down what is happening in any given situation. “If you teach computing and do it right, you can help children develop their learning in literacy and numeracy,” says Bill Mitchell, director of education at BCS.

What will your child be learning?

There are three distinct stages for the new computing curriculum:

Key stage 1 - pupils should be taught to:

 - understand what algorithms are, how they are implemented as programs on digital devices, and that programs execute by following precise and unambiguous instructions

- create and debug simple programs

- use logical reasoning to predict the behaviour of simple programs

- use technology purposefully to create, organise, store, manipulate and retrieve digital content

- recognise common uses of information technology beyond school

- use technology safely and respectfully, keeping personal information private; identify where to go for help and support when they have concerns about content or contact on the internet or other online technologies

Key stage 2 - Pupils should be taught to:

- design, write and debug programs that accomplish specific goals, including controlling or simulating physical systems; solve problems by decomposing them into smaller parts

- use sequence, selection, and repetition in programs, work with variables and various forms of input and output

- use logical reasoning to explain how some simple algorithms work and to detect and correct errors in algorithms and programs

- understand computer networks, including the internet; how they can provide multiple services, such as the World Wide Web, and the opportunities they offer for communication and collaboration

- use search technologies effectively, appreciate how results are selected and ranked, and be discerning in evaluating digital content

- select, use, and combine a variety of software (including internet services) on a range of digital devices to design and create a range of programs, systems and content that accomplish given goals, including collecting, analysing, evaluating, and presenting data and information.

- use technology safely, respectfully, and responsibly; recognise acceptable/unacceptable behaviour; identify a range of ways to report concerns about content and contact.

Key stage 3 - Pupils should be taught to:

- design, use and evaluate computational abstractions that model the state and behaviour of real-world problems and physical systems

- understand several key algorithms that reflect computational thinking [for example, ones for sorting and searching]; use logical reasoning to compare the utility of alternative algorithms for the same problem

- use 2 or more programming languages, at least one of which is textual, to solve a variety of computational problems; make appropriate use of data structures [for example, lists, tables, or arrays]; design and develop modular programs that use procedures or functions

- understand simple Boolean logic [for example, AND, OR and NOT] and some of its uses in circuits and programming; understand how numbers can be represented in binary, and be able to carry out simple operations on binary numbers [for example, binary addition, and conversion between binary and decimal]

- understand the hardware and software components that make up computer systems, and how they communicate with one another and with other systems

- understand how instructions are stored and executed within a computer system; understand how data of various types (including text, sounds and pictures) can be represented and manipulated digitally, in the form of binary digits

- undertake creative projects that involve selecting, using, and combining multiple applications, preferably across a range of devices, to achieve challenging goals, including collecting and analysing data and meeting the needs of known users

create, reuse, revise and repurpose digital artefacts for a given audience, with attention to trustworthiness, design, and usability.

- understand a range of ways to use technology safely, respectfully, responsibly, and securely, including protecting their online identity and privacy; recognise inappropriate content, contact and conduct, and know how to report concerns

Key stage 4 - All pupils must have the opportunity to study aspects of information technology and computer science at sufficient depth to allow them to progress to higher levels of study or to a professional career.

- develop their capability, creativity and knowledge in computer science, digital media, and information technology

- develop and apply their analytic, problem-solving, design, and computational thinking skills

- understand how changes in technology affect safety, including new ways to protect their online privacy and identity, and how to report a range of concerns

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How does The Code Zone support these objectives?

It can seem very overwhelming when you have a child interested in coding and technology but that’s why we’re here. Within our clubs we fulfil a lot of the points stated above.

In our Hacker Club we encourage our users to make the games on their own by creating new functionalities, changing the look of the game to something that they love, and learning how blocks in scratch fit together to create a working, playable game.

In our Modder A Clubs we do all the above but in MakeCode, which is a more complicated block system that is closer to the mechanics that Python uses. This means that they need to think more in depth about any changes they want to make as it very likely they will need to do more code than they are used to make a change. By this point they are beginning to find and remember patterns of code to aid them in their changes.

Also, in Modder A, we do Python coding skills. This gets the children writing in Python, but it doesn’t stop there! We will ask them questions on the code such as identifying data structures, explaining what the code is doing before they run it and discussing why we use certain aspects in coding to maximise efficiency and readability. This allows them to start to making connections between the Python skills and the MakeCode blocks they use.

In Modder B we start them coding in Python where they can apply everything they have learnt and start to see the complexity of programming a functional game. They start to see how classes are used and learn about syntax and how important it is. They also must learn to debug more as a small spelling mistake can cause a cascade of errors.

The Game Jams also assist in this in that the users are given a clean slate. Where in the clubs they are given a finished game, in Game Jams they can also create a brand-new game themselves! This really helps with understanding as it means they are really having to understand how the code fits together as a whole as well as individual pieces and they experience the development process for themselves.

Ultimately, The Code Zone encourages creativity and knowledge. By having different difficulty levels, we can increase their understanding and ability at a pace that suits them. This in turn helps them to achieve academically which is illustrated in the discussions that we have internally. I’ve had more than one child discuss how they are the one the class goes to for help in their computing classes!

I feel like Reshma Saujani sums it up well:

 “Computer science is not just for smart ‘nerds’ in hoodies coding in basements. Coding is extremely creative and is an integral part of almost every industry.”

If you are ready to start your coding journey you can find out about our GameDev Club here

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