OCR Computing and EBacc

OCR confirmation that their GCSE in Computing counts as Computer Science as far as the Department of Education are concerned…

Computer science will become an EBacc subject, the Education Secretary announced today. It will be added to the list of separate science options, making four separate sciences instead of the traditional three. OCR’s GCSE in Computing will specifically count towards the EBacc in performance tables.

I’ll grab a PDF copy JIC.

International Computing Curricula (or another reason why CAS is awesome)

The UKs Department of Education has published a draft programme of study for consultation – part of the curriculum changes for 2014. This includes Computing as a subject in Key Stages 1 – 4, distinct from ICT (see previous post on terminology).

What’s happening elsewhere? I started to look and found interesting things in Australia and the United States…

draws together the distinct but related subjects of Design
and Technologies and Digital Technologies

Computer Science: Principles is a new course under development that seeks to broaden participation in computing and computer science.

…before finding that CAS had got there already with a document of international comparisons:

This briefing note summarises how computing (i.e. computer science) is taught at (high) school in other countries.  We focus especially on what computer science qualifications are available to students.

To code with Python in 3 steps

There’s loads of resources on the net for learning to code with Python. These three are my recommendations.

  1. Codecademy Python track: sign up (free) with Codecademy and learn Python piece-by-piece.
  2. Learn Python The Hard Way: using the online HTML book (or spend $$ for extras).
  3. Project Euler: set yourself some of the challenges from Project Euler.

[Update: 06 Jan 2013]

Here’s #4: http://www.pythonforbeginners.com/

Terminology

I’m trying to follow the terminology introduced in the Royal Society Report on the future of computing[i] as I think and talk to others about computing in school. Here’s the summary to save you digging through the report:

Computing The broad subject area; roughly equivalent to what is called ICT in schools and IT in industry, as the term is generally used.

ICT The school subject defined in the current National Curriculum.

Computer Science The rigorous academic discipline, encompassing programming languages, data structures, algorithms, etc.

Information Technology The use of computers, in industry, commerce, the arts and elsewhere, including aspects of IT systems architecture, human factors, project management, etc. (Note that this is narrower than the use in industry, which generally encompasses Computer Science as well.)

Digital literacy The general ability to use computers. This will be written in lower case to emphasize that it is a set of skills rather than a subject in its own right.

 

Update:

 

See also this CAS document which follows the same definitions but adds TEL for ‘Technology Enhanced Learning’ across the curriculum: http://www.computingatschool.org.uk/data/uploads/Curriculum%20Framework%20for%20CS%20and%20IT.pdf

 

 


[i] http://royalsociety.org/uploadedFiles/Royal_Society_Content/education/policy/computing-in-schools/2012-01-12-Computing-in-Schools.pdf

Some Strategy Guidelines

One of the little tasks I have over the summer holiday is to figure out next years strategy for computing across the school. Specifically, how we can leverage software and services to maximise the benefit to learning and teaching from the rather splendid investment made in hardware infrastructure as part of the new build.

To help I started with a set of guidelines, based around some principles, to help guide the decision process. Hopefully these will also help others understand where things are coming from.

Guidelines

Principles are important (especially if you can keep to them). This section sets out a set of principles that have been used to help guide the process of forming this strategy.

1. Keep things simple. Training and the impact of change can be costly. Simple things that get used are more valuable than complex stuff that doesn’t. Related to this, consistent solutions are often better than better solutions[i].

2. Use commodity stuff wherever possible. What needs a custom solution today can be done with commodity stuff tomorrow. It usually makes sense to wait for tomorrow. The benefits of large customer base and the associated multipliers of scale will typically outweigh the benefits of a solution customised for a niche market. We’re not experts in running technology infrastructure; so we’ll partner with those that are.

3. Education is preparation for life. So we will endeavour to ensure education reflects life outside the education bubble wherever that’s appropriate. Likewise, we believe that education doesn’t need specialist ‘education technology’ to support it[ii].

4. Life is risky. Learning how to manage risks is an important life skill so we don’t want 100% insulation. Where there is risk and risky behaviour we’ll try and architect so that it remains close. Pushing risks underground is more risky than acknowledging them and holding them close.

5. Boundaries are blurred. Working and learning don’t happen just within the physical space of TOA. More than acknowledging; enabling, supporting and promoting learning and working anywhere are important outcomes for our technology strategy.

6. Computing can be deployed such that costs elsewhere are reduced. Computing can also been seen purely as a cost to be minimised. We’ll aim for a balance that recognises that education has typically treated computing more as a cost and less as an opportunity.

7. Software is more important than hardware. Or: it’s not what you have it’s what you do with it that matters.

8. Open solutions are better than closed. ‘Nuff said.


[i] Tim Bray has some related thoughts on this at http://www.tbray.org/ongoing/When/201x/2010/01/02/Doing-It-Wrong

[ii] As an illustration: a reasonably recent trend in the commercial sector has been the commercialisation of IT (characterised by the support for consumer devices, like the Apple iPhone, as part of IT systems). A similar trend is expected in education: the consumerisation of education.