In light of the new computing programme of study, Optimus Education are bringing together a line up of primary ICT and computing experts and inspiring practitioners to share best practice around delivering outstanding ICT in schools.
As stated in the new draft programme of study, at Key Stage 1 pupils will now be expected to write and test simple programmes, and understand the basics of algorithms. At Key Stage 2, pupils will now have to explain how a simple algorithm works and to correct errors in algorithms and programs (DfE 07/02/13). Many schools feel ill-equipped to deliver these new expectations, but Optimus Education’s timely event is designed to help primary leaders prepare their school and staff to deliver the new computing programme of study at primary level.
Here’s a picture of the original ICT suite, complete with rows of desktop computers and an obligatory interactive whiteboard at the front. The senior management team felt that the suite didn’t properly represent the school’s creative ethos, didn’t reflect our vision of learning, and wasn’t capable of delivering the future curriculum needs of our pupils.
So we started gathering ideas from pupils about what ‘future learning’ might look like and what they needed to make it happen. We asked staff about what they thought was needed to teach a future curriculum and did a lot of research! Most of the ideas pointed to a place that combined research, books, science, technology and computing. A place where several activities could happen at once - a science experiment, building a robot, finding out about asteroids or just reading a book. A ‘movable’ place where everything could be easily moved - technology, furniture and resources. A place large enough to teach a whole class, comfortable enough to learn with a small group and snug enough to learn in private.
Much has been said about the Raspberry Pi and its usefulness as a tool for learning. The long waiting lists and competitive price of the Pi have created widespread euphoria. However, as all the excitement dies down, and people begin to receive their Pi, many critics have appeared asking how useful is the Pi?
Many critics and blog posts are comparing it to the iPad, which is futile as they are polar opposites. The Pi was developed as a tool to invoke learning, not as a wow piece of technology. The Pi is for content creation as opposed to content consumption. It is not the physical Pi that is the exciting technology - you don’t purchase it because of its processor speed, graphics ability or even its size - its fundamental strength is as a vehicle to develop students' computing competence and understanding.
Photo credit: Roo Reynolds
It is widely recognised that showcasing the work of students, and giving them an online audience, is a brilliant way of empowering students. Pete Jones’ call to arms in his post “Judging a book by its cover: Ideas and thoughts on how learning is displayed in schools“, powerfully makes the case for how he would like work to be shown around his school. Showcasing work helps improve students' confidence, and makes them work harder to refine their work as high-quality as possible, given they are going to have a wider audience. Some fantastic examples of students' work showcased online can be seen at High Tech High, San Diego, CA in this post by @JamiePortman. The way that they showcase their students' work, and the work that is on display, is phenomenal. How can we translate that to the display of work made by students in ICT lessons?
ICT is a subject where it is particularly difficult to put work on the walls without printing it off. This is fine if it is static work, such as a graphical design, a magazine cover, or a piece of writing. However, problems occur when you’re dealing with interactive work - videos, animations, websites, games, etc. How do you showcase these things in a clear and visible light? One way is through the procurement of plasma screens around your department and school - this is a fantastic idea and many schools do this. However, when you regularly want to showcase the work of hundreds of students, schools cannot afford to purchase so many screens to facilitate this. So how do you make it work?
For today’s schools, sustainability should entail far more than being green.
As well as being environmentally aware when selecting ICT, schools need to ensure that their equipment is built to last in order to save on their finances as well as electronic waste.
In the face of budget squeezes and a lack of investment, choosing sustainable ICT is essential to ensure that schools are ICT ready for the long run and that pupils do not miss out.
So, how can schools ensure that their ICT is sustainable?
When a school district adopts a 1:1 technology programme, no matter whether the district itself is purchasing the computers or is instead asking the students and their families to purchase a device (or bring one from home), one of the critical concerns that arises is how to keep those devices safe and operational for years to come. Theft, devices being lost, and devices breaking (by being dropped, for example) are all legitimate concerns. While some of these issues can be prevented or reduced somewhat by teaching students some basic safety techniques (such as keeping devices safely locked up when unattended), districts should also plan on purchasing insurance to protect their investment in 1:1 technology. Here are two key reasons why school districts should elect to insure students’ technology devices, along with some thoughts about what parents can do if their child’s school does not insure 1:1 devices.
Compact, mobile and easily accessible for young children, laptops have always appealed to schools looking to use ICT beyond the constraints of a computer suite. Although portability is one of the main attractions of using laptops in the classroom, the fact that pupils can easily pick up and move devices can risk considerable wear and tear over time.
Laptop computers can be costly to repair and replace, especially when they are out of warranty, so I thought I would run through a few tips to help you keep your laptops safe and at less risk of damage:
Due to my exceptional mathematical prowess during the very early years at school, I was occasionally given the exalted and coveted pleasure of being allowed to play a maths game on the schools one and only computer! It was a brown BBC, more affectionately known as the “BEEB”. It sat in the library, and received longing looks by every pupil that happened to walk past. Anyone who remembers these BEEBS will now be thinking about the advancements in ICT, and how far we have come technologically in the last 20 years.
Unless future proofing is considered when purchasing ICT, a school may as well cash out the annual ICT budget, and throw it into the boys’ urinal on the first corridor. The constantly changing nature of ICT is very nearly its downfall. This simple fact must be embraced before any purchase order is signed relating to ICT.
Packed with valuable technology and often open-plan, schools can be prime targets for both organised and opportunistic theft. Netbooks, laptops and tablets are small and light, so they can be easily concealed and removed from a building if the effective security measures are not in place.
ICT theft does not just cause inconvenience for students, who may be left without computer equipment. Having laptops stolen can result in increased insurance premiums if your school has to claim for its loss, and you could even be fined up to £500,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) if the theft results in a breach of the Data Protection Act. More worryingly, pupil safety could be severely compromised if information about vulnerable children falls into the wrong hands.