Primary Computing: Clearing up the confusion

Decoding: Clarity on the real objectives at the heart of the curriculum

“Is my child learning coding?” asks every parent at parents’ evening, because they’ve just read in the Sunday Something that all children need to code more than they need to read and write.

“It’s alright telling everybody that they have to teach code in their classrooms but I barely know how to turn my laptop on let alone write computer code.” quotes Christopher Coleman, Apple Distinguished Educator, revealing the concerns of the teachers he supports.

In came the the computing curriculum, with its fanfare as being the content our children had been denied for years, and the views thrown around like confetti that coding will save a generation.

The little known, and endlessly frustrating, fact is that computing is not all about coding. Nor is it all done on computers. It’s not even strictly new. Most schools, especially in infants and the early years are unsure about if they are delivering it correctly and invest in schemes, subscriptions and consultants to plug a perceived skills gap that isn’t there. All becomes clearer when schools understand the purpose and objectives at the heart of computing.

The purpose and objectives at the heart of computing.

The first sentence on the first paragraph on the first page of the National Curriculum Programme of Study is this:

A high-quality computing education equips pupils to use computational thinking and creativity to understand and change the world.

If you ignore the ‘change the world’ bit (because changing the world is an ambitious and unfair expectation to have of any one), this sentence gives the two objectives that computing should be an opportunity to teach. Every lesson, every class, in every school  should include these two things. However, they are sadly overlooked, or not understood, or overcomplicated, or undervalued in any case. They are:

A high-quality computing education equips pupils to use computational thinking and creativity to understand and change the world.solve real world problems.

…computational thinking and creativity. The PoS continues setting out its stall by detailing the three strands that most of us will recognise and feel a bit more at home with: computer science, information technology and digital literacy. But they are not the headliners. First paragraph maybe, but not first point. Once you start to see that computational thinking and creativity is the goal, things start to fall into place. Purposes become clear. To this end, it would have been better if ‘change the world’ read ‘solve real world problems’ but we can’t have it all.

Computational thinking and creativity