My problem with Computing (Or how I learned to tolerate uncertainty)

My problem with Computing (Or how I learned to tolerate uncertainty)


Ever since entering teaching in 2008/9 I’ve always wanted to make the subject more realistic and technical. After spending 6 years in industry working in web development, technical support and network administration, I was passionate about the power and benefit of technology, and how with a little work everyone could learn some of these “dark arts”.

I hadn’t really been involved in Computing or Computer Science as an academic subject before. I introduced the use of HTML, CSS, PHP and SQL into A-Level ICT courses, and was the first teacher in my school to teach GCSE Computer Science. From there everything progressed nicely and the balance between the ICT and Computing (CS) curriculum was good.

Then the ICT qualifications started to disappear, and the Computing curriculum review began. The ICT curriculum was disapplied and the Computing curriculum came in to replace it.

At first I was so excited, the vagueness and lack of detail in the ICT curriculum was gone and the clarity of the Computing was here. The issue was the actual content. It is not interesting. It doesn’t pose big questions, it doesn’t lead to definitive end point of knowledge. The skills are abstract. It’s hard to implement. Or was it just me?

Plan A and Plan B

I feel like I need to make 2 plans. One for what I need to do to teach the curriculum and one for what I need to teach to keep the subject alive. At the minute I’m struggling to do either well. If the lessons are too theory heavy the learners switch off. They struggle to apply or see the point. There is very little coherent theme in the POS.

I’d like to compare it to a purely academic subject like History and see how it compares. What themes do they have, what definitive knowledge and skill do they identify? Can I do the same with the Computing POS?

If we take the GCSE CS curriculum and map it down to KS3 it does work. Another problem is the KS2 to KS3 curriculum takes a jump and I’ve never been confident with how well it is covered by Primary teaching. I don’t blame Primary teaching for not meeting the full POS, they have their own bigger problems to deal with (the dreaded SATs).

It comes back to the fundamental question – How do I take learners with a variety of knowledge, skills and basic computer literacy on a journey that will enthuse, engage and ultimately develop them to be able to access KS4 Computer Science?

Plan C

In terms of curriculum I need to decide on Substantive knowledge and Disciplinary knowledge. This is from work by Christine Counsell.

Substantive Knowledge is established fact (found in exam specifications and the KS3 Programme of Study) It is WHAT to learn.

Disciplinary knowledge is how that knowledge was established, degree of certainty etc How did we get there? Methods used to learn this. Computational Thinking skills? HOW we learn that.

We link these together with questions, concepts, themes and procedures.

Knowledge organisers are used to reduce the need for short term memory to hold established fact. For this we need to go to the source, the curated knowledge, and identify CLEARLY what you need to know.[taken from an earlier post]

(Actually do I mean Threshold Knowledge?)

How to get there?

Step 1 – Look at the big picture.

Input – Review the KS2, KS3 and KS4 Curriculum.
Process – Look for the overarching themes.
Output – Curriculum map (mind map)

Step 2 – Decompose the curriculum.

Input –  Curriculum themes and KS3 POS
Process – Break the curriculum down into those themes. Identify the substantive knowledge.
Output – Curate that knowledge into a structure (Knowledge organisers)

Step 3 – Abstract the disciplinary knowledge.

Input – The structure of the knowledge required.
Process – Identify the methods to get to this knowledge – what are the original sources. Substantive knowledge. What are the blocks to build with to learn this.
Output – List the methods used to learn the disciplinary knowledge.

Step 4 – Checking the learning

Input – The overall curriculum plan
Process – Identifying the key knowledge and skills to assess
Output – planning the assessment before the learning

Step 5 – rebuild the curriculum

Input – The disciplinary and substantive knowledge requirements
Process – map to questions/themes/projects
Output – Longer, deeper, more specific learning “blocks” with clearer better assessment.

Step 6 – Share

Input – The documentation created above.
Process – Add to this blog
Output – Sharing my findings to help others.

Photo by Sasha Sashina on Unsplash

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