Introducing Computing: a guide for teachers
Ed. Lawrence Williams, Routledge 2014
Dr. Christina Preston
Founder of the MirandaNet Fellowship
Trustee of World Ecitizens
Professor of Educational Innovation, University of Bedfordshire
Since the “disapplication” of the ICT programmes of study by the Secretary of State for Education in 2012, Lawrence Williams, a teacher educator in Literacy, ICT, and Computing, has worked with members of MirandaNet, Naace, ITTE, and CAS to investigate the best ways to approach the new Computing curriculum content and pedagogy. “Introducing Computing: a guide for teachers” (Routledge 2014) is the result.
The book is well worth reading for the opening chapter alone. Allison Allen writes with great authority about redefining the ICT curriculum. Her key point is that excellent teachers are very concerned about the apparently new terminology and skills they need for coding and programming, whereas much of this was already stipulated in the previous ICT curriculum. This anxiety is overshadowing the opportunities to explore the innovative pedagogy that Allison describes in great detail, grounded in classroom cameos, and referenced with quotations.
Mirka Černochová, who has been developing an on-going exchange project with Lawrence, in England, and the Charles University in the Czech Republic, contributes a chapter on Philosophy and Computing that reminds us of the constructive value that was found in the early days of Seymour Papert's Logo that began the movement to teach computational thinking and algorithms. It provides a valuable, non-political foundation for the teaching of Computing in our schools. There are valuable reference lists, web resources, and a glossary that practitioners and students will find useful in this new field.
The centre of the book concentrates on the creative use of Scratch from KS1 ¬to KS3 by trainee teachers, together with pupils in West London under Lawrence’s guidance, and in Prague, Czech Republic through Mirka’s work. This project, that primarily develops computer coding skills, has been at the core of Lawrence’s extensive cross-curricular initiative, “Literacy from Scratch”, that has an associated website at: www.literacyfromscratch.org.uk
In the book, and on the website, the whole process of learning Computing is demonstrated with a cross-curricular emphasis on literacy, art, and music. Lawrence has also curated resources by children (from age 5) who are leading the way. The Literacy from Scratch model is designed to develop narrative and literacy alongside computational thinking skills. Creativity is a core element of the project described from KS1 to KS3, where pupils use the Scratch programme to create narrative, characters, artwork, and music.
Finally, Mark Dorling introduces the topic of understanding computer networks in the primary school, and Nic Crowe and Rosie Hussain explain the value of games in systematic thinking, and complex decision-making processes, that are important aspects of computational thinking, and which point a way to the future.
Lawrence’s fundamental belief is that cross-curricular work, which was largely dropped from primary schools when the National Curriculum was originally introduced, can now, through the Computing curriculum, provide a radical new opportunity to bring back creativity, collaborative work, and cross-curricular projects into the curriculum. The authors he has assembled to write the chapters, all of whom are current or former classroom practitioners certainly bring these ideas to life. It is pleasing to read a book about teaching Computing that bubbles with enthusiasm, and will inspire teachers from KS1-KS3.