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Mr Atkinson's blog - Developing ICT skills for the 21st Century

Working out how to best prepare our children for their futures from a computational based perspective is a challenging but exciting job. With technology moving at such a fast pace, it is hard to predict what the future will hold!

First and foremost, we believe we need to make children aware of the dangers of online activity and arm them with strategies to stay safe. At Gateway we spend the first half term focussing on e-safety issues with all year groups. Children need to be aware of what to do should they encounter a situation that makes them feel uncomfortable. For example, if they are prompted to share personal information. In older years, children learn that everything that they do online contributes to their digital footprint which one day could be used to decide on their suitability for employment. Many children are alarmed to hear that their digital footprint is already forming as a result of their friends and family posting information about them via social media.

The next important area to consider is information. The World Wide Web grows at an amazing rate. Finding the information you need can be quite complex. It isn’t simply typing a few keywords into a search engine and sifting through the highest page listings. Children at Gateway are taught to consider where they are most likely to find the information they need. They will consider whether a traditional information site is the best, and whether they are better served looking on a mapping site, a review site or even a blog. Once they have found their information, they need to verify that it is true, decide what bias the information may contain, and then convert the information into something they can understand. Finally, they need to decide which format is best to present their information. Could a linear presentation be the most suitable? Or perhaps a Prezi, a spreadsheet, an e-book, a graphical model, or a video format? The skills to stand up and present your information to an audience are also just as important as the steps that have led to this point.

The final area that we focus on at Gateway is deeper computational thinking. What does the inside of a computer look like? What is it made up of? Our Year 2 children really enjoy using our ‘MakeyMakey’s’ to look at circuitry. This is also the topic where coding is covered. Every year group takes part in coding for one term. The younger children start with programmable devices such as ‘bumble bee’s’ and then move on to Espresso where they use block coding to create their own apps that they share with each other before moving on to Scratch. On top of this, we also offer coding clubs in which interested children engage in courses to further their understanding. Older children support the younger children (as well as the teachers!) as part of their responsibilities. In Year 6, children are partnered with younger children and are given the task of personalising and animating their younger partner’s favourite stories. The amount of work and effort that goes into these stories is amazing.

In summary, we aim to help our children to be critically aware of:
1. Their safety
2. The information that they source, interpret and share
3. The computational thinking to design, create, improve and re-improve code

By achieving this, we have given them an excellent platform to move on to further study – not just in computing, but in their lives both inside and outside of the classroom.

The International Society for Technology in Education states that “computational thinking is not confined to the specific study of computers but is a skill to enhance deeper thinking and discovery.”

We recently held a Computing Information Session for parents to help them understand how we use technology in school. Find out more, here.

Mr Atkinson
Head of Pastoral and Computing

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