Over the last year the learning technologies team in Argyll and Bute have been providing additional exciting, computer science related learning opportunities for young people at primary level.
The long-term goal of this project is to capture the imagination of young people, to showcase what can be created and inspire through technology.
Before commencing this project we were very aware that our young people had excellent ICT skills and made very good use of technology. However, this project is about equipping young people at primary level with skills and knowledge to turn computing ideas into concepts, improve their understanding of how technologies work and gain some understanding of the concepts involved in computer programming.
We feel that this project is important to the economy of Argyll and Bute, particularly as we want to offer our young people as much choice as possible in where they live and work. We feel that the technology sector provides a number of remote working and company start up opportunities. Additionally we are very aware that almost every field of employment now relies on technology, and our challenge is to prepare young people for jobs that may not even exist yet.
Our team has so far supported approximately 50 primary schools by providing expertise to assist them in commencing a computer programming related project. We work with each school on an individual basis and the projects vary depending on the schools learning outcomes, expertise and available equipment.
Our approach has been to offer centrally hosted CPD sessions for staff whilst working directly with pupils in schools. We feel that technology related learning provides excellent pupil led and peer learning opportunities. It is however interesting to note that in the majority of cases the pupils’ knowledge of technology quickly overtakes that of the teachers. Subsequently, we are seeing teachers taking up more of a facilitator role in technology related learning.
An important part of this project was to establish a loan bank of equipment. This has given our team the opportunity to showcase a variety of technologies whilst allowing us to loan schools suitable equipment. In addition this provides the school with an opportunity to try out various technologies before committing to a purchase.
The two most popular activities in our schools so far are Kodu and Lego Wedo. However schools have also being using Raspberry Pi, Lego Mindstorms, Scratch, PicoBoard for Scratch, LiveCode and .net gadgeteer.
We have been very much encouraged by the enthusiasm and passion our young people exhibit towards technology. We have found that about 97% of the young people have fully engaged with activities such as Kodu and have shown a real desire to learn the basics of computer programming.
This project has provided a number of opportunities for the young people of Argyll and Bute to share their learning and skills. We have seen pupils presenting and demonstrating technology projects at workshops. Some of these young people have stated that as a result of this they feel more confident in using technology but also as individuals too. In addition to this we have a number of schools establishing lunchtime, afterschool computing clubs and some schools appointing pupil ICT mentors.
The next step for this project is to implement a pupil self-evaluation framework in order that we can better measure the impact of learning computer programming in primary schools.