CODE Portal for Primary Schools is currently a concept. The portal will be a free intranet solution for all UK Primary Schools. It is my wish for CODE Portal to guide teachers in Computer Science, coding, and programming. Lessons and tasks included in the portal will make use online resources. All currently free online content will not be ignored but will be part of a structured learning experienced.
As a father of four young children, I have a strong interest in education. I discovered that there are massive inconsistencies across the UK in Computer Science lessons. I read that only 10% of Primary Schools (Around 2015) are preparing young minds for a world of coding and programming.
I spent days researching the current status of this subject and why some Schools are making progress whilst others struggle. The only answer that made sense was money (budget). Yes, there are many free online sources of teaching materials and courses for all ages. If a School has internet, pupils can access Hour of Coding and other great lessons. The issue that remains is structure
Problems and Solutions
Teachers are now expected to learn a high level of Computer Science, basically playing catch up in a fast changing world while also managing everything else that comes with a teaching career. The CODE Portal will include learning material for different age groups, including adults. It will also point teachers and support staff towards the most suitable lesson materials for each stage in Computer Science, with the national curriculum taking into consideration.
Keeping Homework Consistent
I’m aware of the importance of homework and that not every child will have access to a computer at home or someone who will support their learning. I feel Computer Science homework should be flexible by offering more than one task and requiring only one task to be complete. In achieving that pattern of homework, every child can continue learning at home with or without a computer.
I expect the portal to have homework points (potentially with the ability to quickly print a homework sheet independently) and I don’t see anything wrong with children completing parts of homework at School i.e. the parts that require access to the CODE Portal or other sites.
The Internet Includes More Variables
Some online websites offer great material for learning theory and practical. Most do not require registration but progress is not secure i.e. it may be stored in cookies for a short time only. This seems to be a very acceptable way for children to practice without the pressure of continuing to a higher level. This is why the CODE Portal does not require a proper registration or secure login. It will offer a basic tracking system that mimics an online site without any of the security concerns or frustrating administration problems i.e. recovering accounts or children trying to access an account at home, to continue recent studies.
We don’t need to track and record progress for children to progress, else we risk missing the opportunity to encourage practice.
I believe that the introduction of the internet, the web, and each individual website. Also introduces variables that require more policy, more discussion, possible concerns, maybe even headaches!
I would suggest that there is a great benefit in showing children how much a computer can do…with no connection to the internet. Computer Science, coding and programming existed before the internet.
I say, remove the variables and I came up with a solution (CODE Portal) that simplifies things as much as possible. It doesn’t require an active internet connection but it has to be downloaded or distributed on a memory stick, SD card or even a data disk (CD). The keenest pupils will easily manage to continue lessons at home.
Independent Learners, National Curriculum, and Staff Experience
In case you have misunderstood my position, let me confirm that I’m not a teacher or qualified to teach. I’m doing my best to understand a teacher’s world and after hours of research, I find it a little daunting. I also find it challenging in positive and negative ways.
- In my work, I play catch up daily, always learning more while the internet changes quicker than I can learn. Teachers are being pulled into that race and I’ve already spoken to both active staff and students who do not enjoy it at all.
- The national curriculum for Computer Science is explained in the text and it’s an easy read. It’s another job to understand how a requirement within the curriculum becomes a group of lessons. Even more difficult, is deciding what lessons apply to teach part of the curriculum and how much it applies.
- Computer Science might possibly be the hardest Primary level subject for tracking any progress on. Even if we stick to the fundamentals, lots of theory and a standard group of lessons for every child in the country. We cannot track every pupil’s individual progress. The practical work of coding or programming isn’t normally followed with a tick or a cross. Usually, it works or it doesn’t and if an attempt at coding or programming does not work. It can be a very visual and a strongly felt failure. The CODE Portal will have to encourage independent learning and not force a linear journey upon learners if we are to make it an enjoyable experience. If that means pupils skip tasks or go back to previous tasks, then so be it. I might even be able to create a way for the portal to encourage the practice of redoing tasks and we can get very smart about how this is done.
- I often imagine a kid at the classroom PC about the size of my daughter, begging for help on a programming task that requires the introduction to be read and fully understood. Help the pupil might require understanding how they arrived where they are, such is the nature of computers as you will know! I can’t say for sure how often such a scenario would occur but I’m confident that staff would need a lot of experience to help their pupil continue without frustration. So I consider how my design of the portal might help reduce the need for support and remove staff experience as an important factor to learn this subject.
I’ve already had a meeting with one Head Teacher, spoke to other teachers, students studying to be teachers and parents. There has always been great interest and sometimes excitement.
The key element of the project is a solution that Schools have total control over it. CODE Portal will be customizable and with enough innovation, it will adapt, remember, encourage, and even reward. Without pupils having to remember a complex login i.e. they would simply select their class and name from a menu.
Next Step In 2017
At this time I don’t have the funds I need to get the project started but planning continues. I’ve also recently begun re-building my portfolio and re-launching projects. That is all part of my decision to put more focus into presenting myself as a professional rather than building a business. This is key to gaining funding for any project I do.
So it is a busy time for me but CODE Portal is an important step in my career. Although it will be offered a free download and has no immediate financial benefit. It is possible that the project will open doors and revenue from the consultation.