Would cross-curricular computing solve issues such as teacher and pupil confidence? Tanya Gleadow is exploring this in her research.

Computing education takes broadly two forms – ICT skills and the more academically focused computer science – which have been taught separately since 2015. Computing education is suffering from a lack of specialist teachers – only 53% of those teaching computer science in secondary schools have a relevant post A-level qualification as defined by government statistics 1.

How we can harness technology effectively for feedback in English classrooms, ensuring that its use is not just a bolt-on but something that can be a meaningful support to drive improvement, reflection and engagement?

What should we do?

Do we recruit more specialists, train existing teachers, or do we change the way computing is taught?

Only 40% of the target figure for new Computer Science teachers has been met this year 2, and increasing teacher numbers will take time. When the government consulted a panel to help them develop the new National Curriculum, the experts recommended that computing be integrated throughout the entire curriculum; however, from an industry perspective, computing should be taught in a way that contextualises the wide range of applications 3. One solution may be to integrate computing activities across the whole school, which would emulate the real-world situations which require computational thinking and problem-solving skills.

How do we build students’ confidence in computing?

The problem is that many students do not choose to study computer science, thinking it’s not ‘for them’.

When children choose not to eat vegetables, hiding them in other food still gives the child the health benefits of vegetables, in a form which is more acceptable to them. Could the same principle work with computer science?

Cross-curricular computing

My research aims to develop more resources that can be used confidently by non-specialists, and the real test will be to use them in lessons that are not computing! It is hoped that by contextualising computing concepts through practical activities and career-linked resources, computing will become more familiar and relevant to students. There may also be a benefit in extending our experience as teachers and in engaging the students in a different way.

The World Economic Forum predicts that global demand for data analysts and data scientists will have the biggest increase in coming years 4, careers which also involve mathematical skills, and so I have chosen this area to start looking at in depth.

Data Science in a box

The initial study will be testing a “lesson in a box” with everything needed to deliver the activity – whether it be looking at how photo filters work in Art or Media, population data in History, or global temperature trends in Geography. Ideally, each box would deliver new ideas and tools through a low stakes approach.

Please note, this study for Year 8 and 9 teachers has now closed.

Author

  • Tanya Gleadow

    Tanya is a computing education researcher, and a creative doctoral researcher at Loughborough University, researching the question, 'Is computing better placed throughout the entire school curriculum than as its own subject?'.
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