Serif in Education

Squashing the negative stereotypes through Computing with creativity!

Teachers are apparently “nervous but enthusiastic” about the new Computing curriculum this September, according to an article written by the Guardian. And seeing as many ICT (soon to be Computing) teachers do not have a background in coding, who can blame them for being slightly anxious about what they will be required to teach, at what level, and how they will integrate the technical aspects of the course into their learning programs.

But it’s not all about coding. As I’ve mentioned in a recent blog, ‘The Year of Code’, creativity still has a vital role to play alongside coding. Coding is a new element of the curriculum, but there is a lot more that is also involved. Essentially, Computing is redefined ICT.

So, are teachers right to worry, and is there a way that by providing them with the right resources we can help not only the pupils engage in the subject but the teaching staff too?

A study in 2011, by Reena Pau, Wendy Hall and Marcu Grace, found that students studying ICT GCSE thought modules on Microsoft Office were ‘boring’ and that they found it hard to imagine how Microsoft Office could be a sufficient foundation for a further course in ICT or Computing. In fact, the interviews conducted for the study went even further to suggest that the female participants at GCSE level consider jobs in the IT industry to be either secretarial or ICT teaching roles. Now, we all know this is far from the truth, but we are also all too familiar with the often negative stereotypes associated with “Computing” – which seems rather unfair considering Computing or ICT can lead to a large array of different career types and paths, and certainly more than just secretarial or indeed programming roles.

The most interesting part of the study for me however, was the difference with people’s interpretation of Computing based on how the course was marketed and put together. The fact that participants studying the GCSE Business and Communication systems were much more positive about their course didn’t come as a surprise to me.  Even saying the word “Business and Communication systems” makes the course sound much more involved and interesting. But the main reason they were positive it is thought, was because by taking the course they not only focused on mathematics and computing but also, they were able to understand about the practical applications of computers. In short, they could understand how the work they were doing was having implications on the finished output of their projects.

Serif believes that by providing schools and teachers with teaching resources that help students tap into their creative side, they can improve the classroom environment and change the typical view that computing or computers are “geeky” or a more male orientated subject or career choice.

By using packages such as PhotoPlus students can use photos taken in their everyday life, modify and manipulate them to cut out, crop, restore grainy images or change raw lighting effects.  Then import these into DrawPlus, where they can use these photos to create interactive web graphics for any device.  Combining the creative elements with more technical aspects, such as exporting optimised images with an HTML file, getting them ready to import into the source code of a webpage or WebPlus website, means students can gleam a real-life situation where computing suddenly comes to life and applies to their everyday living too.  This can all be done alongside elements of coding and programming, or as a standalone project.

In fact, one of the recommendations made on the basis of the findings from the study was that schools provided real life context so students can see the relevance of what they are studying, but also demonstrate how programming fits in with what goes on in real IT organisations. Here at Serif we prefer Maths and Computer Science graduates for the programming roles, but we welcome those with an understanding of the role of technology in business across the variety of other roles in the organisation.

So perhaps by making computing “fun” to learn, and by changing the boundaries and stereotypes of how we learn Computing (i.e. Bringing creativity into the Computing environment) we can turn the concept of Computing on its head and instead of people thinking just about the negatives, they will see the positive impact it has to their learning and future career choices.

 

‘It’s boring’: Female students experience of studying ICT and computing Reena Pau, Wendy Hall, and Marcus Grace www.hestem.ac.uk

www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/2013/dec/10/computing-soding-schools-children