Will the ‘science’ in computer science put students off?
The new Computing curriculum, which from this month is slowly being implemented in schools across the UK, introduces algorithms and programming language as fundamental components to enhance student understanding, despite rapidly changing technologies and programming languages. Problem solving and technical communication comes hand in hand with this aspect of learning, as does digital literacy and teaching more general creative IT skills.
Although it has its many benefits, the new curriculum naturally opens itself up to questions. And there are still so many questions! Yet hindsight is a wonderful thing, and of course, we won’t know the answers to these questions until we are a lot further down the line.
A large part of the unknown is what students’ perception of the ‘new’ subject will be (teachers – tweet us your feedback @serifeducation – we’d love to hear your thoughts).
1. Will the change of name, from ‘ICT’ to ‘Computing’, have an impact?
Computing comes from a combination of computer science and the more traditional ICT. But once students hear it contains ‘science’, will this put them off?
The latest survey by BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, recently revealed that 88% of parents think learning computing will help their child be more successful in life – yet only 48% say they would encourage their children to study the subject to GCSE or A level.
Is this because parents deem the new elements more difficult than other subjects, or do they not see it as important to their child’s future learning/career paths? Will children who either don’t like science, or don’t excel at it, opt against Computing at GCSE level? And equally on the other hand, will students now choose to study Computing over science subjects Biology/Physics/Chemistry (or double science at GCSE)?
Firstly, let’s address the argument as to whether computer science is indeed a science at all. Science after all deals with natural things:
Biology = the body
Chemisty = matter (atoms and molecules)
Physics = matter (motion through space and time, and energy and force)
But humans are natural, and we built and operate computers right? Not quite the same thing. Technically, computers are artificial, and nature of course isn’t. However, there are many reasons as to why Computer Science does indeed deserve its superior title, many of which are much too scientific to go into in this short blog. But either way, the inclusion of Computer Science (and ultimately, the more technical elements in the new curriculum) could impact how students perceive it.
2. Are the creative elements well advertised?
Creativity is still a large part of the new curriculum. Yes, that’s right!
There has been so much talk about coding, that it could be said the creative elements have ‘fallen by the wayside’ in terms of noise. But if the object of the new curriculum is to attract more people to study it, then the creative elements should definitely be more advertised!
A large portion of the new KS3 and KS4 Computing curriculum contains creative projects. After all, Computing spans a huge variety of jobs, including: web designer, graphic designer, network engineer, systems administrator, web developer, business analyst, SEO manager, gaming developer, technical customer support manager, and more.
For example, in the Government’s ‘National Curriculum in England: Computing programme of study’ document for KS3, students will:
- undertake creative projects that involve selecting, using, and combining multiple applications, preferably across a range of devices, to achieve challenging goals, including collecting and analysing data and meeting the needs of known users.
- create, reuse, revise and repurpose digital artefacts for a given audience, with attention to trustworthiness, design and usability.
These are just two examples where students will have the chance to flex their creative muscles and create professional graphics, video and multimedia.
The technical elements of Computing are of course important, but if we advertise the creative elements too, we open up the subject to a wider range of students. Then, the challenge for educators is to nourish and develop each child’s creativity, not stifle it. Children are now growing up naturally accustomed to computers (iPads, smart phones, computer games, etc) and creativity helps children to look at familiar things with a fresh eye, examining problems with an open mind and using their imagination to explore how they might be solved.
It is of course important that there are the tools in place to practice this creativity, which is where our Serif Design Suite comes in. The Design Suite also helps to teach coding too. For more information, visit http://www.serif.com/Education/SerifDesignSuite/.