Zagreb and the computing curriculum
I was very blessed recently when I was approached via twitter to take a trip to Croatia and visit teachers to discuss the proposed computing curriculum for teachers in Croatia. Sound familiar? In the UK teachers were put into a similar situation when Gove attended the BETT show with a shock announcement. Computing was coming in and ICT was out!
James Langley of Langley Associates contacted me through twitter and mentioned that the British Embassy would like to support these teachers. James Langley has 11 years’ experience as a primary school teacher including 5 years an AST in the effective use of ICT in the classroom. Langley Associates was set up in 2016 to offer educational consultancy for schools and for businesses. The can offer bespoke training depending on your school’s needs.
After speaking via twitter James decided that we could run some primary and secondary workshops which would help the Croatian teachers see how the curriculum could be implemented.
We arrived in Croatia with amazing weather and great hospitality from the British Embassy. It was great to catch up with everyone and finally meet a number of people face to face.
Day 1 –
It was a glorious sunny day and we attended the training centre and set up.
Primary Training Activities: –
James started the day off with sessions to help teachers be more prepared for the primary curriculum. During James first session he talked about how important it is that we help early years to become more aware of the technology around them. It seems that these days that pupils are born to be digital. He gave some fantastic examples of what some teachers from a local primary school were doing. Some teachers had set up a fake till in the classroom with a barcode scanner so that the students could see how to use some of the equipment. He also talked about how one teacher would take their students on trips to the local supermarket to take out money using a Pin number. They would use the ATM and then go and use the self-service check outs.
He also asked the teachers about what they were already doing and gave them plenty of unplugged ideas for teaching terms such as abstraction and debugging etc..
Some of the unplugged activities which could be seen were: –
- Programming a human being: – Teachers were told to program each other. They would need to get from point A to B. They would need to understand the need for precise instructions. Eventually the difficulty stepped up and teachers had to use blind folds.
- Programming shapes: – Teachers would have to sit back to back to back and have to give precise instructions to draw the shapes (without looking)
- A series of dance activities to demonstrate the use of repetition within instructions. Any of my personal friends will know what dance I chipped in with 😉
Secondary Training Activities: –
Preparing your department
The second half of the afternoon was very much about supporting secondary teachers in their need for training and need to get ready. I explained the support that CAS had given the U.K with the quick start computing books. I showed many of their teacher’s extras from this book and explained the importance of listening to your staff and communicating with your leadership team.
My first session was very much about the things that will need to be in place in order to have a successful implementation of the curriculum. The first thing that I talked about was the transition and I talked to teachers about how ill prepared many departments were. In the UK with QTS it generally means that you can teach any subject once you have this. I said that teachers of ICT generally weren’t computer science teachers. I talked to them about the importance of doing an audit within your department. It’s important to find out everyone’s strengths and weaknesses.
I talked about what good training looks like and made sure that the teachers looked into training that would help them remember. So many teachers have trainers which come in and talk at them and I recommended that the teachers host regular teach meets. I walked them through what a good lesson plan would look like and how you would include the computational thinking using lesson guidance. I also showed them how to plan a scheme of work and talked about the things which should be considered.
Computer hardware, binary and networks
One of the areas of the new computing curriculum required teachers to understand computer hardware. I decided to play a game with the teachers and explained how easy it was to make theory more engaging. I talked about the delivery and even mentioned how engaging paper fights are with students. The idea being that you write down a piece of hardware on a piece of paper, throw it across the class and another student picks it up but has to write something different on it. It makes a great discussion and gets them up and involved.
Binary can be a tricky thing to understand, I talked about unplugged activities which can help both the teachers and the students understand the topic a lot easier. I showed teachers how they can make a paper binary calculator but also showed them how they can use division to work out binary numbers. This was really useful for when teachers wanted to convert from denary. This method also works with octal.
On top of this, I demonstrated how easy it can be to teach networks with linking arms and passing notes up and down the link. It’s a lot more stimulating than drawing network diagrams on a piece of paper.
Day 2: – Hands on training: –
The second day was all about giving some hands on training to the teachers. We wanted to show them tools that were available and also wanted to give them some guidance in areas of the curriculum.
Many of the teachers did not have high spec computers or they did not have the equipment to install lots of iPad apps and needed tools which would be accessible.
Scratch: – James walked the teachers through programming a simple game of ‘Frogger’ and explained concepts of conditions. He also explained repeats and showed them how to use variables with the game. The good thing about scratch was that they were able to run it through their browser on scratch 2.0. They liked the concept of this and many were having fun making changes. This was a key point and it was explained in these sessions that we should allow our students to have ‘tinker time’. It helps them understand the functionality of the code.
E-Safety: – James delivered a strong e-safety lesson talking about the ‘angels’ and ‘demons’ of the internet. He mentioned that for every positive there is a negative and summed up some of the things that we need to be aware of. I even pitched in and talked about quality time with people. I told the teachers about homework’s you can give your kids such as going to a restaurant and counting the number of people talking on phones instead of in person. James mentioned recently that there are also teachers using ‘Tinder’. These are all things we need to be aware off. He talked about what it looks like to be ‘inadequate’ in safeguarding. I’ve attached the slide to support this.
Micro:bit: – Many of the teachers were also keen to see microcomputers and they wanted to something in action. I brought over some spare micro:bits I had lying around and delivered a training session. I talked about the support that we had from people such as BBC and Microsoft in getting this initiative off the ground. I talked about how our computing curriculum says that you must teach one visual programming language and one text based. I explained to teachers that they could do this by using the website alone. There is the block editor and a python based text editor. I gave them some examples and all teachers in the room managed to make a ‘creeper’ and were able to use the text based editor.
HTML: – My final session was catered to help those schools who do not have the budget for software such as Dreamweaver and other website development packages. I talked about how networks use different services and talked about HTTP. I then moved on to say how web browsers translate the message and broke down step by step, how to build a website. We did a short session, but all teachers in the room managed to build a simple website and saw that they could do this with a simple tool such as notepad.
I will say that I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience in Croatia.
It was great to finally meet James Langley who is a top man. We had a good time bouncing ideas off each other and we were very flattered by the feedback we received from training these teachers. I would love to visit Croatia again and look forward to following up connections made.
A massive thank you goes to the British Embassy for inviting us over and to Lidija Kralj @LidijaKralj for organising everything. You can find out more by clicking this link: – Suradnici u učenju.
We look forward to working together in the future and look forward to sharing more pedagogy in the future. Please feel free to read through the feedback and if you’re interested in similar training please contact me via twitter @lanky_boi_ray or @langleyassoc for more information.