NewTechKids works with a variety of primary schools to help them integrate computer science and technological literacy into their curriculum. While all of the schools are enthusiastic, each school is different in terms of understanding, commitment level and available resources.
NewTechKids has prepared this list of suggested steps for primary schools which are interested in introducing computer science education. It’s a big undertaking and success will eventually come down to recognising the need for this type of education, having a strategy and being willing to commit serious resources in terms of teacher training, teaching and testing curriculum, and finances.
- Recognise that your school lacks relevant curriculum and lessons which helps students 1) understand technology and how it works, 2) think critically about technology and its pros, cons and implications, and 3) invent with it through designing, building and programming activities. Most schools currently provide students with opportunities to use technology (laptops, iPads, etc.) but this is not enough to prepare students for future study, hobby and work opportunities and to become conscious technology consumers.
- Align the introduction of computer science education closely with your school’s overall learning objectives for students. NewTechKids works with schools committed to the ongoing, long-term development of higher order thinking skills and 21st century skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, teamwork and collaboration, communication and creativity. We have chosen not to teach computer science in the context of technical skills development (coding).
- Seek consensus and commitment from both school leaders, teachers and parents that it is important to introduce computer science education in the context of 21st century skills development. Based on this shared sense of mission, school leaders and teachers can develop a coordinated strategy which will eventually benefit the whole school. This strategy should cover deadlines, milestones, budgets and detailed descriptions of teacher training, teaching and co-teaching, and the sharing of teaching experiences with school leaders and other teachers.
- Start with a pilot project. Recruit a small team of teachers (ideally 2-3 per school for peer support) who will be responsible for introducing computer science education at your school. These teachers will be responsible for identifying training opportunities, preparing/teaching the first lessons, co-teaching with each other, and sharing their experiences and knowledge with other teachers and school leaders. Stichting NewTechKids, our non-profit arm, organised a teacher training program from January to March 2018 to help schools do this.
- To streamline resources and achieve maximum impact, NewTechKids advises schools to collaborate at the school board level to determine staff resources and budgets for teacher training and school supplies. School boards can designate teachers from different schools to work together to expand computer science education across all of their schools. Selected teachers can complete advanced training, train other teachers, develop additional curriculum modules and lessons, and choose the common teaching tools and resources that schools will use across all grade levels. This will probably mean that these teachers need to reduce their own teaching hours since they will be busy receiving training, preparing and teaching new lessons, and mentoring other teachers.
Image: Stichting NewTechKids’ training session in February 2018.