Guest Blog by Bellevue’s Head of Digital Development Adam Atkinson
This year Brabyns has invested heavily in upgrading their provision for use of technology in school. Interactive whiteboards have been added to with screens and Chromecasts, teachers and children have access to new chromebooks, the wifi network has been upgraded and the bandwidth has been increased considerably. This all sounds very impressive but what does it mean for children and their learning?
Working out how to best prepare our children for their futures from a computational based perspective is a challenging but exciting job. With technology moving at such a fast pace, it is hard to predict what the future will hold.
The new chromebooks allow children to decide what type of device is best suited to their purpose. Should they be working from a laptop, should they be working on a tablet or should the chromebook be in ‘tent mode’? Should the children be typing or should they be using the voice to text option? We talk about children being digitally literate, by exposing the children to this technology in a safe environment we are helping to develop this literacy.
First and foremost, we believe we need to make children aware of the dangers of online activity and arm them with strategies to stay safe. Children need to be aware of what to do should they encounter a situation that makes them feel uncomfortable. For example, if they are prompted to share personal information. In older years, children learn that everything that they do online contributes to their digital footprint which one day could be used to decide on their suitability for employment. Many children are alarmed to hear that their digital footprint is already forming as a result of their friends and family posting information about them via social media.
The next important area to consider is information. The World Wide Web grows at an amazing rate. Finding the information you need can be quite complex. It isn’t simply typing a few keywords into a search engine and sifting through the highest page listings. Children are taught to consider where they are most likely to find the information they need. They will consider whether a traditional information site is the best, and whether they are better served looking on a mapping site, a review site or even a blog. Once they have found their information, they need to verify that it is true, decide what bias the information may contain, and then convert the information into something they can understand. Finally, they need to decide which format is best to present their information. Could a linear presentation be the most suitable? Or perhaps a Prezi, a spreadsheet, an e-book, a graphical model, or a video format? The skills to stand up and present your information to an audience are also just as important as the steps that have led to this point.
The final area that we focus on at Brabyns is deeper computational thinking. What does the inside of a computer look like? This is also the topic where coding is covered. Every year group takes part in coding. The younger children start with coding using Purple Mash where they use block coding to create their own animations before moving on to Scratch in the more senior years.
In summary, we aim to help our children to be critically aware of:
1. Their safety
2. The information that they source, interpret and share
3. The computational thinking to design, create, improve and re-improve code
The new technology has also changed the way that teachers use their classrooms. The screen is now a shared resource where children are able to cast their work to the screen, the teacher can be working anywhere in the room and be connected to the display as well. This allows the class to work more flexibly and gives the children more ownership with their learning.
By achieving this, we have given them an excellent platform to move on to further study – not just in computing, but in their lives both inside and outside of the classroom.