This scenario is one that those primary teachers amongst you may be familiar with – being asked to coordinate a subject that isn’t necessarily within your skillset or even be a particular interest of yours. Well fortunately, there is a lot of help out there if you find yourself in this situation, which I will cover in the next blog post in this series, ‘Part 2: Increasing confidence in subject knowledge’. It is an exciting time to be involved with the development of the computing curriculum since the recent changes and increased emphasis upon programming. However, this may be an aspect that fills many of you without a computing background with an overwhelming sense of dread and horror, but let me reassure you that this needn’t be the case.
In this blog, I will focus on where might be a good place to start as you begin your new and exciting role.
Part 1: Audit the resources that currently exist in your school and are in place for the subject
I will cover how you could audit your resources in three key areas:
- Units of work
A hardware audit
All schools are different and will have prioritised their spending differently over the years. Some schools may be fortunate enough to be well-resourced for this subject, whilst for others, this simply won’t be the case. If you are new to the school, as well as the role, you may not be familiar which of these two categories will apply to you, and so carrying out a hardware audit will be essential to you. You may also have a technician who is able to inform you of exactly how many resources you have and what they are, but particularly in smaller schools, this is less likely to be the case, so carrying out a simple audit is a good place to start.
Here are some questions to answer:
- How fast is the internet speed?
- How long do the devices take to switch on at the start of the session?
- How long do the devices take to log on to the network?
- How many computers do you have?
- More importantly, how many of them work?
- If they are laptops, how are they charged and do these charging facilities work efficiently?
- Do you have iPads or tablets that are used in class?
- Again, how many of these work and can be used?
- For handheld devices, do you have sufficient chargers?
- How regularly are the devices charged?
- Who takes responsibility for charging the devices?
- How many sockets are available in classrooms for their charging?
- How many printers are available and working?
- Where are printers located around the school?
- Who has access to the printers? (e.g. do pupils have a limited number of prints?)
- What other hardware do you have? (e.g. beebots, Lego robots)
As a starting point, it will be useful for you to have an awareness of these issues. You can then begin to think about where to prioritise spending from your budget. After all, there is no point having devices that won’t work unless they are attached to a laptop trolley. It is also useful to know if your devices need to be switched on half an hour before you wish to use them. Issues of taking responsibility for the charging of the devices may be something you wish to train up ‘Digital Leaders’ to do as a part of their role, ensuring that this vital job is regularly carried out, whilst delegating the responsibility away from yourself.
A software audit
- What software is available to pupils?
- Has it been kept up-to-date?
- What are the capabilities of each piece of software?
- Do you have any immediate concerns regarding gaps in the curriculum generally that will need to be filled?
- Of the software available, do all devices have access to the same or is there different software on different devices?
- Who is responsible for installing software/apps on your devices?
- Which software have you never previously used?
- Where may training be required in order for staff to deliver units that use these pieces of software?
You may already have ideas about software that you want to use that is not installed on your network. You may need to take into account the cost of new software, its ability to run on your school devices and network, and if you are hoping to use web-based software, you will want to ensure that your internet speed is fast enough to allow large numbers of pupils to access the same sites simultaneously.
Taking the time to answer these questions will enable you to make informed decisions and focus on the most important issues initially.
An audit of units of work already in place
You may have a great deal of enthusiasm and the sudden desire to make this subject your own by changing absolutely everything and starting from scratch. Now, although there is nothing wrong with this, time constraints will probably mean that this isn’t necessarily a particularly wise way to start. There is absolutely no point in reinventing the wheel if what you already have is of a high quality, or will suffice in the short-term. To establish whether or not this is the case, it is important to begin by auditing the pre-existing units. This will help you to begin your new role without the sense of having too much to do in too little time. Prioritising what needs to be done is most important and auditing your units of work is an easy and effective way of enabling you to prioritise effectively.
Where to start:
First, begin by asking yourself some questions:
- Which units can be kept in their current format or used with minimal modifications?
- Which of your existing units need to be entirely overhauled?
- Is it possible to change the order in which the units are being taught, in order to provide yourself with more time to make the necessary alterations?
Alternatively, you may find that there is currently nothing in place, leaving you with both complete freedom and a huge workload, along with the daunting feeling that accompanies it!
Scenario 1: units that can be kept in their current format or used with minimal modifications
- The majority of your initial workload is not stemming from these units of work;
- Staff will be familiar with the teaching and delivery of these so less is required of you in terms of staff liaison or training.
- Time may still have to be spent making changes;
- Lack of control and ownership over what is being taught.
Scenario 2: units that need to be completely overhauled
- Control and ownership over what is being taught and how it is being delivered;
- The majority of your initial workload will stem from changing or rewriting these units;
- Additional staff teaching the subject will be unfamiliar with the new units;
- More time will need to be spent discussing the new units with other staff delivering the subject, which may include additional time required for training of new software.
Scenario 3: change the order in which units are taught
- You can give yourself more time to make the changes you want to other units of work.
- The units may have be planned in a particular order to enable them to fit with what pupils are learning about in other subjects, particularly if you are in a primary school environment. This could confuse links between subjects where a cross-curricular curriculum is in place.
Scenario 4: there are currently no units in place
- Complete freedom and ownership over what is taught;
- You can make new units more relevant to what is taught in other subjects if you desire.
- A large initial workload as units will need to be in place for each year group for the start of term;
- Greater need for meetings and liaising with other staff delivering the subject to ensure that they are confident delivering the units and have the necessary skills;
- You may need to spend money investing in pre-existing schemes of work so that you have some initial support and a clear starting point;
- Linked to this, more INSET or courses may be required to provide staff delivering the subject with the necessary knowledge or skills.
Hopefully, once you have had the opportunity to scour through what is already in place at your school, and decided which of these scenarios fits you best, you will have a clearer sense of where to begin and where your priorities lie. You should have a good understanding of the hardware, software and general resources that are immediately available to you.
Next up in this series is ‘Part 2: Increasing confidence in subject knowledge’ which will focus on the key idea of how you can avoid feeling panicked and overwhelmed at the prospect of coordinating this subject, particularly if you feel that computing is not your main area of expertise. Instead, it will direct you to resources easily available in order to increase your understanding of the subject and set you up confidently for the next year as a computing coordinator at your school.
Siobhán Morgan is a Year 6 teacher at a Somerset middle school, where she is head of computing. She also leads computing across the West Somerset Academies Trust, from Foundation Stage to Key Stage 3.