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Crack coding by building confidence in computer science basics

Computer science has long been associated with the kind of people who wear goofy glasses and lack social skills. But that association could be a thing of the past thanks to a generation of students who are more computer-literate than their teachers and a new primary computing curriculum that has computer science at its heart.

One of the biggest challenges that non-specialist teachers now face is understanding the technical elements that underpin computing. This knowledge is essential if they are to teach children the basics, let alone have the confidence to make lessons fun.

The Barefoot Computing project – a Department for Education initiative run by the BCS Chartered Institute for IT and supported by Computing at Schools (CAS) – aims to assist teachers in tackling the computer science curriculum through a series of free workshops and downloadable teaching resources.

Jenna Bates, a computing lead teacher for Islington, came across Barefoot when she was searching for practical advice for the teachers working in her area.

“I attended a free training session and then started trialling the Barefoot resources with key stage 1 and 2 classes in a number of schools that I work with. So far, the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

“The resources are grouped into three different areas – plan, learn and teach. They allow teachers to refresh their understanding of key concepts, such as algorithms, before tackling them with their students." 

She continues: “Each activity is mapped directly to the new curriculum and comes with a detailed plan, including learning objectives and success criteria to share with children. There are also exemplar materials, such as ready-made Scratch projects. This makes Barefoot perfect for those who are completely new to computer science.”

Although resources from projects like Barefoot can help with the technical side of the subject, Bates’ most important piece of advice for those teaching computing for the first time is that they should not be afraid to have a go and learn together with their students.

“I love the collaborative atmosphere that computing brings to the classroom and frequently learn from the children I teach,” Bates says.  

“Give children the opportunity to practise, learn and develop in this subject, even if you are unsure yourself.  Computing is fun – you just might not know it yet.”

Jenna Bates teaches at Winton Primary School. You can download Barefoot resources for teaching about algorithms here on TES and can also find further support for teaching the new computing curriculum.

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