In September 2014 the National Curriculum for ICT was abolished and replaced with a new curriculum for computing, which still looked at some of the things that the old curriculum did such as word processing and data analysis, but also expected a much deeper teaching of how computers and networks work and, most significantly, how to code.
Some schools in the UK had already begun looking at Scratch, a free block-based coding language created by MIT and used up to degree level, but most had (and still have) no idea where to start. There is a lot of advice out there, but it’s hard to see through the smog and understand what will actually be useful. There are also a load of fantastic organisations willing to support schools, such as the Raspberry Pi Foundation, CAS, Code Club and Coder Dojo, but again, it can all seem really intimidating to your average teacher – a lot of the information is overwhelming and it’s easier to just buy into a scheme and hope for the best, or download a worksheet and cross your fingers.
There are also a lot of training days that teachers can go on, but these usually cost money and days out of school, or giving up of weekends or holidays and there just isn’t time to take it all in. On top of this, I often find that training days are very much ‘chalk and talk’ – someone who is considered an expert on a subject stands at the front of the room and tells you how to teach it and unfortunately, for me, this tends to lead to switching off, or forgetting key information quickly. It’s a shame because generally these people have something useful to say, but it’s hard to concentrate when you’re just sitting and listening for hours with a brief interlude for tea and movement to a different room.
So, what I want to offer is not formal training for teachers, not a day in a conference room just listening, but rather an informal chance to play, to try things out and to learn how to use things and then transfer those skills to their classrooms. There are so many opportunites for children to play, but rarely do we give adults the same opportunities. The evenings should be free, they should be fun and they should be relaxed. There is no formal timetable, no boring lectures, just occasional lightening talks if they’re needed. People should be able to bring their projects and talk to individuals or small groups of people and discuss what they’re currently doing and what they can do to help each other. Teachers should feel inspired and want to know more, AND have the opportunity to find out more.
Since July 2014, I have discovered that there are people all over the UK who are so keen to volunteer in schools; there are people who have come up with projects that they want to share with other people and, in particular, with teachers as they want to support and encourage the teaching of coding. Many companies are creating tools to help in the classroom, but they don’t know how to implement them as a teaching tool and they are crying out for the opportunity to run their ideas past teachers. Meanwhile, teachers are desperately hunting out new and innovative ways to teach computing and coding – imagine if those two groups came together? Imagine the network of people all helping and supporting each other! That is what we are currently seeing at the Twickenham Coding Evenings and that is what I want to see happening in the rest of the country, or even the world! We need to come together to make teaching and learning a collaboration between those who know how to teach and those who know how to use the tools.
So, whether you are a teacher, a Raspberry Pi enthusiast, a volunteer in a school or someone who works in the coding industry, why don’t you consider hosting a Coding Evening in your local area?