Computer Science and ICT
Principles and Purpose of the Computer Science and ICT Curriculum
A key base for our IT and Computing curriculum is digital literacy. This is fundamental so that all students have the ability to function and access the world of technology throughout their life. At KS3 we believe that students should be able to access and use a wide variety of software and have as much hands-on experience of using a computer as possible. This builds confidence in our students so they are able to access and feel comfortable in a world of ever increasing technological use.
Throughout KS3 and KS4 there are three core concepts, “Logical Thinking”, “Digital Literacy” and “Creative Media Literacy”. The associated skills are progressively built up from their more implied use in Year 7 in the Scratch games and company logos projects to their explicit use in KS4 where students must create programs to solve real world scenarios or create brand logos that meet a specific brief.
Having a diverse cohort, from a large number of feeder schools means students join us with varying levels of computer literacy. The KS3 curriculum begins with this concept to facilitate a collaborative learning environment where students support one another in sharing their knowledge to solve logical and technical problems. This helps build strong interpersonal skills with the students and tries to remove the stigma of asking for help.
We base our curriculum around access for all with differentiation through the end product. Each unit that we teach in KS3 aims to support students in creating a finished product that demonstrates their ability and understanding of the software. The curriculum products, although differentiated by outcome, are all designed to address the same problem or scenario. Students are able to complete the tasks in a variety of ways; thereby promoting engagement and appropriate challenge. Students are able to push the boundaries of the task to challenge and stretch themselves.
Why this, why now?
In KS3 students are taught with three main pillars of focus. The first is general computer literacy, the second is a focus towards GCSE computer skills such as programming and logical thinking, and the third is creative media literacy which leads onto KS4 Creative Imedia.
In Year 7 we have a range of students coming with different levels of digital literacy. Although the majority of students are technologically literate they are not computer literate. A main focus at the start of the year is introducing and building computer literacy skills, focusing on using spreadsheets, powerpoint and completing typing challenges. Another key feature of the Year 7 programme is organisation and systems within a digital learning environment; students are taught to follow expected norms for naming and folder structures. Students are also introduced to logical thinking through coding in Scratch which builds on from what the majority of students cover in KS2. As well as an introduction to some base computer theory work through creating leaflets on hardware in computers. Finally the creative media literacy is demonstrated through students creating their own company logo using Vector Graphics to solve a specific brief. In Year 8 these concepts continue with a stronger focus on the types of skills students will need for either GCSE computing or Creative i Media.The course is split into three sections the first being Programming in Python which leads on from the previous years coding experience, with further skills introduced such as arithmetic operations, randomness, selection, and iteration. The second unit is in Photoshop which leads on from the Vector graphics unit in Year 7. The introduction of the new software and challenge of a finished product is designed to give the students an idea of working in the real world and what Creative I Media is like as a GCSE. The final unit is on Websites. This brings together a development of the theory students learn in Computer Science and combine this with the digital literacy skill of presentation and visual awareness.
At KS4 students have the opportunity to choose either Creative I Media or Computer Science. For Computer Science we start year 10 looking at data types and how computers understand instructions through binary. This knowledge is key to many of the topics which follow, hence early understanding needs to be secure before moving on to look at system architecture, memory and storage, networks and security. The main theory parts of the course are taught in blocks to ensure students are secure in their knowledge of the topic before moving on. Key skills of logic, algorithms and python coding are interleaved between these topics to ensure these skills are continuously revisited and practised. The programming elements of the course begins with consolidation of the key knowledge and skills from Year 8, before embarking on a more indepth look at iteration, selection, variables and outputs. In Year 11 we cover the remaining units, including ethics, protocols, system software and robust programs. We also focus on the more complex programming skills associated with files, string manipulation and list.
For Creative I Media we start the year with the first coursework unit which is the visual identity and digital graphics unit. This unit links well with the KS3 content, promoting confidence and engagement. This unit also brings clarity to the term “media literacy”, where students must be able to understand and utilise techniques and standards that are used in the media industry. At the end of the year students sit the exam unit to ensure they have the best opportunity in the exam without the distraction of other exams that they would have in year 11. In Year 11 students will complete the second piece of coursework of creating a digital game. This is a more intense and larger piece of work with the students having to learn software and skills that they have not previously encountered, so giving the full year to it is appropriate.
Teaching the Computer Science and ICT Curriculum
The main concepts within IT and Computing are: Digital Literacy, Logical Thinking and Creative Media Literacy. These pillars are taught both explicitly and implicitly depending on the unit and topic that is being taught.
Digital Literacy: teachers are confident and capable with the use of computers and they pass this knowledge onto the students through explicit teaching and modelling.
Logical Thinking: GCSE students are explicitly taught this when solving and creating algorithms in Computer Science. KS3 and Creative I Media students are taught to implicitly interpret and decompose a brief to make it manageable and ensure they work through the problem in a logical and achievable way. Across the subject this is often done through a collaborative and challenging environment, with students who are more secure in their knowledge and techniques being encouraged to support others. For those students that are wanting to push themselves they are directed to using more complex techniques or think of ways to make the algorithms they have already written more efficient.
Creative Media Literacy: this features in both the KS3 curriculum and GCSE Creative I Media; students' understanding and completion of the projects set, enables them to demonstrate their understanding of the impact colors, fonts, styles, target audiences, image and formatting can have and how these are used to influence and appeal to the public in the media industry.
Assessing the Computer Science and ICT Curriculum
KS3 students are given regular verbal feedback on their work in class with project tracking to ensure deadlines are met and support independence. At the end of each unit students complete a mini project to demonstrate their understanding and ability in each skill. These projects are graded using a traffic light system as per the school assessment policy to provide data about student progression. This is shared with students and next steps are written which are relevant to the next project.
In Computer Science, all lessons start with recall questions which support retrieval and respond to areas of concern arising from homework quizzes. Through the course after each unit the students have a formal assessment on that topic. These results are tracked, feedback is provided and intervention deployed to support student progress.
Creative I Media students receive verbal feedback on their project progression and work to a specific set of assessment objectives. These are used to assess the final project, in line with exam board guidance.
Progression in the Computer Science and ICT Curriculum
By the end of KS3 students will:
- have a clear grasp on a range of literacy skills, such as how to organise their personal digital storage in a clear manner
- be competent in the use of the main google products, google docs, slides and sheets
- have a good understanding of the process and application of creating a working game in Scratch
- have an introductory understanding of the media industry and be able to create basic vector graphics
- understand and be able to identify programming in Python
- problem solve by interpreting briefs provided
- have an understanding of how to create a digital image that meets a client's brief using photoshop
At the end of KS4 Computer Science students will:
- have a core understanding of the key functions and structures of programming allowing them to confidently code in python
- be confident in their ability to abstract and perform decomposition on any problem to be able to come up with a solution
- have an understanding of how computers work and the systems that work together through networks
At the end of KS4 Creative I Media students will:
- be able to identify techniques that are used to influence audiences in the media industry and be able to apply this to their own designs
- be able to logically work through the process of creating a product from scratch
- understand the production steps
- be able to problem solve to ensure project timelines are met