Computing at St Matthias
At St Matthias, we want to give children the skills to safely use the internet and to be able to adapt to technology that is constantly evolving. We want to prepare children for life beyond our school, ensuring they know the exciting opportunities, as well as the challenges and risks, of using the internet. Through following the Rising Stars Online Safety programme and the Switched On Computing programme, we are ensuring our children are confident in the three main strands of computing: information technology, digital literacy and computer science. Each year, previous learning is consolidated and deepened, ensuring the children at St Matthias are prepared for a future where technology is at the heart of everything. You can find an overview of the skills that are taught here.
Another aspect of computing that we want to develop in our students is the ability to use different hardware and software to create digital content. We do this through teaching the children how to use a range of targeted software and applications, across the curriculum. This might mean that children publish their literacy using Puppet Pals, Word or Publisher. It may be that they use Explain Everything to articulate their thinking process when completing an activity in Maths or Science. It could be that they create videos or books to demonstrate something they have learned in RE. Finally, it may be that children create codes to manipulate sprites in Scratch Coding and learn how to debug programmes when there are problems. If you would like to practise coding with your children, they each have access to an Espresso Coding account and other free apps are available such as Swift Coding, which can be downloaded on any Apple device.
Part of what we teach our St Matthias children is how to think computationally, which helps with their problem solving. This doesn’t require any technology but definitely helps when using technology, especially with coding.
Computers can be used to help us solve problems. However, before a problem can be tackled, the problem itself and the ways in which it could be solved need to be understood. Computational thinking allows us to do this. It allows us to take a complex problem, understand what the problem is and develop possible solutions. We can then present these solutions in a way that a computer, a human, or both, can understand. There are four key techniques (cornerstones) to computational thinking:
- decomposition – breaking down a complex problem or system into smaller, more manageable parts
- pattern recognition – looking for similarities among and within problems
- abstraction – focusing on the important information only, ignoring irrelevant detail
- algorithms – developing a step-by-step solution to the problem, or the rules to follow to solve the problem
Each cornerstone is as important as the others. They are like legs on a table – if one leg is missing, the table will probably collapse. Correctly applying all four techniques will help when programming a computer.
A complex problem is one that, at first glance, we don’t know how to solve easily. Computational thinking involves taking that complex problem and breaking it down into a series of small, more manageable problems (decomposition). Each of these smaller problems can then be looked at individually, considering how similar problems have been solved previously (pattern recognition) and focusing only on the important details, while ignoring irrelevant information (abstraction). Next, simple steps or rules to solve each of the smaller problems can be designed (algorithms). Finally, these simple steps or rules are used to program a computer to help solve the complex problem in the best way.
Thinking computationally is not programming. It is not even thinking like a computer, as computers do not, and cannot, think. Simply put, programming tells a computer what to do and how to do it. Computational thinking enables you to work out exactly what to tell the computer to do.
If you would like to try out some unplugged activities (ones that don’t require technology), have a go at these.
Part of our computing curriculum is to make children aware of how to stay safe online. This may be teaching them of how to assess whether a website is reliable but it could also be about knowing about potential risk and how to protect their details. We want our children to understand the impact of their digital footprints. Not only do we cover these things in our computing lessons but also in our RSHE lessons. Parent workshops also take place to equip parents with how to best support their children. An Apps Council has also been established, in order to empower a small group of children so that they can encourage their classmates to stay safe and help the teachers to identify things that might be unsafe online. If you want to know more about keeping our children safe online, you can read more on the NSPCC website and can see here how we teach our children to stay safe online.
Please click here to see our progression of skills within computing at St Matthias. This is in addition to regular online safety lessons.