Knowledge Organisers in Computing
Over recent years, the use of knowledge organisers (KOs) has increased across a range of primary National Curriculum subject areas. Joe Kirby, the educator credited with coining the term ‘knowledge organiser’, recognised the benefits of KOs in providing consistency and clarity amongst teaching staff, as well as their use as a memory aide for pupils (2015). The need for teachers to know the key subject content material for the topics they teach is undeniable, but when this substantive and disciplinary knowledge may be spread across several curriculum documents, a KO can provide a helpful one-page overview of the key content.
Learning, leadership and curriculum writer, Mary Myatt, recognises that the perceived limitations of KOs are in fact central to their very purpose (2018). It can be difficult to make KOs concise and to identify the key themes, concepts and vocabulary which are to be learnt, but going through this process and capturing it on a one-page document supports the evidence base on how children learn and the importance of memory. The information which makes its way onto a KO should not, and cannot, be everything which will be covered in a topic but instead should consist of the most important knowledge which needs to stick.
Creating knowledge organisers for computing
Having seen the implementation of KOs in my own school across subjects such as science, history and geography, as computing lead my thoughts turned to whether the use of KOs could also be beneficial in my subject. As a school which uses Rising Stars Switched on Computing I am confident in the breadth, depth and progression which the scheme provides in line with the requirements of the National Curriculum (DfE, 2013). Therefore, when I initially enquired about the possible addition of KOs to the scheme, I was pleased to learn that this was something which was being considered, and was asked to be involved in the design and writing process.
Types of ‘knowledge’ in computing
Early in the creation process, I recognised that knowledge in computing not only entails concepts which pupils need to know and understand, but also procedures which pupils need to be able to demonstrate. For example, knowing and explaining the term ‘algorithm’ alone is not enough in computing: pupils must show procedural knowledge through their application of algorithms in different digital or unplugged contexts. Therefore, KOs in computing will be different in design and use compared to those seen in some other subjects. Whilst it can be difficult to capture procedural knowledge on this form of document, I hope that the inclusion of ‘knowledge checks’ will support pupils’ consolidation and retrieval of such ideas. As the KOs have also been designed to be fully editable within Switched on Computing, there is also the option to add video links to content which depicts procedural knowledge.
Another consideration was how to prioritise content and vocabulary. Technical vocabulary in computing is vast, making it difficult to limit the ‘key words to remember’ to just five. Fortunately the cyclical nature of the Switched on Computing scheme allows for vocabulary development to be cumulative over time; therefore, I was able to be selective about which key words to prioritise in different year groups. The editable nature of the KOs also means that teachers can personalise KOs within their own settings to meet pupils’ needs, and to tailor for any software adaptations which have been made.
Using knowledge organisers in Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2
Knowledge organisers can be used in various ways and their use will differ in Key Stages 1 and 2. Whilst some teachers will use them in lessons to support learning or for retrieval purposes, other teachers may share them with pupils and parents at the start of topics as a topic guide or homework tool. It should be noted that pupils are not expected to know everything which is outlined on the KO from the outset of the topic. Instead, links can be made to different aspects of the KOs during lessons and knowledge and understanding will build-up over time. When shared with pupils and parents at the start of new topics, the KOs will also provide an overview of what’s to come, and their use in school and at home can be explained.
In Key Stage 1, in any subject, a KO is likely to need further directional prompts from adults to make the content accessible. Though it is important that the consistency and expectations of subject vocabulary remain high, this will require further verbal adaptation and contextualisation for our younger pupils. Similarly, the ‘key takeaways’ and ‘knowledge checks’ are best linked to the relevant activities within KS1 lessons or used as home learning follow-up for pupils to promote consolidation and recall. Therefore, in KS1 the use of these KOs, which are A3 in print size, could be used as table posters to make links to during lessons.
In KS2, the use of KOs would be particularly beneficial for retrieval and quizzing purposes. Sections of the KOs could also be edited and added to teaching slides, for example, removing words or definitions in the ‘key words’ list to prompt recall. Pupils in KS2 could also be directed to use the ‘key takeaways’ checklist to review their progress over the course of the topic or to identify knowledge gaps. Over time, access to previous KOs would also support pupils to make links between previous and current learning. Where meaningful, links have also been made to key people related to the topic to promote representation in computing, which will hopefully spark additional discussion and engagement, particularly for upper primary pupils.
However, you choose to use and adapt the computing KOs, we hope they will be a useful addition to teachers and pupils alike.
You can download your knowledge organisers here.
Let us know what you think! Your feedback is important to us so, if you have suggestions for how we can improve our knowledge organisers, please feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gurmit Uppal is a teacher, IT lecturer and author in the field of primary computing.
Department for Education (DfE). (2013). National curriculum in England: computing programmes of study. Retrieved from GOV.UK: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-curriculum-in-england-computing-programmes-of-study
Hodder & Stoughton Limited. (n.d.). Everything you need to teach outstanding computing. Retrieved from Rising Stars - Switched on Computing: https://www.risingstars-uk.com/series/switched-on-computing
Kirby, J. (2015). Knowledge Organisers . Retrieved from Wordpress Blog : https://pragmaticreform.wordpress.com/2015/03/28/knowledge-organisers/
Myatt, M. (2018). The Curriculum - Gallimaufry to coherence. Melton, Woodbridge: John Catt Educational Ltd.
, Computing and ICT
, Foundation Subjects
, Switched on Computing