How to use the SOICT Key Stage 3 packs

Terry Freedman discusses how the SOICT KS3 resource has been organised, and how you might use it in school.

First “they” disapplied the Programme of Study for ICT, then they said you can teach pretty much what you like until 2014, after which they haven’t decided yet. And now there’s a draft Programme of Study which will probably, though not necessarily, form the basis of the obviously as yet unwritten new Programme of Study for ICT.

That was the Reader’s Digest version of what has been going on over the past year.

It was against this backdrop that Rising Stars thought it would be a great idea to have a Key Stage 3 version of the Switched On ICT scheme. This posed quite a challenge: how do you create a resource that:

Addresses schools’ legal requirement to teach ICT, while not basing itself on a Programme of Study which is itself no longer mandatory, but does not stray so far from it that it will alienate teachers, and yet is robust enough to be relevant when the new ICT Programme of Study comes on the scene?

Our approach was to make the resource not only as interesting, exciting and authoritative as possible, just like its lower school counterparts, but to build in as much flexibility as possible. So what follows is a description of what the scheme looks like, and some suggestions for how it might be used.

The units have been organised into themes. There are four themes, each containing six units.  I won’t take up your time now by listing all twenty four units (you can go to for all the fine detail), but I will mention the Themes, which are:

  • Get Programming! – ICT in the context of gaming and digital environments

  • Making a difference – ICT in the context of a community

  • We’re in business! – ICT in the context of enterprise

  • Looking after the world – ICT in the context of the environment

So, you can see straight away that if it’s computer programming you’re concerned about, you could take a strategic decision to start with the Get Programming! Theme. You could, if you wanted to, do so in all Year groups from 7 to 9. That’s because not only does each Unit feature progression options, but each Theme has been organised with the simplest Units at the beginning, becoming more advanced as it progresses. That’s the case with all the Units and Themes, by the way.

In theory, each Unit is designed to take around half a term to cover, which means that you could spend the whole school year on one particular Theme if you wanted to. However, you might prefer to use the first one or two Units as transition or revision Units, spending just a few weeks at most on them .

Another approach might be to go through the whole of the Get Programming! Theme, but not focus exclusively on programming. That may sound counter-intuitive, but what we’ve done is to identify a main “skills route” and one or two supplementary  skills routes for each Theme. For the Get Programming! Theme, for example, the main skills route concerns programming, and the supplementary skills route is about media, especially graphics. So you could, if you wished, use the Units to teach the students about graphics, in the context of a programming problem.

A completely different approach might be to take a skill such as research, and explore it in a variety of contexts in different Themes. For example, you could cover research and wikis in a community context (Making a Difference), then cover surveys in a business context (We’re in Business!), ending with looking at climate change (Get Programming!).

If you feel that all this sounds too “rigid” for your likening, you could simply cherry pick the topics you like the sound of. Each Unit suggests other Units to look at for further progression and/or related concepts.

Whatever approach you decide on, you will, of course, need to make sure that you cover the whole range of ICT: the ICT Programme of Study may be in a kind of limbo at the moment, but the requirement for a broad and balanced curriculum has not been jettisoned.

One final option is to adopt a cross-curricular approach. Several schools now teach ICT through other subjects, an undertaking which can be fraught with difficulties. A less extreme version  is to teach discrete ICT lessons but ensure that there are plenty of opportunities for practising the skills and reinforcing the concepts learnt. To accommodate this, the SOICT Units contain lots of suggestions for exploring the ideas in the context of other subjects.

Assessment is often a challenge in ICT. The Attainment Targets and their associated Levels are, like the Programme of Study itself, available for guidance only and are no longer mandatory. Nevertheless, many teachers would find it unsettling to have no guidance at all, so what we have done in this scheme is to tell teachers that each Unit should enable all pupils to achieve X, many  to achieve Y and some to achieve Z. And then we’ve “cheated” a bit by putting suggested Levels in brackets after each statement! The difficulty levels of the statements are based loosely on the progression inherent in Bloom’s Taxonomy.

On the subject of assessment statements, they’re not simple ones of the tick box variety. For a student to be deemed to have achieved a particular statement she has to have demonstrated going through a process and making some decisions.

Each Unit is accompanied by a photocopiable student booklet, based on assessment for learning principles, containing a summary of the assessment statements, and spaces to record what they have done, and why, and how they would do it differently next time, plus room for self, peer and teacher assessment.

Whether your aim is to have a very linear ICT curriculum, a topic-based approach, a curriculum which has its intellectual foundations in Bruner’s “spiral curriculum” or some combination of these and other approaches, we like to think that SOICT is flexible enough to cope!

Terry Freedman is an independent educational ICT consultant and journalist. He publishes the ICT in Education website, co-authored the KS3 SOICT (with Miles Berry), and was its Series Editor.


ks3, Switched On Computing

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