This summer saw the publication of the third edition of Switched On Computing, a comprehensive scheme of work for primary computing. Since its first publication, the scheme has proved to be popular with teachers in England and further afield, through its emphasis on practical, hands-on computing activities, the focus on free and low-cost technologies readily available in schools and the ease with which it can be adapted to align with whatever other topics pupils are studying.
For the new edition, we’ve taken the opportunity to add lots more online support through the My Rising Stars platform, to refresh units to take into account advances in technology, such as physical computing with the micro:bit, online platforms such as Google Apps for Education and the enthusiasm shown by schools in adopting Apple’s iPad, and more detailed step-by-step instructions for teachers working with less familiar technologies.
The overall aim of Switched On Computing is that pupils leave primary school as confident, capable and creative users of digital technology, with a secure understanding of the fundamental principles of computer science and as safe, responsible and discerning digital citizens.
Switched on Computing starts from the national curriculum programmes of study for Key Stages 1 and 2. As with the national curriculum, the scheme aims to develop pupils’ computational thinking and creativity so that they can ‘understand and change the world’. The scheme recognises that computing has three inter-related aspects, and these are covered in each year:
- Computer Science (the foundations of computing, covering coding and computational thinking)
- Information Technology (the applications of computing, including working with documents, data and digital media)
- Digital Literacy (the implications of computing for individuals and society)
Switched on Computing also recognises the ‘spiral’ nature of progression within computing: new knowledge, skills and understanding within each of the strands of the subject build on what’s gone before. Thus, for example, in programming pupils are introduced to a simple sequence of recorded button presses on a Bee Bot in Year 1, then move on to building programs by snapping together blocks to move sprites in Scratch Jr before going on to create their own animations, quizzes and games in Scratch. Pupils progress from simpler to more complex programming languages, but also build up their conceptual understanding of programming from sequence, through repetition and selection to variables, input and output.
One of the great strengths of Switched On Computing is the flexibility it allows schools for implementation. It’s designed for schools to adapt the scheme to their own technologies, approaches and priorities. Units typically include some cross-curricular connections to things pupils will be studying elsewhere in the curriculum, helping them to see how computing can be applied in a wide range of contexts, but also doing much to promote retention in both domains as pupils make and reinforce the connections between new ideas.
Switched On Computing recognises that computing is, at its heart, a practical and creative subject, with pupils learning best when they’re consciously engaged in digital artefacts to share with others. These can be as simple as digital images or musical compositions through to complex collaborative projects and sophisticated, well-tested programs of their own. Throughout the scheme, pupils develop skills in working with others, including contributing to and leading shared group work. They become adept at giving constructive, critical feedback, and on acting on feedback they receive from their peers.
Switched On Computing offers many ways to track the impact of computing lessons on pupils’ learning. Each unit includes a comprehensive list of differentiated learning outcomes, making it easy for teachers to check where pupils’ work fits with a set of age-related expectations. For the new edition we’ve added in a set of multiple-choice questions for each unit, encouraging the recall and application of what pupils have learnt. Using cloud-based tools such as Office 365 and Google Apps for Education, it’s easier than ever for pupils to build up a portfolio of their creative work, demonstrating how their skills and their thinking have developed over their years at the school.
Miles Berry is the author of the Switched on Computing Teacher Books. He is principal lecturer in Computing Education at the University of Roehampton, and a board member of Computing At School, the BCS Academy of Computing, the National Centre for Computing Education and the CSTA. He is a fellow of the BCS, RSA, HEA and Chartered College of Teaching, and a member of the Raspberry Pi Foundation.
, Computing and ICT
, key stage 1
, key stage 2