This was developed further by looking at LOGO, developed by Papert in 1980. The aim of LOGO was not to create things, but to allow children to explore abstract mathematical ideas earlier than they usually would (Potter and Darbyshire, 2005). LOGO requires detailed subject knowledge before using it, including understanding of geometry, angles and directions, hence why it was not taught until later in Key Stage 2 (Easingwood, 2008).
There has since been a shift in the role of ICT in schools. The national curriculum for ICT lost its legal force in September 2012, although the subject remains statutory and the government has said this will continue to be the case. The government has also stated it wants to see an increase in the teaching of computer programming.
This increase has been supported by reports by NESTA and The Royal Society, both of which state that there should be a shift in school from an ICT curriculum focusing on “office skills” to one that focuses on computer programming. There’s also a video online from the Royal Society, which overviews the changes they think should happen to ICT in schools. One of their main recommendations is to restructure ICT, with a greater focus placed on computer programming and its importance in the wider world.
An interesting article on ReadWriteWeb considers the changing role of ICT in schools, questioning if being able to write code could become as important as learning to speak or write. It does conclude that this is unlikely, although it is interesting to think about how this would change things. Furthermore, it underlines the seriousness with which the move towards introducing computer programming is being taken in schools.
This shift has been supported by the development of Code Clubs, designed to provide children aged 10 and 11 with the basics of computer programming. There is an aim for 25% of schools to be running such clubs by 2014.
We tried this programme in our second ICT session. At first I was worried that it was going to be laborious and uninspiring, like LOGO was. However, this was not the case at all! This programme requires a “drag-and-drop” approach to programming, instead of typing in code, making it very easy to pick up and use.
This is a PacMan-style game that I managed to produce in about 45 minutes, which I created following a tutorial and though tinkering with the software. The aim of the game is to collect the bones. Before starting the game you need to press the green flag to activate the maze.
As you can see the game isn’t finished. I could improve the game in a whole host of ways, such as by adding a timer, improving the visual appearance of the maze and by adding PacMan-like ghosts. But I think it’s a good start, especially when compared to what I was able to make in LOGO (see left).
Other games can be made using the Scratch cards from the MIT website and there are lots of ideas on Helen’s blog. I particularly like the diagram she’s included, which shows computer programming as a cycle. This was originally developed by the MIT lab.
This cycle shows that maybe I don’t need to be the person who makes the changes to my game, instead other people in the internet community can come and develop it. Indeed this is what the tagline of the software emphasises: “imagine. program. share”.
The online community on scratch’s website help to develop each other’s work to make it better.
For example, the above Pacman has been edited by 84 people to improve it. This editing can get complicated, as the work goes backwards and forwards between people, as this remix visualisation shows.
An interesting article by Olabe et al. (2011) states that Scratch was built for social computing and that this is an essential part of the software. I would take this further and argue that this social nature is at the heart of what ICT should be all about.
Easingwood, N. (2008) Teaching Information and Communication Technology: The Practice. In: Boys, R. and Spink, E. (eds.) Primary Curriculum: Teaching the Core Subjects. London: Continumm. pp. 156-169.
Potter, F. and Darbyshire, C. (2005) Understanding and teaching the ICT National Curriculum. London: David Fulton.