We all know the importance computers play in our lives. We all know that computing in schools is a top priority subject. And we all know that teaching it is a hit and miss affair where the kids often know more than the person teaching them. What we really need is one of those handy everything-you-need-to-teach-the-new-programme-of-study resources. You know the sort of thing: something that covers all the bases, promises clear progression from Year 1 to Year 6, and supports all levels of expertise. Well, you might not find anything better than Switched on Computing from Rising Stars.
This is a new and re-badged edition of Switched on ICT, which include the best bits of the old resources and a pile of new stuff with greater coverage addressing the updated elements. While Switched on ICT is still fit for purpose, the changes made here are undoubtedly impressive. The new edition goes a lot further and has a fresh look and feel. The units are easier to use and come with loads of support, and they cover areas such as games testing, bug fixing, network engineering, app planning, project management and html editors.
You also get an awful lot of bang for your buck. Each year-group pack is priced at £150 and includes a teacher’s book, CD-ROM and six unit posters. Does this sound expensive? I don’t think so. One look under the bonnet makes it clear that this is a whole new beast, not just a 1.1 engine.
The teachers’ books are well written and offer comprehensive, step-by-step instructions and assessment guidance. There are ideas for things to do, prompts to use CD resources, notes about e-safety and useful links to online tutorials, software and tools. But that’s far from everything. There’s also clear guidance for core steps with extensions to consider for home and school, and more. These include suggestions for stretch and challenge, and how content can be adapted for pupils with SEN/D or EAL. The organisation of each unit, and all the help contained within, will make teaching computing an absolute joy.
The CD-ROMs are terrific too. These gems contain everything from software demos and unit-specific resources to a resource bank of sound effects and photos, and a progress tracker and badges. The ‘software in 60 seconds’ demos are available for each unit at beginner, intermediate and advanced levels, and give you an excellent understanding of what technical skills you will be expecting pupils to perform. Not only that, but there is a fantastic training and CPD support CD available, which contains 60 short videos covering all the subject knowledge you need to teach the new POS.
Switched on Computing can feel pretty pleased with itself in terms of content. Each unit gets children to solve a real-life problem using digital technology with plenty of ‘wow’ moments. There are three units each on computing science and information technology, with digital literacy throughout. Take a look at the overview online to see what content you are getting and how well-planned and thought through it is. For example, children will love designing their own simple mobile apps or websites so they are using something that is relevant to their lives, while other units delve into cultural exploration, such as ‘We are Photographers’, ‘We are Musicians’ and ‘We are Architects’.
It’s also reassuring to see that children are expected to present, review or write up their work in many units. What I really like is that each unit shows you, the teacher, how to get children going on independent projects. You aren’t going to have to worry about buying a whole pile of new software either because Switched on Computing suggests employing a range of free or readily available programs and online resources to do the job, such as iMovie, Scratch and Kodu.
This fine collection puts creativity and collaboration to the fore. It draws on deep and extensive knowledge of computing, progression and continuity, and is well planned, innovative, cross-curricular, stretching but accessible, and vitally, it has been well-trialled in schools. If computing is something you struggle to teach then these easy-to-use packs will bring you up to speed and help you climb into the good or better tick-box. Unapologetically aspiring? You bet. That’s what makes it so good – so much so that it will inspire you to be a computing subject leader.