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How do we teach computing at Primary?

How can we teach the skills and knowledge needed in computing at Primary level whilst meeting the challenge of limited resourcing and the ever-changing technological landscape?

19 Mar 2019
Written by Kevin Hiatt
Foundations for future success
Primary school teachers have a vital job. As I discussed in my earlier blog post on demystifying the computing curriculum, Primary is the place where children learn how to learn and it’s where the foundations for future success are laid down. Many people are happy and confident to introduce children to English, maths, or science, because although pedagogy and emphasis do change in these subjects, the basic skills or knowledge are at least perceived to have stayed pretty consistent. So how do we approach a subject like computing where the pace of technological change means that we can feel overwhelmed by new information, where we can feel that the children are sometimes ahead of us in their own knowledge, and where access to this technology can vary so much from place to place? 
Embedding a growth mindset
The answer is looking at how we teach and how children learn – not at the content. With the right approach and pedagogy, children and teachers can tackle any challenge that’s thrown at them. The importance of establishing a growth mindset from the start of school cannot be overstated, and modelling this in our actions is key. This means approaching the unknown and possible challenges in a methodical and consistent way, where we view success and learning as a developmental process. By never settling for ‘ok’ and by teaching children to look for how to improve and how to reach their end goal, we can ensure this mindset is embedded in our classrooms. 
Computing is an ideal subject to be supported by a growth mindset. Bill Gates or Steve Jobs didn’t come up with the right answer straight away. If the first smartphone was perfect, we wouldn’t have had the next hundred smartphones! If all coding was perfect straight away, we’d never need updates, new versions, or patches! Because of the way computers work, this is an excellent opportunity for younger children to ‘debug’ what they’ve been doing and explain how to improve and change the outcome.
Computational thinking away from the keyboard
This process of learning doesn’t have to happen at the computer. Our computing programme is built on the key concept of ‘computational thinking’ – this is a series of key skills that work across subjects and away from a keyboard. 
Taking one strand of this thinking as an example – algorithm design – we can see how valuable this approach is. All this means is being able to create step-by-step instructions on how to do something, or how to solve a problem. We can immediately see how this links to an activity like coding, but teaching the creation of a logical series of instructions can easily be done using building blocks, treasure hunts, or even building flatpack furniture! 
This practical approach to teaching the skills that underpin success in computing is built into our iPrimary computing curriculum. That’s why we’re confident that our approach to the subject will create empowered and confident learners, ready to meet the challenges ahead of them. 
​For more details of iPrimary and iLowerSecondary – and the forthcoming computing curriculum – please fill out our Expression of Interest form.
Read more
How do we demystify the computing curriculum?
The English National Curriculum (2014) put emphasis on computing, computer science and traditional ICT skills. How can the International Computing Curriculum be approached for students and teachers?

About the author

Kevin Hiatt is a Publisher at Pearson Edexcel, currently leading the development of the teaching resources and courseware for iPrimary and iLowerSecondary. Prior to entering the world of publishing, Kevin was a Primary School teacher in the UK and has kept up a passion for helping students and teachers learn and develop.

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