ICT and Computer Science in St Mary’s Junior School

Christepher Hald, Head of Juniors, St Mary’s School Cambridge

St Mary’s School in Cambridge has consciously focussed on technology in recent years. This is the third and final article in a series from the school. You can read the first here and second here.

ICT at St Mary’s Junior School aims to stimulate the interest in technology, and in turn the imagination of all our pupils, irrespective of age, ability or individual needs. The first aspect of this is relatively easy, as the current generation of primary age children are, on the whole, naturally computer literate – they are digital natives. The teaching process is vital to the second aspect – it is teachers’ role to unlock, guide and facilitate the imaginative use of ICT in the classroom.

Teaching new skills and applications is key to Computer Science. From early on, the children are computer savvy – they know how to turn the device on and generally navigate around either an installed programme or the selected sites on the internet. However, the skills of using various programmes, especially the Microsoft elements beyond Word, and more complex skills such as programming, animation and constructing/using data bases, need to be taught. To this extent, teaching ICT in the Junior School encourages the children, with success, to be confident in their use and selection of ICT applications. At the same time it gives them a heightened awareness of the implications of ICT – namely the ethical issues (e.g. do not simply copy and paste from the internet), acquiring a life skill (e.g. the confidence to present a PowerPoint presentation in front of the parents in a Form Assembly) and the all-important safety issues.

ICT also aims to support the learning of pupils of all abilities, and has great potential to stimulate learning with children in need of addition educational support. The Learning Support Teachers use a variety of computer based programmes to facilitate learning – Word Shark, Number Shark, etc. The form teachers also use differentiated sites to support mathematical learning: MyMaths and Mathletics.

ICT is integrated across the curriculum so that it enriches each girl’s learning. Wherever and whenever possible, teachers will attempt to link some use of ICT with different aspects of the curriculum. This may entail the use of the computers as word/data processors (using Word, PowerPoint, Publisher or Excel), animation/presentation tools (using Scratch, which incorporates programming, or PowerPoint) or research tools: accessing the internet or specifically loaded programmes. The classrooms are equipped with IWB so that AV media can be used for the whole group. The school’s subscription to Click Play is being widely accessed. By embedding ICT across the curriculum, teachers attempt to promote classroom experiences which give pupils opportunities for linguistic, mathematical, scientific, technological, social, physical, and aesthetic and creative education.

This year however, it was decided to timetable a designated period for the teaching of ICT skills through the Rising Star ICT series. This links with the creative curriculum approach we are developing further in the Junior School, as each topic (six per year per year group) begins with ‘I am a(n)…’ and then sets the scenario of being a certain type of occupation. Within the context of these roles, the children are taught ICT skills such as programming, building and using data bases, creating and editing presentations/animation. While linking into the wider curriculum aspects this session is teaching (or for some children reviewing) specific ICT skills.

Teachers’ use of ICT is naturally linked to the teaching and learning aspects examined above, especially through the planning and delivery. However with the introduction of iSAMs, there is a determination of the Junior School staff to use this as a more effective means of recording pastoral care and recording/reporting achievement (especially through the reports to parents) as well as tracking, monitoring and predicting progress. The parent portal is anticipated to be a more effective means of communication with the parents.

In the Junior School there is no resistance to the use or teaching of ICT, but there is the need for reassurance and in some cases, training. The Teaching and Learning elements of ICT, especially the use of the Rising Stars scheme, requires a basic understanding of the programmes. Teachers generally have this – and if they don’t, can seek training from colleagues. The ICT Co-ordinator will be able to lead some training in basic programming, based on his knowledge. However, more advanced skills will require training.

There is a desire to increase the hardware in the Junior School so that the top years have more and continuous access to laptops. The school is ordering several Raspberry Pi units and will seek help from a parent expert in the use of these tools. The Pre-prep are continuing to use Beebot for programming, but the teacher is exploring more types of equipment. The Reception class is, as of this term, using two iPads and a phonics app developed by one of our parents through his research role at Jesus College. The Head of Juniors is focussing on the school library – bringing in a computerised issue system as well as some IT-related hardware to create a Resource Centre aspect. The English coordinator has suggested the possible use of e-readers to download the class texts for use in school.

As part of the Creative Curriculum, the teachers are planning STEM activities and topics, and here too there is a need for guidance. The suggestion of part-time teaching (from a SS teacher or other) would be hugely beneficial in the initial stages.

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