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Digital Schoolhouse finishes first successful year of teaching

The digital education initiative, launched in 2014, has been supporting teachers to explain IT concepts to young children

The Digital Schoolhouse programme for teaching digital concepts to children has completed its first successful year.

The initiative provides classes with a free day of workshops designed to teach the concepts of computing in a creative manner to introduce relevant topics in a way that’s easily understandable to children.

Shahneila Saeed, programme director for Digital Schoolhouse in London, told Computer Weekly the programme is as much about assisting teachers as it is teaching pupils.

“Some of them have this kit – it’s sitting in a cupboard because they don’t know how to use it. They leave the sessions full of ideas,” she said.

Since the introduction of the computer science curriculum in September 2014, children in the UK are required to learn computing from the ages of five to 16.

But with schools unprepared for the launch, many teachers had insufficient skills and struggled with the changes.

“Each school has to have someone who is confident in this and at the moment that’s not the case,” said Saeed. “Our job is to demystify it, because none of it is as complicated as it seems.”

The programme, which works in association with the Department for Education and is run by games industry trade body Ukie, was originally aimed at groups of pupils aged nine to 11, but teachers wanted to include children as young as six.

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As teachers take and witness each age group learning about algorithms and computing in a different way, the hope is they will then be prepared to teach the subject matter on their own.

The workshops begin with “unplugged” sessions using activities to describe the concepts of computing, followed by further work on computers or tablets.

Eventually, how the concepts work into technology are introduced and built upon so that both teachers and pupils become more aware of how technology works, and how it relates to their daily lives.

Continued support is provided by Digital Schoolhouse so that teachers who have visited the programme don’t feel like they’re taking on the curriculum alone.

The programme has 45 locations involved around London, where secondary or A-level teachers are trained to present the sessions to a younger audience, who will travel to a high school environment for the experience to make higher education seem more accessible.

Funding was originally provided to Digital Schoolhouse by the Mayor's London Schools Excellence Fund, but the project will soon need further investment to continue providing the sessions for free.

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