Playful computing: A look inside the Digital Schoolhouse

The Intel Education Summit, taking place in London on 1-2 December, shines a light on how technology is changing education. Digital Schoolhouse, backed by the Mayor of London and UKiE, is one shining example, with a lively, play-based approach to teaching computing. Digital Schoolhouse is a primary to secondary transition-level project, which aims to help the teaching of the new Computing Programmes of Study for the National Curriculum.

Each of the 10 Digital Schoolhouses in London will support a network of primary teachers, helping them to deliver creative, cross-curricular lessons with computing at the heart. Digital Schoolhouse provides inspiring and engaging workshops for visiting primary school pupils. But the most important part is teachers, who need to be inspired and encouraged, too.

We caught up with Shahneila Saeed, Programme Director of Digital Schoolhouse, and talked about the best ways to teach kids about computing.

What do you say to teachers who believe they can’t teach computing?

Teachers shouldn’t be intimidated by the arrival of the new curriculum: computing isn’t tough, it’s fun! Learners today are immersed in technology throughout their lives, so this is one subject area where we don’t have to work as hard to convince the students to be interested. They already are interested! All we need to do as teachers is maintain that enthusiasm and interest, and engage the children with content they can connect with.

Making the subject matter relevant to students’ lives can help increase learner engagement. Using play-based learning as a tool to emphasise computational thinking can bring a new perspective into the classroom.

Computing techniques don’t mean lessons restricted to a computer screen: magic tricks, dance, playdough, board games and much more can all be used to teach computing concepts.

Stripping away the terminology and focusing on the underlying concepts helps you realise that it really isn’t that difficult, and that there are so many ways in which you can teach it. With the Digital Schoolhouse, we use a play-based learning model to introduce primary-age children to computational thinking, and give teachers the resources to teach computing confidently in fun and engaging ways.

What reaction have you had from teachers?

We’ve had hugely positive feedback from the teachers using our workshops, which connect industry with the classroom in a series of play-based learning activities. We’ve seen teachers enter workshops lacking confidence in their own abilities to teach the new curriculum, and leaving the sessions having led their own discussions and used their own examples or analogies to explain concepts to pupils. When introduced to teaching the new computing curriculum in this way, teachers are inspired and motivated to go back to their classroom and try out new techniques and ideas. It’s as much about educating the teachers as the children.

And from children?

The children love coming to the Digital Schoolhouse workshops and are amazed by what they’re capable of producing. Children naturally learn through play. By harnessing the power of play in the classroom with older children, we retain the sense of fun in learning, which leads to better interaction with the educational content. More and more, we’re seeing children gain confidence in their own digital abilities and being encouraged to continue to develop their ideas beyond the Digital Schoolhouse workshops.

What inspires children to learn coding?

Children don’t necessarily think specifically about coding, but are naturally creative beings. They simply want to create things, they want to make things. That might be a game, a video, some artwork or a robot. Our workshops are designed to harness their natural desire for creativity and give them opportunities to learn computing as they play.

What are you hoping to achieve at the Intel Education Summit?

It’s a great place to meet delegates from a range of areas and share ideas with colleagues. It’s a fantastic opportunity to talk in detail about how to harness the power of play-based learning to improve computing education in Britain and show how the Digital Schoolhouse programme plans to build on our already successful model to achieve this.

Now read this: How Minecraft is being used in education

This is an independent article from the Alphr editorial team. This content was produced to the same impartial standards as the main content on our site but paid for by Intel because they like people who like this topic. Thank you, Intel!

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