The scheme aims to help primary school teachers implement the new computing curriculum which comes into force in September. It is being led by BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, in partnership with BT, and is funded by the Department for Education.
The Barefoot Computing project will provide cross-curricular computer science resources for primary school teachers with no previous computer science knowledge. Teachers will gain an understanding of ideas and concepts such as algorithms, abstraction and data structures, how they occur naturally in many other disciplines they teach, and how they can be simplified to introduce these principles to children as young as five.
BT is also adding further support to the classroom by making ScratchJr, a new programming tool specifically aimed at 5-7-year-olds, available in UK primary schools for the first time from this Autumn.
Children can access the application, developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), via iPads and use basic coding skills to create their own interactive stories and games. In doing so, children learn important design and problem-solving skills, as well as developing their numeracy and literacy abilities.
Commenting on the launch of the Barefoot Computing Project, Bill Mitchell, Director of Education at the Institute, said: “Based on what primary teachers who are already teaching the new computing curriculum are telling us, we believe that teaching children computing is not just important in its own right, it’s also important because it improves numeracy and literacy skills. What most people don’t realise is that computational concepts underpin much of what we do in our daily lives.
“For example, making up a dance routine for something as simple as the Hokey Cokey to impress our friends, figuring out how to streamline a supply chain business process, developing a computer simulation to model how a new antibiotic will impact on the immune system, or just doing long multiplication, are all examples of using algorithms to solve problems. By demystifying concepts like algorithms we aim to give teachers the confidence that they can successfully teach the new computing curriculum to children from the age of five.”
Between now and May 2015, the Barefoot Computing project will hold a series of 800 computing workshops in primary schools across England. Run by volunteer professionals, including those from BT and the ICT and education sectors, these events will introduce the new computing curriculum to teachers and will explain the support available to them through Barefoot and other related projects.
The project will create primary school-friendly classroom resources that exemplify how to teach computing through topics that are relevant to the cross-curricula primary school environment. For example, the materials provided will cover how to write computer games and other classroom computing activities for children from Year 1 (age 5) to Year 6 (age 10/11) that also support progression in subjects such as literacy, maths, history and science.
The resources will include teacher support notes, and in addition to the Barefoot workshops, the project team will also develop Barefoot communities enabling teachers to share ideas and good practice around teaching computing with other primary teachers.