Central to the curriculum at LAB and streaming through every aspect in every Key Stage is computational thinking. Computational thinking includes many different skills. The list below shows some of the skills that can be categorised as computational thinking:
- Breaking a complex problem into smaller, more comprehensible steps
- Creative problem-solving
- Logical thinking
- Conditionals (if this, then that)
- Recognising patterns
Computational thinking is important. It is essential for pupils to focus on the thinking method behind programming before starting with the actual writing of code. This forces people to learn which sequence of steps is most efficient to solve a certain problem, how specific their instructions must be to reach a desired goal, and how to solve unexpected errors by efficient debugging and creative problem solving. The mastering of the skill of computational thinking allows people to tackle more difficult problems, offering many opportunities for future technologies. Furthermore, computational thinking is not only useful for writing code, but also in many other aspects of life. Once people master the skill of breaking complex problems into smaller, more comprehensible steps, they can apply this in any other situation.
Alongside the development of computational thinking is the requirement to develop high level digital literacy. This impacts on every aspect of life and encompasses e-safety through to functional IT skills. Digital literacy is the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills.
Particular specific programming features of the curriculum:
KS1 and 2
Computational thinking will be developed throughout all aspects of the curriculum from KS1. In the primary academy, Year 1 to Year 6 in particular, computational thinking will be taught in single discipline and transdiscipline learning sessions. Pupils will be taught to programme, model and create using the computer. These approaches will change over time but at the time of writing they will involve:
- Scratch Coding (age 6+): This is a website built by MIT that allows users to create projects ranging from games, to animations and stories using drag and drop command blocks that stack together to create code, and is specifically designed to make programming fun and easy. Students start with the hour of code and then explore the ins and outs of creating games with Scratch. With a basic understanding of how a computer works (using the trackpad or mouse and being able to find keys on the keyboard), pupils as young as 5 or 6 can create good projects.
- Python Programming: Python is a widely known text-based, object-oriented programming language that can be used to create text and graphic games, quizzes, interactive artwork and more. Python is an ideal starter language because it is easy to write, easy to read, and is used in the real world. Students begin by +writing simple projects to develop familiarity with the language and move onto creating interactive text-based games and even drawing with code.
- Java Programming: Pupils can learn to program games in one of the most commonly used programming languages in the world: Java. Minecraft, Android apps, and robots are just three of the hundreds of ways that Java is used in the real world. Pupils can explore the basics of Java through building arcade-style video games or programming a stop light. Using Greenfoot or Eclypse, (platforms designed to make learning Java fun and easy) students learn the basics of writing and debugging Java to create real, working games.
- Robotics with Edison (age 7+): Edison is an educational robot used to teach pupils computational thinking and computer programming in a fun, interactive way. Using computer software and connecting the robot via USB, students instruct their robots with either text or block based code to respond to light, follow paths, communicate with other robots and more.
- 3D Printing & Modelling (age 6+): Students learn about 3D printers and modelling in 3D space. They learn to build small models such as pencil holders, name tags amongst other things. Students can dream it up or use an image video to draw inspiration and model their vision. They learn about the history of 3D printers, the different types, how to level the build plate and load filament, in addition to the limitations of the technology.
- Stop Motion Animation (age 6+): Here pupils learn how movies, such as Wallace and Gromit, were made. Stop motion animations are created by taking lots of individual pictures and playing them back at a certain speed to create movement. Students can explore stop motion animation by creating stories with Legos, alternatively known as “brick films.” Students learn concepts like frame rate, lighting, storyboarding, and how to add sound.
We will sequence this learning through Years 1-6
In 2021/22 All Year 7 students will need to develop the programming skills expected by the end of Year 6. These will need to be prioritised. In future years, this will become the ‘catch up’ programme for students new to the academy. During the innovation weeks we will involve digital students from the SUMO Academy and employees from digital companies to drive specific projects
Year 7, 8 and 9
Students will experience a programme for specific software development, potentially achieving some industry led ‘badges’ when achieved. All students will achieve the Computer Science GCSE by the end of Year 9
Years 10 and 11
The main focus is the achieve a broad and balanced range of GCSE’s, as not all students will eventually work in the digital sector, whilst at the same time continuing the development of students software knowledge. We will probably start introducing Twin Motion and Fortnite in this phase alongside GCSE studies
All students will follow 3 A levels plus the Aspirations Employability Diploma (AED). However, all four assignments relating to the AED will relate to digital engineering. These will lead to specific work with the SUMO Academy, and other digital industries, and hopefully provide career routeways. All students will be trained in UNREAL Engine.
In the secondary academy, computational thinking will be taught through free programmes such as those developed by Epic Games. These include the award-winning Twin Motion, which is a real time 3D immersion software that produces high-quality images, panoramas and standard or 360° VR videos in seconds. Developed for architecture, construction, urban planning and landscaping professionals, Twin Motion combines an intuitive icon-driven interface with the power of Unreal Engine by Epic Games. Twin Motion is extremely easy to learn and use, regardless of the size and complexity of the project, the materials, the user’s IT knowledge or their preferred BIM modeller. Direct synchronisation with Archicad allows users to move from the BIM model to a VR experience in only three clicks.
Older students will use Unreal Engine. This is the world’s most open and advanced real-time 3D creation tool. Continuously evolving to serve not only its original purpose as a state-of-the-art game engine, today it gives creators across industries the freedom and control to deliver cutting edge content, interactive experiences, and immersive virtual worlds. We would expect all students to leave the academy fully trained in Unreal Engine. The academy will hopefully become a fully accredited Unreal Engine trainer.