Introducing Very Simple Computing

Computing in the curriculum is a really hot topic at the moment and one which is worrying a lot of ICT teachers, who may not have a computing background. There are many of the ICT teaching fraternity who are completely self taught and this is another opportunity to gain some more skills and knowledge and a wonderful chance for the experts to tell the World about something they love and weren’t allowed to push for the last ten years!

My own department is made up of a mixed base of skills, from the ‘Geeks’ to the more creative multimedia types. The advantage this has given is the enthusiasm and genuine knowledge for the computing concepts has been teamed with an approach to learning which does not require a darkened room, thick framed glasses and a bow tie. The secret for us has been keeping everyone within their comfort limits, whilst integrating the computing elements into our curriculum. Another very important factor has been to keep teaching the end user skills which are so important for the Digital Citizen. It is not all about computing, the pupils still need to be able to use word processors, spreadsheets and databases.

When the Key Stage 3 curriculum was launched, following years of ICT being the worst taught subject in the curriculum, we were subjected to an extremely prescriptive curriculum with even more prescriptive lessons. The actual content was purely user-skill-based, with rarely any need to understand why you were completing things just how and what the advantages of this were. One thing it did improve was the approach to lessons, with structure and graded tasks and we must continue to improve on the introduction it gave us. Now we have computing back on the agenda we can choose the content to pair with the improved teaching.

Change is one of the main causes of stress and managing this is important, especially if the lessons are to be executed well. Teachers perform well when they are in their comfort zone and pupils can concentrate on the new knowledge if they don’t have to learn a new software, so delve into the ‘World of Computing’ with PowerPoint.
The PowerPoint approach could be used with all sorts of year groups, depending on what the focus is. I use it in Year 7, with the focus of assessment being audience and purpose.

The last few versions of PowerPoint have included the ability to add Actions onto any object you place on the slides. Using this principle you can create a range of mouse puzzle games. The creativity of your classes will see no bounds, lower ability pupils can create simple mazes whilst higher ability pupils include hidden routes, objects to collect and mind puzzles. If you have ever seen the Impossible Quiz online, you can recreate something similar. The Actions tool allows you to place mouse over and mouse click actions, so by creating a start screen and losing screens you can make the user stay away from certain objects or have to click on others to advance through the game. A simple maze can be created by placing drawn shapes on the slide, all with mouseover actions which send you to a ‘lose’ screen or the previous start screen. To add levels something to click on and advance the player to the next slide must be included, but remember the next slide must start at the point you have just clicked on. Adding animations to objects also gives a moving element, making the playability more interesting and harder. The results can be amazing, with the final part being the opening screen design and instructions which must be suitable for the intended audience. PEGI ratings, game proposals,designs, testing and peer evaluations will give this project some real weight for the curriculum, but the idea of setting control has been introduced in a comfortable environment.

Rob Wilks

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