Computer lessons rebooted for 21st century

Feature - IT teacher David Senior and Students from Avon Valley School.''Pictured: David Senior (IT Teacher) together with, Ethan Randele, Michael Considine & Hasmita Rathod.
Feature - IT teacher David Senior and Students from Avon Valley School.''Pictured: David Senior (IT Teacher) together with, Ethan Randele, Michael Considine & Hasmita Rathod.

IT’S A subject you’d expect all children to find fascinating.

So it surprised many to hear that the way computing is taught in schools has been described as boring - by quite an important grown-up.

Feature - IT teacher David Senior and Students from Avon Valley School.''Pictured: Michael Considine

Feature - IT teacher David Senior and Students from Avon Valley School.''Pictured: Michael Considine

Education secretary Michael Gove said earlier this month that pupils are too often “bored out of their minds being taught how to use Word and Excel by bored teachers”.

He wants schools to teach youngsters how to create their own software, forseeing a time when 16-year-olds will routinely be making games and programs for mobile phones.

But it seems that pupils and teachers at Avon Valley school in Newbold Road are already years ahead of Mr Gove.

“We did pre-empt a lot of this - we started about three years ago,” said David Senior, who manages the school’s computing curriculum.

“It’s always a challenge to learn new skills, but teachers invite it. They enjoy it, they want to do it and they relish it. It’s been very well received.”

The technology available at Avon Valley is certainly a far cry from the days of the old BBC Micro, big floppy discs and clunky machines with green screens. And it’s all being put to good use. Rather than just being talked through the functions of programs made by the likes of Microsoft, the Year 8 class visited by the Advertiser demonstrated their creativity using online software that’s free to the school. They had made computer games, programmed miniature robots to move around as desired and created logos.

Michael Considine, 12, explained how using the technology had introduced him to a career path he previously knew nothing about, but which he’d like to pursue - the gaming industry, which employs hundreds of people in Warwickshire.

Some of the biggest games in the industry’s history have their roots in the county, from the Dizzy series of puzzle games (featuring a jumping egg) in the 1980s to global hits like Guitar Hero. But the UK’s status as a global leader in gaming has suffered in recent years - arguably not helped by a focus in schools on teaching pupils how to use software, rather than how to make it.

Yet at Avon Valley, there’s an enthusiasm evident that gives hope.

Ethan Randele, 12, said: “It is a challenge but it’s more interesting then typing a document. You always end up getting the hang of it.”

Hasmita Rathod, 13, added: “It’s really fun and it’s better to have a go playing with and making it than just writing about it.”

The full curriculum is due to be in schools, with help from universities and businesses, from September, and IBM and Microsoft are working on a pilot GCSE.

So it may not be long before children’s fondness for learning about computers matches their desire to play games on them.