Computer Science Education Kits

A massive change is coming to the ICT curriculum, a subject that the government has now deemed irrelevant. As of September 2014 ICT will no longer be taught, instead the new subject of Computing will replace the old ICT syllabus.

This change has been implemented with backing from heads of industry. The department of education has said that it hopes the proposed changes will help England retain a competitive edge in the global digital economy.

The implementation of Computer Science may look attractive form an industry point of view; however what does it mean for teachers and pupils who have little or no experience of programming or understanding how a computer works.

Like myself, most teachers will have to learn this new subject as we teach it. The department of education has promised to release the complete new curriculum in autumn 2013, leaving only a year to prepare.

One of the problems I foresee is that the majority of pupils will have no parents, uncles, aunts or family friends with any computer science experience. This will make teachers the only port of call for any queries; hence it is vital that we really know this new subject inside out. Personally I feel that the sooner we get to grips with what will be expected of us the fairer it will be on the pupils and the less chance for any nasty surprises.

So what am I doing to prepare for the new curriculum? Firstly I have looked into the new technologies that have kick started this change. The name on everyone’s lips is the Raspberry Pi.

The Raspberry Pi was released in February 2012 with the aim to attract more students into computer science at university, it has been recommended by companies such as Google for use in schools. What is the Raspberry Pi? It is a very small computer which can be plugged into a monitor and keyboard.

The clear set out and well laid out diagrams makes the Raspberry Pi ideal for teaching the components of a computer. It also has built in programs for spreadsheets, word processing and playing videos. While these functions make it a useful computer the main attraction of the computer is how easy it is to program.

While on its own the Raspberry Pi could be used to implement the new computer science curriculum there are companies who have been working with the Raspberry Pi to make computer science more exciting to teach.

By allowing pupils to program an object they can see and interact with, the real world applications of computer science can be quickly realised.

The hands on approach to computer science will be sure to demystify a subject that has for too long been taught only in universities. Any fear of an unfamiliar topic of study is likely to be forgotten as the pupils are swept away with an enthusiasm to program a robot.

These kits are specifically designed to be ready straight out of the box and intuitive for new users who are unacquainted with technology. They are also great entrance to further computer science studies for both boys and girls.

Science Education and Art Education: The Perfect Pair

After years of touting the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics ) educational programs, many teachers are discovering that by adding an “A” –for ART– student learning will pick up STEAM! This latest understanding of how students learn is changing science education by adding Art education back into the mix. This integrated education approach is developing a proven track record and being incorporated into public, private and homeschool education.

At its inception, the STEM bill authorized over 150 million to help students earn a bachelor’s degrees and teaching credentials. It also provided millions in additional money to help align kindergarten through grade 12 math and science curricula to better prepare students for college.

Now years later, people are asking questions like: Why are math and science viewed as standalone modalities? Why have so many schools dropped Arts education from their curriculum?

For too long, we have wrongly believed that Science and Art education were separate disciplines that demanded different teaching methods. However, now we know that Science and Art, as well as Math and Music are intrinsically related!

Educational researchers are recognizing that it is important to integrate all modalities into STEM lessons. By broadly using an integrated education curriculum, students are able to see how science education is important to aspects of everyday life. Integrated education also affords the opportunity for real-world application of the math and science education knowledge.

The use of Art as the glue that bonds these modalities shows students how form and function are guiding principles. Art is not merely illustrative or decorative, but represents an essential part of the process of inquiry, such as problem finding, problem solving, and communication.

The fervor that propels people to excel at mathematics and science education or engineering and art education are driven by the same desire: the desire to discover the intricacies and beauty in one’s world and chosen work. Furthermore, Art is also integrated into technologies such as engineering in the “form and function” debate. Does form follow function or does function follow form? Either way the two are fundamentally linked. Cars are a perfect example: From the Model-T Ford to the latest concept car, we have seen that the evolution of technology is as much about aesthetics (form) of the product as it is about functionality.

Many of the fundamental concepts of form and function are the same. Line, shape, color, structure/function relationships as well as perspective, patterning, and sequencing are the language of art and science education. Students create “an artistic representation of their ideas and solutions is a valuable way to make learning personal. This allows for a clear understanding of the underpinnings of science principles and how these principles can be extrapolated to solve existing problems. It has been proven that students who previously had difficulty in STEM classes are picking up STEAM quickly!

Science Education In India

Currently there exist a number of life science societies in India. The names being diverse, purpose indeed remains the same. These societies are aiming to bring people on a universal platform and popularize science. Certain initiative needs to be incorporated in order to popularize science, which is necessary for its further betterment in the society.

Life Science Society Initiative (LSSI)

The increased effort by the prevalent societies needs more focused perspective. Current outlook is more towards increasing the awareness of science within the community, also there is interdisciplinary work carried out by some of these societies. The efforts should be directed not just to gather these intellectuals and students on a common platform but also to inculcate the habit amongst them to interact in near future. Directives should thus be towards creation of a scientist, teacher, entrepreneur and most significantly an intellectual.

Scientist-Teacher Interaction (STI)

There should be an increased researcher-educator partnership between both, the educators of science and scientists to teach science as it is practiced. There is a communication gap, which is commonly observed between both the scientist and a teacher. The use and conception of improved facilities, update knowledge and productive interactions between the scientist and teacher should be practiced. Inclusion of teaching, research and human research development must also be a part of the process. Programs should be initiated to enhance interactions amongst both the groups.

Teacher-Student Interaction (TSI)

This interaction is indeed strong and influenced. There is day-to-day interaction and discussion within members of this group. The popularization of science is a positive feature that can be initiated by this group. Apart from academics the vision needs to be set towards popularizing science in near future. In many institutes and colleges the incorporation of research projects as part of the curriculum has generated zeal amongst the young generation towards research and science.

Scientist-Student Interaction (SSI)

In most of the cases the reach of students towards science and or scientist is limited. There is lack of knowledge amongst students about research hence dialogue needs to be established within the scientist-student community. In recent years the communication between this communities is possible by the means of interactive sessions and programme such as conferences, symposia, guest lectures or open forums.

But what is the life of this talk? Does the discussion ends within four walls of the conference room? What are the numbers benefited under these programme? What about the grassroots levels initiatives?

One of the initiatives in this respect is launch of science magazines. In recent years there has been an increase in the number of science-based magazines. Science magazines was previously more focused towards particular age group readers, it now attracts more diversified readers. To some extent the scientific magazines have proved to reduce the barriers. But how many of them afford to purchase or read these magazines?

Science Awareness Strategy (SAS)

Where do we place science, scientist or science educator? Do they always face a setback in terms of pecuniary? Are the science educators looking towards a change? What do students of science think of the long-term prospects of their career in science?

Honestly speaking science is still undoubtedly not so career dream for most of them. Therefore, science should be made more attractive and focused. The perspective of researchers towards the students must be more open. The life science societies and organizations are driven by their own disciplines. They are more focused towards the organizational aspects and need to co-ordinate their activities on issues like science education.

The state of science education in India is currently still critical as compared to rest of the world. The significance of science education should not be ignored. A collaborative effort of scientific and educational communities thus has become a need of an hour.