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Coding in Primary Schools

And they said pigs couldn’t fly – blind or not!

It was reported on the 8:00 a.m. RTE Radio News bulletin this morning that the  Minister for Education, Mr Richard Bruton T.D. has requested the NCCA (National Council for Curriculum and Assessment) to consider a possible structure for the introduction of the teaching of coding in primary schools in the Republic of Ireland.

The minister raised the necessity for the promotion of computational thinking as a foundation to develop a logical constructive approachs to coding, problem solving and computer science in general within the existing matematics syllabus.

It is common knowledge among members of CESI (Computers in Education Society of Ireland) that the NCCA is developing a revised mathematics’ curriculum with the objective of integrating some form of coding into the already congested primary school timetable. Forward thinking schools have already addressed this shortcoming through extra curricular computer clubs. Concerned parents and teachers have enthusiasticly embraced CoderDojo clubs as a much needed enhancement of the existing primary school syllabus. 

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Ready Steady Code is a commercial, well thought out, integrated approach that uses SCRATCH in the classroom to teach maths and coding at the same time.  The programme is not a haphazard system of disjointed lessons. It is designed to be delivered by teachers in their own classrooms. Scratch is free download from MIT and the Department of Education and Skills loves anythig free.

Submissions have been sought and considered by the NCCA and early in the new year (2017) a revised  draft version of the mathematics syllabus should see the light of day. ICT skills are already underpinning the primary curriculum in progressively thinking schools. Furthermore, coding is only one aspect of ICT but it does lend itself to team work and the deployment of various skill sets. The timetabling of the “new subject” is central to the success of coding in primary schools. Everything revolves around the solution of this problem. The only time slot available is the 150 minute allocation set aside for religous instruction. This traditional daily slot of 30 minutes, often launched by the Angelus, is already being eroded by subject meetings, ad hoc assemblies, etc. It has degenerated into the flexi period for curricular emergencies. Unfortunately, I cannot see this haven for reflection surviving in today’s secular society.

In the meantime check out CESI, ICS, LERO, Google’s CS First, and CoderDojo

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