Technology advances at a formidable rate and we know how important it is for our children to not only keep abreast of new developments, but to also have a firm grasp of underlying computing concepts.
Our activities not only teach essential underlying technical knowledge and skills such as computing concepts, coding, file types, and the different types of media, but also utilise creative games, image and music making exercises and projects that inspire and motivate children.
Creativity is about questioning, problem solving, self expression and working with others, and these attributes are valued by employers, lead to personal self-fulfilment and build confidence in young learners. And it can be a lot of fun too.
An opportunity for motivational learning
In their early years, most children learn to be creative with traditional tools such as paint, crayons, plasticine, story telling, building blocks and Lego. We think this is the correct approach and children should not be introduced to digital media during these years. But when at ages 6-7, they are introduced to computers and tablets, they often lose their enthusiasm to be creative, and turn into consumers.
We believe this stage presents a unique opportunity for learning which will give your child a valuable head start. The government thinks so too, and has abandoned the old ITC curriculum in favour of a new national Computing curriculum.
Our government's new vision
In his January 2014 speech at the BETT educational show, the education minister, Michael Gove, outlined his vision for a new approach to ICT teaching in (primary) schools. ICT teaching, which has largely focused on children becoming familiar with office software, usually Microsoft's, will be replaced with a progressive curriculum of computer science and technology, that seeks to teach children not just what computers can do, but how they do it. This will involve a range of modern skills including programming, 3D and robotics.
"ICT used to focus purely on computer literacy - teaching pupils, over and over again, how to word process, how to work a spreadsheet, how to use programs already creaking into obsolescence; about as much use as teaching children to send a telex or travel in a Zeppelin.
Now, our new curriculum teaches children computer science, information technology, and digital literacy: teaching them how to code, and how to create their own programs; not just how to work a computer; but how a computer works, and how to make it work for you."
The government has funded a number of organisations including Computing At School, to kick-start this new vision.
"Primary teachers currently equip pupils with high- level skills in using ICT, preparing them to apply these across the curriculum in secondary education. It’s unclear whether pupils leave primary school with much knowledge of how computers, software, the internet, the web and search engines work, or a critical understanding of the impact of these technologies on their lives and on society.
The focus of the new programme of study undeniably moves towards programming and other aspects of computer science. There is a focus on computational thinking and creativity, as well as opportunities for creative work in programming and digital media." - Computing at school - Computing in the national curriculum: A guide for primary teachers 2013.
This shift is long overdue, but many believe, including us, that there are two huge problems in delivering this vision.
Problems & challenges
Firstly, the required subject expertise is not always available in our schools, particularly in primary schools. The government's plan is to recruit 400 "master teachers" who can train up teachers, but given that it has been a struggle to recruit the current figure of 100 (as of Sept 2014), and there are 17,000 primary schools in England, things don't look promising.
Secondly, our school system has not always been good at rewarding and encouraging imagination and individuality, qualities that both help creative and critical thinking skills, and are valued by employers. Current teaching, which is constrained by the limitations of curriculum and and emphasise on league table results, focuses on rules and facts which can be tested to produce exact results against government targets and benchmarks. But we know our children are capable of so much more.
Creativity involves experimentation, trial and error, in order to develop something new and valuable. In short, it involves trying stuff out, and failing sometimes in order to create, learn and achieve.
At The Pixel Gang, your child will have the opportunity to develop creative, technical, organisational, analytical and computer skills, and learn how to use them for their school work and personal creative projects.
The value of creativity
In recent years, our education system has been pre-occupied with ensuring every child has achieved a basic level of skills and knowledge. This is of course essential, but in so doing, our children's innate capacity to question, create and originate has been neglected. We believe that these are the very qualities that allow children to excel and become valuable well rounded adults capable of problem solving and leading.
We think that not only should every child learn useful and empowering digital media skills and knowledge, relevant to their forthcoming secondary schooling, college, university and the workplace, but also understand the positive contribution digital media can make to their personal self-fulfilment, and in the wider context, society itself.