How will the next generations be prepared to lead our society in the present and future challenges caused by Artificial Intelligence, Information Governance and Job Automation without a high-quality computer science curriculum at school? The answer is: they won't.
We have been developing our solution to that problem for over 3 years now, driven by our learners, tutors and industrial insights to create something that we're truly proud of - and that our students love! Our guiding principle is that our courses should be inspiring for students with any interest, approachable for students with any learning needs, and future-proofed for a rapidly changing and unpredictable world.
This has led to our unique, 3-tiered approach, allowing primary-school coders and talented university applicants alike to develop not just their computer programming capability, but their understanding of the wider implications of an increasingly tech-dominated society.
Our role as educators of Computer Science is broad and our intention is not just to teach kids to code (though that's definitely what we're good at!) - our Digital Citizenship syllabus is integrated into the way we write our courses, teach our lessons and operate as a company. This syllabus is designed to prepare students to make sense of all of the changes, opportunities and hazards raised by our modern world.
Our goal is to provide our students with the skills they'll need to thrive and a mindset that will allow them to flourish.
We value the introduction to coding as one of the most important parts of our whole curriculum, yet so many courses out there (covering any subject) fail to capitalise on the initial curiosity in a new task. While that might be acceptable when teaching a captive audience at a residential camp or a classroom, it inevitably causes some students to leave feeling distinctly indifferent. Our approach is radically different from other "Intro to Coding" courses out there.
Firstly, we've not only created a host of exciting projects covering everything from self-driving cars to virtual cats - we've devised our course in such a way that its components can be completed in any order. That allows our students to explore the concepts that really matter to them from the very first lesson, while learning everything they'll need as they advance further, guided by their tutor.
Secondly, we looked at the traditional, highly-technical way in which coding concepts are typically introduced: 1. Variables, 2. Data types, 3. User input, 4. If-statements, and so on - and decided that it doesn't make sense for the majority of students. It's like learning French by reading the dictionary and it's why our topics look very different. It allows our students to get the benefit of seeing their work doing something meaningful and avoid losing their motivation during the initial learning curve.
Our Foundations syllabus covers every aspect of the programming requirement of the Computer Science GCSE and uses the Python* programming language, taught
in an approachable and non-technical way. When we say we teach your kids to code, we really mean it!
*Some younger students may spend their first few lessons working with Scratch , a block-based starter language, to help them find their feet before graduating to Python
Think of this syllabus as a bike with stabiliser wheels. It doesn't mean you can go and ride any bike just yet, but you can ride this one really well - and have a lot of fun too!
The world of Computer Science is seemingly boundless, and there's no denying the fact that there's plenty to learn. Our focus when building this syllabus is on creating a smooth transition from novice to future-expert - that means making sure to get the perfect balance between providing a sense of continuous, rewarding achievement and conferring an increasingly technical understanding of coding.
To help the transition, all of our projects from the Foundations syllabus find an exciting new form at the Developer level, along with a nice new cohort of additional challenges. This serves both to demonstrate students' progress to themselves, and help extend the concepts they've learnt previously with what is now a deeper and more academic understanding.
By far the most common downfall for any new coder is losing momentum by lack of ways to apply the newly learnt knowledge. This is a big issue with the way self-guided online learning is delivered, for example. For that reason, this syllabus is also about broadening students' knowledge of what is achievable through programming, and hence stimulate the creativity that will sustain future activity. Additionally, each project is designed to be open-ended and invites students to add their own features, encouraging independence.
Our Developers syllabus covers every aspect of the programming requirement of the Computer Science GCSE and uses the Python programming language, taught in an increasingly technical way. It is at this stage that broader Computer Science concepts also begin to be introduced.
By the time students are ready to progress from this syllabus, they should be fully armed with the tools needed to start their own projects. There's still plenty to learn after that and many more mistakes to make, but our goal is to have proven why that's an exciting prospect.
Over the years that we have been operating, we've learnt a very important lesson - to never underestimate what our students are capable of achieving. Having seen the successful projects done inside and outside of Tech Natives lessons, we realised how much potential many children have to build their most ambitious ideas. At the age of 9, Peter worked with his tutor to design and develop his very own shopping mall strategy game; Leha, 13, replicated Angry Birds from scratch; Stan, 15, created a TFL travel data visualiser.
With that in mind, we set about trying to think about how to not only commend the achievements of these students, but allow them to continue to develop their ability. We realised that this is where the true power of our world-leading industry and academia experts shows itself. By carefully matching our tutors to our highest-achieving students, those students can progress to a level rivalling even final year university students. What's more, we wanted to maximise our students' chance to demonstrate their ingenuity and allow them to learn from and inspire others.
What we ended up with is The Championship. Our tutors work with their student on a series of self-driven projects, guided by an open-ended brief and backed up with extensional training modules covering anything from Blockchain to Artificial Intelligence to Robotics. They are free to submit their work to our panel of professional developers and researchers whenever they want, for additional feedback and guidance, and to enter our termly Championship competitions. To enrich the educational experience, each competition submission is supported by a project proposal and the competitions are open, collaborative and constructive, with a focus on positive feedback and continuous development.
Our Champions syllabus gives students the greatest level of artistic freedom, while simultaneously developing some of the most sought-after industry skills in generations, directly mentored by an industry leader. Not bad going for a pre-university student!