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Engaging Young Minds: The Impact of Context in Computing Education


Engaging a wide range of young people with computing and digital skills is one of our core missions. It’s obviously something that everyone involved in computing education cares about and it’s something we’re passionate about supporting in schools up and down the UK.


A key approach to making the subject at the least accessible and at the most inspiring is thinking about the context used when delivering lessons, topics or schemes of work.  Self efficacy (a person's belief in their ability to complete a task or achieve a goal) and engagement can be developed in young people, but in particular girls, through meaningful context and purposeful content. 


Therefore, meaningful context is central to what we do and how we do it; this is something demonstrated well in our Coding for Climate Action Resource, developed in conjunction with Amazon Future Engineer.  The unit of work delivers elements of the national curriculum’s programming strand at Key Stage 2 and 3 as well as the various features of the ever inspirational micro:bit. Its hook is the climate emergency and how early warning systems are used to mitigate its impacts. Embedded in real world scenarios, real technology and real impacts, students are guided through a unit of work that demonstrates how technology and computer science can make the world a better place, not just output the words “hello world”.



Having run the unit of work with 2000 students nationwide, the context has been the most powerful aspect of the project. It’s had a huge impact on students’ understanding of how computer science and engineering can help protect the planet and make the world a better place. As the quotes show, they enjoyed not only the programming but also the fact that they were learning about the real world.


The crucial result is that, having learnt about how computing has a meaningful impact on the world, a wider range of young people are more likely to consider STEM as a future career. As we all know, the wider range of people who are interested in STEM, the better off we all are! 


Hopefully, the key takeaway is that context is everything (well, alongside, quality first time teaching and good pedagogy!). If you haven’t got time to think about context in your own lessons, and who could blame you, please do have a look at our variety of resources. Maybe they can help.


"I enjoyed learning about the natural disasters. I got to fully realise what natural disasters have a big impact. You see what natural disasters actually do and what they are."

Student


"The students were really engaged in this project and had lots of questions about the climate aspect of the project."

Teacher



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