Computing: Lessons from the UK Experience

In January 2017, I treated myself to Bett, a major global fair for educational technology held in London annually in January.

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In January 2017, I treated myself to Bett, a major global fair for educational technology held in London annually in January. 850 companies gathered there, around a hundred start-ups in edtech and more than 30,000 visitors from 130 countries and from the global education community.

It presents the novelties in educational digital. Bett aims to bring together people, ideas and practices so that educators and learners realize their potential. It is at Bett that I was interested, among other things, in the learning of computers by students in the United Kingdom.


In September 2014, the UK became one of the first G9 countries to make computer literacy compulsory in its schools. Computer science, a compulsory subject in the United Kingdom, an article published in the École branchée magazine in the fall of 2017, presents a summary of the content of the curricula prescribed for elementary and lower secondary schools.

Today I will only come back to a few aspects of learning this science in which machines and humans meet. Here are some excerpts from an information workshop that I presented at the #accessedu which took place at the Académie Lafontaine from November 3 to 5.

The 3 aspects of learning computer science

Our National curriculum in England: computing programs of study uses three aspects of computer science learning.

1- Computer science: computer science, algorithms, programming

2- Information technology : information technology, computer and peripherals, networks, software, data and information

3-  Digital Literacy : digital literacy, learning to live and work in cyberspace

Our Computing at school (CASE)

Computing at school (CAS) was created in 2008 by a few individuals from industry and academia. Realizing that information technology as it was taught did not integrate computer science, they wanted to do something to help teachers who wanted to teach computer science and encourage their students to pursue careers in this field. . They created CAS to meet this need. Their first actions were to convince the Department for Education the importance of computer science learning for UK pupils. CAS, an independent government agency, is funded by industry and has formed a strategic alliance with BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, which is the professional association of computer scientists in the country.

The CAS, to which access is free, now has more than 20,000 members and is present in 150 centers where training is provided to teaching staff. CAS's mission is to provide leadership to support teachers in the implementation of the brand new computer science program. CAS publishes educational guides accessible online and promotes the development of computational thinking in students.

Computational thinking

The term computational thinking was first used by Seymour Papert in 1980. In French, we can use both terms: computational thought or computational thought. It is the thought process by which a person formulates a problem and expresses its solution in a form that can be understood by a computer. It was Jeanette Wing, in an article from 2006, who expressed that the practice of computational thinking should be integrated into the learning of all schoolchildren from kindergarten.

There is no consensus on the definition given to computational thinking. The definition in free translation which precedes is that recommended by the CAS.

Some personal thoughts

Whether in three or five years, I bet that learning computer science will be compulsory in Quebec schools.

The idea that the program should be implemented through an organization (s) independent from the government should be considered. This form would ensure that this education is independent of government policies and budgets.

Making the curriculum compulsory does not necessarily mean requiring teaching by all teachers. I propose here an analogy between the development of the implementation of these new programs and the freezing of a lake. The lake does not freeze in a single block, but rather by the development of ice crystals which gradually assemble. After a while, if the conditions are favorable, the lake becomes completely frozen.

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About the Author

Ninon Louise Lepage
Ninon Louise Lepage
Ninon Louise LePage is a pedagogue and museologist who recently came out of premature retirement to be reborn as an educational designation. She has taught at the Université du Québec à Montréal and the Université de Sherbrooke in science education, in addition to working at the Canadian Heritage Information Network as a museology consultant. She also writes for our French friends at Ludomag. She also invites all interested to contact her so that she can talk about you, your students, your school and your particular experiences in digital and computer education.

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